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More 2013 NFL Draft Week Rumors

Published April 24, 2013
By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

  • North Carolina State safety Earl Wolff has graded out as a third-round pick according to sources. They like his skill set with some size, speed and production at the college level. However, a number of teams that could target a safety on the second day are going to pass on Wolff because he did poorly in the team interviews. He wasn’t a bad-character player, but he struggled schematically on the board. Teams that play complex coverage schemes won’t draft a player like that.

  • Team sources have told WalterFootball.com that in their opinion, North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard is the best running back in the draft. Bernard isn’t expected to be the first back selected, but he should still go on the second day. Scouts say he could go late in the second or fall into the third round. They say that Bernard is going to be a steal and liken him to Brian Westbrook or LeSean McCoy as a speedy back with the ability to serve as a dangerous receiver. Bernard also is said to have underrated toughness and physicality. He could be the next in line of second day backs that prove to be steals.

  • WalterFootball.com was the first site to report on Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones not being a good workout guy who had the potential to fall to the middle of the first round. WalterFootball.com also was the first to project him to the Pittsburgh Steelers. That has become a consensus projection across the web since then. League contacts agree that the Steelers will take Jones if he falls to their pick. However they say he may not get there. The Jets supposedly love Jones. He also could land in New Orleans. Sources say don’t be surprised if a team that loves Jones trades in front Pittsburgh to get him.

  • If Jones is off the board along with other edge rushers like LSU’s Barkevious Mingo, the Steelers’ Plan B is Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. They think highly of Patterson and would love to add his big-play threat to replace what they lost in Mike Wallace. Pittsburgh had its entire contingent at the Tennessee Pro Day, and the Steelers came away impressed with both Patterson and Volunteer quarterback Tyler Bray.

  • If the Steelers miss out on Jones and take Patterson, they will definitely target a pass-rusher on the second day. Sources told WalterFootball.com that the Steelers have soured on Jason Worilds. The pass-rushers that Pittsburgh would target on Day 2 include Southern Miss linebacker Jamie Collins, Clemson defensive end Malliciah Goodman and Connecticut linebacker Sio Moore. They also like Ohio State’s John Simon as a mid-to-late-rounder.

  • Sources have told WalterFootball.com that Texas A&M wide receiver Ryan Swope could go late in the second round, but shouldn’t fall out of the third round. Swope has received a third-round grade by some teams. Sources indicate that the Bears, Vikings, Bills and Dolphins are all extremely interested in Swope.

    2013 NFL Draft Week Rumors

    Published April 23, 2013
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    From speaking to various NFL scouts and personnel men the past couple of days, I’ve compiled several interesting rumors for the 2013 NFL Draft:

  • In the past week or so, there have been reports that the Oakland Raiders could consider taking an offensive tackle with the third-overall pick. For months that pick has been projected to be a defensive lineman. After speaking with sources, the Raiders are in fact discussing drafting an offensive tackle. However, they are still probably going with a defensive lineman. Their defensive line needs multiple new starters, while their offensive line is in better shape. Sources believe that the pick is probably going to be either Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd or Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. Floyd remains the favorite.

  • The Rams are interested in drafting Texas safety Kenny Vacarro in the first round, but he is unlikely to make it to their first selection at No. 16. Safety is a huge need for the Rams after losing both of their starters from last year. If St. Louis does look for a safety in the first round with Vaccaro off the board, sources indicate that LSU’s Eric Reid is the most likely target. The Rams are said to not be very big fans of Florida International’s Jonathan Cyprien, the consensus second-rated safety in the draft.

  • Reid is an interesting player who is evoking a lot of love-hate responses. Scouts told WalterFootball.com that there are divides in their teams with some liking Reid a lot and others having no use for him. The ones that like him consider him to be a safe pick because he is big, smart, fast and clean off the field. The ones that don’t like him see him as stiff, and that was why he was constantly burned in pass coverage in 2012.

  • Scouts provided some more feedback regarding our mock drafts. They encouraged us to move Wisconsin running back Montee Ball into the second round. They said he could even go sooner. Those scouts aren’t big fans of Ball, but they believe that his production has won him over a lot of fans. Scouts said Ball was a perfect fit for the Steelers. Other teams they said that could be interested in him include the Lions and Cowboys. They said if Ball falls to the third round, don’t be surprised if he lands with the Colts.

  • League contacts aren’t buying the Jaguars being interested in an offensive tackle. They believe Jacksonville is locked into Dion Jordan with the second-overall pick. They think the Jaguars are just trying to generate a trade market.

  • WalterFootball.com has heard the Browns desperately want to move down. In order for that to happen, they need one of the elite left tackles to be on the board.

  • Sources believe the Jets will use the ninth pick on the best pass-rusher available. They think New York has a decent chance of trading down from pick 13. It is much cheaper for teams in the 20s to move to 13 rather than the ninth pick.

  • Sources in Tampa Bay shared an interesting perspective on the no-guaranteed-money aspect of the Darrelle Revis trade. They said the belief is the Bucs owners, the Glazers, set no guaranteed money as a protection for the team’s future. General manager Mark Dominik is on the hot seat, and if the Glazers decide to replace him after the 2013 season, they want the new general manager to have flexibility to not have to live too heavily under Dominik’s decisions. They don’t want a new general manager to be in a position like Reggie McKenzie, who landed with the Raiders where he inherited an impossible salary cap situation. If a new general manager decides he wants to use that money to sign three other starters, he would have the flexibility to cut Revis without dead money on the cap.

    No guaranteed money is also misleading because Revis is going to get $16 million for 2013 and in all likelihood, $32 million for two years. There is no way the Bucs would trade a first-round pick and a 2014 mid-rounder to cut him before he played a season. With their big investment in Revis, they’re going to give it time to produce a return.

  • Agents and scouts both have expressed a lot of confidence in McKenzie and believe that he will turn the Raiders around if he’s given time to do the job. They believe that McKenzie is a good talent evaluator and will build a good team for Oakland if ownership remains patient while he undoes the massive mess he inherited.

    Sources also said the Raiders have a good coaching staff that will produce good results once they have some talent to work with. Oakland is still a year away before they can really start to make strides. Next year, they will have tons of cap space to be in position to spend big money in free agency. They also should have all of their early-round draft picks to work with, a novel concept for Oakland.

    Star Lotulelei Drawing Serious Interest From Arizona, Cleveland

    Published April 19, 2013
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    One of the most interesting players throughout the pre-draft process has been Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. At the end of the college football season, Lotulelei was viewed as a high first-round pick and a candidate to go first overall selection to the Kansas City Chiefs.

    However, Lotulelei hit a bump in the road at the Combine when he was held out of the workouts because of a cardiac concern. Further tests revealed that Lotulelei is fine and should have no restrictions during his NFL career. With that behind him, Lotulelei had a great Pro Day and took a number of pre-draft visits to teams selecting early in the first round.

    Some mock drafts have Lotulelei falling into the teens, but WalterFootball.com has learned from league sources that Lotulelei is a relatively secure selection for the top 10 of the 2013 NFL Draft. The sources’ gut feeling was that Lotulelei would land with the Oakland Raiders or Philadelphia Eagles with the third or fourth pick, respectively.

    However, the sources revealed that Lotulelei has also received serious interest from the Arizona Cardinals and Cleveland Browns. Both teams run a 3-4 defense and the versatile Lotulelei could play end or nose tackle in a 3-4 set. For the Browns (6th overall) or Cardinals (7th overall) Lotulelei could be a nice value pick. The Jets hold the ninth choice, and they also have shown a lot of interest in Lotulelei. Sources believe that two teams that could trade up for Lotulelei include the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers.

    Regarding the Cardinals, sources said that if all three left tackle prospects are gone, they believe that Arizona could easily take Lotulelei if he is still on the board. The Cardinals love the disruption he causes at the line of scrimmage and feel Lotulelei would be excellent with Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett.

    There are so many teams in the top 10 interested in Lotulelei that a fall outside of the top 10 seems very unlikely.

    D.J. Hayden Gets Second-Round Grade

    Published April 17, 2013
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden is one of this year’s late rising prospects. He was under the radar just until the last few weeks. The reason for that was a late-season injury that caused him to miss the final three games of 2012. A hit in practice late in the year resulted in Hayden tearing his inferior vena cava, a critical vein that carries blood from the heart to the lower portion of the body. The injury nearly killed him. He missed the final three games, but prior to that he was having a superb season.

    The 5-foot-11, 191-pounder has good size and speed. Some feel that he has the skill set of a first-rounder and that was put on display the past two years.

    There are draft analysts who have even rated Hayden in the top 32 players of the 2013 NFL Draft. WalterFootball.com reached out to scouts to see if Hayden could be one of the cornerback prospects who has a late rise into the first round. Scouts told WalterFootball.com that Hayden graded out as a second-round pick. Considering the recovery from his severe injury, going in the top 60 selections would be a real victory for Hayden.

    Hayden totaled 61 tackles, eight passes broken up, one forced fumble and four interceptions in 2012. It was his second-straight good season. Hayden totaled 66 tackles with two interceptions, 11 passes broken up and five forced fumbles in 2011.

    DeAndre Hopkins in the Top 25?

    Published April 16, 2013
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Lots of media attention has focused on the rise of West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin, but he is not the only wideout whose projected selection slot has been rising. Sources have told WalterFootball.com that Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins is being viewed as a serious candidate to go in the first 25 picks of the 2013 NFL Draft.

    Hopkins was considered a second-rounder early in the draft process. He had an impressive Combine performance on the field and teams came away from his interviews liking him. Hopkins is now considered the third-rated receiver in the 2013 NFL Draft – given the declining status of Keenan Allen – and stands a good shot of going in the top 25 picks.

    Scouts said that Austin and Cordarrelle Patterson are expected to be the first two receivers off the board, but these scouts believe Hopkins will be the third wideout to be selected. There are a number of teams that could target a receiver in the first 25. That group includes the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, San Diego Chargers, Carolina Panthers, St. Louis Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings and Indianapolis Colts. The Rams and Vikings both have a big need at receiver and each team has two first-round picks. That totals 11 picks in the top-26 selections that are in play for a wide receiver.

    Hopkins caught 72 passes for 978 yards and five touchdowns As a sophomore in 2011. The junior became the No. 1 receiver for Clemson this season and had a great year, totaling 1,405 yards on 82 catches and 18 touchdowns. He scored touchdowns in 12-of-13 games. The only outing during which Hopkins didn’t score was against Furman in Week 2 when he had 95 yards on seven receptions.

    The 6-foot-1, 214-pound Hopkins is an extremely well-rounded receiver who plays taller than his listed measurement and competes for the ball. Hopkins’ best traits are his route-running and quickness. He is able to consistently generate separation from defensive backs. Hopkins is also phenomenal at working in the intermediate part of the field to make catches that move the chains. He does extremely well running deep outs and other sideline catches, too.

    If a team picking late in the first round – like the Packers, Texans, Patriots or Ravens – want Hopkins it will may have to trade up to get him. Scouts believe that Hopkins won’t be there for those playoff teams, which would have to take another receiver if they don’t more. Every year there are some players who go earlier or later than expected, and Hopkins could be one of the latter this year.

    Luke Joeckel Falls Short of Joe Thomas, Jake Long

    Published April 14, 2013
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    The consensus belief is that the Kansas City Chiefs will select Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel with the first-overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. The last time a left tackle went first was in 2008 when the Dolphins took Michigan’s Jake Long. Many teams and analysts have highlighted that the 2013 NFL Draft lacks elite talent, and after speaking with scouts, that extends to the first overall selection.

    Scouts have told WalterFootball.com that they do believe that Joeckel will be the first selection in the draft, but they said they don’t feel he is as good of a prospect as Long or even close to the Browns’ Joe Thomas when he was coming out of Wisconsin in the 2007 NFL Draft. They feel Joeckel isn’t as good as either of those players.

    Joeckel was a three-year starter at left tackle and improved each season for the Aggies. Scouts say he is solid, but there were some games in his final season that were underwhelming. One was the season opener against Florida where linebacker Lerentee McCray beat Joeckel for a sack and a number of rushes in the second half. McCray is a late-round pick, and scouts feel that Joeckel should not have had so many issues with him. There were other plays where Joeckel was bailed out by the scrambling ability of quarterback Johnny Manziel.

    Scouts feel that Long and Thomas were more dominant in the ground game while displaying a mean streak – something that Joeckel lacks. The 6-foot-6, 306-pound Joeckel was described to be more of a finesse blocker. The final season of tape from Long and Thomas is said to be significantly more impressive than Joeckel’s as well.

    While Joeckel grades out near or at the top of the draft, scouts don’t regard him as being on the same level as two of the elite tackle prospects in recent years.

    Insight into Bernard, Cooper from College Coordinator John Shoop

    Published April 8, 2013
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    In recent years, North Carolina has produced many elite athletes. The former coaching staff under Butch Davis featured a lot of coaches with NFL experience who did a superb job of bringing great talents to Chapel Hill. Two of those excellent athletes are guard Jonathan Cooper and running back Giovani Bernard.

    Cooper could be the first guard off the board during the 2013 NFL Draft and has the potential to be a top-10 pick. Bernard is also an early-round prospect and in the running to be the first back selected. WalterFootball.com caught up with their college offensive coordinator John Shoop, who is currently the offensive coordinator at Purdue, to get some insight into Cooper and Bernard.

    Shoop coached with the Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders before going to the college ranks. He recruited both Cooper and Bernard to North Carolina to be lynchpins in his West Coast offense. Shoop believes that Cooper is poised to take the NFL by storm.

    “Again, he is a wonderful young man,” said Shoop. “My whole family is invested in him. He is uncommonly athletic for a guard or any offensive lineman. He could play fullback. He is that athletic. He is so light on his feet. He doesn’t look like he is a 315-pound man. He looks like he is about 280 because he is so quick. He developed a really aggressive demeanor. He is probably as good a pulling guard as I’ve ever been around – and that includes 12 years in the NFL.”

    While guards are rarely selected in the top 20, it sounds like Cooper stands a good shot of going in the top half of the first round and could even go in the top 10. Shoop believes that Cooper is a real weapon for an offense.

    “He really has a way of sorting things out while he’s pulling and blocking defenders in space or kind of reading a hole to get to a linebacker,” said Shoop. “It really is a knack. He is going to have a great deal of success in that league. He was a wrestler in high school – a really good wrestler in high school – so he can sink his anchor and get heavy when he has to in pass protection as well. He’s a wonderful guy and a wonderful player.”

    Bernard benefitted from Cooper opening up holes for him the past two seasons as the duo had a lot of success in the SEC. Bernard was a redshirt freshman in 2011 and Shoop guided him to being the top freshman in the ACC. Bernard burst onto the scene with 1,324 yards and 13 touchdowns (5.24 average) while catching 45 receptions for 362 yards and one touchdown.

    Bernard ran for 1,228 yards and 10 touchdowns this season while averaging 6.7 yards per carry. He also hauled in 47 passes for 490 yards and five touchdowns. Bernard averaged 16 yards per punt return as well, and even scored on two of them. One was the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter against N.C. State. The 5-foot-8, 202-pound back is extremely quick and is more physical than defenders expect him to be. Shoop sees a lot of similarities with Bernard and some of the best backs in the NFL.

    “Gio is my favorite back in the draft,” said Shoop. “I just love him. He’s a wonderful young man and I was deeply invested in him. He may be short; he is really, really strong and put together. There are a lot of backs like him that are having success in that league. Whether it is Ray Rice or Maurice Jones-Drew. He’s like that. He’s lightning quick. He has speed to score from anywhere on the field. He’s highly intelligent and has a great chemistry. He’s a wonderful guy to have in the organization. I would have zero reservation about him no matter where he goes. His talents can fit into a lot of different types of offenses.”

    Both Bernard and Cooper learned Shoop’s West Coast offense while in college and should quickly make a transition to that system in the NFL. With his receiving skills, Bernard is an especially good fit as a West Coast running back.

    “Sure, he would know a lot of the terminology,” said Shoop. “He could slide right in. I will say this, he is so bright that he can learn anything. That was a good tandem. It sure warmed my heart to see old Coop pulling with Gio right behind him.”

    Some teams will have same the feelings on draft day after selecting Cooper and Bernard.

    Mixed Grades on Matt Elam

    Published March 31, 2013
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    After speaking with scouts, WalterFootball.com has learned there are mixed grades on Florida safety Matt Elam. Some teams have a first-round grade on Elam, while others have him with a second-rounder. Scouts detailed some of the pluses and minuses that have Elam on the bubble from Thursday and Friday night.

    From the teams that place Elam in Round 2, scouts don’t like his height at 5-foot-10. They believe that will hurt Elam to cover big receivers and tight ends downfield, as they will be able to make catches over him. Elam’s hard-hitting ability can help make up for it by jarring some passes loose, but that won’t work all the time and could be a problem in the red zone especially. They feel his height is a real weakness in pass coverage.

    Scouts said that Elam is a little tight, but he is very instinctive. Elam is a hard-hitter with ball skills. They liked his performance as a junior as he consistently produced good tape. Elam had 76 tackles, four interceptions, two sacks, nine tackles for a loss, one forced fumble and five passes broken up in 2012. He was a devastating physical presence in the back end of Florida’s defense. Scouts said that at his Pro Day, Elam continued to display some coverage ability with the speed to run with receivers and tight ends.

    Another problem for Elam going in the top 32 are some character concerns. Scouts didn’t want to go into detail, and they didn’t feel they were serious problems, but there were some issues that could knock him down a bit with the more strict front offices.

    Scouts have said the 2013 NFL Draft class doesn’t have 32 players grading out as first-round picks, thus some players slotted as second-rounders will go in the top 32. Elam could be one of those players.

    Jesse Williams, Second-Day Prospect

    Published March 28, 2013
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    One prospect in the 2013 draft class who generates a lot of divergent opinions is Alabama nose tackle Jesse Williams. There are some projections that have him cracking the first round, while others feel that he is a second-round pick.

    Part of the reason for the difference in opinions is Williams’ intriguing athletic skill set versus a lack of production. The 6-foot-3, 323-pounder has some speed to go along with weight-room power. The senior totaled only 37 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and one sack in 2012. Alabama often pulled him in passing situations because he struggles to put any heat on the quarterback.

    Still there are a number of teams that could use new nose tackles, especially teams that run a 3-4 defense. WalterFootball.com caught up with some scouts to get their perspective on where Williams belongs on Draft Day.

    One team that could consider Williams views him as a second-day pick. Their scouts said they weren’t fans of him. They felt he is top heavy with some thin legs that could be an issue in the NFL. They also didn’t like that Williams is tight athletically with zero pass-rush ability.

    Furthermore, the scouts felt that in the NFL, Williams is supposed to be a two-gap defender. Those tackles are regularly assigned to stuff and eat up double-teams. Scouts said Williams really struggled against double-teams, and that tactic was somewhat successful against him.

    Scouts said that Williams can whip a single block, but they have concerns that he can hold up against doubles in the NFL. Given the league’s focus on passing, Williams may only be a two-down player or even a one-down player with many teams using pass-defensive sets more than their base defense.

    Those flaws result in Williams having a second-day grade. However as with other prospects, scouts said there aren’t 32 players with first-round grades. Thus, some players grading out for Round 2 will have to go on Thursday night. Perhaps Williams can be one of those players, but these scouts felt he didn’t belong on Day 1.

    Teams Expect Barrett Jones to Start on PUP

    Published March 24, 2013
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Alabama center Barrett Jones received a lot of attention the past few seasons. He has been a regular All-American at guard, left tackle and center while winning the Outland Trophy in 2011 and Rimington Trophy in 2012. He helped pave the way for a rushing offense that won three national championships in four years. He is one of the most decorated and accomplished offensive linemen in the history of college football.

    At the end of the season, however, Jones sustained a lisfranc injury against Georgia in the SEC Championship. He finished that outing and played with it versus Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship. The injury prevented Jones from playing at the Senior Bowl and participating in the NFL Scouting Combine. Many in the NFL regard Jones’ malady as more complex to come back from than a simple break.

    Scouts told WalterFootball.com that their teams believe Jones won’t be ready for the start of training camp and will probably start out his NFL career on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list. Being injured and unable to work out for scouts has definitely hurt Jones’ draft stock according to scouts.

    Sources believe that the uncertainty about when Jones will be able to take the field is hurting teams’ comfort with drafting him. Scouts said they believe that he could make it into the third round, but could easily be a fourth-round pick.

    Working in Jones’ favor is his tremendous versatility to play four or all five of the positions on the offensive line. His best long-term starting position is center or guard. Scouts said that his lack of strength and athleticism point toward him being a third-day pick, but his great intangibles and versatility will also push him higher and cause coaches to lobby for him. Even if he misses the preseason and can’t start immediately when healthy, Jones should be a valuable backup on game days.

    While Jones may end up being a mid-round pick, he could be one of those mid-rounders who goes on to a long, productive NFL career with his injured start being a minor bump in the road.

    Scout’s Insight into Damontre Moore

    Published March 22, 2013
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Texas A&M defensive end/outside linebacker Damontre Moore has had a rough draft process. He had an ugly showing at the Combine with a terrible 40 time and bench press session. Moore performed better at his Pro Day, but there are still a lot of concerns about him with NFL teams.

    Last year, Moore was one of the most dominant defensive players in college football. As a 20-year-old junior, he totaled 12.5 sacks – one of the larger totals in the country. Perhaps even more impressive than that, Moore led his team with 85 tackles – four more than the next closest defender. He had 21 tackles for a loss, two passes broken up, a blocked kick and a forced fumble. Moore also played through an ankle injury during the season.

    While Moore (6-4, 250) was playing well on the field, he was creating a bad reputation for himself off of it. In June of 2011, Moore was arrested and accused of possessing less than two ounces of marijuana. Aside from the public incidents, Moore became known for not being a hard worker and a guy that looks to party.

    WalterFootball.com spoke with scouts about Moore to get an idea about the concerns teams have with Moore’s character. Scouts said that Moore is complex. Not only did he have that arrest, but there are suspicions that he has had some positive drug tests at Texas A&M.

    Scouts said that they think Moore is going to happily indulge in the “NFL life” with excessive spending, partying and being involved with women. They believe that Moore is super immature. He’s not a worker who is going to be an example for other players in the offseason conditioning program.

    As a player, scouts said that Moore was not that explosive, but he is a natural pass rusher. They feel that Moore can get pushed around sometimes in the run game, but they said his pursuit skills and closing on ball carriers are incredible. One scout said that Moore has some Aldon Smith to his game.

    The other complex part to Moore is that scouts said he plays extremely hard. As said by one scout, “the guy goes balls to the wall from kickoff until there is no time on the clock.” Thus, they feel his effort on the field is a head-scratcher considering his lack of work ethic off the field. They wonder when/if he grows up how good he can be if he would dedicate himself to working hard in the offseason.

    Scouts said that Moore needs to interview well with teams during his team visits. Any team that is interested in drafting Moore will probably host him at the their facility in order get more comfortable with adding him to their roster. Even after getting drafted, Moore is going to have a lot to prove on and off the field in the NFL.

    Private Workouts For Le’Veon Bell, Sean Porter & Duke Williams

    Published March 22, 2013
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    In the midst of pro days, scouts and front offices are fitting in private workouts with prospects as they continue to evaluate talent for the 2013 NFL Draft. After speaking with some sources, here is a short list of some more private workouts in recent weeks.

    Sean Porter, OLB, Texas A&M
    Porter had a private workout for Atlanta that was attended by the team’s entire front office, including general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith. The Falcons could use a linebacker to pair with Sean Weatherspoon.

    On Monday, Porter had a workout for the Dallas Cowboys. He would be a good fit in their transition to the Tampa 2 under defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.

    Porter will be working out for the Kansas City Chiefs on Friday. They could use another linebacker to play on the inside with Derrick Johnson.

    Duke Williams, S, Nevada
    Williams had private workouts with the Colts and Panthers last week. Indianapolis could be looking for a safety to pair with LaRon Landry. Carolina had some of the weakest safeties in the NFL in 2012, so Williams makes a lot of sense to be in play for the Panthers.

    Williams also had a meeting with the 49ers, who could use some youth at safety after losing Dashon Goldson. Sources are saying that Williams could go in the third round.

    Le’Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State
    The Steelers had a private workout with Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell last week. The 6-foot-1, 230-pound power back had an impressive Combine performance. In 2012, Bell averaged 4.7 yards per carry with 1,793 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also had 32 receptions for 167 yards.

    Rashard Mendenhall left Pittsburgh to sign with the Cardinals in free agency, and the Steelers also cut Chris Rainey. Pittsburgh is down to backups Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman. Thus, the Steelers are looking for a power rushing attack and Bell fits that identity.

    Jets Should Be Patient and Target 2014 Picks for Revis

    Published March 18, 2013
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    The New York Jets have been busy this offseason making it known that star cornerback Darrelle Revis is available in a trade. It appears that owner Woody Johnson is reluctant to meet Revis’ asking price for a contract extension. Due to Revis’ last extension, the Jets can’t place the franchise tag on him next offseason. If Revis hits unrestricted free agency, he could to an undesirable rival like the Patriots, Bills, Dolphins or Giants. Therefore, the Jets have until the trade deadline during next season to get something for Revis if they aren’t willing to pay him.

    At this time, it has been reported that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the only team that has given the Jets an offer for Revis. Sources have said the Bucs have gone all-in on Revis in part because they failed to upgrade their ugly cornerback situation with the better corners available in free agency.

    One of the holdups to getting a deal down with Tampa Bay is New York wanting to get more for Revis. The Bucs hold the 13th-overall pick in the first round. The Jets want that first-round pick to be a centerpiece replacement for Revis.

    The 2013 NFL Draft does not feature the high caliber of elite talent which has gone early in the past few draft classes. Ergo, the Jets would be wise to ask for a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. As Walt suggested on twitter, next season Tampa Bay could finish last in the NFC South for the fourth time in the last five years and could have a top-10 selection. That would be a more premium pick for New York.

    The 2014 NFL Draft class looks like it could have some elite talent and unique superstars who aren’t found this year. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney are likely to be high picks in April 2014. All three could be high impact players from their first day in the league. Even if Tampa Bay has a decent season, the Jets could package their two first-rounders with other picks to move up for one of those special talents.

    In part because Revis is coming off an ACL injury, the market for him is depressed. New York could probably get more for Revis by trading him at the end of the preseason. Teams would be able to see whether or not he is healthy at that point. Also, some playoff contenders could see Revis as the player who pushes them over the hump, especially once players start going down with injuries. There will be more teams desperate and willing to give up picks in a draft that is eight months away rather than one that is five weeks away and closing.

    If Jets’ general manager John Idzik is patient, he should be able to land a better trade package for Revis in five months with better players to target as building blocks for New York.

    Kevin Minter Gets Second-Day Grade

    Published March 13, 2013
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    LSU inside linebacker Kevin Minter is regarded by many observers as one of the players on the bubble between the first and second round. Sources have told WalterFootball.com that Minter is grading out as a second-round pick. He is in the running with Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o to be the second inside linebacker selected after Georgia’s Alec Ogletree.

    One scout said that while Minter was grading out as a second-rounder, he still has a shot to go in the first round. This scout wasn’t confident that 32 players would grade out as first-rounders this year. Thus, some second-round talents will go in the top 32. His team has a second-round grade on Minter.

    The 6-foot, 246-pound Minter had a breakout 2012 season and was the most consistent player on the Tigers’ defense. He totaled 130 tackles with 15 tackles for a loss, four sacks, five passes broken up, a forced fumble and an interception. Minter did not stand out at the Combine and had a slow 40 time of 4.81 seconds.

    There are a number of teams in the back half of the first round that could use a young middle linebacker. That group includes the New York Giants, the Chicago Bears, the Houston Texans and the Baltimore Ravens. However, inside linebackers have been devalued in the NFL Draft in recent seasons, so it isn’t a surprise that Minter is receiving a second-round grade. One of those teams could target him in the second round.

    Jon Bostic Gets Second-Day Projection

    Published March 13, 2013
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    University of Florida’s Jon Bostic is an under-the-radar middle linebacker prospect. Other Gator products like Sharrif Floyd and Matt Elam have received more attention along with highly visible inside linebacker prospects like Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o and Georgia’s Alec Ogletree. However, Bostic has his share of admirers. Scouts have told WalterFootball.com that Bostic is grading out in the third round and should go on the second day of the 2013 NFL Draft.

    Bostic was a tough defender as a senior. He totaled 68 tackles, two interceptions, one forced fumble and three sacks in 2012. Bostic flashed some for the Gators and was a core player in their tough defense. He had 94 tackles with 10 tackles for a loss, three sacks and a forced fumble in 2011.

    Bostic demonstrated some size and speed at the Combine. The 6-foot-1, 245-pounder ran the 40-yard dash in 4.61 seconds; a very good time for an inside linebacker. Scouts mentioned that Bostic is really strong with taking on blockers. That, combined with his speed, makes them believe he can translate to the NFL. Bostic would probably be best playing on the inside of a 3-4 defense.

    Bostic could be the fourth- or fifth-rated inside linebacker, and sources believe that he won’t be available by the third day of the 2013 NFL Draft.

    Menelik Watson Gets First-Round Grade

    Published March 8, 2013
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Speaking with scouts from across the NFL has yielded a common refrain: the 2013 draft class lacks top-shelf, elite talent. However, it has good depth in the mid-rounds. That adds up to there not being a lot of clear-cut first-round picks. Teams are instead seeking to use first-round picks on players with big upside. A few days ago, WalterFootball.com disclosed that Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter was projected by teams to go in the first round; we can now add Florida State offensive tackle Menelik Watson to that list.

    Sources have told WalterFootball.com that Watson is grading out as a top-32 pick despite only playing one season of big-time college football. He grew up playing basketball in Manchester, England, and ended up at Florida State after playing some junior college football. Watson took the ACC by storm in 2012 and was a dominant blocker. The Seminoles had a lot of success running behind him and he did extremely well in pass protection.

    The 6-foot-5, 310-pounder has quick feet with superb agility for an offensive lineman. He is strong and has the length to remain at tackle in the NFL. Watson’s athleticism has led some teams to believe he could make the move to left tackle after some developmental time.

    Scouts have told WalterFootball.com that Watson is a really smart kid and is good on the chalk board. He wowed teams with his football knowledge in the Combine interviews. Even though Watson is a raw talent, it appears that he made a good decision by entering the 2013 NFL Draft.

    Sources named the Bears, Bengals, Rams, Colts, Seahawks and Packers as possible landing spots for Watson in the latter half of the first round. He is grading out as a Thursday-night pick since teams are prioritizing upside.

    Justin Hunter Generating First-Round Buzz

    Published March 6, 2013
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson has been the wideout who has received the most attention leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft. Patterson is the consensus top-rated wide receiver and is expected to go in the top 20 on Draft Day. While he has garnered the most headlines, teammate Justin Hunter is also getting acclaim in scouting circles.

    WalterFootall.com spoke with some scouts, including one from a receiver-needy team picking in the back half of the top 32. All believe that Hunter is likely to go in the first round. They said the Combine really helped Hunter with positive reports from his medical check and an excellent 40-yard dash time of 4.44 seconds.

    The 6-foot-4, 196-pound Hunter is proving that he is regaining his speed and explosiveness following a 2011 ACL injury. Hunter missed most of that season before playing in every game of 2012. He totaled 73 receptions for 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns in an offense that spread the ball around to Hunter, Patterson, Zach Rogers and Mychal Rivera.

    Scouts told WalterFootball.com that they love the upside of Hunter. He has the size to work in the short to intermediate part of the field and speed to get vertical. They like his run-after-the-catch ability as well as his combination of size and speed. Hunter hasn’t received a lot of first-round buzz, but one team in the mid 20s said it would be ecstatic if he was on the board for its pick.

    Hunter’s upside was another reason that scouts felt he was likely to go in the first round. They said in this draft class, players with big upside are very appealing in the late first round rather than those who are deemed safe.

    Judging by the sound of the scouts’ opinions, Hunter has been underrated nationally and stands a good shot of being a Thursday-night selection.

    Revis Trade Matches

    Published March 4, 2013
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    It looks like the situation with the Jets and star cornerback Darrelle Revis is deteriorating. New York seems reluctant to pay Revis the kind of money his next contract will demand, and Revis doesn’t appear to be interested in any contract that doesn’t compensate him as one of if not the top defender in the NFL.

    If Revis is traded, the Jets would command multiple draft picks with at least one first-round selection. New York can’t franchise tag Revis when his contract runs out after next season, so if they aren’t willing to sign him long-term it makes sense to send him to a team of the Jets’ choosing. Otherwise he could land with a division rival like the Patriots or Dolphins.

    New York has to make a decision: Either pay Revis an extension or get something for him while they can. The Jets have a lot of holes on their roster so the picks they would get for Revis could strengthen a number of positions. Here is a list of teams that could be suitors for Revis:

    San Francisco 49ers:

    The 49ers are the obvious top candidate. They have 12 draft picks in 2013 with two high selections at 31 and 34. If the Jets want 2014 picks as well, the 49ers have extra ammo for that class. San Francisco could use an upgrade at cornerback, and Revis is a great scheme fit in their defense. The 49ers freed up $9 million in cap space with the Alex Smith trade. They may need to free up a little bit more to sign Revis and other deals. Of all the destinations, San Francisco makes the most sense for the Jets with their huge draft pick resources. Sending Revis into the NFC is an added bonus.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

    After the 49ers, Tampa Bay could be the next option that would be the most logical for a trading partner. The Buccaneers have enough picks and salary cap space to get a deal done for Revis. After fielding one of the worst pass defenses in NFL history in 2012, Tampa Bay is in dire need of cornerback help. The Bucs have had underwhelming drafts in the past four years, so it makes sense for the Bucs to trade for a proven commodity in Revis rather than trusting the front office to avoid drafting another Myron Lewis.

    Detroit Lions:

    The Lions are more of a long shot because their cap situation would make it tough to do a long-term contract with Revis. However, Detroit needs a cornerback, and the fifth-overall pick as the headliner would be exciting compensation for the Jets. If the Lions could afford Revis’ contract, it would make more sense for them to trade for Revis rather than selecting the top corner in the draft, Alabama’s DeMarcus Milliner. Even if Milliner pans out, he probably won’t be as a good as Revis.

    Tennessee Titans:

    The Titans are close to $20 million under the salary cap and can afford Revis. Tennessee badly needs to upgrade its secondary. Milliner is unlikely to reach the Titans’ pick at 10, and Revis would be a night-and-day difference over the rookie corner they could land there. Tennessee could also use some star power. Their coaching staff also needs to move the team forward next year. It would be a lot easier for the Titans to defend Colts’ quarterback Andrew Luck and Texans’ wide receiver Andre Johnson with Revis leading their secondary. If the Jets were going to deal Revis in the AFC, the Titans would probably be a team they would find suitable.

    Denver Broncos:

    The Jets would probably prefer to trade Revis to an NFC team, but they’ve dealt with Denver in the past including the Tim Tebow trade last year. The Broncos need a long-term replacement for Champ Bailey, and Revis would be a perfect fit. Denver has $17 million in cap space, and that is enough to fulfill a Revis extension with a few other small deals. It makes sense for Denver to give the farm for Revis considering they have a loaded roster without a lot of needs. Plus, they only have a small window of opportunity to win a Super Bowl with the aging Peyton Manning. Denver would be a good landing spot for Revis.

    Don’t Plan on Developmental Quarterbacks

    Published Feb. 19, 2013
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    The 2013 NFL Draft class features a weak group of quarterbacks that lacks top-shelf talent for the first round. There are a number of quarterback-needy teams that would love to draft a franchise signal-caller in the first round. Those teams would be even more ecstatic to land one on the second day of the draft or the mid-rounds. Seattle did that last year with Russell Wilson, but the odds of another team duplicating that are very slim.

    When there aren’t good options in the first round, fans hear of teams considering adding a mid-round project who they develop into being a good starter. I thought it would be interesting to look across the NFL and see how many teams have groomed a starting quarterback who wasn’t acquired with a first-round pick. I marked non-first-rounders with an asterisk. This list is of the current projected starters for next season.

    AFC North (1)
    Baltimore – Joe Flacco, first-round pick
    Cincinnati – Andy Dalton*, second-round pick
    Cleveland – Brandon Weeden, first-round pick
    Pittsburgh – Ben Roethlithsberger, first-round pick

    AFC South (1)
    Houston – Matt Schaub*, third-round pick (trade with Atlanta)
    Indianapolis – Andrew Luck, first-round pick
    Jacksonville – Blaine Gabbert, first-round pick
    Tennessee – Jake Locker, first-round pick

    AFC West (0)
    Denver – Peyton Manning, first-round pick (free agency)
    Kansas City – Unknown
    Oakland – Carson Palmer, first-round pick (trade)
    San Diego – Philip Rivers, first-round pick

    AFC East (1)
    Buffalo – Unknown
    Miami – Ryan Tannehill, first-round pick
    New England – Tom Brady*, sixth-round pick
    New York – Mark Sanchez, first-round pick

    NFC North (0)
    Chicago – Jay Cutler, first-round pick (trade)
    Detroit – Matthew Stafford, first-round pick
    Green Bay – Aaron Rodgers, first-round pick
    Minnesota – Christian Ponder, first-round pick

    NFC South (1)
    Atlanta – Matt Ryan, first-round pick
    Carolina – Cam Newton, first-round pick
    New Orleans – Drew Brees*, second-round pick (free agency)
    Tampa Bay – Josh Freeman, first-round pick

    NFC West (2)
    Arizona – Unknown
    San Francisco – Colin Kaepernick*, second-round pick
    Seattle – Russell Wilson*, third-round pick
    St. Louis – Sam Bradford, first-round pick

    NFC East (1)
    Dallas- Tony Romo*, undrafted
    New York – Eli Manning, first-round pick (trade)
    Philadelphia – Michael Vick, first-round pick (free agency)
    Washington – Robert Griffin III, first-round pick

    There are only seven quarterbacks who are currently projected to be starters who weren’t first-round picks. Interestingly, two of them, Drew Brees and Tom Brady, are future Hall of Famers who are among the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Romo, Schaub and Dalton have all led their teams to the postseason. The remaining two, Wilson and Kaepernick, are among the best young quarterbacks in the league. Thus, these seven signal-callers are really good to break the hold that first-round picks have on starting quarterback jobs.

    There are three teams right now that don’t have a known starter; one of those is likely to take West Virginia’s Geno Smith in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Another club is likely to deal with the 49ers for former No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith.

    The third franchise could acquire Nick Foles from the Eagles. Therefore, it wouldn’t be surprising if the number of starters who were first-round selections is at eight come Week 1 next September.

    There could be more mid-round quarterbacks who develop into starters, but the NFL really doesn’t do the grooming of players that it used to. So many teams take a quarterback in the first round, and when they’re done with that player, they’re back to targeting another signal-caller in the first round.

    It is hard for backups to develop because they aren’t afforded the same amount of time to play through growing pains like a first-round pick. Backups also get very few reps in practice once the season begins. Those players basically have training camp and the preseason to make a big impression in order to be considered to have starting potential in the future.

    Of course, many teams would love to land the next Wilson, Kaepernick or Brady. They are fantastic values on the field and from the perspective of the first contract they play under. The list above proves that if you’re a fan of Arizona, Buffalo or Kansas City, you shouldn’t plan on the organization developing a quarterback. A first-round pick is highly likely in 2013 or 2014.

    Damontre Moore is Indeed Considered a First-Round Prospect

    Published Feb. 12, 2013
    By Walter Cherepinsky – @walterfootball

    Rotoworld published a blurb Tuesday morning about National Football Post writer Russ Lande’s revelation regarding Texas A&M defensive Damontre Moore. Lande stated on Twitter that he hasn’t talked to an NFL scout who has graded Moore as a first-round prospect. Lande said that Moore belongs in the second round.

    This was quite perplexing to me. I have Moore going third to the Raiders in my 2013 NFL Mock Draft. Senior NFL Draft Analyst Charlie Campbell has Moore picked third as well. ESPN’s Mel Kiper slotted Moore No. 2 overall in his recent mock draft, as did CBS’ Rob Rang. Moore can be found in the second or third spot in most of the mock drafts in the 2013 NFL Mock Draft Database.

    So, would everyone have to adjust their mock drafts based on Lande’s report? We asked some NFL scouts about their opinion of Moore, and we came away with nothing but positive feedback.

    “Everyone I’ve spoken with has him as a first-rounder,” an NFC scout told Charlie.

    An AFC scout was even more specific. When asked whether our projection of Moore should be dropped from a high first-rounder to a low first-rounder or even a second-rounder, the scout enthusiastically replied, “I think you got him right!”

    FEB. 13 UPDATE: We’ve spoken to an NFC general manager picking in the bottom half of the first round. He does not expect Moore to be around when he’s on the clock. “We have him as a mid to high first,” he said.

    Redskins Won’t Trade Kirk Cousins

    Published Feb. 11, 2013
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    It has become clear that the 2013 NFL Draft class is lacking in quarterback talent. The top signal-caller, West Virginia’s Geno Smith, is not a lock to go with the first-overall pick, and there is no established second quarterback who has proven to be worthy of a first-round selection.

    If it weren’t for the demand for signal-callers, there would only be one quarterback selected in the top 32 this coming April. There are plenty of teams around the league that are in dire need of a quarterback, so the trade market for veteran quarterbacks could be very active this offseason.

    One of the most intriguing backups in the NFL is Washington Redskins second-year pro Kirk Cousins. After trading a king’s ransom to land Robert Griffin III with the second-overall pick, the Redskins shocked many by using their next selection on Cousins in the fourth round. General manager Bruce Allen received a lot of criticism for not addressing a different need, but Allen stayed true to his draft board and looks like a genius in hindsight.

    While Griffin was banged up late in the season, Cousins (6-3, 209) was a clutch replacement to help Washington win the NFC East. He completed 69 percent of his passes (33-of-48) for 466 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. Cousins has three seasons remaining on a four-year, $2.5 million contract he signed before his first training camp. As a starting quarterback that would be an insane value from a salary cap perspective. Cousins is extremely intriguing for a team looking to acquire a quarterback.

    Sources have told WalterFootball.com that Cousins’ football IQ is tremendous. Having him in the meeting room helped Griffin to develop, and the two quarterbacks worked extremely well together. With Griffin coming off a knee injury, Cousins should see a lot of good developmental snaps with the starters during the spring OTAs and mini-camps.

    Even though there are plenty of teams that could be interested in trading for Cousins, sources have told WalterFootball.com that the Redskins have zero interest in dealing him. Allen will assuredly listen to what another team would offer him, but Washington will not be shopping Cousins. He could be a needed fill-in for the Redskins in 2013 and they love having a reliable backup like Cousins.

    Thus, the 2014 or 2015 offseason would be the time to shop Cousins. If he gets on the field and performs well, obviously he will drive up the price tag and Washington could hope to regain some of the first-round picks the team used to land Griffin.

    With Griffin firmly in place as the Redskins’ franchise quarterback, Washington has the ability to follow Ron Wolf’s example in Green Bay by developing and eventually trading quality backup quarterbacks. While Brett Favre was leading the Packers to the postseason on an annual basis, Wolf developed and traded away Mark Brunell, Matt Hasselbeck and Aaron Brooks.

    The Redskins could easily follow that model, but probably won’t start down that road for another year or two.

    Saints Likely to Let Jermon Bushrod Walk

    Published Jan. 18, 2013
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    One would think that protecting Drew Brees’ blind side would be a critical offseason concern for the New Orleans Saints. Brees is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and the Saints live off his right arm. Any hopes of getting back to the Super Bowl are 100-percent dependent on Brees staying healthy. However, the Saints are showing no urgency in bringing back starting left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who is entering free agency.

    Sources have told WalterFootball.com that Bushrod isn’t a priority for New Orleans. Making matters more complicated is the Saints are in a tough position with the salary cap. They will probably cut some notable veterans and won’t be able to go on a massive spending spree in free agency. Bushrod has been solid for New Orleans, but the Saints wouldn’t break the bank for him even if they could. The Saints’ reason for not investing big in their left tackle goes beyond not willing to pay an average or an above-average player.

    According to sources, New Orleans takes a different approach to its offensive line. The Saints believe in investing in guards to keep a clean pocket for Brees with space for him to step up in the pocket. That’s why they’ve given out big contracts to Ben Grubbs and Jahri Evans. They offered a nice deal to re-sign Carl Nicks a year ago, but they didn’t want to pay him market value because of internal concerns about how the Pro Bowl guard would play after getting a big pay day. The Saints had reservations that Nicks would take his foot off the pedal once securing a big contract.

    This year, sources say that the Saints are leaning toward the same approach with Bushrod and making a lower offer that can easily be topped in the open market. If Bushrod isn’t willing to play for a discount the Saints aren’t opposed to letting him walk. Considering the demand for quality tackles in the NFL, it is likely the Saints will have a new blind-side protector for Brees next season.

    Jarvis Jones Expected To Slide on Draft Day

    Published Jan. 18, 2013
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones had been one of the most dominant football players in college football the past two seasons. He’s destroyed the SEC for those two years, as many consider him to be one of the most talented players in the 2013 NFL Draft class. Jones is on top of my 2013 NFL Draft Big Board, as well as ESPN’s Mel Kiper’s.

    However, after speaking with scouts at the East-West Shrine Game who have Jones in their territory, they say they expect Jones to slide down and fall out of the top five next April.

    The scouts said there are a few reasons that could add up to Jones falling into the 6-10 range. First of all, the scouts said that Jones is not a good workout guy. They don’t believe that he is going to test well or stand out in the Combine or pre-draft workouts. Area scouts who cover Georgia say that Jones is not a weight-room guy. He doesn’t put a lot of work in during the week, but would show up on Saturday and dominate naturally.

    They said that Jones is a good guy and a good teammate, but just isn’t a tireless worker. As one scout said, “Don’t get me wrong, if you watch his tapes you’ll say he is worth being the No. 1 rated player and going in the top five of the draft. You can watch him on Saturdays and see that this guy is animal. He’s clearly the best player on the field, but not a guy that you’ll be in love with during the week. Add in the medical concern and with the testing, and I think he’s going to slide some on Draft Day.”

    Jones’ medical condition is a spinal stenosis that happened as a freshman at USC. On a routine hit against Oregon, Jones sustained the injury. A specialist told him he would be fine, but USC’s doctors wouldn’t clear him and told him he should retire from football. After transferring to Georgia, Jones broke out as one of the best players in college football.

    As a junior, Jones had 85 tackles, 14.5 sacks, 24.5 tackles for a loss, seven forced fumbles, three passes broken up and one interception in 2012. Jones had massive performances against Florida and Missouri with consistently good outings all year. Jones led the nation in sacks and for the second straight season had the most sacks in the SEC.

    In 2011, he tied for the second-most sacks in the nation, 13.5. He also had 70 tackles with 19.5 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles.

    Jones could be a classic example of teams overthinking the draft process. Over the history of the draft, good players have slid because of an unnecessary medical concerns or not working out well at the Combine. If Jones plays in the NFL like he did at Georgia, he’ll reward whomever takes him on Draft Day with plenty of teams feeling regret.

    Star Lotulelei Won’t Play in the Senior Bowl

    Published Jan. 13, 2013
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Sources have told WalterFootball.com that Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei will not play in the Senior Bowl. It had not been previously reported whether Lotulelei would play in the All-Star game in Mobile, Ala. Lotulelei could have played in the Senior Bowl if he wanted, but declined to participate.

    It is not a surprise that Lotulelei is passing on the Senior Bowl. He is in the running to be the first-overall pick and the majority of players who are projected to go that high end up avoiding the injury risk of playing in the Senior Bowl. If Lotulelei doesn’t go with the first pick, he isn’t expected to get out of the top five of the 2013 NFL Draft (click to see Charlie’s latest mock draft).

    Lotulelei had a dominant senior and junior year at Utah. As a senior he recorded 42 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, five sacks, three forced fumbles and four passes broken up. He was more dominant than the numbers indicate as he was constantly double-teamed and regularly defeated two blockers.

    There were a number of highlight reel games from Lotulelei in 2012. He started the game against USC on fire with plays all over the field, including a vicious tackle for a loss and a forced fumble that he recovered after blowing up center Khaled Holmes, a potential second-day pick. Lotulelei caused another fumble against the Trojans, but was not officially credited for it. Lotulelei had dominant games with some splash plays against Washington State, California, BYU, UCLA and Utah State among others.

    Lotulelei has a rare combination of size, power, speed and explosion. The 6-foot-4, 320-pound Lotulelei was a First-Team All-Pac-12 pick in 2011 and 2012. He won the 2011 Morris Trophy as the conference’s top defensive lineman as voted on by the starting offensive linemen. He could fit in any NFL scheme and is a prototypical tackle for a 4-3 defense. For a 3-4 scheme, he could play nose tackle or defensive end.

    Lotulelei has the reputation of a high-character individual and is settled down with a wife and child. He has a huge ceiling and should only get better as he gains more experience.

    Bengals Plan Big Spending Blitz

    Published Jan. 10, 2013
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Sources with the Cincinnati Bengals have told WalterFootball.com that the team plans on being a big spender in free agency this year. Currently, Cincinnati leads the NFL in cap space ($55.1 million). Sources with the Bengals indicate that they intend to spend to the cap limit, which would mean they are going on a massive shopping spree this offseason. If the team follows through on that, it will be one of the most active franchises in free agency this spring.

    Even though Cincinnati is going to sign a lot of players, it may not acquire all that many from other teams. The Bengals have 20 players whose contracts are expiring, and sources with the team say the front office wants to re-sign a lot of its own free agents.

    Cincinnati will probably use a big chunk of money on an extension for star defensive tackle Geno Atkins. He is one of the best defensive players in the NFL and is scheduled to be a free agent after the 2013 season, so signing him this offseason would be ideal. Atkins was a fourth-round pick in 2010 out of Georgia, so his rookie deal has him grossly underpaid compared to his counterparts around the league, given his production. Atkins is a franchise player whom the club must retain.

    One of the highest priorities has to be to re-signing defensive end Michael Johnson, who is set to hit the open market. The fourth-year player turned into a force rushing off the edge this season with 11.5 sacks. Johnson was a nice complement to Atkins.

    Johnson will be a hot commodity on the free agent market. The 6-foot-7, 270-pound defensive end is only 25 and has plenty of good years ahead of him. Cincinnati selected Johnson in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft. Ends like him rarely hit unrestricted free agency.

    Given that retaining Johnson is a priority, the Bengals may use the franchise tag if they can’t sign him to a multi-year extension before he hits free agency. The franchise tag for defensive ends is projected to be around $11 million. Atkins and Johnson are players the team would like to reward with big contracts after drafting them in the middle rounds and developing them into high-impact players.

    Cincinnati is also expected to try to come to an extension with free agent offensive tackle Andre Smith. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap could also be signed to an extension, as he is a year away from free agency.

    Aside from those re-signings and extensions, the Bengals would like to fill some other needs; one is a speed running back. Miami Dolphins’ running back Reggie Bush is hitting free agency and would fit the offensive scheme run by Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.

    The Bengals could also use a safety to pair with Reggie Nelson. Potential targets include the Giants’ Kenny Philips, the Jets’ LaRon Landry, the 49ers’ Dashon Goldson and the Patriots’ Patrick Chung.

    Cincinnati has made the playoffs three times in the past four years, and with the right moves that streak should continue. The team currently has a huge amount of free agency dollars as well as three draft picks in the top 53 selections of next April’s draft. The Bengals could have a big offseason to fortify their roster for a fourth playoff appearance in 2013, especially if they spend that $55 million to the cap limit like sources say they plan to.

    Good Talent at the East-West Shrine Game

    Published Jan. 6, 2013
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    The East-West Shrine practices are a week away, and the rosters for each squad feature lots of good talent for the 2013 NFL Draft. WalterFootball.com caught up with some sources to see what names stood out to them as good talents to get to know before the practices arrive.

    East Offense

  • Emory Blake WR Auburn
  • Marcus Davis WR Virginia Tech
  • Corey Fuller WR Virginia Tech
  • Ray Graham RB Pittsburgh
  • Zac Stacy RB Vanderbilt
  • Omoregie Uzzi G Georgia Tech

    East Defense

  • Jamie Collins OLB Southern Mississippi
  • Josh Evans S Florida
  • Gerald Hodges OLB Penn State
  • Lerentee McCray OLB Florida
  • Rod Sweeting CB Georgia Tech
  • Devin Taylor DE South Carolina

    West Offense

  • Rex Burkhead RB Nebraska
  • Chad Bumphis QB Mississippi State
  • Joseph Fauria TE UCLA
  • Blaize Foltz G TCU
  • Nick Kasa TE Colorado
  • Matt Scott QB Arizona

    West Defense

  • Josh Boyd DT Mississippi State
  • Terry Hawthorne CB Illinois
  • Demontre Hurst CB Oklahoma
  • Micah Hyde CB Iowa
  • Duke Williams S Nevada

    A number of these players are viewed as potential second-day picks, while perhaps the best player from last year’s game, cornerback Josh Norman, fell to the third day of the 2012 NFL Draft. Some of these players could also end up going to the Senior Bowl depending on some injuries. The rosters are always adjusted in the days before and during the practices for each All-Star game.

    Check back as WalterFootball.com will have live coverage from all of the East-West Shrine practices on who is playing well and who is falling down draft boards with their practice performances.

    2013 NFL Draft Overreaction Mock

    Published Dec. 31, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    There are certain days in the NFL calender that cause the media, fans and teams to overreact. Two examples are the day immediately after the NFL Draft and the day after the opening Sunday of the regular season. Today is another one of those days. The end of the regular season always causes a big uproar.

    With that in mind we thought it would be fun to write an overreaction mock draft with some potential trades. For more in-depth, three-round mock drafts check out Walt’s 2013 NFL Mock Draft and my regular mock that are updated weekly.

    1. Kansas City Chiefs: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
      The Chiefs have to land a franchise quarterback. The veteran retread route has not worked out.

    2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
      Jacksonville needs to upgrade the talent of its roster and should take the best player available regardless of position. Jones could be the best player in the 2013 NFL Draft.

    3. Oakland Raiders: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
      The Raiders may look to trade down, but they really need the talent of a difference-maker like Lotulelei on their team.

    4. St. Louis Rams: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
      TRADE: The Rams use some of their extra ammo to move up with Philadelphia. St. Louis could give up a second-round pick or one of its 2014 first-rounders to land the top tackle in the 2013 NFL Draft. Joeckel would be perfect to protect the blind side of Sam Bradford.

    5. Detroit Lions: Damontre Moore, OLB/DE, Texas A&M
      The Lions need to upgrade their defensive ends even if they re-sign Cliff Avril. Moore is a good value at the fifth-overall pick.

    6. For the rest of the Overreaction 2013 NFL Mock Draft click here…

    Kenny Stills, Trey Millard to Declare for Draft

    Published Dec. 27, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Sources have also told WalterFootball.com that Oklahoma fullback Trey Millard is planning to declare for the 2013 NFL Draft. Sources have also confirmed to us that Oklahoma wide receiver Kenny Stills is going to skip his senior season to enter the 2013 NFL Draft. Sports Illustrated’s Tony Pauline had previously reported that Stills would enter the 2013 NFL Draft.

    Stills has 75 receptions for 892 yards and 11 touchdowns entering his bowl matchup with Texas A&M. In 2011, Stills (6-1, 189) had 61 receptions for 849 yards and eight touchdowns. He started as a true freshman and recorded 61 receptions for 786 yards and one touchdown. Stills has a chance to crack the second day of the 2013 NFL Draft but could easily fall to Day 3.

    As for Millard, he is in the running to be the first fullback selected and could go early on the third day of the 2013 NFL Draft. Millard has enjoyed an excellent junior season and was an All-Big XII First-Team selection. Not only has Millard been a force as a lead blocker, but he has found ways to produce some big plays with the ball in his hands. Milliard has 29 carries for 170 yards and 29 receptions for 331 yards and four touchdowns this season. He had a huge performance against Texas with five receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown, plus 45 yards rushing on three carries.

    Millard was an All-Big XII first-teamer in 2011 and an All-Big XII Second-Team selection as a true freshman in 2010. Over those two seasons, he carried the ball 48 times for 243 yards (5.1 average) and five touchdowns with 29 receptions for 262 yards and two scores.

    For the NFL, the 6-foot-2, 249-pound Millard is hard-nosed lead blocker who is powerful at the point of attack. He can create holes with hits on linebackers. Millard also can contribute as a short-yardage runner. He can fit any offense and could also play on special teams.

    Tyler Eifert Will Enter 2013 NFL Draft

    Published Dec. 22, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Sources have told WalterFootball.com that Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert is preparing to enter the 2013 NFL Draft after the BCS National Championship.

    It has been a foregone conclusion that Eifert would declare early. Eifert is senior who had the option of playing a fifth year because he was on the field for one game as a freshman. Thus, he had the flexibility to return to the Fighting Irish if he wanted to, but he’ll be heading to the NFL instead.

    The consensus opinion is that Eifert is a late first-round or early second-round pick. Eifert has hauled in 44 passes for 624 yards and four touchdowns in 2012. Notre Dame has been terrible at getting the most out of him though, and the team’s quarterback play has been extremely inconsistent. Eifert has made big improvements as a run blocker this season.

    The NFL is looking for pass-catching tight ends, and that is Eifert’s strength. He has great hands and makes tough receptions down the middle of the field. His receiving ability is NFL-ready. The 6-foot-6, 251-pounder could be the first tight end selected next April, as it will come down to him or Stanford’s Zach Ertz.

    Tony Jefferson to Enter 2013 NFL Draft

    Published Dec. 20, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Sources have told WalterFootball.com that Oklahoma junior safety Tony Jefferson is planning on skipping his senior season and entering the 2013 NFL Draft. Jefferson enjoyed a strong 2012 regular season that saw him lead the Sooners in tackles. He was named a Second-Team All American and a First-Team All-Big XII Conference selection. The consensus view has Jefferson as a second-day pick next April.

    Entering his bowl matchup with Texas A&M, Jefferson has 113 tackles, two interceptions and three passes broken up this year. He was one of the few Sooners who came to play against Kansas State. Jefferson had 14 tackles with a tackle for a loss versus the Wildcats. The junior was excellent at making tackles on perimeter runs at the line of scrimmage even though he was lining up 10 yards off the ball.

    Jefferson had excellent games to lead the Sooners’ defense against Notre Dame and Iowa State. He performed well versus other teams, including UTEP and Texas Tech.

    Jefferson has been a play-maker and leader of the Sooners’ defense since he arrived in Norman. He was the Big XII Freshman of the Year in 2010. Jefferson started nine games and recorded 65 tackles with seven tackles for a loss, two sacks, two interceptions and seven passes broken up. He was even better in 2011 when he had 74 tackles with four interceptions, 4.5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for a loss, three passes broken up and one forced fumble.

    The 5-foot-10, 212-pound Jefferson is an excellent pass-defender who covers a lot of ground in the deep part of the field. He does a good job of picking up receivers running deep and has the athletic ability to play man coverage on tight ends. Jefferson was very good in run support as a junior. The athletic and instinctive safety has a high ceiling for the NFL.

    Hunter, Bernard Wisely Decide to Enter the 2013 NFL Draft

    Published Dec. 18, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    It came as no surprise that Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter and North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard have decided to enter the 2013 NFL Draft. Both players enjoyed strong 2012 seasons and have had significant knee injuries during their collegiate careers. It makes no sense for them to further risk injuries by returning to school.

    In speaking with sources, Hunter is viewed as a serious candidate to land in the first round while Bernard is currently projected to be the top running back. Bernard could be a second-round pick and possibly a late first-rounder. Sources said that Hunter will need to run well at the NFL Scouting Combine, and a slow 40-yard dash time would really hurt him.

    Hunter tore an ACL in 2011, so teams want to see continued signs that he is regaining his speed and explosiveness. It seemed to be coming back late this season, but the issues were there from some of his performances this autumn.

    Hunter was held to fewer than 80 yards by multiple opponents early on including N.C. State, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State and Alabama. Mississippi State cornerbacks Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay kept Hunter from getting separation and held him to two receptions for 41 yards.

    Hunter heated up down the stretch and finished 2012 with 73 receptions for 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns. The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder has big-time potential if he can return to his pre-injury form. It is logical for him to enter the 2013 NFL Draft rather than take another injury risk in the hopes of becoming a top-10 pick a year later.

    The 2012 ACC Offensive Player of the Year Bernard had a knee injury that cost him the 2010 season. He came back to burst onto the scene as a redshirt freshman in 2011, racking up 1,324 yards and 13 touchdowns (5.24 average). Bernard also showed fantastic receiving ability, too, snagging 45 receptions for 362 yards and one touchdown.

    The redshirt sophomore missed two games in 2012 with an injury. He averaged 6.7 yards per carry on his way to 1,228 yards and 12 touchdowns. Bernard also had 47 receptions for 490 yards and five scores. He averaged 16.4 yards per punt return, too, and made two touchdowns. Bernard led the nation in punt return average.

    Sources currently believe that Bernard will be the first running back selected, but said he still needs to perform well at the NFL Scouting Combine and interview well with teams. It was suggested that Bernard (5-10, 205) should consider adding 10 pounds of bulk before the combine to help ease durability concerns. He ended the 2012 season healthy and would gain nothing by returning to college. Bernard should be a starting back in the NFL next September.

    Chip Kelly Would Fit In Carolina

    Published Dec. 12, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    The Carolina Panthers are still three weeks away from making their decision on head coach Ron Rivera. Owner Jerry Richardson has been clear that the team has to finish on the upswing for Rivera to come back. Sunday’s win over Atlanta was a start, but the three remaining games will decide his fate.

    Rivera needs to win at least two, if not all three, games to earn a third season in Carolina. The Panthers go to San Diego, host the Raiders and finish at New Orleans. Winning all three is possible, but the 2012 Panthers have struggled with consistency. The seat is on fire under Rivera, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he is let go in early January.

    One head coaching candidate who could fit Carolina well is Oregon head coach Chip Kelly. After turning the Ducks into one of the top programs in the nation, he is said to be ready to jump to the NFL. Kelly could have made the leap a year ago, but he turned down the head coaching job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    The Panthers would be an ideal fit for Kelly. In Carolina, he would have one of the NFL’s most athletic quarterbacks, Cam Newton. A dual-threat signal-caller like Newton would allow Kelly to incorporate some of his college spread-option offense into his NFL system.

    In speaking with sources, they said that Kelly to Carolina is possible. Former Panthers general manager Marty Hurney thought very highly of Kelly, and he was discussed two years ago before Rivera was hired. Richardson was extremely close to Hurney, so that opinion could still carry some influence.

    Kelly has never coached in the NFL, so many believe that an owner like Richardson would want to hear the names of some NFL experienced assistant coaches whom he would bring on staff. One name to keep an eye on is Monte Kiffin. After four seasons in college football, Kiffin is ready to return to the NFL. Kelly is good friends with Jon Gruden, who would give a wholehearted endorsement to having a legendary coordinator like Kiffin on Kelly’s staff.

    Sources have told WalterFootball.com that Kiffin would prefer to be in the Southeast if he had the option. The Buccaneers coaching staff always had a lot of respect for the Carolina franchise and former head coach John Fox. Kiffin and Kelly landing with the Panthers makes some sense.

    However, all that depends on how Rivera’s Panthers play in the final three weeks of the season.

    Top General Manager Candidates

    Published Dec. 8, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    In the weeks to come, there will be some more general manager positions opening up. WalterFootball.com has learned from sources that the Jaguars are extremely likely to fire Gene Smith. Reports out of San Diego have said that the Chargers will fire A.J. Smith, and Carolina already axed Marty Hurney. There could be more teams looking for new general managers, including Kansas City, Arizona and Miami. With teams looking to land new directors for their franchises, here is a brief list of candidates after speaking with some league contacts.

    John Dorsey

    Green Bay’s director of college scouting, Dorsey played for the Packers in the 1980s before being a college scout in the 1990s. Dorsey is in his 11th season as the director of college scouting. He has learned from general manager Ted Thompson, and the organization has had a string of good drafts over the past six years. Even though Dorsey is not the director of player personnel, he is actively involved in pro scouting as well. If Miami fires Jeff Ireland, Dorsey would make a lot of sense, as he has a working history with head coach Joe Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman.

    Tom Gamble

    Gamble has helped build the 49ers. In February 2011, Gamble was made San Francisco’s director of player personnel. He was the director of pro personnel for seven years before the promotion. Free agents like Justin Smith, Carlos Rogers, Donte Whitner, Jonathan Goodwin and Takeo Spikes were signed under Gamble’s tenure as the head of pro scouting. Gamble is in his 25th NFL season and eighth with the 49ers. Gamble was a college scout with the Colts from 1998 to 2004. He has experience in contract negotiations and in the coaching ranks. Gamble has also worked with the Jets, Panthers, Ravens and Eagles.

    Steve Keim

    Keim has steadily risen in the Cardinals’ organization over the past decade. Keim started as a regional college scout before taking over as the director of college scouting in 2006. Keim helped put together Arizona’s Super Bowl team and was made the director of pro personnel. Keim is the right hand man of general manager Rod Graves.

    Jerry Angelo

    The fired Bears’ general manager could be a candidate at a few teams around the league. When Angelo arrived in Chicago, the Bears were awful, and within five years, they were playing in the Super Bowl. He has a lot of experience and could be an interesting candidate to an owner who wants a guy who has done it before.

    Omar Khan

    Khan has the reputation as one of the best contract negotiators and cap managers in the NFL. He is the Director of Business & Football Administration. Khan has helped assemble two Super Bowl championship teams as the Steelers capologist. A team like Jacksonville with a new owner would make a lot of sense for Khan in his business and football acumen.

    Other Candidates Mentioned

    Tom Telesco – Indianapolis Colts Vice President of Football Operations

    George Paton – Minnesota Vikings Assistant General Manager

    David Caldwell – Atlanta Falcons Director of Player Personnel

    Jon Gruden to Tennessee “Unlikely;” NFL Landing Spots

    Published Nov. 29, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    The Jon Gruden courtship is in full swing. We broke Gruden’s story here three weeks ago, and now rumors have surfaced about a potential job with the Tennessee Volunteers.

    We caught up with sources to gauge their view on possible teams Gruden could land with. First of all, the sources view the Tennessee job as possible, but unlikely. Gruden has love for Tennessee after being an assistant there and meeting his wife, a Volunteers’ cheerleader, just as he was starting out in his coaching career. Sources said that he’s willing to listen, but coaching in the college ranks doesn’t have a big appeal to him. He’s more focused on the NFL, and that is where his comfort level resides. It would be a surprise to many if Gruden took the Tennessee job.

    We ran through a list of potential NFL teams, and our sources added one of their own.

    Philadelphia Eagles
    The key to Gruden landing in Philadelphia would be an amicable end with current coach Andy Reid. Gruden and Reid are friends dating back to working together in Green Bay. If it is an ugly ending for Reid, sources say that could be a real turn-off for Gruden. If things end well, however, Reid may offer his blessing as he cares a lot about his players and assistants. If Gruden took over, Reid might be able to bridge the way for some assistants to remain. No specific names were mentioned.

    Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie is a known admirer of Gruden’s, so the Eagles could be a real possibility if things end well with Reid.

    Dallas Cowboys
    Sources have said that Gruden would love to coach the Cowboys. He likes Tony Romo and the talent on the Dallas roster. In Gruden’s book Do You Love Football?!, he outlined the most important positions in the game as quarterback, an elite edge rusher, left tackle, No. 1 wide receiver and a shutdown cornerback. In Dallas, he would have those positions addressed with Romo, DeMarcus Ware, Tyron Smith, Dez Bryant and Morris Claiborne. Three of the five are young players entering their primes.

    Dallas is the perfect example of a big-market team that will go all out to win – the exact situation that Gruden would want. That being said, Jerry Jones is the x-factor. Would they be able to get along is the million dollar question. As one source put it, “Jerry can say the right things to land him. Gruden going to Dallas, and it working out well, are two different things entirely.” Jones hired Bill Parcells from ESPN to coach in Dallas, it could happen again with Gruden.

    Also, sources said to file this one as a possibility in 2014. They think Jason Garrett stands a good chance of getting another year as the Cowboys’ head coach. Gruden likes ESPN, and he won’t come back for anything that isn’t a perfect situation. Dallas and Gruden may be a year away.

    New York Jets
    The Jets are similar to the Eagles and Cowboys as East Coast big-market teams with ownership committed to winning. Gruden also loves Tim Tebow, so that would be a further incentive to take the Jets’ job. During his time with ESPN, Gruden has learned the college spread offense and has spent time with Chip Kelly in Oregon. Implementing some of that system with Tebow would be exciting for Gruden. Sources also said this could also be a 2014 possibility with Rex Ryan getting one another year to turn it around in New York.

    Cleveland Browns
    The Browns were said to be a candidate he would consider. Gruden has Ohio roots. After getting fired by Tampa Bay, his family was afraid that going back to Ohio – Cleveland specifically – would be enough to coax Gruden back to the sidelines quickly. They were hoping he would take the extended break to spend time with his family.

    Cleveland isn’t a big market, but it does have new passionate ownership in the Haslams, who already have familiarity with Gruden. There are also some pieces for Gruden to work with after the drafts by mentor Mike Holmgren. During the mid 1990s, current Browns CEO Joe Banner was in the Eagles’ front office while Gruden was offensive coordinator. The Browns would have a shot to get him, and there could be conversations underway already between the Haslams, Banner and Gruden. Sources said they would keep the status of those talks close to the vest if they are happening.

    San Diego Chargers
    When asked, sources said they wouldn’t rule the Chargers out. San Diego has a skilled quarterback in Philip Rivers and some other talent for Gruden to work with. If the Chargers fire Norv Turner and want to land Gruden, the recommendation of special teams coach Rich Bisaccia would carry a lot of weight on whether to take the job or pass. Bisaccia was Gruden’s special teams coordinator for every year of his tenure in Tampa Bay. They are close friends.

    Carolina Panthers
    Sources say this one is more of a long-shot. Carolina is a smaller market and doesn’t have the ownership urgency of other teams. The Panthers don’t sound like a match.

    New Orleans Saints
    This is a team that sources brought up on their own as a potential landing spot for Gruden. If Sean Payton were to leave the Saints, they said this could be very possible. For years, there have been rumors in the NFL that Payton would eventually like to end up the head coach in Dallas. There is some concern about Payton’s willingness to work with the Benson family in the long-term after Tom Benson, 85, relinquishes control to the next generation. Payton has family in Dallas.

    If Payton lands with the Cowboys, and the Saints job opens up, this will be a very appealing team for Gruden to re-enter the NFL with. Drew Brees is a massive selling point, and Gruden knows him well. Gruden’s last quarterback coach in Tampa Bay, Greg Olson, recruited and coached Brees at Purdue. Olson and Brees remained close over the years and the trio would work well together. Currently, Olson is the Jaguars’ quarterback coach and could be Gruden’s offensive coordinator in New Orleans. Both Gruden and Olson were fired by Tampa Bay, so coaching the Saints would have the incentive of playing the Bucs twice a year with the advantage that Brees typically provides.

    Gene Smith Likely to Be Fired; Jaguars’ Coaching Staff to Remain

    Published Nov. 27, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    WalterFootball.com has learned from sources that the Jacksonville Jaguars are expected to make changes after this season. General manager Gene Smith is likely to be fired, with possibly other additions and subtractions in the front office. However, the coaching staff under head coach Mike Mularkey is highly likely to return in 2013. These moves would come as no surprise, as there have been many reports of Smith’s future dismissal as the Jaguars have continued to struggle on the field.

    Jacksonville brought in its new coaching staff last offseason, and all of the coaches received multi-year contracts. It isn’t appealing to owner Shahid Khan to fire this staff and then have to pay two coaching staffs for a few seasons. He understands that the current group inherited one of the worst rosters in the NFL. Sources have said that Khan has a good relationship with the coaching staff and knows that the coaches deserve more time to turn around the Jaguars considering the state of the team when they arrived.

    Jacksonville’s new coaches have improved the play of second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert, but the team has really made strides after going to veteran Chad Henne as its quarterback. With Henne under center, the Jaguars took the Texans to overtime in a losing effort on the road before beating the Titans last Sunday.

    Jacksonville’s roster has progressively decreased in talent and ability to compete under Smith’s direction. Smith started out with the Jaguars as an area scout and moved up the ladder to become their executive director of college and pro personnel before becoming the general manager in 2009. Many of his draft picks haven’t worked out; Gabbert being the most glaring. The team traded up from the 16th-overall pick to the 10th spot to select Gabbert – just one choice before the Texans snagged J.J. Watt. Smith sacrificed a second-round pick in order to make the deal for the bust quarterback.

    Other early-round picks have disappointed like defensive tackle Tyson Alualu and guard Will Rackley. Smith also used a third-round pick on punter Bryan Anger last April just a few picks before Seattle selected quarterback Russell Wilson.

    Smith has had some misses in free agency too. He signed veteran Laurent Robinson to a big contract last March, and the new wideout was a bitter disappointment before ending the season on injured reserve. Smith also signed Mike Thomas to a big contract extension, and he never lived up to the deal before being given away to Detroit before the trade deadline. The offensive line has been a weakness all year and was neglected in free agency.

    The Jaguars are 2-9 and playing improved football without Gabbert in the lineup, and Smith was a driving force to keep Gabbert on the field in hopes that he would play well enough to save Smith’s job. Jacksonville clearly needs to make massive roster changes to become a postseason contender again, and Smith is unlikely to be in charge of those decisions. Sources believe that he will be at the center of the team’s offseason changes that won’t include a new coaching staff.

    For a great breakdown on Smith’s failures as a general manager, check out this piece by Grantland’s Bill Barnwell.

    Top Quarterback Prospects Should Play in Senior Bowl

    Published Nov. 22, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    The top quarterback prospects usually pass on playing in a postseason All-Star game. The top-three quarterback prospects this year are all seniors. Ergo, each has the ability to play in Mobile if he chooses to. West Virginia’s Geno Smith, USC’s Matt Barkley and Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson have all had mixed senior seasons. It would be in their individual best interests to play in the Senior Bowl.

    Of these three, Smith is probably the most likely to pass on the game. He is currently the top-ranked quarterback, so his advisors will probably think that if he struggles in Mobile, another quarterback could pass him up. Smith has completed 70 percent of his passes this year for 3,361 yards, 35 touchdowns and five interceptions.

    The 6-foot-3, 214-pounder started out 2012 on fire before cooling down in the second half of the season. Smith has played in a college system rather than an NFL-style offense at West Virginia. He could have some issues transitioning into the Senior Bowl’s pro-style system with only a few days worth of practice.

    While Smith has more understandable reasons to skip the Senior Bowl, it would be risky to skip playing in Mobile. He’s the top-rated quarterback prospect, but not by a significant margin. It is very possible that another quarterback could jump ahead of him by playing well in Mobile since it could generate significant interest from quarterback-needy teams. Smith can show that he is a competitor with a good skill set by playing at the Senior Bowl.

    Wilson (6-3, 230) will play the final game of his college football career on Friday against LSU. Arkansas isn’t bowl-eligible, so he won’t have the benefit of another game to display his skills and pad his stats. The Razorbacks’ signal-caller has completed 62 percent of his passes for 3,028 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions so far this season.

    Wilson hasn’t been bad in 2012, but he hasn’t been dominant either. He has a nice physical skill set with mobility, accuracy and a good arm. A big week in Mobile could vault him up draft boards.

    Barkley has had a disappointing senior campaign with ugly performances against UCLA, Stanford, California and Arizona. He has completed 64 percent of his passes for 3,273 yards, 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions this year. Barkley won’t have a shot to redeem his season with a big game against Notre Dame because of a shoulder injury. USC has already announced that he won’t play against the Fighting Irish.

    It is unclear if Barkley (6-2, 220) will be able to play in the Trojans’ Bowl game, and if he can’t, that would make the Senior Bowl even more valuable to him as an opportunity to impress NFL scouts. Participating in Mobile would give him a 50-50 chance of playing for an NFL staff that uses a West Coast offense.

    Barkley, who is known has an intelligent hard-worker, has been in that system for four years, so he should be able to impress with his ability to transition quickly to the NFL. Barkley’s stock has fallen the most out of the top-three quarterback prospects, and he shouldn’t pass on the Senior Bowl since it could recharge his draft stock.

    Many prospects and their agents are afraid that if a player performs poorly in Mobile, his stock will be hurt. Every year there is proof that isn’t the case. Florida quarterback Tim Tebow had a ugly week of practice at the 2010 Senior Bowl while being sick. That poor showing didn’t impact his draft stock, as he still went in the first round.

    Other players at other positions have gone high despite rough weeks in Mobile. All three of these quarterbacks should jump at the opportunity to help themselves by playing at the Senior Bowl. As Tebow proved, they have more to gain than they have to lose.

    Senior Bowl Invites Feature Early-Round Talent

    Published Nov. 15, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    The first group of prospects to accept invitations to the Senior Bowl has been announced. The Senior Bowl released the names of nine players who will participate in the All Star game on Jan. 26 in Mobile, Ala. The initial group features a few players with early-round potential. These are the nine seniors who have already pledged to play:

  • Oday Aboushi, OT, Virginia
  • Will Davis, CB, Utah State
  • Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall
  • E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State
  • Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
  • Ryan Otten, TE, San Jose State
  • Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
  • Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
  • Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State

    Of that group, two names in particular stand out as making good decisions to play in Mobile. Short is one of the best interior pass-rushers in college football. He started out the 2012 campaign on fire before an ankle injury slowed him down in the middle portion of the season. Last week, he was dominant against Iowa, but Purdue (4-6) is a bad team, so it probably will fail to qualify for a bowl game. The Boilermakers have to win both of their final two games. Most likely, they’ll drop one of them, so Short will have one less opportunity to play for scouts than most of the other defensive tackle prospects.

    On the plus side, Short (6-3, 310) will have about six weeks to rehab his ankle before playing in the Senior Bowl. The senior has totaled 32 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, five sacks, three passes broken up, four blocked kicks and a forced fumble so far this year. Short has also faced a pretty easy schedule of offensive linemen. By dominating at the Senior Bowl, Short could answer doubts and prove himself to be worthy of a first-round pick.

    The other senior who was very wise to commit to the Senior Bowl was Aboushi. Virginia also has gone 4-6 and needs to beat North Carolina and Virginia Tech in order to qualify for postseason play. That seems unlikely. This season, Aboushi has played well, but hasn’t gone up against a single noteworthy pass-rusher. He’ll see better talent in the final two games, but in Mobile, Aboushi is likely to be tested daily by potential first-round pass-rushers.

    If Aboushi has a strong week in Mobile against those rushers, that will help him more than what he has displayed thus far in his senior season. The 6-foot-6, 310-pounder has quick feet with good athleticism. Right now, this looks like a weak class of offensive tackles with only 2-3 projected first-round picks. Aboushi could put his name in the mix for the top 32 if he dominates in Mobile.

    The Senior Bowl will be a huge opportunity for these two prospects, and they could make themselves a lot of money by standing out.

    Breaking: Jon Gruden Eyeing a Return to Coaching

    Published Nov. 8, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    WalterFootball.com has learned from sources that former Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden is eyeing a return to coaching. Sources around him have shared that he is looking into different assistant coaches around the league and seeing what their potential availability will be after the 2012 season.

    One coach that Gruden is said to be interested in is fired Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. The long-time Eagles assistant was on the same staff with Gruden in Philadelphia under former head coach Ray Rhodes. Castillo was an offensive assistant and tight ends coach while Gruden was the offensive coordinator. Following Gruden’s departure for Oakland, Castillo remained to work under Andy Reid as a tight ends coach, offensive line coach and defensive coordinator. Reid and Gruden have also coached together, and Castillo carries a significant endorsement from Reid.

    Other coaches whom Gruden could be interested include former special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia. If the Chargers fire Norv Turner and his staff, Bisaccia could potentially land with Gruden. The two had a close relationship in Tampa Bay (2002-2008), and Bisaccia was always extremely loyal to Gruden.

    Gruden last coached in 2008 with the Buccaneers. He is 95-81 in his career as a head coach with a 5-4 record in the postseason. Gruden led Tampa Bay to its lone championship in Super Bowl XXVII. Since getting fired by the Bucs, Gruden has stayed active, learning different offenses and defenses in pro and college football. He spent time with Chip Kelly learning Oregon’s spread attack, so if Gruden returns to the NFL, he could feature a new and unique offense.

    Sources have said that Gruden’s return to coaching is dependent on it being a perfect situation. He isn’t interested in smaller-market teams like those he has coached at previously. Gruden wants a big-market team with good ownership and some talent on the roster. Thus, teams like Dallas, Philadelphia and the New York Jets could be potential landing spots if they make a change.

    Sources have said if Gruden doesn’t love the opportunity, he’s perfectly happy to continue his work with ESPN on Monday Night Football. However, they indicated that this year has been different than the past few, and Gruden has more motivation to return to coaching in 2013.

    2013 NFL Draft: Injured Prospects

    Published Nov. 1, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Before the 2012 college football season even got going, a number of good 2013 NFL Draft prospects were lost for the season because of injuries or off-the-field legal trouble. That group includes ex-LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, ex-Auburn running back Michael Dyer, LSU offensive tackle Chris Faulk and Florida State defensive end Brandon Jenkins.

    Unfortunately, four more prospects can be added to the list. Here is a brief recap of each and what the players’ best moves would be going forward.

    Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
    The football world was shaken by Lattimore’s gruesome injury against Tennessee. He sustained a dislocated knee along with other ligament damage barely a year after his last year’s season-ending ACL tear.

    Lattimore has a tough decision to make. If he returns to college football in 2013 or 2014, he’ll be taking another injury risk, but if he enters the NFL, teams won’t know how healthy he is and if he can regain his pre-injury form.

    South Carolina believes Lattimore return to the Gamecocks, and he will be able to get the advice of the NFL draft advisory board. His best move may be to return to college football, because after this injury, he may not be draftable until he shows he can play.

    Brennan Williams, OT, North Carolina
    Williams (6-7, 315) went out for the season with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. The big right tackle was having a strong season blocking for running back Giovani Bernard before the injury.

    Williams was a potential first- or second-round pick prior to the injury, but this will push him toward the second day of the 2013 NFL Draft. Given the time frame, Williams probably won’t have enough time to be ready to play in the Senior Bowl, but he could have some participation in the Combine and North Carolina’s pro day.

    Jackson Jeffcoat, DE/OLB, Texas
    The junior went down with a torn right pectoral muscle. Jeffcoat had totaled 25 tackles and four sacks through six games prior to injury. He was having a quality season, but he wasn’t as impressive as teammate Alex Okafor.

    Jeffcoat (6-5, 245) could still use some development in the weight room, and rehabbing this torn pectoral muscle will delay him adding more bulk for the NFL. With that being the case, Jeffcoat should definitely return for his senior season to have a healthy, productive year before going pro.

    Walter Stewart, OLB, Cincinnati
    This is a sad story similar to Lattimore’s. Stewart sustained a back injury that led to the discovery of a congenital defect in his spine. The injury ends his season and most likely his playing career. He had five sacks through six games before getting hurt. Unfortunately, it sounds like playing NFL football may be too large of a health risk for Stewart.

    Mike Holmgren Could Be The Answer For Cam Newton

    Published Oct. 25, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    The Carolina Panthers have already started the process of cleaning house. Long-time general manager Marty Hurney was fired and head coach Ron Rivera is sitting on the hot seat. Panthers’ owner Jerry Richardson is tired of losing and wants to start winning immediately. One of the biggest problems with Carolina has been the horrific sophomore slump of quarterback Cam Newton, so if the team makes a coaching change, the new man has to be one who can turn Newton around.

    One name to consider for that role is the recently fired Browns’ shots-caller Mike Holmgren. He has been a disaster as a general manager, but he has been great as a head coach. In stints with the Packers and Seahawks, Holmgren amassed a 161-111 record, a Super Bowl championship and two other Super Bowl appearances.

    Holmgren also has shown the ability to develop quarterbacks. In Seattle, he groomed Matt Hasselbeck into a Super Bowl-caliber signal-caller. In Green Bay, Holmgren turned Brett Favre into a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. Favre was always a gunslinger, but Holmgren helped develop his game to play more intelligently and with more discipline. That is exactly what is needed to help Newton.

    The second-year quarterback has been moping and acting like a baby at times this year. Holmgren has the accomplishments and standing to demand Newton’s respect and cooperation. Newton could thrive under Holmgren’s influence, assuming he has his ears open to good coaching. The Panthers have a big investment in Newton, and they have to get him straightened out since the organization will be set back even further if he flops.

    Holmgren admitted that he misses coaching, and sources have told WalterFootball.com that was clearly evident in Cleveland. Our sources said that Holmgren was extremely meddlesome and hands-on with the coaching staff. There were too many cooks in the kitchen, and Holmgren was a big part of that problem. He almost made himself the coach after firing Eric Mangini. The Browns probably would’ve been better off if Holmgren became the head coach and quit his front office role.

    No team in the NFL should consider hiring Holmgren to be its general manager or run its front office. If a team is looking for a head coach though, he has a proven track record of success. A team like Carolina with a talented quarterback in dire need could be a perfect fit for Holmgren’s final NFL job.

    A potential hang-up with Carolina could be Holmgren wanting control over the roster. That probably won’t fly with Richardson. He did that once in Panthers’ history with George Seifert, and it was a disaster. Being a dual head coach and general manager would be a mistake for Holmgren. Former Panthers’ team president Mark Richardson, son of Jerry, served on the competition committee with Holmgren. So there could be a history that might lend itself to Holmgren taking over as Panthers’ head coach.

    Breaking Down Matt Barkley 2011 vs. 2012

    Published Oct. 18, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    USC quarterback Matt Barkley is halfway through a disappointing senior season. He entered the 2012 campaign as the top draft-eligible quarterback and the No. 1 overall prospect across college football. Last January, he almost declared for the 2012 NFL Draft, and the consensus evaluation from around the NFL had him as a top-10 pick. With the way he’s played in 2012, Barkley could easily be passed up by another signal-caller like West Virginia’s Geno Smith as the first quarterback selected next April. He really needs to finish the year on fire to re-establish his previous standing.

    I thought it would be interesting to see how Barkley is performing compared to the first half of last season. Perhaps the expectations were too high and he needs to be given the benefit of the doubt. The senior has completed 63 percent of his passes through six games for 1,410 yards with 16 touchdowns and six interceptions.

    Last year through six games, he completed 78 percent of his passes for 1,772 yards with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. Thus, Barkley is at a similar level in every category except for his completion percentage. A big part of that drop can be attributed to his shaky offensive line.

    Barley has endured a number of rough games this year, including his performances against Washington and Cal, but his worst showing came in a loss to Stanford. He was 20-of-41 for 254 yards and two interceptions, but it wasn’t completely his fault, as his line was terrible. Senior center Khaled Holmes was out with an injury, and the freshman replacing him was completely overmatched.

    Aside from Holmes being banged up and missing time, one fact that is indisputable is how badly Barkley and USC have missed left tackle Matt Kalil. Barkley has had numerous games where we was hammered by the pass rush from the left side, especially against Stanford, Utah and Washington. Stanford, for instance, sacked Barkley four times, forced a fumble and pressured him constantly. The Trojans have started sophomore Aundrey Walker, with freshman Max Tuerk pushing for playing time. They are talented youngsters, but Barkley has had a massive drop-off in the caliber of his pass protection. Saying Kalil has been sorely missed is an understatement.

    In addition to Kalil, No. 1 receiver Robert Woods isn’t the same player this year. His nagging ankle injury has robbed him of explosiveness and deep speed. In six games, Woods has totaled 36 receptions for 360 yards and five touchdowns with an average of 10 yards per catch. In 2011 after six contests, Woods had 60 receptions for 783 yards and six touchdowns. Woods’ decline is obvious as well.

    Even though Woods hasn’t been as effective, Barkley hasn’t lacked for weapons this year, and that is no excuse to defend him. Sophomore wideout Marqise Lee has been excellent. Running back Silas Redd has been a valuable starter. Tight ends Randall Telfer and Xavier Grimble are good receivers. Barkley has plenty of talent around him.

    Overall, it is obvious some things outside of Barkley’s control have worked against him this year. That doesn’t matter for the NFL. They want to see him elevate his play above the circumstances. Injuries will hit his pro team, and he may lose his left tackle or No. 1 receiver to a season-ending injury. They won’t want that to sink a season for Barkley and the rest of the team. Right now, it is crunch time for Barkley to rebound from his slow start and make a run at being the first quarterback – and the first pick – next April. Excuses be damned.

    Man Coverage Test for Manti Te’o

    Published Oct. 13, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    The NFL is a league of trends, and one of the most common trends in recent seasons has been the rise of dangerous pass-receiving tight ends. New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham, San Francisco’s Vernon Davis, and New England’s Rob Gronkowksi and Aaron Hernandez have all become featured receivers that present constant mismatches against defenses. With the emphasis on the passing games and receiving tight ends, NFL teams are looking for linebackers who have the ability to matchup against them in man coverage. It is hard to find linebackers with the speed and athleticism to prevent separation while turning and running with tight ends downfield.

    The top draft eligible inside linebacker in the nation is Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o. He is having a tremendous senior season. Te’o has really improved his pass coverage in 2012 and has shown three-down ability. The senior has totaled 48 tackles, three passes broken up and three interceptions this season.

    Te’o has stood out with the depth in his drops in zone coverage and the ability to disrupt passes downfield. This week he will see a real test to his coverage abilities with Stanford tight ends Zach Ertz (6-6, 252) and Levine Toilolo (6-8, 265). The receiving threats are tough on linebackers with their ability to run down the middle of the field. Ertz has 21 receptions for 316 yards and two touchdowns, while Toilolo has 13 catches for 278 yards and two scores.

    Notre Dame may keep Te’o playing more zone, but NFL scouts would love to see if he has the speed and athleticism to cover the tight ends in man coverage. If Te’o can keep pace with them in the deep part of the field, that will really help his stock.

    Last year, Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly climbed into the top 10 because of his unique pass-coverage ability. If Te’o can prove to do that as well, it will really help his cause to make a move into the top half of the first round.

    Browns, Jaguars Favorites to Pick No. 1

    Published Oct. 11, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    After five weeks of the NFL, there are two teams that have pulled away from the rest of the league for inept football. Cleveland and Jacksonville are the heavy favorites to be picking first and second in the draft next April. The Browns are winless, while the Jaguars had a final minute, fluke road win at Indianapolis with an 80-yard touchdown in busted coverage. Jacksonville could easily be 0-5 right now.

    Looking at the remaining schedule, the Jags have more winnable games than the Browns. The Jaguars could win maybe one or two more games this year with potential victories against: the Titans (home and road), Colts (home), Jets (home) and Dolphins (road). The x-factor in the Jaguars’ schedule is a potential change to backup quarterback Chad Henne. Before the season started, Jacksonville was completely aware that starter Blaine Gabbert may need to be replaced before mid-season. Henne would be an upgrade over Gabbert, and that could produce another win or two for Jacksonville.

    Cleveland has four winnable games left on their schedule outside of a possible shocking upset. The Browns have the potential to beat the Bengals (home), Colts (road), Raiders (road) and Chiefs (home). The Browns will probably stick with quarterback Brandon Weeden for the rest of the season. Cleveland has played a number of teams tough, so they do not look likely to go 0-16.

    Even though the Browns and Jaguars are losing a lot, in one sense they’re having good seasons. One NFL general manager told WalterFootball.com that if you’re aren’t going to the playoffs, you are better off with a season of only a win or two. That way you are picking at the top of the draft and could be in position to land a once-in-a-generation-type Hall of Fame player. They believe it is better to be picking in the top five compared to the 10-20 range of teams with mediocre years.

    They also said it is easier to produce a great draft class when a team is picking at the top of each round. General managers are in position to land better values that slip out of a round they belonged in. Thus, the 2013 NFL Draft offers some optimism for the future if you’re a Browns or Jaguars fan, as long as the right people are making the picks.

    Casey Pachall Kills Draft Stock With Arrest

    Published Sept. 26, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    NFL teams are willing to overlook a lot when it comes to good quarterbacks, but TCU’s Casey Pachall has gone beyond reasonable limits with his latest off-the-field incident. Pachall was arrested for DWI, and as a result was suspended indefinitely by TCU.

    Pachall had previously failed a drug test, but wasn’t suspended. After some teammates were arrested for drug dealing, Pachall admitted to police that he had been using drugs, including cocaine. The off-the-field failures have killed Pachall’s once-promising draft stock. To make mattes worse, he had already attended a drug and alcohol awareness program earlier in the year.

    As a junior this season, Pachall had completed 66 percent of his passes for 948 yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. Pachall took over the starting quarterback job for TCU last year after Andy Dalton moved on to the NFL. He was impressive as a sophomore.

    The 6-foot-5, 226-pounder has a strong arm and good pocket presence. He has a good skill set for the next level, but in the wake of all of his off-the-field problems, there will be teams that remove him from their draft boards. Pachall’s best chance of reaching the NFL would be to become a choir boy off the field and try to get back in the lineup for the Horned Frogs in 2013, or whenever his suspension is lifted. If he stays clean he might have a shot, but right now, Pachall’s pro prospects are looking dim.

    Bacarri Rambo Has Tough Debut Matchup

    Published Sept. 26, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    There are a number of highly revered safety prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft. LSU’s Eric Reid, USC’s T.J. McDonald, Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro and Oklahoma’s Tony Jefferson have all been mentioned as potential first-rounders. Another senior safety who is as talented as that well-regarded group is Georgia safety Baccari Rambo. He will make his 2012 debut this Saturday, having sat out the first four games of the season with a drug suspension.

    Rambo instantly will get thrown into the fire with this contest; the Bulldogs are taking on one of the best passing attacks in college football: the Tennessee Volunteers. Rambo will see some elite receivers, Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson, and a dangerous quarterback, Tyler Bray. Hunter and Patterson are threats to beat a secondary deep on any route, while Bray has a cannon for an arm with an accurate deep ball. Hunter and Patterson have combined for 49 receptions, 669 yards and six touchdowns through four games this year.

    Bray has shown that he isn’t afraid of any defensive back. The signal-caller went after the nation’s consensus top-rated cornerback in the season opener, N.C. State’s David Amerson, and burned him twice for long touchdown passes in the first half.

    Amerson was the top prospect at the start of the season partially because on his nation-leading 13 interceptions in 2011. Rambo finished second in the country with eight picks. The senior is going to have to be ready as there is no doubt that Tennessee will target him to see if he has any rust after his long layoff.

    Rambo (6-0, 218) had an excellent season last year. Aside from his eight interceptions, the junior also had 52 tackles and seven passes broken up. He is a physical player with good instincts. Rambo totaled 82 tackles, three interceptions, three passes broken up and three forced fumbles in 2010.

    Multiple suspensions have knocked a first-round talent like Rambo into the second day of the draft. If Rambo starts fast against Tennessee, he could begin the process of elevating his draft stock. It will be a big and difficult test for Rambo in his opening game of 2012, just like it was for Amerson.

    Sharrif Floyd, Matt Elam Expected to Declare for 2013 NFL Draft

    Published Sept. 25, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Florida is a young, talented football team that will produce a number of quality NFL prospects over the next three years. Two Gators sound like they are preparing to make the leap to the next level, however. The word around Florida is that defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and safety Matt Elam are likely to skip their senior seasons and enter the 2013 NFL Draft.

    Floyd is having the better year of the two right now. He is a disruptive force who is dominating at the point of attack. Floyd has 16 tackles and 3.5 tackles for a loss fo far this year. The junior doesn’t have a sack, but he has pressured the quarterback in every contest. The 6-foot-3, 295-pounder is very fast and physical.

    Even though Floyd doesn’t weigh a lot, he regularly overpowers defensive linemen because he plays great leverage and knee bend. Floyd has had good performances this year against Texas A&M, Tennessee and Kentucky in particular.

    Floyd only has 1.5 career sacks and his pass rushing could still use some development. However, a big sack total isn’t necessary for a tackle to be a first-round pick as evidence by Memphis’ Dontari Poe, who had one sack before going 11th overall last April.

    Floyd has the ability to be a three-technique pass-rusher in a 4-3, or play defensive end in a 3-4 defense in the NFL. He currently looks like he could be a late first-round pick or early second-round pick.

    Elam is a rangy free safety who covers a lot of ground. He holds his own in man coverage while also being a tough run-defender. Elam has 19 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack and two pass breakups thus far in 2012. He had a clutch play to breakup a touchdown in Florida’s 20-17 road win over Texas A&M.

    Elam had 78 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, seven passes broken up, two interceptions and two forced fumbles last year. Given the downgrading of the safety position, he looks like a second-day pick.

    In this writer’s opinion, both Floyd and Elam should return for their senior seasons. They aren’t locks to go in the first round by any means, especially Elam. It would be in each player’s best interest to return to the Gators for 2013 to better each of their play and improve their chances at being selected on Thursday night of the 2014 NFL Draft. While that is what I would advise them, it sounds like Elam and Floyd are planning on declaring at season’s end.

    Important Game for Xavier Rhodes Versus Clemson

    Published Sept. 22, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    After North Carolina State’s David Amerson was torched in the season opener against Tennessee, there has been an opening for someone else to lay claim as the top cornerback prospect in the 2013 NFL Draft class. Amerson could still prove to be that player, but he has to convince NFL evaluators that his performance against the Volunteers was an exception. One contender to be the top cornerback could potentially end the debate tonight.

    Florida State junior cornerback Xavier Rhodes will go against two of the top receivers in the nation in Clemson’s Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins. Both of the Tiger receivers are threats to score on any reception and they both can beat cornerbacks with their elite speed running straight down the field. If Rhodes can shut down these explosive receivers when he is matched up in man coverage, he could become the consensus top corner in the country.

    Shutting down elite receivers is nothing new to Rhodes. He was superb last year against Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd. Rhodes also did well against Oklahoma wide receiver Ryan Broyles at the beginning of the 2011 season when Broyles was 100-percent healthy and one of the most productive receivers in the nation.

    At 6-foot-2, 215-pound Rhodes is a big, physical cornerback. He has straight-line speed, but with any big corner, the questions are if they have the hip flexibility and the quickness to turn and run with speed receivers going straight down the field. Those were the issues that allowed Amerson (6-3) to get burned by Tennessee in the season opener.

    If Rhodes plays well against Clemson, he should become the top corner in the nation with a commanding hold on that status. Rhodes has an easy schedule and won’t see any other receivers of Watkins and Hopkins’ caliber the rest of the year. Some receivers with Virginia Tech and Florida could pose some challenges, but nothing like the Clemson duo.

    There are other contenders to be the top corner like Alabama’s Dee Milliner and Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks. If Rhodes has a mediocre performance against Clemson, all four of these corners could be contending to be the first selected next April, but tonight Rhodes has the opportunity to make himself the commanding frontrunner.

    Manti Te’o vs. Le’Veon Bell Matchup Could Impact Draft

    Published Sept. 15, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    There is a matchup this weekend that could have ramifications next April. Michigan State power back Le’Veon Bell will go against Notre Dame middle linebacker Manti Te’o and defensive tackle Louis Nix. The powerful interior of the Irish defense will see its largest and most powerful back of this season with Bell.

    Bell is listed at 6-foot-2, 237 pounds, but many believe that he is in the 240-250 range. Bell has 280 yards (4.5 average) on 62 carries with four touchdowns thus far. He has carried the Michigan State offense and has been one of the most impressive backs in college football.

    Te’o, meanwhile, has been one of the best linebackers in the nation the past few seasons. He has been very consistent with 133 tackles in 2010 and 128 tackles in 2011. Nix, a powerful nose tackle, had a huge game against Purdue last week. The 6-foot-3, 340-pounder is a load at the line of scrimmage and makes it very hard to run up the middle.

    Having Bell go against Te’o and Nix will be a great test for the skills of the three pro prospects. The question mark with Bell is if he has enough quickness and explosiveness to hit the hole in the NFL. Over the course of this season, that will be worth watching as NFL teams aren’t looking for another Ron Dayne. If Bell can’t hit the holes before Te’o or Nix fill them, that could really hurt Bell’s stock and help give the defenders a boost.

    At the same time, Te’o is going to need to show the power and strength to stuff a downhill runner like Bell. NBC analyst Mike Mayock said that Te’o has shed weight and is playing in the 240s despite still being listed at 6-foot-2, 255 pounds. That helps Te’o as a pass defender playing in zone coverage in space, but it will be interesting to see if that reduces his ability to bring down power backs like Bell.

    Typically, September college football doesn’t have many draft matchups that indicate players’ ability to excel against NFL prospects. However, the battle between Bell and the tough interior of the Irish will provide a good measuring tool for the three draft prospects.

    Odds for Ending Playoff Win Droughts

    Published Sept. 9, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Every year, there is the potential for teams in the modern NFL to go from worst to first. Beyond that, teams can end long delays of being inactive in mid-January. The 49ers and the Texans broke out with postseason wins last year. It was the first in franchise history for Houston, while San Francisco had gone nine years without a playoff team or a postseason victory. Then the 49ers won the NFC West and defeated the Saints in the divisional round.

    Getting to the postseason is a lot easier than winning in January. There are eight teams in the NFL that have gone at least 10 years since their last team that was capable of producing a win in the playoffs. Here is a break down of all eight of those teams with Walt’s odds on them breaking their streak this season.

    Cincinnati Bengals: 1990
    The Bengals have the longest drought in the NFL; the 1990 team was the last squad that produced a postseason victory.

    Cincinnati surprised everyone when it made the playoffs last year with a young roster that played beyond its years. Quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green had strong debuts, and they should get better as they gain experience. The Bengals also has a tough defense led by defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. Jay Gruden is a young, up-and-coming offensive coordinator under one of the longest-tenured head coaches in the NFL, Marvin Lewis.

    Many believe Cincinnati could take a step back in 2012, so while the team may not break its postseason winless streak this year, it looks the Bengals are building a team that can compete in January over the next five years.

    Walt’s odds of Cincinnati ending its streak this season: LOW. Andy Dalton struggled at the end of his rookie campaign – a season in which he failed to beat a single playoff squad – and that has seemed to trickle into the preseason. The Bengals are due for some regression in 2011.

    Detroit Lions: 1993
    The Lions came close to breaking thia streak last year, but their defense was unable to stop the Saints’ offense in a wild-card-round shootout loss in New Orleans. Detroit has a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, and 2012 could be the year where the Lions see some success in January.

    The Lions feature some of the best players at their positions in the NFL with wide receiver Calvin Johnson and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The scary part is they both are young and improving.

    Detroit plays in a tough division, so keeping its star players healthy will have massive importance. Chief among those key players is quarterback Matthew Stafford. Having him healthy was the difference between going 6-10 in 2010 and 10-6 in 2011. The Lions also need some young defensive backs to step up and play well in order to win in January.

    Walt’s odds of Detroit ending its streak this season: HIGH. If the Lions can avoid injury, they’ll make it back to the postseason. And hopefully they won’t run into a buzzsaw like the Saints in the Superdome.

    Kansas City Chiefs: 1993
    It is surprising that the Chiefs have the third-longest streak in the NFL since their last postseason win. Kansas City fielded some good teams in the 1990s and the 2000s, but never could win in January. This year could be the year where that changes; the Chiefs have a tough defense with a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball. Kansas City proved its talent by being the only team to beat Green Bay during the 2011 regular season.

    It was also evident when the team went 10-6 to win the AFC West in 2010. The Chiefs play in a wide-open division without a clearly dominant team. Kansas City’s season hinges on the effectiveness of quarterback Matt Cassel. If he plays well, the Chiefs could be a team to reckon with in January.

    Walt’s odds of Kansas City ending its streak this season: MEDIUM. The Chiefs have the running game and defense to get to January, but they don’t have the quarterback to win in that month. However, acheiving one victory may not be so difficult because the AFC is pretty thin.

    Cleveland Browns: 1994
    The Browns are in a tough division and are in rebuilding mode. If they produce six or seven wins, that could be deemed a success for this struggling franchise. Cleveland is starting a rookie quarterback with a lot of youth playing throughout its starters on both sides of the ball.

    The Browns have some talented players like offensive tackle Joe Thomas, cornerback Joe Haden, defensive tackle Phil Taylor, defensive end Jabaal Sheard and running back Trent Richardson. With Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati being further along, Cleveland is much more likely to be contending for the No. 1 pick rather than the postseason.

    Walt’s odds of Cleveland ending its streak this season: ZERO. The Browns have a better chance of finishing with the league’s worst record than making the playoffs.

    Buffalo Bills: 1995
    Expectations are high for Buffalo to compete for the postseason this year. The Bills were looking like a potential playoff contender in 2011 after they had a hot start last season. Unfortunately, injuries and a tough schedule wore Buffalo down. Still, the Bills attacked this offseason with big upgrades to their defense and offensive line.

    Buffalo’s pass rush should be improved from signing Mario Williams and Mark Anderson. That was the big weakness for the team last season. Just as crucial, the Bills need quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to play like he did last September over 16 games this year. If he does that and with an improved defense, the team’s long-suffering fans could be in store for a fun season.

    Walt’s odds of Buffalo ending its streak this season: MEDIUM-LOW. The Bills are in the same boat as the Chiefs, though they’re much less likely to host a playoff game because they probably won’t be able to beat the Patriots out for the AFC East title.

    Miami Dolphins: 2000
    The last Dolphins head coach to win a playoff game was Dave Wannestedt, the current defensive coordinator of the Bills. New head coach Joe Philbin is unlikely to get a postseason win this year. Miami has some talent in places, but its passing attack just looks scary.

    The team will be featuring at quarterback either a journeymen veteran – Matt Moore or David Garrard, or rookie signal-caller Ryan Tannehill. Not helping the passing situation is an utter lack of talent at wide receiver. The Dolphins look like the worst team in the AFC East and a near-lock to be picking in the top half of the 2013 NFL Draft next April.

    Walt’s odds of Miami ending its streak this season: ZERO. The Dolphins stink as much as the Browns.

    Oakland Raiders: 2002
    The Raiders have been in perpetual rebuilding mode since losing the Super Bowl to the Buccaneers after the 2002 season. This year, Oakland features some veterans trying to make a postseason run led by quarterback Carson Palmer and defensive tackle Richard Seymour. The Raiders had a tough offseason as they had to let some high-priced veterans leave while not having the high draft picks to replace them.

    Oakland has some talent on offense, and the team needs that unit to produce a big season. The Raiders also have to get a healthy season out of running back Darren McFadden. New coach Dennis Allen is in a tough spot to turn around Oakland in 2012. It looks more likely that the Raiders need to start a complete rebuilding project under Allen and new general manager Reggie McKenzie.

    Walt’s odds of Oakland ending its streak this season: MEDIUM-LOW. It all depends on Darren McFadden. If he can stay in the lineup, the Raiders will have an explosive offense that can match anyone, point for point. Unfortunately, Run DMC has yet to prove that he can stay healthy.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2002
    It is surprising that the Bucs have the second longest playoff-win drought in the NFC. Tampa Bay spent some big money this offseason and made some major acquisitions with wide receiver Vincent Jackson, guard Carl Nicks and running back Doug Martin.

    Not helping the team is that quarterback Josh Freeman has had two bad seasons out of three years in the NFL. In his defense, he is also learning his third offense in four years. If Freeman can play like he did in 2010, the Bucs have a shot at competing in the tough NFC South. If Freeman plays like he did in 2011 or 2009, Tampa Bay will probably be picking in the top-10 for the third time in four years.

    The Buccaneers have to get a big year out of Freeman because the defense was one of the worst stop units in the NFL last year. Still, the defense could easily be a year or two away from being playoff caliber.

    Walt’s odds of Tampa Bay ending their streak this season: LOW. As Charlie wrote below, Josh Freeman is struggling with the new offense. The defense won’t be of much help either.

    Chris Faulk Out for Season; Another Draft Talent Lost

    Published Sept. 6, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Another one bites the dust. That has to be the theme of the early going for the potential 2013 NFL Draft class. We’re not even two games into the regular season, yet we’ve seen an incredible number of potential first-rounders have their seasons derailed by injuries of off-the-field problems.

    Arkansas State/Auburn running back Michael Dyer, LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, Florida State defensive end Brandon Jenkins, Tennessee/Tennessee Tech wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers and now LSU offensive tackle Chris Faulk are all part of this group. All of them were potential first-rounders who are now either mid-round picks for 2013 or prospects for the 2014 draft class.

    Faulk suffered a significant knee injury in practice that is said to require surgery and long-term rehabilitation. The 6-foot-6, 323-pounder was considered to be perhaps the top left tackle draft prospect in the nation and a potential top-25 pick. He had the skill set to be a top-10 pick next April with a dominant junior season.

    Faulk would be making a mistake by entering the 2013 NFL Draft. Coming off an injury, Florida State offensive tackle Andrew Datko went from an early-rounder to a seventh-round pick when he could have returned to the Seminoles this year. It is a no-brainer for Faulk to come back to the Tigers for another season or two before going pro.

    Faulk had an excellent sophomore campaign. He was a good pass blocker and a road grader of a run blocker. Faulk showcased special athletic ability to handle the blind side. He had some issues in pass protection in the national championship against Alabama, though his first performance of the year against the Crimson Tide was much better. It was only his first year as a starter at left tackle and he clearly had the upside for improvement as a junior.

    With Faulk out, LSU’s national title hopes take a real hit. Right tackle Alex Hurst may move to left tackle in Faulk’s place. Hurst entered the season as a second-day pick, but if he performas well on the blind side, that could really help his stock.

    With Week 2 of the college football season in full swing, hopefully there won’t be more potential first-rounders who suffer draft-altering injuries. The 2013 NFL Draft class has had enough of that.

    Vols’ Receiver Better Than NFL’s?

    Published Sept. 6, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    One of the breakout stars in college football following the first week of play is Tennessee wide receiver Cordarralle Patterson. Against N.C. State, the junior burned the top cornerback in the nation, David Amerson, for a 41-yard touchdown. Patterson then smoked the Wolfpack defense on a 67-yard end around for another touchdown. With Justin Hunter on the other side, the Tennessee offense could be one of the most prolific in college football this season.

    It is crazy to think that the team could have been even more dangerous, but the Volunteers kicked out wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers just before the season. He was their No. 1 receiver last year after Hunter went out with a knee injury – Patterson was playing in junior college. Rogers was a first-round prospect before his dismissal. All three have good size and explosive speed.

    NFL sources have suggested that, entering the season, Tennessee’s trio was a better receiving corps than the top-three receivers on the majority of NFL teams. Obviously, there are some great receivers and stables of wide outs in the NFL, but the sources said that the Volunteers’ three wide outs could outproduce about two thirds of the league’s top-three wide outs. Hunter, Patterson and Rogers all possess an elite skill set, but that is still a tremendous amount of praise for three college players.

    Rogers ended up at Tennessee Tech because of failed drug tests at Tennessee. He started out well with three receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown. Rogers will see a nice test when he plays Oregon in the third game of the season.

    All three receivers should be even better in the second half of the season. Hunter needs more time before he is as explosive as he was before the injury. Rogers is still learning his new offense, and Patterson will be challenged by SEC defenses. However from a pure talent perspective, this group is special and NFL sources already are very impressed.

    Brandon Jenkins Should Return to Florida State

    Published Sept. 5, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    The Florida State Seminoles’ hopes for a national championship took a big hit with the news that standout defensive end Brandon Jenkins was lost for the season because of a foot injury. Jenkins and teammate Bjoern Werner were one of the top pass-rushing tandems in college football. Both entered the season as potential first-round picks. Jenkins now faces a hard decision on where he will play next season.

    Now that Jenkins is done, he would be better off returning to Florida State for his senior season in 2013. The Seminoles had a potential early-round pick at left tackle last year, Andrew Datko. He suffered a season-ending shoulder injury about a month into the campaign, but rather than seeking a medical redshirt, he entered the 2012 NFL Draft. Datko fell to the seventh round and ultimately didn’t make the Green Bay Packers’ 53-man roster after training camp.

    If Jenkins enters the 2013 NFL Draft, at best, he would be a second-day pick and could easily be a mid-rounder. It isn’t of the question for him to fall to the end like Datko. Jenkins notched 13.5 sacks with 21.5 tackles for a loss as a sophomore. The junior started out slowly last year as he drew extra blocking attention. That helped Werner to have a breakout season. Jenkins had 41 tackles with 12 tackles for a loss and eight sacks in 2011. The 6-foot-3, 260-pounder is a pure speed-rusher who is more of a finesse player. He would be best as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

    A significant injury in 2013 would be another huge red flag for Jenkins’ draft status, so he has a tough choice to make. However, Jenkins would have a better shot at being an early-round pick if he can put together a good 2013 campaign for Florida State. Jenkins may even still have Werner playing on the other side from him.

    Lack of Continuity Is Overwhelming Josh Freeman

    Published Sept. 4, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    In the NFL there is one essential factor for any sustained success. That essential ingredient is continuity. As Walt suggested in his power rankings , Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman doesn’t look right entering his fourth season in the NFL. At the conclusion of the NFL preseason, he didn’t look like a quarterback who had improved after last season’s struggles that played a part in the Bucs losing their final 10 games to finish 4-12 in 2011.

    Freeman completed 18-of-34 passes (52.9 percent) this preseason for 164 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His rating was 76.1. The score came after the Bucs’ drive started at the Titans’ two-yard line during the second preseason game.

    Even though Freeman’s completion percentage improved over each of his first three seasons, sources with the team have said that Freeman is just not that naturally accurate. He has made a habit over the years of overthrowing some open receivers, and that has been an issue, once again, this preseason. Freeman was underthrowing and overthrowing receivers consistently this August.

    His first and foremost issue entering the NFL was accuracy. Freeman completed less than 60 percent of his passes in college and Kansas State had a sub .500 record with him at the helm.

    Tampa Bay general manager Dominik, among others, attributed the completion percentage to receivers dropping passes and an overall lack of talent at the wide receiver position. The Wildcats definitely were far from loaded, but Freeman had an excellent receiver, Jordy Nelson, to work with in a two of his three seasons. Most college quarterbacks don’t have a receiver of Nelson’s caliber to throw to.

    The Buccaneers charged quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Greg Olson with developing Freeman. They added quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt in 2010, and, together, Freeman and the coaches produced a phenomenal 2010 season where the signal-caller completed 61 percent of his passes for 3,451 yards with 25 touchdowns and six interceptions. A massive improvement over his struggles as a rookie.

    Freeman fell back down to earth in a thud last season, completing 62.8 percent of his passes for 3,592 yards with 16 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. He had a quarterback rating of 74.6. While Freeman really struggled with ball security and decision-making, he set a career high in completion percentage.

    The lack of continuity has been the biggest reason for Freeman to still be considered a work in progress entering his fourth season. The lack of schematic cohesion is an organizational failure that can be attributed to general manager Mark Dominik and the team’s owners, the Glazers. The owners were the driving force that insisted Jeff Jagodzinski be hired as the offensive coordinator in 2009.

    Former head coach Raheem Morris wanted to make Olson the offensive coordinator, but the Glazers insisted on Jagodzinski. He was fired during the 2009 preseason – just over seven months after being hired – and the Buccaneers offense became a hodge-podge system.

    Freeman had a semblance of continuity in 2010 and 2011 running Olson’s offense. Freeman made strides with his accuracy and knowledge of NFL defenses. Tampa Bay cleaned house of its coaching staff after last season, hiring offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan to bring in his offense from New York.

    In speaking with sources with Buccaneers, Freeman has had a tough challenge to overcome with the new offense under Sullivan. The Buccaneers changed from a West Coast offense for a pro digit offense. Thus, the personnel packages no longer had names like Tiger or Zebra and now are numeric. After three seasons with the West Coast style, Freeman had a complete switch in terminology. That is akin to switching to French your senior year of high school after taking Spanish for three years.

    Sources have said that Freeman is a hard worker and puts in a lot of time, but they said he doesn’t pick things up like the elite student signal-callers of the NFL. Thus, Freeman needs more time to pick up a new offense. They also said that the smartest quarterback the Bucs had over the past few seasons was Josh Johnson; he signed with San Francisco last spring.

    With the latest change, Freeman is learning his third offense inside of four NFL seasons. Rather than having an offense mastered at this point so he can focus on learning NFL defenses and the tendencies of defensive coordinators, he is still working through how to operate Tampa Bay’s offense.

    Dominik in the past has stated the Bucs would build a fleet of receivers to grow with Freeman. That has turned out to be a failure as even his receiving targets have lacked consistency. His primary weapons as a rookie were Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton – two receivers who Dominik brought back with lucrative contracts. Those two produced very little.

    Freeman had young receivers Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn as his top two receivers in 2010 and 2011. The one constant over those three years was tight end Kellen Winslow. Now Freeman’s top target is free agent addition Vincent Jackson with veteran tight end Dallas Clark and Williams as the secondary receivers.

    The jury is still out on Williams and Benn, but the Bucs have passed on other receivers that clearly would’ve helped Freeman. Tampa Bay passed on Mike Wallace in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft for defensive tackle Roy Miller. Just before the draft, a high-ranking decision-maker for the Bucs’ roster said the team didn’t need Wallace because it had a similar receiver in Dexter Jackson on the team. Jackson was a second-round bust as a rookie in 2008 and didn’t even make the team in 2009. Tampa Bay is hopeful that Vincent Jackson will stretch the field vertically as the Bucs haven’t had a true deep threat for Freeman to work with in this first three seasons.

    Freeman and Jackson didn’t look like they were on the same page throughout this preseason. Perhaps the Buccaneers were holding everything back and will unleash an effective duo on the Carolina Panthers in Week 1. More likely, Freeman will still be working through the offense in the first part of the season. The second half of the 2012 season will probably feature better play out of the signal-caller.

    Not to be a broken record: continuity is key in the NFL and Freeman has had none of it. In the backfield, he is working with his third starting running back in four seasons. The lack of constancy can be found elsewhere on the roster. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, the third-overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, has had three different defensive line coaches in three seasons. The linebackers and defensive backs are on their third coach in four years. The offensive line is on its third coach in three years, etc.

    That reflects poor planning on the part of Dominik and the Glazers. It is hard for players to learn the NFL when they are annually being taught the basics of their own systems and techniques that their new coaches want them to practice.

    This is a critical year for Freeman in his career. A good season will probably result in a massive contract extension. Another rough season and he could see competition for his starting job in 2013.

    All of that turnover can help explain why the team has averaged 10 losses per year under Dominik (17-31). His future with the team could easily be tied to how Freeman performs in 2012. For Dominik and Freeman, the signal-caller has to overcome a big obstacle in the lack of continuity that Dominik and the Glazers have provided him.

    Da’Rick Rogers Suspended Indefinitely

    Published Aug. 24, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Not even one game has been played this season and there are already multiple 2013 early-round picks who have sent their stocks in a steep decline. The latest of the ever growing group is Tennessee wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers.

    There have been rumors throughout the offseason that Rogers may be suspended or kicked off the Volunteers. On Thursday, those rumors were validated when he was suspended indefinitely, with head coach Derek Dooley saying he didn’t expect Rogers to play for Tennessee this season.

    With Rogers’ combination of size, speed and production, he looked like a potential first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Now, at best, he would be a second-day pick. The 6-foot-3, 208-pounder could look to transfer down a level to play this year, but time is running out with the regular season starting in a week.

    Rogers became the Volunteers’ primary receiver in 2011 after Justin Hunter suffered a season-ending injury in the third game of the year. Rogers had a very good season as a sophomore, totaling 67 receptions for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns despite playing with the backup quarterback for parts of the season.

    Quick and physical, Rogers plays with an edge and has some fire. He is a tough receiver who regularly makes highlight-reel catches. It would have been great to see Rogers, Hunter and quarterback Tyler Bray take on North Carolina State and the nation’s top cornerback, David Amerson. The Volunteers and Wolfpack open the season against each other, but Rogers won’t get the opportunity to prove himself against an elite corner to NFL scouts.

    Rogers is now added to a group of players who have really hurt their draft stock before the start of the season. LSU cornerback Tyronn Mathieu, Iowa running back Marcus Coker, Miami safety Ray Ray Armstrong, Florida State cornerback Greg Reid, and now Rogers all were booted off their teams this offseason. Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo landed a significant suspension, but has remained a Bulldog.

    All of these players have done serious damage to their NFL hopes. You could build an All-Star team on these talented prospects, but they are making a run at throwing away an opportunity at NFL football.

    New Weights for 2013 Defensive End Class

    Published Aug. 23, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    The 2013 NFL Draft class looks like it has the makings of a banner crop of defensive ends. There could be between 6-10 different ends who challenge for first-round grades. A common theme among many of those ends is being undersized. That is understandable considering many were sophomores last year and are still developing physically.

    With fall camps underway, a number of those potential first-rounders have updated weights that indicate how the players may have been working this offseason. Here is a break down of the new weights for potentially a banner crop of ends. A * denotes a junior.

    Barkevious Mingo*, DE/OLB, LSU
    The consensus top end prospect, Mingo is still being listed at 6-foot-5, 240-pounds. He is a fabulous athlete and lightning fast speed-rusher, but he can get pushed around in the ground game.

    It is disappointing that Mingo isn’t in the 250-range heading into the 2012 season. He has the frame to add weight, so perhaps he wanted to stay lighter to remain such a daunting speed mismatch. However, one has to wonder if Mingo is not a hard worker in the weight room, especially considering the gains by his pass-rushing partner.

    Sam Montgomery*, DE/OLB, LSU
    Montgomery was listed at 245 and 250 in the past, but he is now up to 260 pounds. That really helps him to appeal to 4-3 defenses.

    Montgomery (6-5) could continue to get bigger and may end up around 270 once he is in an NFL strength and conditioning program. His offseason weight gain illustrates that he has been working hard, and he could end up leaping ahead of Mingo as a result.

    Jackson Jeffcoat*, DE/OLB, Texas
    Surprisingly, Jeffcoat is down from 250 to 245. Maybe the Longhorns are planning on him playing more outside linebacker. They did a fair amount of that last season.

    If they want to continue to drop Jeffcoat (6-5) into pass-coverage, perhaps he wanted to be lighter to handle that. The NFL would’ve preferred him to remain at 250, if not gain weight.

    Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
    Texas’ situation mirrors LSU’s since Okafor has put on some bulk this offseason. He was in the 255-260 range but now is checking in at 265.

    Okafor (6-4) is a tough run-defender who will be taking on offensive linemen more than he will be falling back in pass coverage. His weight gain should especially appeal to 4-3 defenses.

    Bjoern Werner*, DE, Florida State
    This was the most shocking weight change this offseason. Werner was listed in the 270s last year, and he was a physical beast. Now he is being listed at 6-foot-4, 255-pounds; a drop of about 20 pounds!

    That should make Werner’s speed and burst off the snap even more explosive, but he will be sacrificing some of the power that he used to his advantage last year. Werner had a good all-around game and was really impressive last year. I’m not sure he made the right call in dropping that weight, but he definitely will be worth watching for any change in his style of play.

    Brandon Jenkins, DE/OLB, Florida State
    Jenkins (6-3, 260) basically stayed the same. He may not have the frame to get bigger, but at least he is holding his weight at a quality number. His entire game is based on speed rushing around the edge. That should stay the same as a senior and throughout his football career.

    Corey Lemonier*, DE/OLB, Auburn
    Lemonier is now at 6-foot-4, 246-pounds. That is a gain of six pounds from where he was listed at last year. Lemonier still is a young player, and it is a good sign that he is able to to add even more weight.

    William Gholston*, DE, Michigan State
    Gholston (6-7, 278) is a couple of pounds heavier, but is generally the same as he was in his sophomore season. That is ideal because he didn’t need to lose or put on a significant amount of weight. Gholston has, potentially, the prototypical skill set to be a 4-3 defensive end.

    Michael Buchanan, DE/OLB, Illinois
    Buchanan is still checking in at 6-foot-6, 240-pounds. He really needed to gain some weight. However he broke his jaw this offseason and had his jaw wired shot. Being placed on a liquid diet is not a recipe to gain muscular bulk.

    Stansly Maponga*, DE/OLB, TCU
    Maponga stayed the same at 6-foot-2, 265-pounds. That is a perfect weight for him and makes him a nice fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker. The 4-3 defenses in the NFL will consider Maponga, but he may be a little short for their liking. There is nothing he can do about that, but his weight is ideal for his body type.

    Proposed Trade: Maurice Jones-Drew for Mike Wallace

    Published Aug. 22, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    We all know that this proposed trade is probably outside the realm of reality, but that doesn’t stop it from making a lot of sense. In a logical world, the Pittsburgh Steelers would trade wideout Mike Wallace to the Jacksonville Jaguars for running back Maurice Jones-Drew. The Steelers have been dealing with the holdout of Wallace, while the Jaguars have been missing their star running back. Both teams could solve some problems by dealing the disgruntled players for one another.

    Jacksonville desperately needs receiving help for second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Wallace, 26, would be an immediate upgrade and is perhaps the most lethal downfield receiving threat in the league. Having Wallace stretch the field over the top would open up the intermediate part of the field for rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon and tight end Marcedes Lewis. With Wallace, all of sudden Gabbert would have a set of good receiving weapons to work with.

    The Jaguars have the most cap room in the NFL and they should have jump at the opportunity to sign Wallace to a lucrative long-term contract.

    The Steelers, meanwhile, need a running back, as Rashard Mendenhall is still recovering from knee surgery at the end of last season. Besides, Mendenhall is in the final year of his contract. Jones-Drew is signed affordably for 2012 at $4.45 million and for $4.95 million in 2013. Pittsburgh’s actions have indicated that it is unlikely to extend Wallace or Mendenhall long-term, so why not fix the running back position while getting something for Wallace rather than letting him go for nothing?

    Pittsburgh already has a nice receiving corps even without Wallace. A bell-cow running back like Jones-Drew would provide a more valuable commodity to the Steelers’ offense over another speed receiver. Jones-Drew could power the running game, and his ability to control the ball on the ground would be perfectly suited to Pittsburgh’s offense and physical identity. Having a strong ground attack would also help protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger from injury.

    Given that Wallace is a year younger and plays a position with more longevity than running back, the Jaguars could throw in a mid-round pick like a third- or fourth-rounder to help get the deal done. It makes too much sense to happen. In a perfect world, the two franchises could help each other get out of some ugly situations and improve their rosters in the short-term.

    Rare Three-Team Trade Makes Sense

    Published Aug. 21, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    The NFL is not a league in which there is heavy action on the veteran trade market. The regular-season trade deadline is not the highly anticipated and discussed event that it is for baseball and basketball. A large part of that is just from the nature of football. With the details of NFL offensive and defensive playbooks, it is nearly an impossible task for a player to come on a team in mid-season and make an immediate impact. Minor depth trades at the end of the NFL preseason are normal, and right now there is one that makes a lot of sense.

    The trade that is very logical would send Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy to the Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson to Cleveland and a mid-level third-day draft pick from Green Bay to Seattle.

    Cleveland already knows that McCoy isn’t in its long-term plans. It makes sense for the Browns to have a more experienced backup to turn to in Jackson. The Browns coaching staff and front office are sitting on the hot seat. In a division against three tough defenses, they would be better off turning to an experienced signal-caller like Jackson. McCoy didn’t play well for the Browns the past two seasons and wouldn’t be able to save jobs in Cleveland if they had to insert the backup in place of rookie Brandon Weeden.

    The Packers have the right coaching staff and structure to help turn McCoy around, if it is possible. Backup Graham Harrell has struggled in the preseason and looks like he would be better off as the third quarterback. McCoy has some starting experience and a much better skill set than Harrell. If Aaron Rodgers were injured, McCoy would give the Packers offense a fighting chance to score points.

    Seattle has its top two quarterbacks in place with Matt Flynn and rookie Russell Wilson. Jackson is paid too well to be a third-stringer, so the Seahawks would be better off getting a draft pick for him rather than cutting him. The veteran Jackson also should fit well in the Browns West Coast offense. Seattle is actively shopping Jackson.

    Baseball and basketball have three-team trades regularly, but that is another abnormality in football. A quick Web search pulls up a three-team trade from August of 2006 when the Falcons landed wide receiver Ashley Lelie, running back T.J. Duckett went to Washington and a pair of draft choices went to the Broncos.

    Obviously this trade is a long shot, but it makes a lot of sense for all the parties involved.

    Three Minor Trades to Consider

    Published Aug. 19, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    During the preseason there are usually some minor trades of players who don’t fit with teams that have brought in new coaching staffs. Other teams have needs after injuries hit, so a few deals to bolster depth and offer some fresh starts are to be expected. Here are three players who could be better off with a trade.

    John Jerry, G
    There are two teams that would be a good fit for Jerry. Miami no longer is a match for him since they have transitioned to a zone-blocking system that favors smaller and more mobile blockers. The 6-foot-5, 345-pound Jerry is a fit as a power blocker in a man-blocking scheme. He was a third-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, but looks out of place with the Dolphins.

    There are still places where Jerry could be a good fits. The Dallas Cowboys like linemen with his size, and he would help address a weakness at guard. The Cowboys interior offensive line may be the worst interior line in the NFL. Adding Jerry to compete for playing time makes a lot of sense for Dallas.

    The other team that would be a fit for Jerry is the Jacksonville Jaguars. General manager Gene Smith insisted on sticking with Will Rackley after his rookie struggles were as bad as quarterback Blaine Gabbert. The Jaguars didn’t bring in veteran competition and Rackley was injured in training camp.

    Left tackle Eugene Monroe also sustained a concussion causing the line to be shuffled around. Guard/tackle Eben Britton has had durability issues as well. Bringing in Jerry as an experienced blocker to turn to could be a good move for Jacksonville and an upgrade over Rackley.

    Jerry Hughes, OLB
    Hughes has been a bust up to now for the Colts, and it looks like he will spend 2012 as a backup behind veterans Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Indianapolis may be better off getting something for Hughes rather than letting him sit on the bench.

    The Steelers could be without veteran James Harrison early in the season after he had arthroscopic surgery on his knee this week. They hope he’ll be back for Week 1, but the recovery timetable is uncertain and could cause him to go on the PUP list (physically unable to perform). That comes with an automatic absence for the first six games of the year.

    Pittsburgh has some young backups in Jason Worilds and Chris Carter, but the team should have the roster room to bring in Hughes. Plus, Worilds has been week-to-week with a hand injury. Hughes would be a good fit in the Steelers’ defense, and his best shot to resurrect his career would be under Pittsburgh’s coaching staff.

    Jason Smith, OT
    The Rams demoted the former second-overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft behind veteran tackle Barry Richardson. That is extremely scary as Richardson was horrible for Kansas City last year, and the Chiefs quickly moved to replace him in free agency with veteran Eric Winston. Smith has physical talent, but hasn’t played well while dealing with injuries over three seasons. St. Louis moved him to right tackle after Rodger Saffold took the left tackle job in 2010.

    Two teams could be destinations for Smith. The first being Jacksonville with its injury ravaged and talentless offensive line. The other team that would be a nice landing spot for Smith would be Chicago. The Bears are hoping desperately that J’Marcus Webb or Chris Williams prove to be a capable left tackle in the next couple of preseason games. Both have had failures in the past and it seems neither player is capable of locking down the job protecting Jay Cutler’s blind side.

    Offensive coordinator Mike Tice is one of the better offensive line gurus in the NFL, so perhaps he could turn Smith (6-5, 308) around with a change of scenery. Chicago general manager Phil Emery has been aggressive with trades since taking over the Bears this year. He has built up starting talent and depth for Chicago’s roster, so a deal for Smith would fit Emery’s M.O.

    Smith just might be worth a shot as a competitor at left tackle. It would probably only cost Chicago a nondescript backup or a sixth- or seventh-round pick.

    Insight into Geno Smith

    Published Aug. 17, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    The 2013 NFL Draft class has the potential to be an excellent year for quarterbacks. USC’s Matt Barkley, Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson, Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas, Tennessee’s Tyler Bray, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and West Virginia’s Geno Smith all have the potential to be first-round picks. Barkley is already considered a near lock for the top 10, but one of the more interesting signal-callers to watch this year is Smith.

    Smith has been very productive in the Moutaineers’ high-powered offense throughout his two years as a starter. Some will say that he is a system quarterback, but the senior has shown real ability to be a pocket-passer. The first-year starter completed 65 percent of his passes for 2,763 yards with 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2010.

    Smith made big improvements 2011, producing an excellent junior season. He completed 66 percent of his passes for 4,385 yards with 31 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Smith also ran for 180 yards and two scores while leading West Virginia to a 10-3 record.

    The 6-foot-3, 214-pounder has adequate size for the position, some natural accuracy and is a good decision-maker. Walterfootball.com caught up with Smith’s former teammate Keith Tandy. The current Bucs player played cornerback for the Mountaineers and went against Smith on a daily basis.

    Tandy is currently a safety after getting drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last April. After seeing some established NFL quarterbacks like Josh Freeman and Dan Orlovsky in training camp, Tandy believes his former teammate is capable of being a good NFL starter.

    “Just from watching these guys, [Smith] definitely has the tools to be a special quarterback in this league,” said Tandy. “I’ve seen the way he works and that is another plus for him. He really buys into the system and watches a lot of film to try and find a way to perfect his game.” One of the big hurdles for any college quarterback with NFL scouts is arm strength. Many elite college signal-callers don’t have strong enough arms for the next level, but Tandy said that is not an issue for Smith.

    “Definitely I’ve seen him make that deep out route and deep comeback route. He throws those all the time,” said Tandy. “Every time we faced a better level of competition he steps his game that much or more.”

    There are numbers that prove Tandy’s point. Early in the 2011 season, West Virginia took on one of the best defenses in the nation versus the LSU Tigers. Smith took advantage of the spotlight and played his heart out for the Mountaineers.

    Despite seeing a steady pass rush from LSU, the junior threw for 463 yards. He completed 38-of-65 passes against a defense comprised of NFL talent, especially in the secondary. Smith had two touchdowns and two interceptions in a losing effort, but he showed his ability to compete with the best of college football.

    Smith also shined in the Orange Bowl versus Clemson, completing 32-of-43 passes for 407 yards with six touchdowns and zero interceptions. He has the athletic ability to run more on the ground, but prefers to be a pocket-passer. NFL talent evaluators will like seeing his comfort in the pocket.

    “[Smith] is definitely a lot more athletic than people realize,” said Tandy. “I’ve played basketball with him and he get up and dunk the ball. The one thing about him is he loves to be a passer primarily. He loves to distribute the ball to his teammates and letting them make plays. Then if you see him like in the Orange Bowl he can get away if he has to. We didn’t want him to risk an injury last year so that is why he stayed in the pocket a lot.”

    Walterfootball.com asked Tandy if Smith was a good student of the game and a dedicated student in the film room.

    “Oh yeah, at practice we were always trying to disguise things, but he would always pick it up,” said Tandy. “He was always watching extra film to figure out a tip from here or a tip from there. That is one thing he is really good about is preparing for games so nothing surprises him.”

    Smith should have a banner senior season as he takes on the Big XII. The conference generates massive point totals that make it the Arena league of college football. Smith also has his top two receivers returning. Stedman Bailey caught 72 passes for 1,279 yards and 12 touchdowns last year while Tavon Austin had 101 receptions for 1,186 yards and eight scores. Going against Smith and those receivers on a daily basis gave Tandy great preparation for the NFL.

    “It was really great work for me everyday in the secondary,” said Tandy. “All three of them are unbelievable guys and all three of them you’ll see in the NFL. With Tavon’s athleticism it is so hard to cover him. Stedman has some of the best route running and hands of any receiver I’ve gone against.”

    When they learn the insight that Tandy has provided, NFL coaches and general managers will love Smith’s work ethic and dedication. Smith needs a strong senior year to be a first-round pick, and it seems very possible that he will hear his name called on Thursday night.

    Backup Quarterbacks to Watch this Preseason

    Published Aug. 16, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    There are always NFL teams that are in need of a starting quarterback. It is the toughest commodity to find, so pro scouts are always watching signal-callers especially closely during the preseason games. While those contests are meaningless in terms of wins and losses, they carry a lot of weight with pro scouts looking to get idea for the talent level of backups across the NFL.

    Former Packers general manager Ron Wolf bolstered his roster with draft picks by trading away backup signal-callers like Matt Hasselbeck, Mark Brunell and Aaron Brooks. In more recent years, other teams have received quality picks for their backup quarterbacks: the Patriots with Matt Cassel, the Falcons with Matt Schaub and the Eagles with Kevin Kolb. There are a few backup quarterbacks worth watching this preseason who could turn into tradable commodities.

    Colt McCoy, Browns

    With Brandon Weeden named the starter, McCoy would be better off being traded to another team. There was talk during the draft after the Browns selected Weeden, that the Green Bay Packers were interested in trading for the former Longhorn.

    McCoy looked limited as a pro quarterback his his time as a starter with Cleveland,. In his defense, the Browns were a terrible team that was overmatched on a weekly basis. If McCoy receives a fresh start with a team that had some talent, perhaps he could resurrect his career before he ends up being a backup journeyman.

    Brian Hoyer, Patriots

    Some were surprised when the Patriots put a second-round tender on Hoyer this offseason. Consider though that he has completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,121 yards with five touchdowns and one interception across three preseasons. Obviously New England likes him to place a second-round tender on him. No team would have been willing to give up that level of draft pick for Hoyer, but a third or fourth-rounder could have caused some teams to kick the tires on the Patriots second-stringer.

    With Hoyer entering unrestricted free agency soon, he is an immediate trade target. The 26-year old could be an option if a team has a serious injury or rash of injuries at the quarterback position. Given that New England has another quality, effective backup in Ryan Mallett, Hoyer could be even more easily acquired this year.

    Ryan Mallett, Patriots

    If Mallett starts lighting it up in the preseason, the Patriots could look to get something for him in the next few years. Tom Brady should still have a number of seasons left as the starter, so they maybe better off getting something for Mallett.

    Mallett completed 57 percent of his passes (36-of-63) for 357 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the 2011 preseason. That’s rather impressive for a rookie coming off the lockout without much practice time. The former Wolverine/Razorback needs to do better than that in order to return value for New England, but reportedly he’s having a good training camp this year and is much improved.

    The 6-foot-6, 245-pounder has a cannon for an arm and has an impressive skill set as a pocket-passer. Mallet should see a lot of playing time in the first game against the Saints and the final game against the Giants. He is in an open competition to be Brady’s backup with Hoyer. If Mallett beats out Hoyer with a strong preseason, the second-year pro could earn himself some attention from pro personnel directors across the league.

    Kirk Cousins, Redskins

    Obviously, Cousins isn’t a short-term trade target. The Redskins drafted him in the fourth round last April. However, if Cousins has a good preseason, he can start the process of turning himself into a tradable commodity for Washington.

    If Cousins plays well in his preseason snaps, and possible regular season action, over the next couple of seasons; teams will definitely come calling for him. That is assuming that fellow rookie Robert Griffin III pans out as the franchise quarterback.

    Russell Wilson, Seahawks

    Wilson is in a somewhat similar position to Cousins. Seattle brought in a different new young quarterback with expectations that he will be the starter. Free agent addition Matt Flynn has been named the starter for the beginning of the preseason, but since the team is guaranteeing him $10 million in a three-year, $19 million contract, being named the starter is more of a formality.

    If Flynn pans out for the Seahawks, they could see what they could get for Wilson, a third-rounder last April. The former NC State/Wisconsins signal-caller is a gamer with a strong arm and great mobility. His height below six-foot is what sunk his draft status.

    Wilson could prove that not to be an issue when he gets his opportunities in the preseason. Wilson definitely should be fun to watch.

    Team Fits for Jeff Demps

    Published Aug. 15, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    I join Walt in his hatred of the Olympics, especially after they dumped baseball, because the Olympics are anti-American. That being said, congratulations to Jeff Demps for winning a silver medal in his relay race. The former Florida Gator has stated that he would like to sign with an NFL team now that he has finished competing internationally in track.

    Demps was a quality running back for the Gators and had the reputation as the fastest player in college football. Obviously, he has world-class speed, and there a number of running back-needy teams that could use a player like him to compete for a roster spot as a backup/situational running back and kick returner.

    Demps was a four-year contributor for Florida. He worked his way into the lineup as a freshman in 2008 for the future National Champions. The freshman totaled 605 yards (7.6 average) and seven touchdowns. Demps’ best rushing totals and worst receiving totals came as a sophomore when he ran for 745 yards and seven scores. He only caught eight passes for 52 yards in 2009.

    Demps led the Gators with 551 yards rushing on only 92 carries in 2011. The junior averaged 6.0 yards per carry with three touchdowns. He accumulated 569 yards rushing on 98 carries with six touchdowns last year. The senior also caught 11 passes for 257 yards and a score.

    Demps averaged 28.8 yards per kick return in his career, scoring one returned for a touchdown. The 5-foot-8, 190-pounder can score on any touch, but he can also suffer an injury on any carry. Demps dealt with repeated injuries over his time at Florida, and the durability question is a real negative for him to overcome for the NFL.

    If Demps had entered the 2012 draft, he probably would have been a third-day pick. Even though Demps is small and fast, he needs work as a receiver out of the backfield. The speedster looks awkward running routes and catching passes.

    The Gators leaned more on Chris Rainey as their back in the passing game. Demps still would offer a home-run threat at running back along with serving as a kick returner with the team that signs him. He definitely could be a nice depth running back.

    Detroit Lions
    The Lions have a lot of name backs, with quality picks invested in the position, but injuries have ravaged the position. Kevin Smith has looked good when healthy during the 2011 season and this preseason, but he has had serious durability issues. Mikel Leshoure has also had a hard time staying healthy.

    Demps would be a good replacement for Javhid Best, a 2010 first-rounder. Unfortunately, the talented Best has had to deal with repeated concussions dating back to his collegiate days at California. He is an explosive back, but Detroit could fill that void with Demps. Considering the durability issues with Best, Smith and Leshoure, it makes sense for the Lions to add Demps.

    Green Bay Packers
    The Packers signed a declining veteran Cedric Benson, so obviously they have problems at the running back position. Demps would bring a speed element to the Green Bay backfield and could really be an asset in the Packers’ screen package.

    General manager Ted Thompson has been excellent at surrounding quarterback Aaron Rodgers with weapons; Demps would be a dangerous speed back and would provide more mismatches for Mike McCarthy to scheme. Demps would be a competitor with Marc Tyler and Benson for a roster spot.

    San Diego Chargers
    As Walt pointed out, Ryan Mathews is made of glass, so signing another running back won’t hurt San Diego. 30-year old veteran Ronnie Brown may not have much left in the tank. Demps would be a good competitor for a roster spot and is better than seventh-round rookie back Edwin Baker.

    The Chargers’ offense took a downgrade in its weapons when the team lost Vincent Jackson in free agency to the Bucs. It makes a lot of sense to give quarterback Philip Rivers another weapon.

    Cincinnati Bengals
    The Bengals don’t have much at the running back position. It was a weakness last year and looks like it will be again in 2012. None of Cincinnati’s backs are speed threats like Demps, so the former Gator would add a playmaker for offensive coordinator Jay Gruden to work with. There is no reason for the Bengals not to sign Demps since they don’t have much talent in the backfield.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    The Bucs have shown interest in Demps. Their top two backs are set with LeGarrette Blount and rookie Doug Martin. If Demps signs with Tampa Bay, he would have to compete with Michael Smith among others for a roster spot, unless the Bucs decided to keep four running backs.

    That is a real possibility as they intend to be a ground-based offense. Given the injury issues that impact the running back position, it makes sense for the Tampa Bay to build up more depth with Demps.

    With Habern Retired, Ikard Moves Up

    Published Aug. 13, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    The Oklahoma program hasn’t even played a game yet this this season, but already has lost two-fifths of its starting offensive line. Sophomore guard Tyler Evans, a starting freshman standout, was injured and lost for the season. Center Ben Habern decided to end his football career because of unrelenting back and neck injuries. With Habern out of the lineup, junior Gabe Ikard will take over at center.

    When healthy, Habern played like a third- or fourth-round pick. He did an excellent job of protecting quarterback Landry Jones over the last two seasons. Habern missed four games last year due to a broken arm. he had a season-ending ankle injury as a redshirt freshman in 2009. Habern as an All-Big XII honorable mention in 2010; the only year he was actually healthy.

    Ikard started as a freshman at guard in 2010. He was named a First-Team All-Freshman All-American by numerous media outlets and was an All-Big XII honorable mention by the AP. Habern was an All-Big XII First-Team selection last sesaon, having split time between guard and center. When Habern was out with the arm injury, Ikard filled in at center. He moved back to guard for the rest of the season after Habern came back.

    Center is likely Ikard’s best position for the NFL in the long term. He is quick, athletic and technically sound. Ikard is a better physical fit at center. If the 6-foot-2, 295-pounder can add 10-15 pounds for the NFL, that would be ideal – and shouldn’t be a problem considering his youth.

    Ikard was an Academic All-American last year, he and graded out the highest of any of Oklahoma’s offensive linemen, including Habern and draft pick Donald Stephenson. Ikard has the ability to excel at center, and he could turn into a second-day pick in 2013 or 2014.

    The center class for the 2013 NFL Draft looks rather weak entering the 2012 regular season; losing Habern makes it even less talented. Unless some juniors like Ikard enter the draft, teams looking for center help next April may not have many options to pick from.

    Tyrann Mathieu Dismissed from LSU

    Published Aug. 11, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Cornerback Tyrann Mathieu has his draft stock in free fall after he was kicked off the LSU football team. Mathieu has reportedly failed multiple drug tests. He may have to sit out this season and enter the 2013 NFL Draft, or he could decide to return to college football in 2013 in order to attempt to improve his draft standing.

    At this time, it isn’t clear what level of football Mathieu will be eligible to transfer to in order to play this season. Mathieu’s best move would be to transfer down a level to a school like North Alabama or Arkansas State in order to play this season. However, some believe that Mathieu will be ineligible to play at any NCAA school this year. If that is the case, he probably will just enter the 2013 NFL Draft.

    Mathieu was one of the best players in college football in 2011. He was the only defensive player to make it as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. Off the field, however, Mathieu has had a sketchy reputation for some time. To continue to use drugs after being suspended once for it is nothing short of being a complete idiot.

    Mathieu is extremely undersized. At 5-foot-9, 175-pounds he did not project to being a shut down corner in the NFL. He looked like a potential slot corner and free safety. Using him in that manner would protect his size limitations while putting him in position to use his instincts to make plays. Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber has had a long career despite being that small. Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers is also 5-foot-9, and he is one of the better corners in the NFL. It is abnormal but possible for undersized corners to flourish.

    If Mathieu doesn’t play this season the best he could probably hope to go in the 2013 NFL Draft would be the middle rounds. Depending on how bad the character issues are, he could fall to the final rounds or go completely undrafted. Last year, the Florida Gators kicked out talent cornerback Janoris Jenkins, a potential high first-round pick. He played at North Alabama last year and ended up going in the second round to the St. Louis Rams. Mathieu is not as good a pro prospect as Jenkins, but that would be the best case scenario for Mathieu at this time. Otherwise he could end up being this draft’s Burfict, something we wrote last June.

    Click here for the Tyrann Mathieu: Next Vontaze Burfict? article.

    More Tyler Bray Maturity Concerns

    Published Aug. 9, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Just weeks after getting in trouble for throwing beer bottles in a parking lot, Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray was summoned to court on misdemeanor charges for reckless operation of a personnel watercraft. The police officer described Bray’s actions as “hot dogging” on a Jet Ski and also nearly running over some Jet Ski riders/swimmers he was playing chicken with on the other Jet Ski. The signal-caller will get a slap on the wrist with some community service work.

    The incident doesn’t mean much of anything legally, and playing around is part of the fun of riding on a Jet Ski. However, Bray is lucky nobody got hurt. Duke wideout Blair Holliday was seriously injured and is still in the hospital after a Jet Ski accident around July 4.

    The real consequences for Bray are that he continues to show NFL evaluators that he has maturity issues by getting caught up in repeated minor incidents. Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley said recently that Bray needed to change his “lifestyle” in order to be a leader and the face of the program. The coach aslo said recently that Bray has improved his maturity – making you wonder what he was doing before.

    In 2011, the 6-foot-6, 210-pound sophomore completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,983 yards with 17 touchdowns and six interceptions. Bray had a hand/thumb injury that caused him to miss five games and hurt him down the stretch. He completed 55.8 percent of his passes for 1,849 yards with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions as a freshman. Bray needs to show improved accuracy as a passer on the field this year. He also has to make it clear that he is durable enough to withstand the hits from NFL pass-rushers. There is no doubt that Bray has the size, and a cannon for an arm that can make all the desired throws by NFL coaches.

    The junior has a lot to prove as an NFL prospect off the field. If Bray doesn’t clean up his act, he could have some thinking that he is bound to be the next Ryan Leaf or JaMarcus Russell; players who didn’t take the NFL seriously. Having your college head coach say to the press that you need to show some increased maturation is always a serious red flag.

    The minor incidents raise questions not only about Bray’s decision-making in his free time, but also makes teams wonder how focused he is on preparing for game day. Will Bray work hard to improve in the offseason? How responsible is he going to act with millions of dollars to fund his off the field exploits?

    Bray is going to need to come up with good answers to these questions before he goes pro.

    Eight Unheralded Rookies to Watch in the Preseason

    Published Aug. 8, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    A few unsung draft picks or undrafted rookies make names for themselves with impressive training camp performances every preseason. That often translates into playing a contributing role in their rookie seasons. Here are five rookies who are worth watching in the preseason games to see if they can impact the roster during 2012.

    Casey Hayward, CB, Packers

    The Packers’ secondary was a real weakness last season as the defending Super Bowl champs gave up more passing yards than any team in NFL history. Green Bay addressed that problem by drafting some pass-rushers and trading up for Hayward in the second-day of the draft.

    Hayward has been generating rave reviews and a lot of excitement in training camp. Over his final two collegiate seasons, he totaled 13 interceptions and was a pure ballhawk for Vanderbilt.

    The Packers’ defense has thrived off of takeaways, so Hayward is a good fit for what Dom Capers looks to do. With Charles Woodson moving to safety in the base defense, the team is going to need some young corners like Hayward and Davon House to prove ready for game action in 2012. If Hayward can translate his strong training camp performance to the preseason games, he could prove to be ready for playing time this season.

    Jonathan Massaquoi, DE, Falcons

    It is no secret that Atlanta has to upgrade its pass rush, and Massaquoi could compete for playing time as a situational pass-rusher in his rookie season. Playing at a lower weight in 2010, Massaquoi had 13.5 sacks, 20.5 tackles for a loss and 76 tackles. He was weighing in the 260s last season and saw frequent double-teams. The 6-foot-2, 264-pounder totaled 52 tackles, six sacks and 10.5 tackles for a loss.

    The Falcons badly need another pass-rusher to go with John Abraham, so Massaquoi, a fifth-round pick, has a nice opportunity to be a key situational player as a rookie.

    Marvin McNutt, WR, Eagles

    The Eagles could use a third receiver to emerge as a complement to DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Both Jackson and Maclin have the speed to stretch the field, but McNutt would be a nice option to move the chains in the short to intermediate part of the field as a possession receiver. The former Hawkeye is sure handed and is very polished.

    Philadelphia drafted McNutt (6-3, 216) in the sixth round, but previously, many had believed he would go somwhere between the second and the fourth rounds. McNutt totaled 82 catches for 1,315 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2011 after solid production in his junior and sophomore seasons. It wouldn’t be surprising if he earns the trust of the coaching staff and turns into a contributing depth receiver.

    Trenton Robinson, S, 49ers

    The 49ers had some safety issues at times in 2011. Even though he landed a franchise tag, Dashon Goldson allowed a lot of completions and touchdowns last year. Meanwhile, Donte Whitner is a good run-defender, but isn’t a good coverage safety.

    Robinson (5-10, 195) is a better fit as a free range safety for the deep part of the field. Many NFL defensive back coaches have said that you have to have at least three safeties to get through a season, even if everybody stays healthy. Robinson could make the case to be a rotational safety to cover the deep part of the field in obvious passing situations. The 49ers landed him in the sixth round, and he could be a nice competitor for them.

    Mitchell Schwartz, OT, Browns

    The Browns early draft picks of running back Trent Richardson, quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Josh Gordon have gotten the lion’s share of attention. However, Schwartz is going to be equally under the gun in 2012.

    Reportedly, Schwartz has struggled with speed-rusher Jabaal Sheard in training camp practices, but is still slated to start this season. Cleveland’s right tackle position was a debilitating weakness last year with veteran Tony Pashos. If Weeden is going to have time to get the ball to Gordon, the signal-caller is going to need Schwartz to be an immediate upgrade over Pashos.

    Richardson also will need Schwartz to be an effective blocker in the ground game. With two standouts in Joe Thomas at left tackle and Alex Mack at center, defenses are going to throw everything they have at Schwartz. The Browns need him to mature immediately.

    Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Patriots

    The Patriots had issues in coverage throughout last season. Dennard was considered an early-round pick before off-the-field issues derailed his draft stock. New England took him in the seventh round, and he could be a nice competitor in the team’s secondary.

    Dennard (5-10, 204) thrived in press man-coverage at Nebraska and is used to playing on an island. He is a physical, gritty corner who could be a steal for the Patriots. Dennard could compete for playing time with holdovers Kyle Arrington, Sterling Moore and Ras-I Dowling.

    Vick Ballard, RB, Colts

    New Colts coach Chuck Pagano said he wants a power running game, and starting running back Donald Brown may not be ideally suited for that. Second-year running back Delone Carter has fumbling issues, which won’t help him to earn the trust of his new coaching staff.

    Indianapolis took Mississippi State running back Vick Ballard in the fifth round, and he could fit the bill of what Pagano is looking for. Ballard totaled 1,189 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2011, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. The 5-foot-10, 219-pounder was a bell-cow back in college and could be a powerful downhill runner in the NFL. Many late round and undrafted running backs have come out of nowhere to find success. Ballard is worth keeping an eye on.

    Brock Osweiler, QB, Broncos

    The Broncos are looking at Caleb Hanie being their backup quarterback for Peyton Manning. Hanie didn’t perform well for the Bears, and Chicago upgraded its backup signal callers with Jason Campbell and Josh McCown.

    At Manning’s age and his multiple neck surgeries, the backup quarterback position is more important for Denver compared to other teams in the league. It would be ideal for the Broncos to have Osweiler beat out Hanie.

    The rookie Osweiler has a strong arm and mobility, but heis raw after not playing a lot at the collegiate level. If Osweiler can show developing skills in the preseason games, that would be a good sign in case they have to turn to him during the regular season. If he doesn’t play well this August and Hanie struggles in relief of Manning, many will wonder about the logic of trading away Tim Tebow when the 2010 first-rounder could have been Manning’s backup.

    Osweiler also has some pressure to make John Elway look good.

    The Steelers Must Prepare to Find Dick LeBeau’s Replacement

    Published Aug. 5, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    In the next few years, Pittsburgh is going to have to replace its legendary defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. Just before the Steelers opening game of the season, LeBeau will turn 75, and he has contemplated retirement in past years. The defensive genius was a Hall of Fame defensive back before becoming one of the best defensive assistants in NFL history. It will be impossible to fill the void when LeBeau leaves, but Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin could look to a familiar face when that time comes.

    The Steelers have some in-house candidates like defensive line and assistant head coach John Mitchell. Linebackers coach Keith Butler has been on staff for nine years, and he could be a perfect replacement for LeBeau. It sounds like the team is planning on Butler being LeBeau’s replacement as Butler led the defense when LeBeau was away from the team for his Hall of Fame enshrinement in 2010.

    Butler has been one of, if not, the best linebackers coach in the NFL over the past decade. The Steelers’ defense has been led by tremendous linebacker play from the likes of James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, James Farrior and Lawrence Timmons. Just consider their success: Harrison was the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year; Farrior was selected as an All-Pro multiple times; and Woodley and Harrison are the only players in team history to record at least 10 sacks in three straight seasons. The linebackers have been the top position group to lead Pittsburgh defense to being a perennially elite stop-unit.

    The Dolphins showed interest in making Butler their defensive coordinator, but he turned them down. It wouldn’t be surprising if Butler receives more offers from other teams after the 2012 season. He could decide to leave Pittsburgh for a defensive coordinator or head coaching job elsewhere in the NFL after this season, especially if LeBeau decides to stay on for the 2013 season.

    If LeBeau stays and Butler moves on next year, another assistant to keep an eye on is Washington Redskins defensive backs coach Raheem Morris. Tomlin and Morris are best friends from years of working together. Morris was Tomlin’s assistant when he was the defensive backs coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Both Morris and Tomlin came up through the Monte Kiffin/Jon Gruden coaching tree, so they both have a coaching heritage in the Tampa 2.

    By the time LeBeau retires, Morris will have learned the 3-4 defense from an experienced and well-respected coach in Jim Haslett, the Redskins defensive coordinator. With the unique understanding of both well-regarded defenses, Tomlin and Morris would have the same knowledge-base to run a diverse scheme in Pittsburgh.

    Morris also has experienced what it is like to replace a legend. Minus a brief interlude with veteran defensive coordinator Jim Bates, Morris took over the Bucs defense after Kiffin left Tampa Bay. Morris also replaced Gruden, the franchise’s all-time winningest head coach and the only Tampa Bay coach to win a Super Bowl and three division titles.

    Morris went 17-31 as the head coach of the Buccaneers, rebuilding the roster with a youth movement. Even though Tampa Bay struggled in two out of three seasons under Morris, the team had a better winning percentage compared to LeBeau’s tenure as a head coach. He was 12-33 as the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals from 2000-2002. LeBeau returned to the Steelers in 2004. Since then Pittsburgh has fielded one of the best defenses in the NFL on an annual basis, highlighted by two Super Bowl championships.

    The 2012 season could very well be LeBeau’s final NFL season, so it would be in Tomlin’s best interest to start thinking ahead as to who would be a good fit to replace a Hall of Fame coordinator. Luckily for the Steelers, they have some nice options to consider with Butler as the most likely heir-apparent and Morris as a dark-horse candidate.

    NFL Coordinators Who Deserve to Be in the Hall of Fame

    Published Aug. 4, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    With NFL’s Hall of Fame game and inductions upon us, it reminds many that there are lot of injustices with the Pro Football Hall of Fame. There is a bias against defensive players and offensive linemen, but perhaps the greatest injustice is the Hall not enshrining assistant coaches.

    There have been numerous offensive and defensive revolutions in the NFL because of the superb work of coordinators. Many teams that have won Super Bowl championships were led by a coordinator as essential as the head coach.

    It is high time that the Hall of Fame start welcoming assistant coaches to the legends of the NFL. Here is a short list of four deserving candidates. It would be a disgrace for a supposed Hall of Fame to keep these innovators of the sport out of the hallowed halls in Canton, Ohio.

    Dick LeBeau

    LeBeau was one of the pioneers of the zone blitz in the NFL. His fabulous defenses have the led the way for the Steelers to win two Super Bowls and be a championship contender on an annual basis. Things didn’t go well for LeBeau in a short head coaching stint in Cincinnati. However, he has been one of the most successful defensive coordinators in league history. LeBeau made the Hall of Fame as a player, but he deserves enshrinement as a coach.

    Monte Kiffin

    While the Cover-2 defense had been in the NFL for a long-time, Kiffin mastered it with the Buccaneers under head coaches Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden. Tampa Bay had tremendous success with Kiffin as the defensive coordinator. The Bucs won four division titles (1999, 2002, 2005, 2007), three wild-card berths and a Super Bowl championship (2002) in his defense.

    Kiffin’s schemes also changed the NFL. Undersized and speedy defenders became a rage after he showed what elite speed can do to an offense. Linebacker Derrick Brooks, defensive tackle Warren Sapp, defensive end Simeon Rice, safety John Lynch and cornerback Ronde Barber all became perennial Pro Bowlers and All-Pros under Kiffin. There is no doubt in NFL circles that he deserves a to be in the Hall of Fame.

    Buddy Ryan

    Ryan was the defensive coordinator of perhaps the great defense in league history: the 1985 Chicago Bears. He led one of the most suffocating and dominant defenses that football has ever seen.

    After a great run as the Bears defensive coordinator (1978-1985), Ryan was the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals. He also had a successful season as the defensive coordinator for the Houston Oilers before taking that final coaching job with Arizona.

    One underrated aspect of Ryan: he had a keen eye for talent. Ryan drafted seven future Pro Bowlers: Seth Joyner, Clyde Simmons, Jerome Brown, Eric Allen, Cris Carter, Fred Barnett and Keith Jackson. Ryan’s Eagles had a winning record overall, but going 0-3 in the playoff games got him fired.

    Ryan changed football with his 46 defense. Variations of it are run consistently in the NFL today. His sons Rex Ryan and Rob Ryan continue the Ryan legacy.

    Tom Moore

    Moore is a no-brainer for the Hall of Fame. As the offensive coordinator for the Colts during Peyton Manning’s glory years, Moore’s offenses were some of the most prolific in NFL history. Indianapolis produced a regular season record of 117-59 with Moore’s offense carrying the team throughout his tenure as coordinator: 1998-2009. The Colts were 9-9 in the postseason and won Super Bowl XLI.

    Moore won three Super Bowls as an assistant in total. He had his first two as a receivers coach with the Steelers in 1978 and 1979. Aside from Manning, Moore coached some other great players including a sure Hall of Fame wide receiver in Marvin Harrison. There is no doubt that Moore was one of the most successful coordinators in NFL history and deserves his bust in the Hall.

    There are some other current coaches in the NFL who could warrant consideration. Chargers head coach Norv Turner is not a Hall of Fame head coach, but he could be as an offensive coordinator. Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers also could be a clear Hall of Famer by the time he retires.

    The vast majority of NFL fans would agree that LeBeau, Kiffin, Ryan and Moore deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. Of course, that is just the tip of the iceberg. Send along your suggestions for Hall of Fame assistants and we’ll hit on them in the next mailbag. You can send them via email ([email protected]) or on Twitter @draftcampbell.

  • Justin Blackmon Still Unsigned; Wage Scale Can’t Prevent Holdouts

    Published Aug. 3, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    The new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was supposed to all put an end to rookie holdouts along with the massive paydays to players who had accomplished nothing at the NFL level. Prior to the new rookie wage scale, high first-round picks were receiving such massive contracts that having a top pick became undesirable even among teams that needed a franchise savior. Trades at the top of the draft were impossible because no team wanted to move up and take on the contract that came with those picks.

    In the new CBA, the rookie wage scale was introduced to limit compensation given to rookies. The top of the draft still carries a nice payday, but the days of negotiating huge bonuses and guaranteed money that doesn’t count against the rookie pool are over.

    This year, the Indianapolis Colts signed the No. 1 overall pick, Andrew Luck, to a 4-year $22.1 million contract. The contract was fully guaranteed and almost identical to Cam Newton’s contract with the Carolina Panthers a year ago.

    Two years ago before the rookie wage scale in the new CBA, the Rams signed No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford to a 6-year $78 million deal with $50 million guaranteed. The incentives contained in his deal, if earned, could bring the value of the deal to a whopping $86 million.

    Those contracts made no sense and carried the risk of putting a contract albatross around the neck of teams that had a high pick go bust – see JaMarcus Russell. Fortunately, the NFL was able to improve the game with the new CBA. The consensus between the players’ union and the league was that veterans should see those deals more than unproven rookies who’ve contributed nothing to the league’s game day product. Despite the new structure simplifying the entire process, there were two significant holdouts in this year’s draft class.

    The only first-round pick who remains unsigned is wide receiver Justin Blackmon – No. 5 overall – of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The reason for Blackmon to be missing a lot of practice stems from a second DUI arrest over the past three years. The Jaguars are trying to work in language to get money back or avoid paying Blackmon if they decide to release him during the next four years. This contract impasse is completely related to Blackmon’s off-the-field issues.

    The penultimate first-rounder to sign his contract was Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kendall Wright, chosen with the 20th overall pick. The problem that caused Wright to miss the start of training camp was the contract signed last year by the 20th pick, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Adrian Clayborn. The Bucs fully guaranteed Clayborn’s deal while the other picks in front and behind him were not receiving fully guaranteed deals.

    Staff on teams throughout the NFL and league sources were unhappy with Tampa Bay for fully guaranteeing Clayborn’s contract. They felt that guaranteeing the full contract for picks in the back half of the first round flew in the face of the rookie wage scale. It violated the integrity of the rookie wage system and opened up a pandora’s box for agents to demand the same kind of deal this year and in the years to come.

    Titans general manager Ruston Webster and vice president of football administration Vin Marino just lived that reality. They had to negotiate around the Clayborn deal, and they did not want a fully guaranteed contract for Wright. The 19th and 21st picks from this year’s draft and last year’s draft did not have fully guaranteed deals like Clayborn.

    After two years of the rookie wage scale, the new CBA has fortunately put an end to ludicrous contracts like the one Bradford signed. However, it has not been foolproof to end rookie holdouts and contract impasses. Teams will continue to want to protect themselves from players with off-the-field legal problems.

    Plus, it is likely that the team that lands the 20th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft may face a nasty negotiation a year from now courtesy of Clayborn’s contract, and possibly Wright’s.

    Michael Dyer, Greg Reid Dismissals Could Spell UDFA

    Published Aug. 2, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Recently, two potential draft picks saw their NFL stock put on life support. Florida State kicked senior cornerback Greg Reid off the team after an arrest earlier this summer, and Arkansas State just dismissed running back Michael Dyer from its program. Dyer was a standout running back at Auburn who ended up transferring to Arkansas State because of a suspension. Right now, both players look like they are strong candidates to go undrafted in 2013.

    Reid is extremely fast with real coverage tools from his agility and athleticism. The 5-foot-8, 185-pounder is extremely undersized, but there are quality corners in the NFL who have similar size. Reid had 32 tackles, two interceptions and five passes broken up last season. He had two picks as a freshman and three interceptions as a sophomore.

    Reid is also a special teams player. He’s averaged 12.6 yards per punt return with three touchdowns in his career. Reid has also brought back 63 kicks, averaging 24.7 yards per return – no scores though. He looked like a back who could be an NFL nickel or dime corner who would mainly contribute on special teams.

    Perhaps Reid could transfer to small school and play out his senior season. That could help his stock, but right now he looks like a late-round pick, at best, in the 2013 NFL draft.

    Dyer was on his way to being a first-round pick before off-the-field problems derailed his career. The 5-foot-9, 210-pounder has speed, power, shiftiness and durability. The freshman ran for 1,093 yards and five touchdowns in 2010, averaging six yards per carry. With Cam Newton gone, Dyer carried the load for the Auburn offense in 2011. He ran for 1,242 yards (5.13 average) with 10 touchdowns.

    Rams Reluctant to Trade for Mike Wallace

    Published July 31, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Walt made a very sensible trade suggestion a few days ago that the Pittsburgh Steelers should send wide receiver Mike Wallace to the Indianapolis Colts for a second-round pick (see below). There clearly are plenty of reasons in that deal. My suggestion for a Wallace trade, however, would be with the St. Louis Rams.

    The Rams have extra resources to get a deal done thanks to their haul from the Washington Redskins to draft Robert Griffin III last April. St. Louis received the Washington’s first-round pick in the next two drafts. The Redskins look like an improved team entering the 2012 season and could end up selecting in the No. 10-20 range.

    The Rams are capable of surprising this season. They have improved talent and an excellent head coach in Jeff Fisher, and the NFC West is one of the weaker divisions. St. Louis could send its own pick instead of Washington’s selection, but the more conservative route would be to trade the Redskins’ first-round choice for Wallace.

    That being said, sources I’ve spoke with on the Rams sound very reluctant to do a deal for Wallace. They feel that they can draft a first-round receiver and pay him $10 million for four years total. Wallace is looking to get $13 million a season, and the difference in the contracts could be a total of $40 million. Thus a first-round pick is much easier to fit in the Rams’ salary structure, and they have the draft pick ammo to move up if there is one they really want.

    The Rams should do the deal, however; the lack of receiving talent for St. Louis has been a major problem the past few seasons. Franchise quarterback Sam Bradford has not had a good receiving corps to work with, and Wallace would be an instant, massive upgrade. The Rams like rookie wideouts Brian Quick, the 33rd overall pick last April, and Chris Givens, but Wallace is a proven commodity.

    St. Louis has targeted a wide receiver in the first round of the past two drafts, only to see another team trade ahead of it for the wideout. In 2011, the Rams wanted Julio Jones, but saw the Falcons swoop in to steal him. Last April, the Jaguars leaped over the Rams in a trade with Tampa Bay to snag Justin Blackmon.

    Sources with St. Louis indicated the team would have taken Blackmon if he fell to its pick, but the team still definitely would have traded down with Dallas if that transaction was on the table, even if Blackmon were available. Picking up another second-round pick was too good a deal to pass up. Still, the Rams know that they need to continue to build a receiving corps, and there is no guarantee that Quick and Givens will pan out.

    St. Louis could target a first-round receiver next year, but once again, the Rams might miss out on their guy making it to their pick. Thus, St. Louis can avoid all of the uncertainty by dealing for Wallace. He is a proven commodity unlike a first-rounder next year, or either Quick or Givens.

    Wallace is the real deal. The 6-foot, 199-pounder is one of the fastest receivers in the NFL and has the big-play ability to score on any reception. He commands extra coverage running downfield. He has been durable and has improved his reception total each season in the league.

    There is no doubt that Wallace would be a tremendous asset for Bradford. Wallace turns 26 years old on Wednesday, so he has plenty of prime years left to be productive during a 5- or 6-year contract extension. The Rams have more problems on offense than defense, and Wallace makes all the sense in the world for St. Louis.

    Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said that Wallace was not available in a trade, but I think that would change immediately if the Rams offered a first-round pick. A potential top-20 selection would be more than fair compensation for Wallace and that beats losing him for nothing in unrestricted free agency.

    Like Walt’s suggest deal with the Colts, this trade makes too much sense for it to actually happen. The Rams definitely don’t seem interested.

    Colts Should Trade for Mike Wallace

    Published July 29, 2012
    By Walt – @walterfootball

    It’s now apparent that Mike Wallace won’t play for the Steelers in 2012. Wallace, who reportedly coveted Larry Fitzgerald money (and now Vincent Jackson money), watched as his team offered the “other” receiver, Antonio Brown, a nice, 5-year extension on Friday (you can see my Antonio Brown extension grade here). This was a major slap in the face to Wallace, who will now demand to be traded.

    Wallace has elite speed and is a legitimate No. 1 receiver, albeit a lower-end top target. He can net a Day 2 selection from a team desperate for receiving help.

    Although there are a number of teams that could pursue a deal – for example, the Dolphins own an extra third-round choice from the Brandon Marshall trade – there is one particular landing spot that makes the most sense:

    Colts acquire WR Mike Wallace from Steelers for 2nd-round pick
    I actually posted this potential trade on Twitter – follow me @walterfootball – because it makes so much sense. Who would say no to this? Pittsburgh won’t be able to obtain a first-rounder, so this is the best it could possibly net for its disgruntled wideout.

    Meanwhile, the Colts would love to have Wallace. First of all, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians worked with Wallace in Pittsburgh, so there would be no adjustment period, since Wallace already knows the offense. And second, Andrew Luck really needs help at wideout across from the aging Reggie Wayne. Wallace would stretch the field, opening things up underneath for the rookie tight ends.

    This trade makes too much sense for it not to happen. Both teams should be calling each other about a deal immediately.

    Two Penn State Players Who Should Transfer

    Published July 26, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    The NCAA came down hard on Penn State for its inaction toward Jerry Sandusky’s child sex abuse, so there are a few players who could improve their draft standing by immediately transferring to other elite programs. A quick transfer to a better team without sitting out a season could boost some players rather than if they stuck it out as Nittany Lions with the program in disarray.

    Here are two players who could really benefit from a change in scenery. Below we offer a suggested program that would help each player improve his ability to produce great tape for NFL scouts to evaluate.

    Silas Redd, RB
    There are reports that Redd is already being pursued by USC. The Trojans could use another running back, and he would be a great addition to their offense. Redd ran for 1,241 yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore last year. He totaled 437 yards on fewer than 100 carries as a backup as a freshman. Redd has averaged 5.2 yards per carry over his first two seasons even with Penn State lacking a real passing threat at quarterback.

    That wouldn’t be an issue with the Trojans. They have the best quarterback-receiver tandem in college football in Matt Barkley and Robert Woods. There is other talent around that duo at wide out and on the offensive line. Smaller speed running back Curtis McNeal would also offer a nice complement to Redd.

    Redd (5-10, 200) would be a huge addition for USC given his two remaining seasons of eligibility. His season rushing totals would be boosted by a bowl game and potential conference championship; Penn State is ineligible for either or those. Redd would have great holes to run through with the Trojans.

    Gerald Hodges, OLB
    Hodges would be a great fit in LSU’s defense. The Tigers have tremendous NFL talent on the defensive line and in the secondary, but their linebackers have not been nearly as good as the players playing in front or behind them. Playing for the defending SEC champs would help the 6-foot-2, 234-pounder to be seen since LSU is a lock to be a bowl team while Penn State is banned from postseason play.

    Hodges would be an instant upgrade for the Tigers. He is a physical linebacker who is a good form tackler. In the running-driven SEC, Hodges would help shut down the ground game for LSU. He led Penn State in tackles with 106 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, one interception, four passes broken up and two forced fumbles last year. That was his first full season of playing time.

    Hodges is a hard-nosed player who has good instincts and a nice physical skill set. He will be a senior this year, but LSU and he could benefit each other by teaming up in 2012 as a national title contender.

    Tyler Bray Allegedly Throwing Beer Bottles Raises Maturity Concerns

    Published July 26, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    There was a lot of excitement around Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray entering the 2012 season. The big-armed signal-caller is healthy and has some superb receiving weapons to work with for his junior year. Many draft analysts believe that Bray has the talent to be a high first-round pick and a future franchise quarterback. He got started on convincing NFL teams otherwise after taking part in a stupid prank that caused him to be evicted from his apartment.

    With a friend of his, Bray was accused of tossing beer bottles and golf balls from his apartment’s balcony onto cars parked at the complex. Fortunately for Bray, none of the shattered glass happened to injure any bystanders. The resident who reported the incident had the windshield of her car smashed in an apparent retaliation. Apparently no charges will be filed, and restitution is being arranged.

    Bray seemingly has avoided any charges from the local police, but NFL teams are going to hold this against him. They will question his maturity and whether he is ready to handle the millions of dollars and expectations that come with being a high draft pick.

    The incident could also factor into Bray returning to school for another year. The quarterback hasn’t even played a full season yet at the college level, so he could probably help mitigate the damage by playing two years at a high level and showing more maturity off the field.

    The 6-foot-6, 210-pound sophomore completed 59 percent of his passes in 2011 for 1,983 yards with 17 touchdowns and six interceptions. He had a hand/thumb injury that caused him to miss five games and hurt him down the stretch. There is no doubt, however, that he has the size, and a cannon for an arm that can make all the desired throws by NFL coaches.

    Bray had a lot to prove before this. He needs to show improved accuracy as a passer. He also has to make it clear that he is durable enough to withstand the hits from NFL pass-rushers.

    Now, Bray added to the list by showing poor judgement and potential character concerns. The fact that he has exploits reminiscent of MTV’s Jackass won’t endear him to NFL teams. Bray’s draft stock will take a real hit from this incident for the moment, and he needs to clean his act up off the field to help get back into consideration as a high first-round pick.

    Jeremy Shockey Signing Candidates

    Published July 25, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Veteran free agent tight end Jeremy Shockey is expected to sign with a team in the next few weeks. There are multiple teams that could pursue him, even though he doesn’t have a whole lot left in the tank. Shockey caught 37 passes for 455 yards and four touchdowns for the Panthers in 2011

    The 31-year-old tight end is entering his 11th NFL season. Last year was the first season in his career without 40 receptions. However, teammate Greg Olsen received more targets, and if Shockey had played for another team, he may have produced more.

    Shockey wants to sign in what he deems to be the “right” situation. Some teams that could use tight end help, like the Atlanta Falcons, won’t touch him. Here are a few options for the veteran.

    Buffalo Bills

    Kevin Brock, Mike Caussin, Fendi Onobun, Lee Smith and Dorin Dickerson are whom the Bills have behind starter Scott Chandler. Thus, Buffalo could use Shockey for depth. If Chandler gets injured and banged up, the tight end position could be a real weakness for the Bills.

    The big problem with Shockey going to Buffalo is the culture of the locker room. The Bills have made a concerted effort to build a good team-oriented environment. The veteran, on the other hand, has caused locker-room problems for every team he’s played for: the Giants, Saints and Panthers. Thus, even though they could use him, the Bills will probably pass on Shockey.

    Houston Texans

    The Texans have a whole lot of nothing behind Owen Daniels. Logan Brock (rookie), Phillip Supernaw (rookie) and Garrett Graham are the backups. Daniels has dealt with injuries over the years. and he’s left a void in the offense when unable to play. Shockey could be a quality depth option. The 6-foot-5, 251-pound veteran isn’t a great blocker, but that would be marginalized by the Texans’ zone-blocking system.

    Oakland Raiders

    The Raiders have Tory Humphrey, Brandon Myers, David Ausberry, Richard Gordon and rookie Kyle Efaw at tight end. None of them have had a season of significant production. Shockey could come in and help offer a better option for Carson Palmer to work with.

    Philadelphia Eagles

    Philadelphia is interested in a tight end behind Brent Celek. The front office tried to sign Visanthe Shiancoe, but lost the former Viking to New England. There have been rumors that the Eagles want to bring Shockey in for a physical.

    Carolina Panthers

    The Panthers are interested in re-signing Shockey, according to ESPN’s Pat Yasinskas . However Shockey is only being offered the veteran minimum by Carolina. With Olsen returning, Shockey’s role will be the same as last year, so he will probably stay in Carolina as a last resort.

    Chris Wells: Tradable Commodity For Arizona?

    Published July 24, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    One interesting training camp battle this August could be the face-off between Arizona running backs Chris Wells and Ryan Williams. Williams missed his rookie year in 2011 because of a knee injury, while Wells battled his own knee issues in 14 games. Depending on how the early portion of the season goes, Arizona could have a tradable commodity in Wells.

    Wells ran for 1,047 yards in 2011, averaging 4.3 yards per carry with a banged up knee. The Cardinals also had a shaky offensive line and quarterback play that didn’t help him. He sat out of practices this offseason, nursing his gimpy knee. AZCentral.com’s Kent Somers wrote that Williams was the hardest-working player on the team this offseason. The coaches have to hold Williams back while Wells needs to be pushed to go out on the field.

    If Williams grabs the starting running back job in the preseason and holds onto it in September, the Cardinals could consider dealing Wells. Injuries will strike some teams, and if there is playoff contender desperate for a running back, Arizona could get a nice offer for a player who may not be in the team’s long-term plans. Wells was a first-rounder in 2009, and 2013 is the final year of his contract.

    An NFL running backs’ coach told WalterFootball.com last year that Wells had a prototypical skill set. The coach said Wells is the complete package and the kind of back who is an ideal three-down starter. The 6-foot-2, 229-pounder is a bruising back with underrated speed to go with his big size. His physical talent is held in high regard around the NFL, and maybe a change of scenery will boost his motivation since he should be seeking a lucrative contract extension.

    Easy Change Could Improve Falcons’ Pass Rush

    Published July 22, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    One of the biggest weakness for the Atlanta Falcons during the 2011 season was a lack of pass rush. The Falcons switched defensive coordinators from Brian VanGorder to Mike Nolan and a simple scheme change could make Atlanta’s pass rush all the more potent.

    ESPN’s NFC South expert Pat Yasinskas points out that the Falcons had star pass rushing defensive end John Abraham drop into pass coverage more than any defensive linemen in the NFL.

    Despite that mind-boggling strategy, Abraham totaled 9.5 sacks in the regular season with four forced fumbles. He recorded another sack in the Falcons playoff loss to the Giants. In 2010, Abraham had 13 sacks and that was the sixth time in his career he recorded double digit sacks.

    The Falcons badly need Abraham to get after the quarterback in 2012. They were unable to add a pass rusher via free agency or a high draft pick. If Nolan protects Abraham by rotating him and using him primarily as a pass rusher, Abraham could still produce for Atlanta at the ripe age of 34. As Yasinskas points out, from day one they can bolster their pass rush by not following VanGorder’s tendency to remove their most dangerous defender by dropping him into coverage.

    Ray Ray Armstrong Should Follow Janoris Jenkins’ Route

    Published July 20, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    The University Miami made official Wednesday morning the subject of many rumors that have been circulating for the past few weeks: senior safety Ray Ray Armstrong was kicked off the team. The Hurricanes didn’t give a specific reason, but Armstrong had already been suspended twice last season. The first suspension was for accepting gifts from boosters and the second suspension was given out for having dinner with a marketing representative. Armstrong’s off-the-field issues are going to have a huge impact on his draft status, but there is one route he can go to help mitigate the damage.

    Armstrong should follow the same path as former Florida Gator/North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins. The standout corner transfered to North Alabama after he was kicked out of Florida, playing his senior season for the Lion. While the off-the-field issues kept Jenkins out of the first round, he went to the Rams as a second-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Jenkins is a higher-caliber prospect than Armstrong, but success after transferring could potentially keep him as a mid-round pick.

    Miami stated in its press release that Armstrong was free to transfer elsewhere. He probably will have to settle for a small school like Jenkins did, but playing there would be better than sitting out a season. Armstrong was suspended for a total of five games in 2011. He had 34 tackles with an interception and two passes broken up his six starts. Armstrong was a Second-Team All-ACC selection in 2012 after he recorded 79 tackles with three interceptions.

    The 6-foot-4, 220-pound safety has tons of physical talent. Armstrong is fast, big and physical. He hasn’t reached his athletic potential on the field yet, but that could come in the future.

    Armstrong looks like a mid- to late-round pick at the moment because of the off-the-field problems. It currently isn’t out of the question for him to go undrafted like Donte Paige-Moss or Vontaze Burfict. If Armstrong transfers to a smaller school and performs well, it could go a long way to helping him get drafted.

    Broncos Should Switch Back to the 3-4

    Published July 19, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Everybody knows the Denver Broncos’ defense came up with some clutch performances during the 2011 season. That led to Denver losing defensive coordinator Dennis Allen as the new head coach to rival Oakland. When the Raiders hired Allen away, the Broncos turned to the recently fired Jaguars head coach, Jack Del Rio, to be their new defensive coordinator. Del Rio had success as the coordinator for the Carolina Panthers under John Fox a decade ago, and Del Rio is keeping the Broncos in a 4-3 defense. However, looking below the surface, their defense wasn’t as good as advertised.

    Denver had the 20th-ranked total defense during the 2011 regular season, allowing 357.8 yards per game. The Broncos also were among the 10 worst defenses in points allowed: 24.4 points per game for a total of 390 points for the season. Breaking it down further, Denver had the 22nd-ranked run defense (126.3 yards per game) and 18th-ranked pass defense (231.5 yards per game). In the playoffs, the Broncos blew a lead against the Steelers before getting torched by the Patriots.

    Denver was lit up by Green Bay, Detroit, New England (twice), Buffalo and Minnesota in 2011. The first three teams feature prolific passers, but there is no reason why a rookie quarterback like Christian Ponder should throw for 381 yards against a defense that is, supposedly, championship ready.

    Not a whole lot was done to upgrade the defense this offseason. The Broncos lost defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley, their best interior lineman, and replaced him with rookie second-round pick Derek Wolfe. Denver also has a vulnerable secondary with hopes that a one-year prove it contract with Tracy Porter will pan out.

    If things don’t go well for the Broncos’ defense in 2012, they could easily switch to a 3-4 defense in 2013. Denver has two perfect outside linebackers for the scheme in Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller. Projected long-term inside linebacker Nate Irving is a stiff defender, but is a physical player who would fit well on the inside of a 3-4, plus his weaknesses would be masked by the scheme. The versatile veteran D.J. Williams could handle playing on the inside as well.

    Wolfe would be a perfect fit as a 3-4 defensive end. Many, including myself, see a lot of Aaron Smith in Wolfe. Smith was a force in his career for Pittsburgh as a 3-4 defensive end. Wolfe could be an impact player in that role. Denver plans on playing him at end and tackle as a rookie, so the team obviously sees his ability to take on tackles and guards at the point of attack.

    Defensive end/outside linebacker Robert Ayers was drafted by the previous regime to be a 3-4 defensive end, and if the new staff decides to keep him long term, he could go back to that position. That would leave only a nose tackle to finish off the front seven. Finding one in the draft or free agency shouldn’t be an issue.

    The Broncos have some talent on defense, and, in many ways, their personnel looks like a better fit for the 3-4. If 2012 doesn’t go well, or just even with last year, Denver should consider changing schemes.

    Dwight Freeney Trading Partners

    Published July 18, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Leading up to the 2012 NFL Draft, there was speculation that the Indianapolis Colts were looking to trade veteran defensive end Dwight Freeney. The prolific pass-rusher is nearing the end of a great career while the Colts are firmly in rebuilding mode.

    Indianapolis was unable to deal Freeney last April, but that could change over the next six weeks. Some teams with hopes for a Super Bowl run could use another pass-rusher to put their defenses over the top. Seeing a lack of pass rush during training camp and the preseason could prompt teams to get antsy.

    A big hurdle is Freeney’s $14 million salary for 2012. His sack totals have been declining, too. Freeney had 13.5 sacks during the Colts’ Super Bowl run in 2009. He notched 10 sacks in 2010, and only 8.5 last season. In order to get the most out of the 32-year old, a team would probably be best to use him as a situational pass-rusher. Freeney’s contract will probably need to be restructured by any team that deals for him.

    In March, ESPN’s Adam Schefter said the Colts wouldn’t give Freeney away and wanted quality value in return. Come the end of the preseason, there could be a nice demand for him. Perhaps Indianapolis could land a third- or fourth-round pick for a team desperate for an edge-rusher. Here are three teams that could be fits for Freeney.

    New Orleans Saints

    The Saints are likely to be without defensive end Will Smith because of a league suspension early in the season. Losing a game or two because of a lack of a pass rush could have big postseason implications come January. New Orleans has moved linebacker Martez Wilson to defensive end this offseason, and are hoping 2011 first-round end Cam Jordan makes strides as a pass-rusher in year two.

    Adding a veteran like Freeney could be a nice boost to the Saints’ defense. The team needs an improved pass rush more than anything else to get back to the Super Bowl. New Orleans is without its second-round pick next April, so the Saints probably won’t be willing to give any more than a fourth-round pick.

    New York Jets

    The Jets need an edge-rushing outside linebacker, but didn’t draft one last April. They took a collegiate pass-rusher, Quinton Coples, but his fit in the 3-4 defense may not put him in the best pass-rushing opportunities.

    Adding a veteran pass-rushing element could really help New York to address a weakness that hurt it in 2011. Veterans Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace are declining. Aaron Maybin looks like a situational rusher, but he’s far from a consistent, reliable pro. If the Jets want to make another January run, they could consider giving a third- or fourth-round pick for Freeney.

    Atlanta Falcons

    The Falcons needed to address their pass rush this offseason. However, Atlanta was limited to only adding a fifth-round pick in defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi. Meanwhile, defensive end John Abraham is aging, and veteran Ray Edwards isn’t much of a pass-rusher. Freeney could be a great situational rusher for new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan to help push the Falcons’ defense over the top.

    Lions Face Uncertainty at Defensive End

    Published July 17, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    With the Detroit Lions unable to come to a long-term contract extension with defensive end Cliff Avril, the odds of the team drafting a pass-rusher next April have increased significantly.

    Avril, 26, had a career high 11 sacks in the final year of a four-year contract. He had 8.5 sacks in 2010, having notched 5.5 and five sacks, respectively, in the previous two years. The 6-foot-3, 260-pound isn’t the most fierce run defender, but he makes up for it and more with his ability to get after the quarterback. If Avril hits the open market, he would land a massive contract with the huge demand for pass-rushers in the NFL. Playing on a one-year tender, Avril will still have plenty of motivation to have a big season to land a lucrative long-term extension in the future.

    Aside from Avril, Detroit have a lot of players who it will need to extend. Quarterback Matthew Stafford, tight end Brandon Pettigrew and safety Louis Delmas are the highest priority among them. All three will probably be retained. However, the Lions have other future free agent, like cornerback Chris Houston, who will need to be replaced if the team can’t afford another extension.

    Detroit may decide that Avril is too expensive to keep in the long-term. Even if the Lions re-sign him, they will need to bring in another end. Veteran end Kyle Vanden Bosch is still getting the job done. The 33-year old had eight sacks and four forced fumbles last season, but he won’t play forever.

    Detroit has some quality backups in Willie Young and Lawrence Jackson, but they don’t look like true replacements for Avril. The Lions have a special pass-rush package for rookie end Ronnell Lewis, and he could maybe fill one starting spot in the future, but they will still need another end.

    After taking offensive tackle Riley Reiff in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Detroit could come back around to take a defensive end in the 2013 draft. General manager Martin Mayhew has used four first-round picks on offensive players and two on defensive tackles. Defensive end looks like the highest priority for the Lions 2013 first-rounder at the moment.

    Greg Reid Arrested; Stock Takes a Hit

    Published July 15, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    It can be difficult for undersized defensive backs to get drafted, though Florida State cornerback Greg Reid looked like he could challenge the trend in the 2013 NFL Draft. Reid has been a solid defensive back and a skilled returner for Florida State. He was a core player for the Seminoles’ defense in 2011.

    Reid is extremely fast with real coverage tools, as he is agile and athletic. At 5-foot-8, 185-pounds Reid is extremely undersized, but there are quality corners in the NFL who have similar size.

    Unfortunately, Reid sent his stock down significantly after comitting an off-the-field incident earlier this week. He was arrested for driving with a suspended license, possession of marijuana and a seatbelt violation. And this was not his first brush with the law; Reid was also arrested in September 2011, but had the charges dropped.

    There is a good possibility that Reid will be suspended early in the season. Fortunately for Florida State, it doesn’t him in the early games against Murray State, Savannah State and Wake Forest. However, the Seminoles then have to take on Clemson’s star receivers Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins.

    Florida State needs Reid to match up on those speed demons. Shutting down those receivers would definitely help Reid’s stock. Right now he looks like he would be a late-rounder after raising another character concern.

    Players the Browns Passed on for Josh Gordon

    Published July 13, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    When the Browns used their 2013 second-round pick to select Josh Gordon, they made a risky decision that could come back to haunt the team. The consensus opinion is the young Cleveland squad won’t be very good in 2012. As a result that second-round pick could have been used on another receiver who has more proven production than Gordon.

    There is no doubt that Gordon has a good physical skill set. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound receiver has quickness to go along his size. While the former Baylor wideout has physical talent, he never had big production in college.

    Gordon had his best season for the Bears in 2010, totaling 42 receptions for 714 yards and seven touchdowns. He was held in check against the better competition; Texas (2-23), Oklahoma State (3-29), Texas A&M (3-35) and Oklahoma (2-13) all kept him out of the end zone.

    There easily could be some good receivers available when Cleveland would have been slated to pick next April. Most believe the Browns’ second-rounder was likely to be in the No. 33-45 range. Here is a short list of receivers whom Cleveland could have had a shot at if the team had held onto its pick.

    Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State

    Wilson (6-4, 183) had an excellent freshman season in 2010 with 55 receptions for 1,006 yards and six scores. The sophomore was one of the most productive receivers in the nation last year, making 82 receptions for 1,388 yards and 12 touchdowns.

    Wilson is a big target who needs to fill out his frame with some more muscle. He has excellent hands with top-notch body control and that makes him dangerous in the red zone. The one big concern with Wilson is if he has enough speed to get separation from NFL defensive backs.

    Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee

    Rogers had a breakout sophomore season with 67 receptions for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns last season. The 6-foot-3, 208-pounder is quick and physical. He plays with a swagger and is fearless going across the middle.

    Rogers is extremely tough. He takes big hits while making hard catches. His body control is superb, and he routinely makes highlight-reel, acrobatic catches. It is clear that Rogers has big upside and could be even better in 2012. Quarterback Tyler Bray and wide receiver Justin Hunter are healthy and the trio could produce massive totals in 2012.

    Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor

    As the secondary receiver to Kenall Wright, Williams had a very good 2011 season. He caught 59 passes for 957 yards and 11 touchdowns. Williams had 43 catches for 484 yards and four touchdowns as a sophomore. The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder has excellent size as well as underrated speed that catches cornerbacks by surprise.

    Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M

    Swope (6-1, 206) was the No. 1 receiver for Ryan Tannehill and produced a superb junior season in 2011. Swope caught 89 passes for 1,207 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has underrated speed, and is extremely swift in and out of his breaks. Swope’s sudden quickness takes defenses by surprise. He is very dangerous after the catch and is capable of taking short passes downfield for big gains.

    Swope caught 72 passes for 825 yards and four touchdowns in 2010. He had 19 receptions for 172 yards and a score as a freshman in 2009. Swope is a sleeper prospect who could turn out to be a better pro than receivers taken ahead of him. He is a well-developed receiver who already has excelled in an NFL-style West Coast offense.

    All four of these receivers have produced more than Gordon did as a collegiate player. If Gordon doesn’t pan out for Cleveland, these wideouts could make the second-round pick even more prone to second-guessing.

    E.J. Manuel Needs a Big Jump In 2013

    Published July 12, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Entering his senior year, there is some real hype around Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel. Some are projecting him to be top-10 draft pick next April. One can see why there are those who think that highly of him, given his rare physical skill set. Big, strong, athletic quarterbacks are becoming more popular after the success of signal-callers like Cam Newton or Tim Tebow. Manuel has a great arm and is a good athlete.

    The 6-foot-5, 234-pounder didn’t take the big leap forward that many thought he would last year. The junior completed 65 percent of his passes for 2,817 yards, 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2011, his first full season as a starter (he played when Christian Ponder was hurt). He also ran for 411 yards and four touchdowns.

    In speaking with NFL sources who watch Florida State closely, they say that Manuel has a long way to go to be a high pick next April. Everybody agrees he has tons of physical tools and huge upside, but the big criticism of Manuel is that he is not a natural pocket-passer. The critics don’t feel the Seminole quarterback is as accurate as his completion percentage would indicate.

    Manuel is said to not see the field well or do a good job of reading defenses. He routinely misses open receivers, and there are times when he takes off and runs rather than throwing the ball to wide-open receivers. Evaluators say that Manuel is frustrating to watch because he has all the makings to be a special quarterback, but is not utilizing his full potential.

    The scheme that the Seminoles run also came under criticism. Our sources called it extremely basic, which has not left Manuel well prepared to run an NFL offense. In their view, he should be a second-day pick or a mid-rounder if he doesn’t show massive improvement as a senior.

    It definitely is possible for Manuel to make strides as a senior and improve his stock. Right now though, it seems premature to think that he will be anywhere near the 2013 version of Newton.

    The Pluses and Minuses to Rex Ryan’s Outspoken Style

    Published July 10, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Controversial statements have become the norm from Jets head coach Rex Ryan. Over the years, he has predicted the Jets would win the Super Bowl multiple times. They came close to getting there in back-to-back appearances in the AFC Championship Game in 2009 and 2010, but ultimately have fallen short. They fell apart late last year. Lately, Ryan has attempted to tone done his rhetoric while finding time to appear in an Adam Sandler movie. In speaking with a few NFL coaches, some see a positive side to Ryan’s big talk, while others think he should shut up.

    The positive impact that comes from Ryan being so outspoken is not easily seen by casual observers, but the approach of Ryan taking pressure off his players. If the media is getting its lead stories from Ryan, it will obviously devote less time to interviewing the players in open locker room sessions. This helps to keep the players focused and decreases their time demands on doing interviews. Instead they can use that time to get ready for meetings, practice and overall game preparation. However, in a city like New York with a massive amount of media and attention, Ryan is limited by the volume of media looking for stories. No matter what he says, there will always be a locker room contingent of reporters. Still, Ryan commands a significant amount of the media’s focus to free up his players to a degree.

    Coaches have outlined that there are many negatives with Ryan’s approach. The big talk does alienate opposing coaches and front office staff around the league. That could come back to bite Ryan when he wants to hire popular assistants or land a job with another team after he’s done with the Jets. Depending on what he says, it can cause disagreements in the locker room, but Ryan’s comments have upset more people outside of New York than inside the organization.

    There are many coaches who feel that Ryan should be quiet and let the Jets’ play do the talking. After collapsing down the stretch last season, Ryan doesn’t have much to boast about. If things go poorly this season, Ryan could be let go or firmly on the hot seat entering 2013. In Ryan’s rhetorical style, it’s become put up or shut up time for Rex.

    Colts’ Tight Ends Off To Impressive Start

    Published July 7, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    In speaking with some league staff, there is word that the Indianapolis Colts have seen a lot of impressive play with their rookie tight ends.

    Indianapolis selected Andrew Luck’s college teammate Coby Fleener with the 34th-overall selection and then Clemson’s Dwayne Allen with the 64th-overall pick. In a league that is increasingly featuring double tight end sets, the Colts immediately addressed some weapons for Luck to work with.

    Having two tight ends with receiving ability presents some favorable matchups against linebackers or defensive backs. Luck and his rookie tight ends could generate immediate production for the Colts.

    Fleener (6-6, 247) was a dangerous receiver for quarterback Andrew Luck. Fleener had 32 receptions for 667 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2011. He runs good routes and is adept at exploiting the deep middle of the field on seam routes. He caught 28 receptions for 434 yards and seven touchdowns in 2010. The fast and athletic tight end should contribute well as a receiver as a rookie.

    Even though he was underused by Clemson, Allen (6-3, 255) caught 50 balls for 598 yards and eight scores. He was also a decent blocker for the Tigers. Allen beats defensive backs with surprising quickness and good route running. He is fabulous at going up and getting high passes over defenders. In the NFL, Allen should be a complete tight end who is a red-zone weapon, a third-down target and a blocker in the ground game.

    The early returns are that Fleener and Allen have looked excellent. Some believe that in the next couple of seasons, they will prove to be one of the best tight end tandems in the league. Fleener and Allen probably won’t surpass New England’s duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, but it sounds like the Colts have a nice start in building an offense that will pose many problems for defenses.

    Bacarri Rambo Could Have Bolstered Supplemental Draft

    Published July 4, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    There was a lot of speculation this spring that Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo would enter the 2012 NFL Supplemental Draft. The reasons for him to consider skipping his senior season stemmed from a positive drug test and a four-game suspension to open the 2012 season.

    Rambo is appealing the suspension and, reportedly, was considering entering the supplemental draft. Ultimately, he decided to return to college football for this season, but he would have definitely been worthy of, at least, a mid-round pick, if not a second- or a third-round pick.

    Watching Georgia in 2010, it was hard not to notice the Rambo. The instinctive safety always found his way to the ball and was a playmaker. He totaled 82 tackles with three interceptions, three passes broken up and three forced fumbles.

    Rambo followed that up with an excellent junior season and was one of the nation’s leaders in interceptions, making seven. He also had 52 tackles with seven passes broken up. Rambo is a physical player with good instincts. He has the speed to fly around the field and get in position to make plays.

    Rambo was suspended for the first game of the 2011 season. At a traffic stop, a passenger with him was caught with a “marijuana joint.” This spring after failing the drug test, Rambo claimed he ate brownies that he didn’t know were pot brownies while on spring break in Panama City. Perhaps his appeal will reduce his suspension, but it seems unlikely he won’t receive some punishment for a second drug-related incident.

    Regardless of the appeal, Rambo and Georgia are fortunate he’ll be back to play against Tennessee and South Carolina in the fifth and sixth games of the 2012 season. The Volunteers have one of the best passing attacks in the nation with potential high draft picks at quarterback and wide receiver. The Gamecocks feature maybe the best running back in the nation, Marcus Lattimore. The Bulldogs need Rambo to help defend against those weapons.

    The 6-foot, 218-pounder has starting potential in the NFL. He would be worth a second-round selection absent the character concerns. There is no doubt that NFL teams will downgrade him after missing the most of September in his final collegiate season. The only difference is now that will take place next April as opposed to next week.

    Supplemental Draft Lacks Talent

    Published July 3, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    The NFL announced Monday the prospects eligible for the July 12 supplemental draft. Last year, there was a big-name prospect in the form of Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor. He was chosen with a third-round pick by the Oakland Raiders and was the only player selected. This year’s class lacks any name prospects like Pryor, and overall, is devoid of much talent, but there could be a couple players who warrant late-round consideration.

    Eight players will be available to be selected: Utah/Baylor wide receiver Josh Gordon, TCU running back Ed Wesley, Boise State cornerback Quaylon Ewing-Burton, Syracuse running back Adam Harris, Iowa State offensive lineman Adrian Haughton, McMurray wide receiver Houston Tuminello, Carson-Newman linebacker Larry Lumpkin and Georgia defensive end Montez Robinson.

    Gordon and Wesley are the two prospects of note. Gordon was second to Kendall Wright in 2010 in receiving for Baylor. He caught 42 passes for 714 yards and seven touchdowns. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder was suspended indefinitely by Baylor prior to training camp last August. He had a drug arrest in October of 2010. Gordon transfered to Utah, but after sitting out the 2011 season, he decided to go pro rather than play for the Utes. Gordon could be worth a late-round pick.

    Wesley had one strong season and two decent years at TCU. He broke into the lineup in 2009 and ran for 638 yards and four touchdowns. His best season came in 2010, when he ran for 1,078 yards and 11 touchdowns. Wesley seemed to fall out of favor in 2011, having only 120 carries on the season. He ran for 726 yards (6.1 average) and six scores. Wesley averaged 6.3 yards per carry In his collegiate career. The 5-foot-9, 200-pounder reportedly left TCU because of family reasons. Like Gordon, Wesley could be worth a late-rounder.

    Haughton, a former Iowa State product, spent some time in the Arena League in 2011 with the Orlando Predators. The 6-foot-4, 360-pounder will probably attempt to make a team or practice squad at guard, and it would be a real surprise if a team used a pick on him.

    Ewing-Burton has had frequent off-the-field problems dating back to suspensions during high school football before arriving at Boise State. He was a backup at the beginning of last season, but became a starter after Jerrell Givens was injured. Ewing-Burton, a sophomore, started four games with 26 tackles and one pass defended. He was torched by TCU in a road win by the Horned Frogs and lost his starting spot. Boise State kicked Ewing-Burton off the team following the 2011 season, and only said that he didn’t live up to the standards of the program. Ewing-Burton would be extremely lucky to get picked and looks destined to go undrafted.

    These players benefit from offseason rosters being expanded to 90 players, but it wouldn’t be a complete shock if none of the players get selected a week from Thursday.

    Bears Need Forte, Other Pieces To Seize Championship Window

    Published June 30, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Recently, we took a survey of league sources to get an idea as to what teams they thought were prime competitors for the Super Bowl (you can see this list below). One team that wasn’t included was the Chicago Bears, though the sources felt that Chicago has the capacity to be a very good team next year. They just need a variety of pieces to fall into place and need some luck to break their way.

    The first order of business for Chicago is to get running back Matt Forte into training camp on time. He is in a contract-year dispute with the organization and has yet to sign his tender. The 26-year old Forte had his 2011 season cut short after 12 games, but was on pace to have his highest rushing total in his career. Forte ran for 997 yards (4.9 average) with 52 receptions for 490 yards. The 6-foot-2, 218-pound back is an essential piece of the Bears’ offense, despite some nice offseason moves to improve the talent around him.

    Getting Forte’s issue resolved is critical. There is a proven track record that players who have lengthy holdouts are prone to reduced production along with a higher propensity to being injured. The Bears can’t have that as they need Forte and quarterback Jay Cutler playing at their peak capacities to make up for a shaky offensive line.

    The front five is an area that has to improve in its protection for Cutler. Going away from Mike Martz’s offense and his constant deep drops should help Cutler to avoid hits and sacks. Chicago also has to have its starting linemen stay healthy. A critical area of improvement is at the tackle positions with youngsters J’Marcus Webb and Gabe Carimi. If those young players burst onto the scene in 2012, that will be a huge upgrade to the Bears’ offense.

    Another big pitfall Chicago needs to avoid is age on the defensive side of the ball catching up with the team. The Bears need Julius Peppers (32), Brian Urlacher (34), Lance Briggs (31) and Charles Tillman (31) to avoid a drop in play despite the wear-and-tear of long NFL careers. Eventually it will happen, but Chicago needs them to hold out another year in order to make a run deep into January.

    Two years ago, the Bears beat out the Packers for the division championship before losing to them in the NFC Championship Game. If Chicago has things fall into place, the team could return to New Orleans for the Super Bowl, the location of the coronation of the 1985 Bears as one of the best teams in NFL history. This Chicago team won’t be anywhere near that good, but maybe it could turn into a championship team in its own right if these Bears have everything break in their direction.

    Tyrann Matheiu: The Next Vontaze Burfict?

    Published June 28, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    WalterFootball.com’s outstanding readers regularly suggest interesting story ideas. This one comes from board member Ragnarok. He suggested we discuss some potential 2013 draft prospects who could flop over the next season and during the lead up to the draft.

    Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict, Ohio State center Mike Brewster and North Carolina defensive end Donte Paige-Moss were all considered to be potential first-round picks a year ago. All three went undrafted last April. Here are two nominations for that dubious distinction next year.

    Tyrann Mathieu, CB/S, LSU

    I think Mathieu is too good a football player to go the route of Burfict, but there are some similarities between the two. Burfict was a dynamic defensive presence as a freshman and sophomore. Off-the-field issues and a down season sunk Burfict’s draft stock.

    Mathieu has been a dominant playmaking force in his first two seasons for LSU. However he is extremely undersized at 5-foot-9, 175-pounds and has had off-the-field problems.

    Mathieu had an LSU-leading 76 tackles last year as a sophomore. He also had 7.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, two interceptions and nine passes broken up. Additionally, Mathieu served as a punt returner, averaging 16 yards per return with two brought back for touchdowns. Mathieu compiled 57 tackles with 8.5 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, five forced fumbles, two interceptions, seven passes broken up and two interceptions as a freshman.

    Mathieu has previously failed a drug test with other off-the-field red flags in college. If his play falls apart and he interviews poorly with teams leading up to the draft, the defensive back’s stock could plummet. With Mathieu’s diminutive stature and character concerns, he doesn’t have room for error to have a down season.

    Johnny Adams, CB, Michigan State

    Adams looks like he could be somewhat overrated heading into his senior season. The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder hasn’t truly been a shutdown corner in college, so the projections of him being a first-round pick could turn out to be extremely generous.

    Adams has been solid the past two seasons. He contributed 51 tackles with four tackles for a loss, three sacks, six passes broken up and three interceptions in 2011. Adams was a First-Team All-Big Ten selection, but was beaten out by Nebraska’s Alfonzo Dennard as the conference’s Defensive Back of the Year.

    Adams was an Second-Team All-Big Ten selection for his first season as a starter in 2010 after recording 50 tackles with three interceptions and seven passes broken up. He definitely needs to add some bulk for the NFL and should look to improve his ball skills this year. It wouldn’t be surprising if Adams checks in shorter than his listed height and that could really hurt his stock.

    Other players to compare Adams to could be Dennard or Georgia’s Brandon Boykin. Dennard at one time was a first-rounder. He fell into the mid-rounds after a rough end to the season and Senior Bowl. An arrest dropped him to New England in the seventh round. Size and durability concerns pushed Boykin down to the Eagles in the fourth round.

    Adams has the potential to go either direction and is a player that could disappoint as a senior.

    League Sources’ Super Bowl Favorites

    Published June 24, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    WalterFootball.com caught up with a variety of league sources to survey their Super Bowl favorites. There were many contacts who chose the same teams, but a consensus emerged regarding seven teams that stood out during film study this spring.

    Detroit Lions

    Some sources were extremely high on the Lions. They say that Detroit’s defense should be improved and that the team has some of the best offensive talent in the NFL. It takes elite players to win championships, and the Lions have them on both sides of the ball.

    Detroit overcame some injuries to players they were counting on last year, and right now, the team appears to have a healthy roster with good depth. The Lions are early in their championship window, so if they don’t get it done this year, they could come back to compete for a Lombardi Trophy in the years to come.

    New York Giants

    The defending champs were mentioned by sources despite the fact that no team has repeated as Super Bowl winners since New England in 2004. The Giants certainly have some advantages. For one, Eli Manning is in his prime with a talented duo of receivers. Also, the defense has young playmakers like Jason Pierre-Paul who are coming into their prime.

    On the flip side, the Giants will have everybody targeting them. The modern NFL dictates that New York is unlikely to win it all, but the team has the roster talent to potentially make history.

    Green Bay Packers

    The Packers have the best quarterback in the NFL, Aaron Rodgers, and a plethora of playmakers for him to work with. They upgraded their defense in the NFL Draft, but it remains to be seen if those rookies can provide the instant impact to get Green Bay’s defense playing at a championship level.

    After winning 15 games as the defending champs, the Packers clearly have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL considering what they’ve accomplished the past two seasons. Green Bay still has a young team, so the franchise should definitely be in the Super Bowl hunt for years to come.

    Atlanta Falcons

    While there were other teams mentioned more often, the Falcons were included by league contacts as a squad that could contend for the Super Bowl.

    Atlanta has talent and quarterback Matt Ryan entering the prime years of his career. The Falcons need their signal-caller to take the next step in his development, but they also need their defense to play more consistent football. Many believe that wide receiver Julio Jones is primed for a massive season.

    An improved pass rush is critical to Atlanta’s success. The franchise needs to take the next step in terms of beating elite teams after rough playoff games the past two years. Some of the Falcons key pieces – John Abraham, Roddy White and Michael Turner – are aging and the time for them to get a ring is now or never.

    New England Patriots

    The defending AFC Champs haven’t lost any significant play-makers from the 2011 team. New England also has added two badly need pass-rushers in Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower via the 2012 NFL Draft. The Patriots upgraded their receiving corps with Brandon Lloyd, so Tom Brady will have another skilled receiver to work with.

    The AFC is weaker than the NFC, so New England could avoid some of the pitfalls that typically afflict the Super Bowl loser. The Patriots have a young defense that they need to grow up quickly to take advantage of Tom Brady before he starts declining.

    Houston Texans

    One team that many sources highlighted as being ready to compete for Super Bowl rings is Houston. If it weren’t for Albert Haynesworth falling on Matt Schaub’s foot midway through the year, the Texans could easily have been playing the Giants last February.

    Houston has a rising young defense and a tremendous running game; the old-school staples of Super Bowl teams. The Texans have to overcome some offseason defections, but Houston easily could be the class of the AFC. Sources said the Texans’ offense and defensive front seven could be enough to get them to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.

    Baltimore Ravens

    Another annual contender for the Super Bowl, the Ravens will be back in the mix in 2012. Sources said they believe that Baltimore will get a better season out of Joe Flacco and the passing game.

    Flacco was one of the young quarterbacks who was hurt by the lockout. The defense will miss Terrell Suggs, but it still has a lot of elite players playing at a high level. Sources were gushing about the dominant play of Haloti Ngata, Lardarius Webb and Ray Rice. The Ravens are in win-now mode, as a veterans like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are nearing the end of the line.

    Mike Jenkins Trade Scenarios

    Published June 21, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    The Dallas Cowboys made some bold moves to address their huge need at cornerback. Dallas had real problems at corner last year, so it wasn’t surprising that Jerry Jones would aggressively target the position this offseason. Dallas signed free agent cornerback Brandon Carr to a five-year $50.1 million contract in March. A month later, the Cowboys traded up to the sixth-overall pick to select LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne.

    After those acquisitions, many thought the Cowboys would trade veteran corner Mike Jenkins. The 2009 Pro Bowl corner has had some inconsistent play during his four years in Dallas. Jenkins was a first-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft and is in the final season of his contract. Carr and Claiborne are the long-term starters, so Dallas can either get something for Jenkins in a trade or watch him leave in free agency next March.

    There have been conflicting reports on whether Dallas is looking to deal him. One NFL general manager told WalterFootball.com this week that the Cowboys are not looking to trade Jenkins right now. Many believe that could change and the Cowboys are just waiting for a market to develop. Once injuries start happening in training camp and the preseason, there could be a number of teams that need a veteran corner. The majority of teams that could deal for Jenkins would do so with a contract extension as part of the deal, and Dallas would prefer an AFC team. Here are a list of teams that could be potential trading partners:

    San Diego Chargers Quintin Jammer is 33, and San Diego had a weak secondary in 2011. They are going to need to address the cornerback position next offseason. San Diego could get a head start by acquiring Jenkins. He has experience in a 3-4 defense and should be able to make a quick transition. The Chargers could get Jenkins for a second-day pick. He would probably start immediately for San Diego. Having an experienced corner like Jenkins could help head coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith keep their jobs in a critical year.

    Denver Broncos The Broncos have a big need at cornerback. Champ Bailey won’t play forever and in his mid-30s, a slow down is inevitable. They signed veteran Tracy Porter to a one-year prove-it deal after he struggled last season in New Orleans. Veteran Andre Goodman was let go, and corner could be a weakness again in 2012. Sending a second-day pick for Jenkins makes a lot of sense. He could start opposite Bailey and that would allow the Broncos to put Porter at nickel. Considering the Broncos are trying to win now with short-term veterans like Bailey and Peyton Manning, they could use a corner like Jenkins. He would upgrade their defense immediately.

    Jacksonville Jaguars Jacksonville general manager Gene Smith is on the hot seat, and he needs the Jaguars be improved in order to save his job. Smith had a need at corner but didn’t address it in the 2012 NFL Draft. Furthermore, the Jaguars’ top cornerbacks, Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox, are in the final years of their contracts. Mathis (32 in August) is coming off a torn ACL and is on a year-by-year basis with the Jags or any NFL team at this point of his career. The Jaguars have a good front seven, and a cornerback like Jenkins would upgrade their secondary. With Smith’s job on the line, giving a second-day pick and a new contract for a player who could help him save his job might be a worthy gamble.

    Detroit Lions The Lions entered the offseason with the secondary being a clear weakness. Detroit gave up some huge passing games to end the season against Green Bay’s Matt Flynn and the Saints’ Drew Brees. Detroit lost cornerback Eric Wright in free agency and replaced him with third-round pick Bill Bentley. They also selected Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green on the third day of the 2012 NFL Draft. They have a competition to start opposite Chris Houston with veterans Aaron Berry and Alphonso Smith battling with the rookies. If the Lions are unimpressed with their corners or have a rash of injuries, they could make a move for Jenkins. He would be an upgrade over their 2011 performance at the position.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sources indicated the Buccaneers gave some thought to Jenkins as part of due diligence in the 2008 NFL Draft, but haven’t been motivated to aggressively seek a trade. The Bucs signed Eric Wright to a huge contract in free agency. He is penciled in to start across from Aqib Talib. The team is banking on the talented Talib providing good coverage next season and they have some young corners they like as depth players. All of that could change if Talib lands a lengthy suspension and/or injuries hit the position hard in the preseason. Talib and backup E.J. Biggers are in contract years, so Tampa Bay expects them both to be highly motivated. It sounds unlikely that the Bucs will make a play for Jenkins, but general manager Mark Dominik is on the hot seat so he could attempt to obtain Jenkins in order to help save his job. Jenkins is a local product who played at South Florida.

    Percy Harvin Trade Scenarios

    Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin asked to be traded, so an interesting trade market could emerge across the NFL. The Vikings claim to not be interested in dealing Harvin, but it is normal for teams to say that regardless of whether it is true or not. Admitting to wanting to get rid of a player takes away some leverage in negotiations. The Vikings can threaten to keep Harvin if their demands aren’t met, which raises the asking price.

    The 5-foot-11, 184-pound Harvin had his best year as a pro in 2011. Harvin caught 87 passes for 967 yards and six touchdowns. He also carried the ball 52 times for 345 yards and two additional scores. Additionally, he has been a good special teams weapon. Migraine headaches and other nagging injuries have limited Harvin to a degree in his career, but he still is one of the most explosive players in the league who is a threat to score on any touch.

    Harvin has two more years on his rookie contract with salaries of $915,000 in 2012 and $1.55 million in 2013. If Harvin is dealt, he would want a lucrative extension, but his new team could wait a year if that would be best for their cap situation.

    Even though Harvin, 24, has a modest contract for the next two years, the Vikings should consider dealing him. Minnesota isn’t close to competing with Green Bay, Chicago and Detroit. The NFC North is the best division in football, and Minnesota is clearly far below the other three teams.

    An NFL general manager I’ve spoken to says he doesn’t believe that Harvin will be dealt, but here are six teams that make sense as trading partners.

    Houston Texans The Texans don’t have a true No. 2 receiver to pair with Andre Johnson. Kevin Walter isn’t getting that job done, while Devier Posey and Keshawn Martin are rookies who need time to develop. Harvin would be a tremendous upgrade. He easily would be worth a second-round pick, and since the Texans are a near lock for the postseason, Houston could justifiably give up its first-round pick since it will be in the 20s. Harvin would be a great addition to their offense and take a lot of pressure off of Johnson.

    Jacksonville Jaguars Harvin would be returning to Florida where he played his college ball down the road in Gainesville. The Jaguar offense is in dire need of playmakers even after drafting Justin Blackmon. Jacksonville general manager Gene Smith is on the hot seat and he badly needs quarterback Blaine Gabbert to improve significantly in his second season. A first-round pick could be steep for the Jaguars since that could be a top-10 pick. They would be better off offering a combination of second-day picks in the 2013 and 2014 NFL Drafts.

    New England Patriots Sources around the league have said that the Patriots were targeting Harvin with their first-round pick in 2009. Even former Viking head coach Brad Childress stated that in an interview. Harvin would be an ideal replacement for Wes Welker as the slot receiver in the long-term. There is no doubt that he would be a great fit in the Patriots’ aerial offense. New England figures to drafting late in the first round as usual in 2013, and a first-rounder for Harvin could be a bargain.

    St. Louis Rams The Rams need to get quarterback Sam Bradford turned around and headed in the right direction. They have to start building up a stable of weapons for him to attack defenses with, and Harvin would be an instant upgrade. St. Louis has the Washington Redskins’ first-round pick in the next two drafts. Sending one of those selections to Minnesota for Harvin would make sense for the Rams, as they have struggled to land the elite receivers in the first round since drafting Bradford. Ensuring they land Harvin by giving up one of those picks makes a lot of sense for St. Louis.

    New Orleans Saints The Saints don’t have their 2013 second-round pick because of Bountygate, so New Orleans would have to give up its first-round pick. It would be worth it as they really could use a dynamic speed receiver for Drew Brees to work with as he ages. Harvin with Darren Sproles would really provide the Saints’ offense with some real explosiveness. Brees makes the Saints receivers better than they are. Outside of Marques Colston and Lance Moore, they really don’t have a lot of talent at wideout. With all the turmoil the Saints are going through because of bountygate, many analysts feel the controversy will sink the Saints in 2012. Minnesota could land a potential top-20 pick for Harvin in a deal with the Saints.

    New York Jets The Jets are desperate at receiver. Santonio Holmes may not be with the team much longer, while raw rookie Stephen Hill is the No. 2 wideout. Percy Harvin could be what this offense needs to become more explosive. It also doesn’t hurt that Harvin and Tim Tebow started together for two seasons at Florida.

    Buccaneers’ Brian Price Pummels Mark Barron

    Published June 15, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have wanted to use this offseason to reconstruct the culture at One Buc Place.

    New head coach Greg Schiano has instituted a number of changes: the practice schedule; the offseason training regimen; the freedom of players and assistant coaches to speak with the media; and even the temperature on the thermostats. General Manager Mark Dominik and Director of Player Personnel Dennis Hickey survived the purge of the old coaching staff, despite the team going 17-31 over the past three seasons and having not drafted a Pro Bowler in the last six years.

    Domink, Hickey and Schiano have added pieces to the roster and are instituting a new environment in the locker room, but the team has continued to have issues with discipline. WalterFootball.com has learned from multiple sources with the Buccaneers about a fight that took place following the 2012 NFL Draft.

    Early in the morning at the start of an OTA day, the team was assembling for a meeting. Defensive tackle Brian Price told rookie safety Mark Barron that he was sitting in Price’s seat. In short order, Barron was getting pummeled by Price. The third-year tackle was said to have gotten in a good number of punches before teammates pulled him off Barron. Both players were removed from the meeting as Barron’s face was said to be bloodied.

    With that fight as a contributing factor, Price has been held out of much of the offseason program. Sources with the team have said that Price has always been a good guy in the locker room and a supportive teammate. They said he is just going through an excruciating time personally, and that led to his outburst.

    Neither agent for Price nor Barron responded to WalterFootball.com’s requests for comment on this story. The Buccaneers also declined to comment on the incident.

    Emotions have been running high for Price, and understandably so. Unfortunately, the talented tackle has been dealing with another family tragedy. Earlier in the offseason, Price lost his sister in a fatal car accident. She had two young sons whom Price is adopting.

    Price was close with his sister, and the grief has been a tremendous obstacle for him. This is the third time that Price has lost a sibling, and he is only 23 years old. Growing up in Los Angeles, Price had two brothers murdered. The Buccaneers have been trying to help him. He was hospitalized briefly this offseason as the grief and exhaustion made him ill.

    Price missed most of his rookie season in 2010 with a pelvis and hamstring injuries dating back to his time at UCLA. In his second season, Price started 14 games and played through pain stemming from his surgically repaired pelvis and hamstrings, and an ankle injury down the stretch.

    The 6-foot-1, 303-pounder improved in his second season recording three sacks and playing the run well. ESPN’s NFC South expert Pat Yasinskas named Price to his all NFC South team over veterans like the Saints’ Sedrick Ellis and Falcons’ Jonathan Babineaux.

    Tampa Bay was planning on Price being a starter in 2012, but if he needs more time to tend to his family, the team has a veteran in Amobi Okoye who could start in Price’s place. Tampa Bay has a lot of depth at defensive tackle with other veterans like 2009 third-round pick Roy Miller, Frank Okam, Gary Gibson and undrafted rookie Jordan Nix. With that stable and a new coaching staff that has worked more with other players this offseason, Price will need a strong preseason to help his standing.

    It is possible the team could move on if those players fit the “Buccaneer Way” and embrace being “Buccaneer Men,” as Schiano puts it. Tampa Bay has released veteran starter Tanard Jackson and traded away tight end Kellen Winslow in part because they didn’t fit Schiano’s new program.

    While the Bucs’ organization has been supportive of him, Price will definitely have to prove he is a good long-term fit with the team after taking out personal frustrations on the seventh-overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Barron was Schiano’s first pick and is a selection that the front office needs to work out. Dominik and Hickey are on the hot seat in 2012, and they took Barron over players like Cowboys’ cornerback Morris Claiborne and Panthers’ linebacker Luke Kuechly.

    Getting your face bloodied by a veteran is a tough way to start his early days of work with the Bucs, but Barron avoided serious injury and practiced after the incident. Tampa Bay was banking on both Barron and Price being key defenders this season. It bears watching to see if the incident has ramifications for Price and the Buccaneers in the months to come.

    Four Quarterbacks Who Must Stay Healthy

    Published June 15, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    A year ago at this time, nobody was projecting that the future No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, was going to be a member of the Indianapolis Colts. Luck was being projected to go to teams like the Dolphins or Browns. However, the neck injury to veteran Peyton Manning caused the Colts to fall apart and turn into the worst team in the NFL last year.

    Some teams have the overall roster talent to lose their starting quarterback and remain competitive. Teams like New England, Green Bay and Pittsburgh have had success even while playing backup quarterbacks. Heading into the 2012 season, there are three quarterbacks in particular that have to stay healthy in order for their teams to avoid a Colts like collapse. If these players go down with a season-ending injury their teams could be in contention for the number one-overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Here are my top three quarterbacks that must stay healthy to avoid a disastrous season.

    Cam Newton, Panthers

    If Carolina lost Newton, their offense would change dramatically. They have a lot of the same offensive players that saw them finish with the worst record in the NFL in 2010. The Panthers would have to turn to Derek Anderson or Jimmy Clausen. Neither of those quarterbacks is any good; Clausen had 10 ugly starts in 2010.

    Without Newton, the Panthers’ offense would be a one-dimensonal rushing attack that would struggle to score points. Carolina’s defense is improving, but it’s not up to the task of carrying the load and winning games on its own for Carolina. The NFC South is a competitive division, but without Newton, the Panthers would completely fall apart.

    Josh Freeman, Buccaneers

    Staying in the South, the Bucs ended the 2011 season terribly, losing 10 straight games and getting blown out regularly. If Tampa Bay were to lose Josh Freeman to a season-ending injury it would turn to the same quarterback the Colts had last year with Dan Orlovsky.

    The Bucs’ defense allowed 494 points last season to lead the NFL by a wide margin. Their defense will have a new scheme, but is completely dependent on young defensive linemen becoming difference-makers. The Buccaneers’ strength is on the offensive side of the ball, and if Freeman were to be lost for the year, Tampa Bay could be looking at season of 1-3 wins.

    Peyton Manning, Broncos

    Manning’s current team must be included. The Broncos would be in the same boat as the Colts were last year if Manning’s neck acts up. They would have to turn to Caleb Hanie or raw rookie signal-caller Brock Osweiler. The Bronco defense has some talent, but also got lit up multiple times in 2011 courtesy of the Bills, Patriots (twice) and Lions.

    The Denver offense would also be in dire straits with just a ground game led by 31-year old halfback Willis McGahee. If Denver held on to Tim Tebow to be their backup, it could go back to their 2011 offense if Manning were injured. Instead, they’ll turn to Hanie, who was ineffective in Chicago, or Osweiler, who isn’t ready to play. If Manning were to miss most or all of the 2012 season, the Broncos could be picking at the the top of the 2013 NFL Draft just like they were in 2011 when they had the second-overall pick.

    Drew Brees, Saints

    Despite everything that has occurred this offseason, the Saints are still considered a playoff contender because Drew Brees is one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. Brees held it together when Sean Payton missed time with a freak knee injury that he suffered on the sidelines in the middle of the 2011 season.

    But what if Brees can’t play? Chase Daniel will have to hold down the fort, which would be disastrous with a skeleton-crew coaching staff.

    Feel free to pass along your picks via email [email protected] or on Twitter @draftcampbell.

    Ndamukong Suh’s Ego Could Limit His Career

    Published June 14, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Egos can be a very dangerous thing in the NFL. Every season some teams have their locker rooms torn apart with players’ egos getting in the way for what is best for the team (see Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco, etc.). Coaches’ egos can cause them to make bad decisions about which players to play and how they respond to adversity (Sean Payton, Tony Sparano, Todd Haley, Jack Del Rio, etc.). The egos of general managers prevent teams from admitting mistakes in draft picks and signings (Gene Smith, Rick Spielman, Mark Dominik, etc.).

    One NFL superstar who needs to check his ego in order to reach his full potential is Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

    Suh had a tremendous rookie season where he had 10 sacks, was a Pro Bowl starter and won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Suh fell to four sacks in a sophomore slump that saw him be much less disruptive for the Lions. He also wasn’t accountable after the Thanksgiving Day stomping incident that landed him a two-game suspension. There were too many contests in 2011 in which Suh was held in check.

    This offseason, Suh has not escaped criticism. Future Hall of Famer Warren Sapp called out Suh in a scathing rebuke. Sapp said that Suh needed to add some moves to get after the quarterback and that he was too one-dimensional as a power rusher. Sapp also called out Suh’s lame excuse for the stomping incident. In the past, Suh also lied to police after a car accident.

    Those incidents contribute to there being a ying-and-yang off-the-field personna. Some league contacts believe that Suh is more interested in working endorsement deals with companies like Subway and Chrysler, as Sapp claimed. Suh received a mammoth contract that came with being the second-overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Interestingly, Suh charged kids $199 dollars to attend his football camp with the campers getting $150 in merchandise. Suh also donates a lot of money to charities; he has a family foundation and has given a lot to Nebraska, his alma mater. Off the field, Suh has done many good things and he has the capacity to be the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for his community outreach.

    Sources have told WalterFootball.com that Suh is said to be somewhat closed off from his teammates and doesn’t make an effort to take on a leadership role. The reclusiveness extends to the coaching staff, and he is said to be not coachable. The Lions could really use Suh to be a mature leader/role model for teammates like Nick Fairley, Titus Young, Mikel Leshoure and Travis Lewis. In order to be a leader in the NFL, a player has to back it up on the field. Suh could be a great leader if he wanted to be, but not all players want to take on leadership roles.

    There is no doubt that Suh is a good player with the ability to be an all-time great. He has the potential to be like Reggie White on and off the field. Suh just needs to humble himself, check his ego and improve his work ethic. He has the talent to be a Hall of Famer, but needs to develop some pass-rushing moves and dedicate himself to improving his craft. If Suh becomes a better teammate and moves to become an accountable leader, that could make a big difference in the effectiveness of his play along with his teammates. The only thing standing in Suh’s way is Suh himself.

    Jake Stoneburner’s Stock Takes a Hit

    Published June 7, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Even though the 2013 NFL Draft is far away, prospects are already under scrutiny from NFL scouts and talent evaluators. Ohio State tight end Jake Stoneburner and offensive lineman Jake Mewhort were suspended indefinitely after being arrested. Stoneburner and Mewhort were caught urinating in public and briefly ran from police. Prior to the arrest, Stoneburner was a potential mid-rounder next April.

    The converted wide receiver was a real red-zone threat for the Buckeyes as a junior. Stoneburner had 14 receptions for 193 yards and seven touchdowns in 2011. The 6-foot-5, 245-pounder could have been even more productive if Ohio State had some consistency at quarterback. He has some blocking potential as well. He is a good inline blocker and projects to contribute as a receiver in the NFL.

    Stoneburner is said to remain suspended until his legal status is resolved. With Ohio State coming off a scandal and new coach Urban Meyer having faced plenty of criticism for being too lax at Florida with players who ran into legal trouble, Stoneburner could miss a few games early in the season. Stoneburner is going to need to play dominant football to help get his draft stock back into the second day. Right now, he has sent his stock into the third day and maybe the undrafted ranks if he lands a lengthy suspension.

    Players Facing Critical Walk Years

    Published May 30, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Many first-round picks from the 2008 NFL Draft are entering the final years of their rookie contracts. That makes the 2012 season one of the most important years in their careers. Heading into training camp, some players will be negotiating or approaching contract extensions, but others will need to play well in order to get paid. Here are five players from the 2008 NFL Draft class who need to step up in their walk year.

    Branden Albert, OT, Chiefs
    There is talk that the Chiefs are going to try and extend Albert during the 2012 season. Kansas City took him with the 15th-overall pick in 2008, and it wasn’t until last year that he proved to be a reliable NFL left tackle.

    The Chiefs have a potential contingency plan in rookie lineman Donald Stephenson if Albert and the team can’t agree on a long-term deal. But if Albert plays well in the first half of the season, one can expect him to land a lucrative long-term extension.

    Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Eagles
    In his first season with the Eagles, Rodgers-Cromartie was a disappointment. He was part of an underachieving secondary that has to improve in 2012. With Asante Samuel traded away, Rodgers-Cromartie should be the starter opposite Nnamdi Asomugha. As a result, Rodgers-Cromartie is going to be tested regularly. The Eagles will be more likely to give him safety help and let Asomugha play in man. With a good pass rush, safety help and the fact that Asomugha covers the best receiver, Rodgers-Cromartie has no excuse if he does not to have a good season in a contract year.

    If Rodgers-Cromartie gets beat often and burned for scores, he will enter 2013 with no chance of landing anything other than a “prove-it,” short-term contract. Rodgers-Cromartie has the motivation and supporting cast to produce a big 2012 season.

    Mike Jenkins, CB, Cowboys
    There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding Jenkins after the Cowboys traded up to select cornerback Morris Claiborne. Dallas also signed free agent corner Brandon Carr to big contract in March. Ergo, there has been a lot of trade speculation around Jenkins ever since the 2012 NFL Draft.

    At times in his four pro seasons, Jenkins has been above average, making the Pro Bowl in 2009. There have also been times when he has struggled with inconsistent coverage. The Cowboys have stated they intend to keep Jenkins, however there are reports they want a third-round pick for him.

    There are concerns about Jenkins’ attitude, and that could diminish the number teams that are interested in giving up a quality pick and contract extension. If Dallas likes what it sees in training camp out of the team’s new corners, it could look to deal Jenkins to a team that may be desperate after injuries strike in the preseason.

    Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers
    Mendenhall tore his ACL on Jan. 1 and many wondered if the veteran logged his last carry as a Steeler. While Pittsburgh isn’t planning on him playing early in the season, Mendenhall believes he could return in September. Mendenhall ran for 928 yards (4.1 average) and nine touchdowns last year. He had quality seasons in 2009 and 2010, but he needs to stay healthy and productive to land a good contract in free agency.

    Aqib Talib, CB, Buccaneers
    In order to have a good season, Talib has to avoid a prison sentence from his upcoming trial. If he does that, he could still land a lengthy suspension from the league as a repeat offender. Tampa Bay would be lucky if Talib plays 8-12 games next season. He has to get more consistent on the field as he has given up too many scores over the past two years. Talib needs a massive season to receive any quality offers in free agency.

    Chiefs Are Wise to Move McCluster to Receiver

    Published May 23, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    Up to this point, the Kansas City Chiefs have to be reasonably disappointed with 2010 second-round pick Dexter McCluster. They’ve bounced McCluster from wide receiver to running back, but he has not been the electrifying playmaker that he was in college at Ole Miss. Now, the Chiefs have him taking the majority of his reps at wideout as they prepare for the 2012 season. McCluster will still play some running back, but his main focus will be a pass receiver.

    The Chiefs are making the right call to play McCluster at wide receiver. Kansas City is stacked at the running back position with Jamaal Charles, Peyton Hillis and Cyrus Gray. McCluster just doesn’t have the size to play running back predominately in the NFL. The 5-foot-8, 170-pounder would be better off using his speed to provide mismatches as a slot receiver. At the Senior Bowl in 2010, McCluster played a lot of receiver and none of the cornerbacks could run with him. That was also seen in his college career in the SEC. He needs more time to develop as a receiver, but getting him the ball in space is the best way to take advantage of his strengths.

    The Chiefs have two big receivers in Jonathan Baldwin and Dwayne Bowe. McCluster can provide a nice speed element to play off the starting receivers. The Chiefs just drafted a speed receiver in rookie Devon Wylie, but he has had major durability issues in college. Assuming they stay healthy, Wylie (5-9, 186) and McCluster could combine to form a nice speed duo for Kansas City.

    Every year, teams have to make adjustments to get the most out of their roster. Moving McCluster to the slot receiver position should allow Kansas City to have more of its potential playmakers on the field at the same time.

    Jets’ Right Tackle Position Is Critical

    Published May 21, 2012
    By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

    As usual, the New York Jets have dominated the offseason headlines. This year, the acquisition of Tim Tebow garnered the most attention; not to mention the eventful draft in which they selected North Carolina’s Quinton Coples and Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill. One move that wasn’t made that could end up hurting the Jets next season was not adding another option at right tackle.

    New York has remained committed to veteran Wayne Hunter as its starting right tackle despite the fact that Hunter was a liability at times last season. The Jets have a backup option in 2010 second-rounder Vladimir Ducasse, but he hasn’t proven to be starting material yet. Ducasse (6-5, 325) was raw coming out of Massachusetts two years ago, and is not said to be competing with Hunter for the starting position. It would have been nice to see the Jets bring in someone to push Hunter in the form of a draft pick or veteran signing.

    The Jets have to get starting quarterback Mark Sanchez turned around. He produced a string of ugly games late in 2011, and looks like he is in full regression mode. Sanchez was signed to a lucrative extension, and in order to make that investment pan out, the right tackle position has to be more effective in 2012.

    Considering the way Tebow played down the stretch for Denver compared to Sanchez, it is entirely reasonable and plausible that Tebow will become the starter during the 2012 season. That would make the right tackle position be even more important. Hunter would be the blind-side protector for the left-handed Tebow. The way Tebow scrambles in the pocket, if he takes a lot of blind-side hits, that could lead to more fumbles, so it will be absolutely essential that Hunter plays better next season.

    The Jets could have addressed the position in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft with Ole Miss offensive tackle Bobby Massie. He fell to the Cardinals in the fourth round. There is talk that Massie dropped because of off-the-field concerns, but many felt he would go in the top half of the second round. New York took linebacker Demario Davis instead of Massie. If Hunter struggles again in 2012, and Ducasse isn’t able to adequately replace him, there will be plenty of justified criticism at the Jets’ front office and coaching staff. Their season is riding on an effective quarterback combination of Sanchez and Tebow.

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