Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Early Draft Winners & Losers

As I’ve said before, I think assigning grades to drafts at this point is pretty pointless, but just taking a look at who teams brought in (and when), here are the clubs that I think did well and the ones that well, didn’t. I left the Bucs out because I've already talked at length about their draft. (Note – not every pick for each team is necessarily included.)

Here are 12 teams that I think made the most of their weekend selections.

NY Giants:
(29) Hakeem Nicks, WR (UNC)
(45) Clint Sintim, LB (Virginia)
(60) William Beatty, T (U Conn)
(85) Ramses Barden, WR (Cal-Poly)
(100) Travis Beckum, TE (Wiscosin)
(129) Andre Brown, RB (NC State)
(151) Rhett Bomar, QB (Sam Houston State)

After grabbing Hakeem Nicks in round 1, the Giants came back and picked up Ramses Barden, the small school phenom, with their first pick on day two. I still love the Beatty pick but question Sintim as a 4-3 LB. Andre Brown is a heck of a value at RB and should be a nice addition to Jacobs and Bradshaw. Rhett Bomar has upside and was definitely worth the 5th round pick.

Jacksonville Jaguars:
(8) Eugene Monroe, T (Virginia)
(39) Eben Britton, T (Arizona)
(72) Terrance Knighton, DT (Temple)
(107) Mike Thomas, WR (Arizona)
(144) Jarrett Dillard, WR (Rice)
(250) Rashad Jennings, RB (Liberty)
(253) Tiquan Underwood, WR (Rutgers)

Again, Monroe and Britton were great picks IMO; really solidified those tackle spots. Knighton was a bit of a reach where they got him IMO, but he addresses a need. Mike Thomas is a slot burner, and Jarrett Dillard will be an extremely productive pro. Underwood is another addition to a weak group of receivers behind Torry Holt. They did a good job of addressing the position (right spots, right talent). Rashad Jennings in the 7th is my pick of the draft. Remember his name, and feel free to call me out if he flops. I’m jealous, they got two of my 3 favorite players in the draft (Larry English being the other).

Philadelphia Eagles:
(19) Jeremy Maclin, WR (Missouri)
(53) LeSean McCoy, RB (Pittsburgh)
(137) Jason Phillips, LB (TCU)
(153) Cornelius Ingram, TE (Florida)
(157) Victor Harris, CB, Virginia Tech
(159) Fenuki Tupou, T (Oregon)
(194) Brandon Gibson, WR (Washington State)

Big winners IMO. Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy are still great picks. Donovan McNabb’s got to love the thought of having Maclin and DeSean Jackson on the field at the same time. Talk about your 7 yard passes that go for 80 yd touchdowns. McCoy is a great compliment to Brian Westbrook. He’s a great pass catcher who’s tough to bring down in the open field. Cornelius Ingram and Victor Harris in round 5 are tremendous values and address needs. They do both come with questions but came off the board much later than expected. I like Brandon Gibson too and feel he can be productive when surrounded by some decent talent. Great approach to the draft IMO.

Dallas Cowboys:
(69) Jason Williams, LB (W. Illinois)
(75) Robert Brewster, T (Ball State)
(101) Stephen McGee, QB (Texas A&M)
(110) Victor Strong-Butler, DE/OLB (Oregon State)
(120) Brandon Williams, DE (Texas Tech)
(143) DeAngelo Smith, CB (Cincinnati)
(166) Michael Hamlin, S (Clemson)
(208) John Phillips, TE (Virginia)
(227) Mike Mickens, CB (Cincinnati)
(229) Manuel Johnson, WR (Oklahoma)

With their first pick, the Cowboys grabbed the active and explosive small school linebacker, Jason Williams. He was one of my favorite players in the draft and is someone to definitely keep an eye on. Stephen McGee was a fast rising athletic QB who’s going to a perfect scenario. He needs a lot of coaching/development, but he’s got a good arm and is really mobile. Nice project QB. They also got two pass rushers in Victor Strong-Butler and Brandon Williams. Michael Hamlin and DeAngelo Smith are two experienced DBs who should help out on special teams. Mike Mickens in the 7th round is highway robbery, even if he does spend the year on IR (just my speculation). I don’t like Manuel Johnson, but he’s not bad use of the 229th pick. Not a great draft, but pretty solid given they were without a day one pick.

Cincinnati Bengals:
(6) Andre Smith, T (Alabama)
(38) Rey Maualuga, LB (USC)
(70) Michael Johnson, DE (Georgia Tech)
(98) Chase Coffman, TE (Missouri)
(106) Jonathan Luigs, C (Arkansas)
(179) Morgan Trent, CB (Michigan)
(249) Clinton McDonald, DL (Memphis)
(252) Freddie Brown, WR (Utah)

I really like their first 5 picks. Andre Smith, Rey Maualuga, and Michael Johnson are players with questions but were grabbed in great spots. Maualuga and Johnson were players talked about as first rounders who fell to rounds 2 and 3 respectively. Think Rey wishes he had come out last year? Chase Coffman is a productive pass catching TE, and Jonathan Luigs is an athletic technician.

NY Jets:
(5) Mark Sanchez, QB (USC)
(65) Shonn Green, RB (Iowa)

They only had three picks, but they got their QB. That alone is a winning draft at this point. I really like the fit and think he can lead that team to something special. Love his attitude. I also like the Shonn Greene pick in round 3. He’s not my favorite back, but he’s a pounder that should be a welcome addition to a backfield of Thomas Jones and Leon Washington. They gave up their 3rd, 4th, and 7th to get him (a little steep), but he was the top RB on their board overall. The Jets went for it and scored.

Detroit Lions:
(1) Matthew Stafford, QB (Georgia)
(20) Brandon Pettigrew, TE (Oklahoma State)
(33) Louis Delmas, S (Western Michigan)
(76) Deandre Levy, LB (Wisconsin)
(82) Derrick Williams, WR (Penn State)
(115) Sammie Lee Hill, DT (Stillman)
(228) Lydon Murtha, T (Nebraska)
(235) Zach Follett, LB (California)

Matt Millen has obviously left the building. Their first three picks may not have addressed their biggest needs (LT, MLB, DL), but they aren’t short on talent. Brandon Pettigrew and Louis Delmas should be immediate contributors, but Matthew Stafford will wait behind Culpepper. Derrick Williams will be a better pro than college player IMO, and Sammie Lee Hill was a fast rising defensive lineman. They also grabbed the talented Lydon Murtha (T, Nebraska) and physical Zach Follett (LB, California) in the 7th round; very good values. A first step in the right direction.

Atlanta Falcons:
(24) Peria Jerry, DT (Ole Miss)
(55) William Moore, S (Missouri)
(90) Christopher Owens, CB (San Jose State)
(125) Lawrence Sidbury, DE (Richmond)
(176) Spencer Adkins, LB (Miami)
(210) Vance Walker, DT (Georgia Tech)

Peria Jerry and Lawrence Sidbury add depth to the defensive line, and the productive William Moore fills a need at safety. Sidbury is a pass rusher with upside, and Vance Walker was a fine, no risk addition in round 7.

Baltimore: (only 4 picks)
(23) Michael Oher, T (Mississippi)
(57) Paul Kruger, OLB (Utah)
(88) Lardarius Webb, CB (Nicholls State)
(185) Cedric Peerman, RB (Virginia)

I’d give them a positive grade for the Michael Oher selection alone. He was a huge value pick at #23. Paul Kruger was a 23 year old sophomore who will make the move from 4-3 DE to 3-4 OLB. Lardarius Webb is a sleeper corner with ball skills, and Cedric Peerman, graded R3/4, has a nice all round game and was find in R6.

Pittsburgh Steelers:
(32) Ziggy Hood, DT (Missouri)
(79) Kraig Ubrik, G (Wisconsin)(84) Mike Wallace, WR (Mississippi)
(96) Keenan Lewis, CB (Oregon State)
(168) Joe Burnett, CB (UCF)
(226) AQ Shipley, C (Penn State)

I really liked Ziggy Hood going into the draft and mentioned that he might attract teams as a 3-4 end. Well, he did. I like how he plays tough while maintaining proper technique. He should be an early contributor to their championship defense. Color me shocked. The Steelers spent two picks on offensive linemen. Well, they hit with both of them. Ubrik is a huge right side player with experience at both guard and tackle. He’s nasty, punches well, and is hard to move. Shipley was voted the nation’s top center this past season and is another guy who plays with a nasty attitude and is stout at his position. The last four guys on the list above were all players I mentioned as my Buccaneer preferences. Mike Wallace will replace deep threat Nate Washington and push Limas Sweed. Keenan Lewis should be an early contributor as well. He’s got it between the ears and will excel in an aggressive defense.

Buffalo Bills:
(11) Aaron Maybin, DE (Penn State)
(28) Eric Wood, C (Louisville)
(42) Jarius Byrd, CB (Oregon)
(51) Andy Levitre, G (Oregon State)
(121) Shawn Nelson, TE (Southern Miss)
(147) Nic Harris, LB (Oklahoma)
(183) Cary Harris, CB (USC)

They needed a pass rusher and got a good one in Aaron Maybin. It may take him a year or two to hit his stride, but I like the selection. I had them taking him with the 28th pick. Eric Wood is a hard working middle man who could possibly play guard as well. Maybe they think Levitre addresses their need at tackle. Byrd and Harris are quality (unspectacular) corners, but Shawn Nelson gives them an athletic receiving option at TE. Nic Harris will likely make the move from safety LB.

Chicago Bears:
(68) Jarron Gilbert, DL (San Jose State)
(99) Juaquin Iglesias, WR (Oklahoma)
(105) Henry Melton (DE, Texas)
(119) DJ Moore, CB (Vanderbilt)
(140) Johnny Knox, WR (Abilene Christian)
(154) Marcus Freeman (LB, Ohio State)
(190) Al Afalava, S (Oregon State)

For a team that didn’t pick on Saturday, they came away with a pretty good haul. Jarron Gilbert and Juaquin Iglesias are great values in round three. Gilbert is an explosive tweener with huge upside. Iglesias was an extremely consistent receiver at Oklahoma who gives Jay Cutler a steady target outside; great hands and routes but not much upside. DJ Moore inexplicably fell to round 4, and Marcus Freeman is a tremendous catch in the fifth. He’s had bad ankles but is a tough, reliable tackler when healthy. Johnny Knox is a sleeper with tremendous speed and quickness. He has a slight build but could excel in the slot where misdirection and quick hitters could allow him to turn short catches into long gains.

Teams I thought could have and should have had better drafts (sadly, a much shorter list).

Oakland Raiders:
(7) Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR (Maryland)
(47) Michael Mitchell, S (Ohio)
(71) Matt Shaughnessy, DE (Wisconsin)
(124) Louis Murphy, WR (Florida)
(199) Stryker Sulak, DE (Missouri)

Darrius Heyward-Bey was a reach on everyone’s board, but it wasn’t nearly as “bad” as their next pick; reaching for mid-late prospect Michael Mitchell at #47 overall. Matt Shaughnessy went two rounds early, and I’m not sure Slade Norris is a fit for their defense. I do like the Murphy and Sulak picks though.

Denver Broncos:
(12) Knowshon Moreno, RB (Georgia)
(18) Robert Ayers, DE (Tennessee)
(37) Alphonso Smith, CB (Wake Forest)
(48) Darcel McBath, S (Texas Tech)
(64) Richard Quinn, TE (UNC)
(114) David Bruton, S (Notre Dame)
(141) Kenny McKinley, WR (South Carolina)
(174) Tom Brandstater, QB (Fresno State)

For a team that had 5 first day picks and 11 overall, their haul was unimpressive. Knowshon Moreno brings a dynamic playmaker to an offense that lost its QB, and Robert Ayers seems to be a solid addition to a new defensive unit. I really like Alphonso Smith, but I really don't like trading away future first rounders? The rest of the draft is uninspiring. I think they overloaded at safety with both Darcel McBath and David Bruton especially after signing Brian Dawkins and Renaldo Hill in free agency. Trading up for a blocking TE at the end of day one, and drafting Seth Olsen at tackle in the 4th were questionable moves. This wasn’t a horrible draft, but they should have done noticeably better.

San Diego Chargers:
(16) Larry English, DE/OLB (Northern Illinois)
(78) Louis Vasquez, G (Texas Tech)
(113) Vaughn Martin, DT (Western Ontario)
(133) Tyronne Green, NT (Auburn)
(134) Gartrell Johnson, RB (Colorado State)
(224) Demetrius Byrd, WR (LSU)

Their draft wreaks of reaches. I of course love the Larry English pick, but Vasquez at #78 and Vaughn Martin at #113 are huge reaches. I like Tyronne Green, but guard wasn’t that bad of a need to spend 2 of your first 4 picks on it. Gartrell Johnson may turn out to be a steal, but at this point it looks like a bad pick given the other talent on the board at the time. Demetrius Byrd was a nice gesture in the 7th.

San Francisco 49ers:
(10) Michael Crabtree, WR (Texas Tech)
(74) Glen Coffee, RB (Alabama)
(146) Scott McKillop, LB (Pitt)
(171) Nate Davis, QB (Ball State)
(184) Bear Pascoe, TE (Fresno State)
(219) Curtis Taylor, S (LSU)
(244) Ricky Jean-Francois, DT (LSU)

Michael Crabtree was a nice find at #10, but Glen Coffee went at least one full round early. Scott McKillop has very limited upside, and Nate Davis will have an uphill climb to make the team. I don’t like Ricky Jean-Francois, but they could have done worse at #244.

Seattle Seahawks:
(4) Aaron Curry, LB (Wake Forest)
(49) Max Unger, OL (Oregon)
(91) Deon Butler, WR (Penn State)
(178) Mike Teel, QB (Rutgers)
(245) Courtney Greene, S (Rutgers)

Day one looked promising with Aaron Curry, the safest player in the draft IMO, and Max Unger. Deon Butler, a guy I like, is a big reach in round 3, and Mike Teel probably could have been grabbed as an undrafted free agent. I do like Courtney Greene from Rutgers in the 7th.

Washington Redskins:
(13) Brian Orakpo, DE (Texas)
(80) Kevin Barnes, CB (Maryland)
(158) Cody Glenn, LB (Nebraska)
(243) Marko Mitchell (Nevada)

They may have only had 6 picks, but they could have done more with them. I like Orakpo, but Kevin Barnes is a question as a round 3 corner. They had a need both inside and out at linebacker, and they could have done better than Cody Glenn and Robert Henson. They also completely ignored the offensive line. Not good.

Miami Dolphins:
(25) Vontae Davis, CB (Illinois)
(44) Pat White, QB (West Virginia)
(61) Sean Smith, CB (Utah)
(87) Patrick Turner, WR (USC)
(108) Brian Hartline, WR (Ohio State
(165) Chris Clemons, S (Clemson)
(181) Andrew Gardner, T (Georgia Tech)

They go from the good list on day one to the bad list on day two. Patrick Turner was a huge reach in the 3rd, and I really question the Brian Hartline pick in the following round. Both should have gone two rounds later than they did. Chris Clemons and Andrew Gardner are good late additions, but they should have come away with more after Saturday’s fine start.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Bucs Draft and What I Would Have Done Differently

The Bucs went into the draft with 8 picks and left with:
1 – Josh Freeman (QB, Kansas State)
3 – Roy Miller (DT, Texas)
4 – Kyle Moore (DE, USC)
5 – Xavier Fulton (T, Illinois)
7 – EJ Biggers (CB, Western Michigan)
7 – Sammie Stroughter (WR, Oregon State)

That’s a pretty unimpressive performance IMO, and the majority of it is directed at the first round pick. That, sadly, set the tone for the rest of the draft and prohibited the Bucs from better addressing actual areas of need. I think draft grades are pointless this early and are pretty irrelevant until we’re 2 or 3 years down the line. So while I’ll abstain from giving it a grade, I’ll provide comments/thoughts on how the Bucs “attacked” the draft.

1 – Josh Freeman, QB (Kansas State)

I didn’t see it as a position of need. The Bucs sell both Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich on the fact that they’ll get to compete for the starting job. That’s got to be the #1 or #2 reason each of them decided to sign with the Bucs. You do this while knowing full well that Josh Freeman was going to be the draft pick if available. No, they couldn’t guarantee that Freeman would be there at #19 when negotiating with McCown or Leftwich (maybe), but it still comes off a bit shady. Think McCown and Leftwich are having second thoughts now? Think Freeman isn’t going to get every chance humanly possible to be the starting QB ASAP? Think Gruden and Allen wouldn’t have been vilified for that?

Throw in the fact that the rookie made veteran Leftwich look like a chump when he came out and publicly said that the Bucs told him Leftwich was a smokescreen to throw teams off the Bucs/Freeman. How would that have been received if done by Gruden/Allen? I’m not liking what I’m seeing early on from this new regime? Not much consensus building it appears if you ask me.

At #19 or #17 (rolls eyes), you pass on two guys:
1) Jeremy Maclin – I wasn’t big on going WR in round one, but I never fathomed that Maclin would be there. He’s exactly what the Bucs need at receiver (quick, explosive, straight line speed, versatile, great teammate). Makes no sense.
2) Michael Oher – A top tier tackle falls to them at #17/#19, and they pass. Donald Penn wasn’t happy about his one year tender as a RFA and could be gone next year. Depending on how the CBA works out, Trueblood could be a free agent as well. Oher would have been great in the new ZBS the Bucs are implementing.

They also befuddlingly trade away a 6th in the process. I know that the draft is watered down and a 6th isn’t terribly valuable, but what was the purpose of doing that? There was no chance Denver was going to take him. They wanted Robert Ayers all along it turns out; a versatile defensive player for their new scheme.

The most emphatic thing I can say? Josh Freeman would not have been the pick if Raheem Morris wasn’t the head coach of this football team. How sad is that?

The rest of the picks?

3 – Roy Miller (DT, Texas)
I like Roy Miller; had him going to the Bucs in round 5. He’s experienced and productive; the anchor that Bates prefers. He has very good upper body strength, and while he may not be much of a sack artist in the NFL, he can push the pocket and cause disruption in the backfield.

Summary – Miller probably doesn’t have much upside, but he will be a fine rotational player up front with Chris Hovan, Ryan Sims, Greg Peterson, and Dre Moore as the Bucs transition to a beefier interior.

4 – Kyle Moore (DE, USC)
Although Kyle led USC in sacks in ’08, IMO he’s not explosive enough to be a big pass rushing threat in the NFL. He’s very strong against the run and uses his hands well in shielding linemen and making tackles. He’s a strong side end who allows the Bucs to keep Gaines Adams on the weak side and will probably compete with Jimmy Wilkerson for playing time.

Summary – He’s an “eh” kind of pick. Nothing flashy; should support the run well. I would have preferred a pass rusher earlier.

5 – Xavier Fulton (T, Illinois)
I like this pick too. I had him as my initial 3rd option to the Bucs in round 4 and moved him up to second as they headed into day 2. He’s very athletic and has nice balance and footwork. He’s also raw with lots of potential. I really like him in a ZBS.

Summary – He’s good depth and a promising project at tackle. Penn was a RFA this offseason, and Trueblood could leave at the end of the year depending how the CBA works out. Great value and addresses a need.

7 – EJ Biggers (CB, Western Michigan)
I don’t know much about the guy other than the Bucs really liked him and that he has great timed speed (4.3 something). He has good size (5-11, 180) and decent (2 years) experience.

Summary – Raheem Morris is a DB guy, so I’ll trust his evaluation. I would have preferred Mike Mickens here and think Biggers could have been picked up as a free agent. Corner was in bad shape going into the draft, and I don’t think they helped themselves enough there. If it works out, great, but it’s pretty tough to rely on a 7th round pick and an undrafted free agent (Elbert Mack) to be key contributors this early in their careers.

7 – Sammie Stroughter (WR, Oregon State)
He’s explosive of the line and out of his breaks while exhibiting elusiveness in tight spots. Stroughter possesses good hands and is an experienced return man. He did only play 2 years at receiver for Oregon State, but they were 2 productive years. He’s more quick than fast and doesn’t have great straight line speed.

Summary – He’ll likely be in a fight with Dexter Jackson to make the roster as a slot guy. If they weren’t going to take a burner early on, I would have preferred Jarrett Dillard who went to the Jags in the 5th.

Bottom Line:
I don’t think it’s a necessarily awful draft. If you remove the Josh Freeman pick and the giveaway of 6th and 7th round picks, I like it for the most part. I would have taken a different approach at DE and got what I feel is better value for the 4th round selection. I also would have acted swifter and, I believe, more prudently in addressing CB. I had high hopes for this draft but in the end, I come away underwhelmed.

I really hope I’m wrong about Freeman and he becomes the franchise player the Bucs have never had, but I don’t feel terribly encouraged at this point. The player has a lot of work to do before he’s NFL ready, and waiting for him to do so not only took away resources that could have been better used elsewhere. It also makes it pretty clear that the Bucs don’t expect to be competitive in the short term. That will surely sell season tickets. A puzzling, slow footed approach to rebuilding a fragile franchise.

What Would I Have Done Differently?

Well for starters I wouldn’t have traded away the 6th rounder to move ahead of Denver for no reason. I also wouldn’t have traded away one of the 7th’s to move up 3 spots for Kyle Moore. Here’s how I would have used the picks with the players on the board in those spots:

Round 1 (#19)
Jeremy Maclin, WR (Missouri) – They sit tight and have one of the top playmakers in the draft fall to them at #19. They get a guy who is explosive, versatile, makes plays all over the field, and is a great teammate. He needs to improve his routes a bit, but Maclin is exactly what this Buc offense is lacking. Denver wouldn’t have taken him with Marshall and Royal locked in already and especially after just drafting Knowshon Moreno. Ayers was their guy. Also, Cleveland was targeting Alex Mack the whole time with their trade downs.

Round 3 (#81)
Roy Miller, DT (Texas) – I thought it was a little early for him, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s make him the pick here.

Round 4 (#120)
Lawrence Sidbury, DE (Richmond)
Here’s a guy I’m not terribly high on, but he’s a late day one / early day two talent who fell to pick #125. Now we get to see him twice a year with the Falcons. He’s not terribly big (6-2, 266), but you’re not paying premium money to him either in this spot. Sidbury is an athletic guy with long arms that gets to the passer. He’s explosive off the line and pursues well. He does need a bit of coaching to develop his skills, but there’s a lot of potential here as a pass rusher. I don’t think he’ll be much of a run supporter in the NFL (the main reason I shied away), and while I realize the Bucs feel the need to keep Gaines Adams tucked away on the weak side, a pass rusher with Sidbury’s upside is hard to pass on in round 4. A strong side end can be acquired elsewhere.

DJ Moore, the corner from Vandy was tough to pass up here. I have no idea why a firm round 2 guy fell this far. I know he’s a bit short (5-9), but he’s not lean. He was a four year starter with tremendous football instincts and field awareness. He doesn’t have great straight line speed, but he’s a guy with good tape.

Round 5 (#155)
Xavier Fulton, T (Illinois)
No change.

Round 6 (#121)
Coye Francies, CB (San Jose State)
Francies is a guy with a round 2/3 grade who tumbled all the way to round 6. Great size at 5-10, 185 with the frame to get bigger. He’s athletic and aggressive with really good straight line speed and hips. Francies also pulled off 4.59 and 4.65 forties while recovering from a sprained ankle. He’s another guy with superb field awareness and the marbles to lat a hat on someone in the run game. He’s an absolute steal here.

He’s the guy that went in this actual draft spot, but too bad we gave away the pick to the Browns.
That Josh Freeman pick is making me happier all the time .

Round 7 (#217)
Mike Mickens, CB (Cincinnati)
We emerge from the draft with two corners who were projected as early day 2 picks. Mickens doesn’t have elite straight line speed, but he did run a 4.53 forty at his pro day while recovering from torn cartilage in his left knee. He was very productive during his time at Cincinnati and is a tough cover man. He’s physical with receivers and in the run game, and while he lacks elite straight line speed, he has the quick feet and awareness to put himself in position to make plays. Mickens was projected as a first rounder prior to the season. What a steal.

Round 7 (#229)
Zach Follett, LB (California)
Here you get a really tough hitter from the LB position. He’s probably a SLB at the next level who would have provided spirited competition in the preseason and ended up a likely practice squad addition. Follett needs to be more consistent in his technique and approach, but he’s an explosive tackler. He gets into the backfield well, which is something Jim Bates will ask his linebackers to do.

Round 7 (#233)
Rashad Jennings, RB (Liberty)
I’m astounded he fell to the Jags at #250. I know I’ve been all over him this offseason, but he has no business going as late as he did. Apparently there were some questions about whether or not he’d be tough enough as an inside runner. I guess I was watching different film. He has a solid build (6-1, 231) and ran impressive 4.39 and 4.47 forties at his pro day. He also topped both Chris Wells and Knowshon Moreno on the bench (29 to 25) at the combine. The cone and shuttle drills allowed Jennings to display his ability to change directions quickly and move well laterally. He’s a big, physical runner with a strong upper body. He has experience playing in various offensive sets and schemes and displays good vision and footwork in the holes. He has a sharp cutback that would be valuable in the Bucs’ new ZBS. Jennings also uses a strong stiff arm, is a reliable receiver out of the backfield, and doesn’t shy away from contact. He runs a bit upright and got dinged for his level of competition. Grabbing him this late would have made me feel a lot better about the underwhelming draft the Bucs put together.

Free agents:
EJ Biggers (CB, W. Michigan) – Raheem still gets another guy he wants. I have a hard time believing he would have been picked by anyone else.
Everette Pedescleaux (DE/DT, N. Iowa)
Chris Baker (T, Hampton)
Quan Cosby (WR, Texas)
Kory Sheets (RB, Purdue)
Devin Moore (RB, Wyoming)
Jason Watkins (T, Florida)
Joel Bell (T, Furman)
Darius Passmore (WR, Marshall)
Mitch King (DL, Iowa)
Darry Beckwith (LB, LSU)
Domonique Johnson (CB, Tennessee State)
Derek Pegues (S, Mississippi State)

In summary:
1) Jeremy Maclin, WR (Missouri)
3) Roy Miller, DT (Texas)
4) Lawrence Sidbury, DE (Richmond)
5) Xavier Fulton, T (Illinois)
6) Coye Francies, CB (San Jose State)
7) Mike Mickens, CB (Cincinnati)
7) Zach Follett, LB (California)
7) Rashad Jennings, RB (Liberty)

In the end, I keep two of the Bucs’ draft picks that were needlessly traded away (yeah, I know they were late picks, but still), and I take a non-Kansas State biased approach to the draft. Here they get a desperately needed dynamic playmaker for Luke McCown, Byron Leftwich, or even Josh Johnson (eventually, oops not anymore) to go to in the passing game, a stout run defender who will play well in a rotation, a promising pass rusher with big upside, a nice developmental tackle, two extremely great values at corner, an intense linebacker, and another quality RB to go with Earnest Graham and Derrick Ward.

This team isn’t going to contend for a title anytime soon, and I believe more of a “best player available” approach should have been taken. This would give them a lot of players with big upside who could all (for the most part) come in and contribute right away.

Again, if Raheem Morris wasn’t the head coach of this football team, Josh Freeman absolutely would not have been the selection. Funny how a lot of fans bemoaned the illusion that Jon Gruden called all the shots in the Bucs war room. Well, it’s obvious with this new regime how the collective thought process works. Disappointingly to say the least.

That said, chin up, and Go Bucs!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Undrafted Free Agent Options for the Bucs

How "sad" do you think I was to watch the Jags grab Rashad Jennings with the 250th (of 256) pick in the draft? Here's a guy who for some reason unbeknownst to me lasted all the way until the end of this whole thing. I have no idea if the Bucs would have pursued him, but grabbing him as an undrafted free agent would have made my weekend. Oh well. Here are some undrafted free agents that should interest the Bucs (favorites in bold):

QB –
Nathan Brown (Central Arkansas) (signed w/ Jaguars)
Cullen Harper (Clemson)
Hunter Cantwell (Louisville)
Brian Hoyer (Michigan State) (signed w/ Patriots)
John Parker Wilson (Alabama)
Mike Reilly (Central Washington) (signed w/ Steelers)
Graham Harrell (Texas Tech)

RB –
Kory Sheets (Purdue) (signed w/ 49ers)
Devin Moore (Wyoming) (signed w/ Seahawks)
Jeremiah Johnson (Oregon) (signed w/ Texans)
Ian Johnson (Boise State) (signed w/ Vikings)
Marlon Lucky (Nebraska)

FB –
Brannan Southerland (Georgia)
Conredge Collins (Pitt)
Brian Toal (Boston College)

WR –
Quan Cosby (Texas) (signed w/ Bengals)
Darius Passmore (Marshall)
Brennan Marion (Tulsa)

Aaron Kelly (Clemson)

T –
Jason Watkins (Florida) (signed w/ Texans)
Joel Bell (Furman)
(signed w/ Bills)
Cornelius Lewis (Tennessee State) (signed w/ Colts)
Augustus Parrish (Kent State)
Andrew Hartline (Central Michigan)

DE –
Everette Pedescleaux (N. Iowa)
Tim Jamison (Michigan)
Maurice Evans (Penn State) (signed w/ NY Giants)

DT –
Chris Baker (Hampton)

Mitch King (Iowa) (signed w/ Titans)
Adrian Grady (Louisville)
Marlon Favorite (LSU)

LB –
Darry Beckwith (LSU) (signed w/ Chargers)
Darnell Ellerbe (Georgia)

CB –
Domonique Johnson (Tennessee State)
Jahi Word-Daniels (Georgia Tech) (signed w/ Jaguars)
Ryan Palmer (Texas)

S –
Derek Pegues (Mississippi State)
CJ Spillman (Marshall)

Emanuel Cook (South Carolina) (signed w/ Jets)
Otis Wiley (Michigan State)

K/P -
Graham Gano (FSU) (signed w/ Ravens)

Day 2 - Best Available

Seeing as how we addressed our biggest need Saturday (SARRRRRRCASM), let’s see how the Bucs can fumble up day 2.

Still areas of need – CB, WR, DT, DE, T

What picks do they have left? The Bucs are without their six round selection after the “shrewd” move up to draft Freeman but still retain picks in rounds 3 (#81), 4 (#120), 5 (#155), and 7 (#217, #229, #233).

As I said in my Day 1 recap, I’m shocked that Michael Johnson didn’t go in the top 64 picks. I bashed the guy as a bad pick at #19, but I’d definitely take him if he, by some miracle, lasts until pick #81. The Bucs would do it too, but he won’t be there. My guess is someone trades up early to take him. He and DJ Moore are two guys I expect to go very early Sunday.

Who else is there (my TB favorites in bold)?

Nate Davis (Ball State)
Rhett Bomar (Sam Houston State)
Stephen McGee (Texas A&M)

Rashad Jennings (Liberty)
Andre Brown (NC State)

Shonn Greene (Iowa)
Mike Goodson (Texas A&M)
Devin Moore (Wyoming)
James Davis (Clemson)
Cedric Peerman (Virginia)
Kory Sheets (Purdue)

(Again, RB isn’t a need, but Jennings is a heck of a talent. Hey, we took a 5th QB, so why not a RB?)

Juaquin Iglesias (Oklahoma)
Ramses Barden (Cal-Poly)
Derrick Williams (Penn State)
Jarrett Dillard (Rice)
Mike Wallace (Mississippi)

Louis Murphy (Florida)
Mike Thomas (Arizona)
Austin Collie (BYU)
Brandon Gibson (Washington State)
Deon Butler (Penn State)
Quan Cosby (Texas)
Quinten Lawrence (McNeese State)
Tiquan Underwood (Rutgers)
Sammie Stroughter (Oregon State)

(Lot of value looks to be available here. Iglesias should be gone in round 3, and most of the rest should be there in round 4. Might be worth waiting.)

Jared Cook (South Carolina)
James Casey (Rice)
Cornelius Ingram (Florida)
Shawn Nelson (Southern Miss)

Jamon Meredith (South Carolina)
Xavier Fulton (Illinois)
Jason Watkins (Florida)
Lydon Murtha (Nebraska)
Joel Bell (Furman)
Augustus Parrish (Kent State)
Andrew Gardner (Georgia Tech)
Andrew Hartline (Central Michigan)

Duke Robinson (Oklahoma)

Jonathan Luigs (Arkansas)
AQ Shipley (Penn State)

Michael Johnson (Georgia Tech)
Jarron Gilbert (DE/DT, San Jose State)
Lawrence Sidbury (Richmond)
Brandon Williams (Texas Tech)
Victor Strong-Butler (Oregon State)
Everette Pedescleaux (Northern Iowa)
Stryker Sulak (Missouri)

(Again, Johnson’s the pick if he’s there, and I’d definitely consider the versatile Gilbert.)

Roy Miller (Texas)
Chris Baker (Hampton)
Sammie Lee Hill (Stillman)
Dorell Scott (Clemson)
Terrance Taylor (Michigan)
Terrance Knighton (Temple)
Brandon Swain (W. Texas A&M)

(I still think we can wait until Round 5 and get value here.)

Jason Williams (W. Illinois)
Marcus Freeman (Ohio State)
Tyrone McKenzie (USF)
Darry Beckwith (LSU)
Zach Follett (California)
Nick Harris (Oklahoma)

(I think the Bucs have to go with Williams at #81 if they really want him.)

DJ Moore (Vanderbilt)
Coye Francies (San Jose State)
Keenan Lewis (Oregon State)
Mike Mickens (Cincinnati)

Victor Harris (Virginia Tech)
Asher Allen (Georgia)
EJ Biggers (W. Michigan)
Joe Burnett (UCF)

(Wow. DJ Moore shouldn’t last to #81, but I really hope Francies does. My other 3rd round targets, as well as Harris, are still available.)

Rashad Johnson (Alabama)
Chip Vaughn (Wake Forest)
Emanuel Cook (South Carolina)
Courtney Greene (Rutgers)
Brandon Underwood (Cincinnati)
CJ Spillman (Marshall)
Chris Clemons (Clemson)

I’ll make my final picks in the morning after I have some time to sleep on it, but right now, I’m looking at (assuming Michael Johnson and DJ Moore go before we pick again):
(No changes in the A.M.)

R3 –

Coye Francies (CB, San Jose State)
Rashad Jennings (RB, Liberty) – I have to at least mention him
Jason Williams (LB, W. Illinois)
Mike Wallace (WR, Mississippi)

R4 –

Jarrett Dillard (WR, Rice)
Xavier Fulton (T, Illinois)
Brandon Williams (DE, Texas Tech)

R5 –

Roy Miller (DT, Texas)
Jason Watkins (T, Florida)
Mike Thomas (WR, Arizona)

R7 –

Joel Bell (T, Furman)
Everette Pedescleaux (DL, Northern Illinois)
Quinten Lawrence (WR, McNeese State)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Day One Recap

Surprises from Day 1

Round 1

  • Michael Johnson not being one of the first 64 players chosen (biggest surprise IMO).
  • The Bucs trading ahead of Denver (???) while passing on a WR who is exactly what they need (Maclin) and a fine LT (Oher) for a QB who won’t touch the ball for at least a year and all but signals the end of the line for last year’s developmental QB, Josh Johnson. Other than that, it was a tremendous pick. (this wasn’t a surprise; just a sickening reality)
  • The Bears and Cowboys trading out of day 1. To their credit, at least they didn’t draft Freeman.
  • (ahem) The Raiders drafting DHB over Michael Crabtree or Jeremy Maclin.
  • The Broncos, a team with a ton of needs on defense, drafting Knowshon Moreno. Not slamming the pick; just a little surprising.
  • (For everyone who isn’t me) Larry English going as high as the 16th pick.
  • The Browns trading down twice and drafting Alex Mack.
  • The Colts drafting Donald Brown while Ziggy Hood, Hakeem Nicks, and Kenny Britt were still on the board.

Round 2

  • I like Alphonso Smith, but I have a hard time applauding the Broncos giving up next year’s first rounder in order to move up and get him.
  • Two safeties coming off the board before Rey Maualuga (38, Cincinnati).
  • Brian Robiskie going in the top 40 (I wonder if my prophecy would have come true if the Vikings hadn’t taken Harvin; not sure who else would have grabbed him R1).
  • Everette Brown falling to #43. Yes, there are concerns about his size, but I didn’t see him dropping that far.
  • As if the Dolphins needed additional Wildcat options, they drafted Pat Smith at #44.
  • The Raiders reaching badly for Michael Mitchell (S, Ohio), a guy who had earned sleeper status but wasn’t considered a top 4 round pick by anyone.
  • Sean Smith slipping to the 61st pick in the draft (Miami). I think he’s great value near the end of day one.

Who do I think had a good first day?

Assigning grades to picks at this point is well, pointless. Here are the teams I think did well with their selections:

Cincinnati – Andre Smith could be the steal of the draft if he proves this offseason was an aberration. Rey Maualuga had no business falling to the 38th overall pick. I can’t believe I’m typing this, but good job Cincinnati.

Green Bay – Simply from a player standpoint, emerging from round one with BJ Raji and Clay Matthews is applaudable.

Atlanta – They get two good football players in Peria Jerry and William Moore. They needed help along the defensive line, and Jerry gives them a tackle who can penetrate the backfield. Moore is a better football player than measurable prospect. They fill a need at SS with a guy I think got too much negative pub this offseason.

New England – I love the first three picks. Chung fills an urgent need at SS, Ron Brace will be a good fit up front, and Darius Butler will be a solid player on that defense. I thought they took Vollmer a round or two early.

Miami – Vontae Davis at 25 was good value at corner. Sean Smith at 61 was a steal. Adding the athletic/versatile Pat White to an offense lacking weapons was a decent move.

Jacksonville – It won’t be popular, but I think coming away with 2 of the top 5 tackles in the first 39 picks of the draft was a good day 1. Monroe on the left and Britton on the right opening up holes for money man MJD should please Jagz fans.

Baltimore – Simply for getting a top tackle with the 23rd overall pick.

Philadelphia – Donovan McNabb’s smiling tonight after his team picked up Jeremy Maclin (thanks Tampa) to go with DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy to help out Brian Westbrook.

NY Giants – Hakeem Nicks fills an obvious need at receiver, and William Beatty is a guy I had them taking in the first round, assuming Nicks was off the board. They get both guys I had them targeting, and Clint Sintim in the 2nd. That was a bit confusing IMO, as his best fit is as a 3-4 OLB.

NY Jets – For having the marbles to move up and get their QB. I think this one’s going to work out well for them.

Houston – I like the Cushing and Barwin picks; solid young high motor talents who could make quite an impact.

St Louis – Solid picks in areas of need with Jason Smith (T) and James Laurinaitis (LB).

Who do I think had a bad day?

Tampa Bay – Josh Freeman and no 6th round pick. Enough said.

Cleveland – I wouldn’t call it bad, but I question the Mack selection. They had their choice of linebackers, Oher or Britton for right tackle, any WR outside of the top 3, and any of the cornerbacks outside of Malcolm Jenkins. I realize they passed on all these guys twice, but when their first pick finally came up at #21, Mack was a surprise. Following up Brian Robiskie with Mohamed Massaquoi was a head scratcher for me.

I hate to single out the Bucs (and Browns I guess), but I can’t find another team I’d give a “bad” grade to. I really wish I had been wrong.

Draft Day Surprises

Here are a couple things I could see happening that might surprise a lot of people:

1 - The Raiders take Darrius Heyward-Bey over Crabtree and Maclin. It certainly isn't what I'd do, but I'm not Al Davis.

2 - Anquan Boldin becomes a Tennessee Titan. Call it a hunch. I do think he's traded somewhere today.

3 - Braylon Edwards remains a Brown.

4 - If Percy Harvin isn't drafted in round 1, don't faint if Brian Robiskie from Ohio State goes before him.

5 - This wouldn't happen today, but some casual NFL fans might be surprised if Graham Harrell (Texas Tech) and Chase Daniel (Missouri) go undrafted.

6 - Staying with Missouri, don't be shocked if Chase Patton gets an NFL job before Chase Daniel. Patton was Daniel's backup at Missouri and has more of the mechanics, size, and arm that NFL teams are looking for. Patton has been working out with former Buc, Steve DeBerg this offseason to polish his skills.

Bucs First Round - As I See It

Quickly, here are my thoughts on #19 as we get closer to the start of today's draft:

Everette Brown or Larry English

Scared as Hell They'll Draft:
Josh Freeman or Michael Johnson

Surprise pick (don't sleep on this):
Alphonso Smith, CB (Wake Forest)

Why would he be a fit for the Bucs?
• Athletic
• Very good game speed; instincts
• Hunts the ball down; closes well
• Solid run supporter
• Experienced and productive (51 games; 21 INT is #1 all time ACC)
• Big plays / Hands / Ball skills
• Plays with aggression (maybe a tad too much); tough attitude

If the Bucs trade down from #19 and don't go with English, Smith would be my pick. That said, if they stay put and and take Smith at #19, it wouldn't surprise me much due to his skillset and the obvious need for a starting caliber corner. As I said yesterday, I don't think he's proper value at #19, but I wouldn't be upset with the pick.

As I write this, if I had to choose what the Bucs will do, I think Josh Freeman will be the pick if he's on the board.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Mock Draft 3.0

I hadn’t planned on putting together another mock, but some of the things I’ve been seeing tell me I’d be wise to make a few updates. Mocks are never truly finished products and could be tweaked as long as you want to look at them. The key, as we head into the home stretch, is to be able to see through the smokescreens and make your best determination of the likelihood of what you hear happening.

Significant changes? A couple.

1) Detroit Lions – Matthew Stafford, QB (Georgia)
No change here. Reports are that there’s a deal drawn up for Aaron Curry if they can’t work things out with Stafford. Curry won’t go 1st.

2) St. Louis Rams – Jason Smith, T (Baylor)
Again, no change.

3) Kansas City Chiefs –
BJ Raji, DT (Boston College)
Big hand clap to Gil Brandt if Tyson Jackson goes in the top 5, but I’m sticking with Raji. IMO, this comes down to whether the Chiefs think they're worse off with Tank Tyler at NT or Glenn Dorsey and Turk McBride at DE. The odds appear to be against me, but I personally would go with the best defensive lineman and most dominant defensive player in the draft.

4) Seattle Seahawks –
Eugene Monroe, T (Virginia)
I never include trades in my mocks, but here’s where I could easily see one going down. Whether it’s a smokescreen or not, Tim Ruskell (without any quotes) has reportedly come out and said he’s not drafting a QB. Makes sense to me. Why state this publicly? I think he’s setting things up to let teams (Washington & NYJ) know that they don’t have to deal with KC at #3 in order to move up for Sanchez. You can trade with Seattle and get him at #4. Whether or not this article has any validity, I still don’t see them drafting Sanchez. That said, they could still go in a number of ways. Crabtree could play right away, as could Curry. I’d really like to put Curry here, but will the Hawks tie up top 5 money in a SLB after franchise tagging LeRoy Hill (even though it’s a short term investment) at $8.3 million? It’s either Monroe or Crabtree IMO, and knowing Ruskell’s preference for tenured college football players, if they don’t move down, I think Monroe is still the pick.

5) Cleveland Browns – Aaron Curry, LB (Wake Forest)
I still think it’s Curry.

6) Cincinnati Bengals – Andre Smith, T (Alabama)
The guy would have been a top 5 pick if he didn’t have the worst offseason in draft prospect history. I’ve had him going quite a bit lower, but when Mike Lombardi talks, I listen. Especially when he uses a word like “lock”. I’m not terribly comfortable with this pick, but maybe that’s a good thing. If teams can put aside Smith’s last 4+ months and he can overcome them as well, he’s a steal.

7) Oakland Raiders – Michael Crabtree, WR (Texas Tech)
Al Davis still gets the top receiver. FWIW, reports have the Browns taking him off their board because of his attitude. I’ve met the guy, and yeah he’s got a bit of a confident/cocky air about him, but I didn’t see anything terribly offputting in my brief encounters with him. Not that I necessarily would, but just from what I’ve seen, I wouldn’t say he’s any more of a diva than any other extremely talented receiver. Terrell Owens’ he’s not.

8) Jacksonville Jaguars – Mark Sanchez, QB (USC)
If the Jets and Skins can’t/don’t move up to #4 to get Sanchez and the Seahawks let him slide, I think Jacksonville will take him. If Sanchez is off the board, after the signing of Torry Holt to help address receiver, I think Monroe makes a lot of sense (I assume he's here if Sanchez isn't). Yes, they signed Tra Thomas, but he’s not a long term answer.

9) Green Bay Packers – Brian Orakpo, DE/OLB (Texas)
No change.

10) San Francisco 49ers – Jeremy Maclin, WR (Missouri)
I’m doing a 180 here. Someone much more in the know than myself seems pretty confident that Everette Brown won’t be the Niners’ pick. Let Brown’s fall begin.

11) Buffalo Bills – Michael Oher, T (Mississippi)
I had the Bills going DE post-Peters trade, but that was with Andre Smith as the top tackle on the board. Is he going to be an NFL LT? Generally you don’t take RT’s at #6, but the Bengals need help at both ends of the line. With the Bills’ need being a definite LT, I think Oher would interest them more than the next highest rated DE.

12) Denver Broncos – Tyson Jackson, DE (LSU)
Fine, I’ll move him up the board. The overwhelming Jackson talk in the last couple of days is kind of surprising. If he’s really that highly regarded, the Broncos would take him with their first pick.

13) Washington Redskins – Brian Cushing, LB (USC)
With the top tackles off the board, the Skins address the hole at SLB. Despite the need at DE, I still think they pass on Brown.

14) New Orleans Saints – Malcolm Jenkins, CB (Ohio State)
I’m not changing this pick.

15) Houston Texans – Clay Matthews, LB (USC)
Or this one either.

16) San Diego Chargers – Rey Maualuga, LB (USC)
Unless they take Eben Britton to play RT, they’re not going to find proper value here at positions of greatest need (SS, RT, DE, RG, NT). I think they go best (or one of the best) player available.

17) NY Jets – Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR (Maryland)
No change.

18) Denver Broncos – Vontae Davis, CB (Illinois)
No change.

19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Everette Brown, DE (FSU)
If he falls, it will be because of size/weight concerns. I’ll be plenty pleased if he were to be on the board when the Bucs pick. I don’t like English any less, but I’m guessing the Bucs would take Brown over English if both were available. I still think it comes down to picks 9-11. If he makes it past them, the only other possible option I see, barring trade, is Houston. The longer this goes, the more I’m liking the likelihood of him being there at #19. (The rest of my Bucs draft remains the same.)

20) Detroit Lions – Robert Ayers, DE (Tennessee)
No change.

21) Philadelphia Eagles – Knowshon Moreno, RB (Philadelphia)
No change.

22) Minnesota Vikings – Eben Britton, T (Arizona)
No change.

23) New England Patriots – Larry English, DE/OLB (N. Illinois)
Hard working, high motor defensive player just seems like a fit in New England.

24) Atlanta Falcons – James Laurinaitis, LB (Ohio State)
No change.

25) Miami Dolphins – Darius Butler, CB (U Conn)
No change.

26) Baltimore Ravens – Hakeem Nicks, WR (UNC)
With Jackson off the board, I think it’s Hicks or Pettigrew. I’ll go with the WR since Todd Heap’s still fairly mobile and they brought in LJ Smith. Neither one has a heck of a lot of time left, but do they really need another TE with this pick? FWIW, they did workout Nicks with Flacco.

27) Indianapolis Colts – Peria Jerry, DT (Mississippi)
No change.

28) Buffalo Bills – Aaron Maybin, DE (Penn State)
He’ll probably go higher than this, but with Buffalo going T at #11 and Everette Brown seemingly ahead of him, I’m not seeing exactly where at this point. Since they passed up a pass rusher with their first pick, the Bills would be smart to grab one here; even with Pettigrew still on the board.

29) NY Giants – William Beatty, T (U Conn)
If they keep this pick and Nicks is off the board, I’ll go with Beatty. I really don’t see them drafting Kenny Britt.

30) Tennessee Titans – Alphonso Smith, CB (Wake Forest)
No change. They reportedly won’t touch Percy Harvin.

31) Arizona Cardinals – Chris Wells, RB (Ohio State)
No change.

32) Pittsburgh Steelers – Alex Mack, C (California)
No change.

Top 5 picks of Round 2:

33) Detroit Lions – Ron Brace, DT (Boston College)
If the Lions come away with Stafford, Ayers, and Brace with their first three picks, I think they’ll get an A+ from the gurus. They need a run stuffer, and he’s good value here.

34) New England – Brandon Pettigrew, TE (Oklahoma State)
Great pick if I do say so myself. Ben Watson and Chris Baker are on the wrong side of their career peaks. Why not give Tom Brady another stud receiving target?

35) St. Louis Rams – Sean Smith, CB (Utah)
They need a competent starter opposite Ron Bartell, and Smith could be that guy.

36) Cleveland Browns – Kenny Britt, WR (Rutgers)
They get a guy to go with Braylon Edwards. I don’t see a CLE/NYG trade going down.

37) Seattle Seahawks – Donald Brown, RB (U Conn)
I think they could really use a guy like Donald Brown as they move to a ZBS. He’s a quick hitter who was very productive.

I think this is it unless the Lions/Stafford talks break down today. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m pretty geeked up for this weekend.

Go Bucs!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Larry English

  • Quick first step
  • Great balance and lean
  • Impressive tackling technique
  • Can rush from either end of the line
  • Persistant
  • Sideline to sideline
  • Explosive

Gil Brandt Has Strong Opinions

I came across this story today. Ralph Vacchiano relays some of Gil Brant's draft thoughts. Some are pretty unique.

• LSU DE Tyson Jackson will go in the Top 5. Not might. Will. This qualified as the biggest shocker, to me, since almost every mock draft I looked at pegged Jackson to be a mid- to late first-rounder at best. I thought the Top 5 was pretty locked in, too. But, of course, I shouldn’t have doubted Mr. Brandt. I asked around after the show to see if I could confirm it, and sure enough one NFL source I know did tell me he’s heard the Kansas City Chiefs might take Jackson at No. 3, or trade down and take him a few picks later.

I'm sorry, but I can't see the logic in taking a 3-4 DE in the first five picks of any draft. Quarterbacks, left tackles, and stud linebackers, running backs and receivers go in the top 5. Not 3-4 ends.

• The Seattle Seahawks, at No. 4, will likely select either Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree or USC QB Mark Sanchez.

I smell smoke. Unless they're completely down on Monroe because of his knee, he makes too much sense. I could see them drafting Crabtree, even after signing Houshmandzadeh, but they need to maintain continuity up front. Hasselback will be 34 before the season starts, but is he close enough to the end of the line to take a guy like Sanchez, who you'd probably expect to start in '10?

• Crabtree will fall somewhere between Picks 4 and 10, though given the variables it was impossible to guess exactly where.

Not much of a prophecy there.

• The Oakland Raiders will take a receiver at No. 7 (and it’s hard to imagine them passing on Crabtree if he’s available, so I suppose we can narrow down Crabtree’s placement to 4-7).


• There will be no defensive backs taken in the Top 10.


• The Saints, at No. 14, are looking for a big cornerback, and Ohio State’s Malcolm Jenkins is a good bet to be their guy.


• The New England Patriots, at No. 23 will take a linebacker.


• Oklahoma T Phil Loadholt (6-7, 332) will go in the first round of the draft. His teammate, G Duke Robinson (6-5, 330, and the top-rated guard on most boards), will not.

I don't see either of them going in the first. Pittsburgh is the only team I could see Loadholt going to, and I don't find that too likely.

• Cincinnati DE Connor Barwin didn’t begin this process as a first-rounder, but he has managed to sneak himself into the bottom of the first round.

Yeah he's rising, but I think the first is a bit too high. The Patriots do like him, and I him going there with the 34th pick, even after taking Cushing in the first. Cushing's versatile enough to play in or out, but I hear a lot of talk that he'd be better off inside in a 3-4. I think the Patriots would be pleased to get both of those guys with their first two picks.

• The Buffalo Bills are targeting a DE with the 11th pick (and not Tennessee DE Robert Ayers, by the way). They are also pretty high on Oklahoma State TE Brandon Pettigrew, but aren’t likely to take him unless they trade down a few spots. (Important note: Things have obviously changed a little since then, since the Bills acquired a second first-round pick from Philadelphia in the Jason Peters trade. Now the Bills have both the 11th and 28th pick. Of course, they also have an obvious need for a tackle).

Yes to DE at 11. I've got DE and OLB as their biggest needs, and they should be able to have their pick of everyone but Orakpo at DE. Regarding Pettigrew, they've long been linked to him. That's why I love the fact that they picked up the late #1 from Philadelphia. If Pettigrew gets past the Falcons, I love him to Buffalo at #28.

Raji Did NOT Fail Drug Test

Just passing along some info...

Raji's Clean

Yesterday, NFL teams received the list of players who failed drug tests at the combine in February, and BJ Raji's name was not on said list.

Here are some quotes from the story:

Raji -

“Now, I’m happy the truth is out,” Raji said in an interview April 6 when he visited with 49ers team officials. “Obviously, it’s not going to be as big of a splash as the negative part. But as long as the coaches and the decision-makers know what is true, then I don’t need to be concerned with everybody else."

Will the fact that he was rumored to have failed a test impact his draft status?

Brian Billick -

“I don’t think there’s any question it will affect his draft status,” said NFL Network analyst and former Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick. “Hopefully, this should be able to stabilize, but it’s the innuendos. The damage is done. I think it’s a grave concern for the league.”

Charley Casserly -

“I’d be surprised if he does not go in the top 10,” Casserly said. “If he had tested positive at the combine, I’d be surprised if he did go in the top 10...“There are some questions in his history. I think there are some teams that will shy away from this player, but I’m not sure it will be a team in the top 10.”

Tom Cable -

“A lot of that, though, is really speculation,” Raiders coach Tom Cable said. “None of those things are really real, other than maybe the injury to Crabtree. Some of those other things, they are what they are, but when you really dig down and look at it, they’re probably OK. They’re probably OK in the way that they’re evaluated and the way everybody sees them.”


Wow, Billick sounds like he's still head coach of the Ravens and praying Raji drops into the mid 20's. I can't see how a false story cleared up a week in advance of the draft is going to negatively impact Raji's draft status. He's the most dominant defensive lineman in the draft, has no other off-field concerns, and I see several teams in the top 10 (KC, OAK, JAX, and GB at a minimum) who could really use his presence along their defensive front.

I still have Raji at #3 to the Chiefs and expect to hear whispers of his stock rising as we head closer to this weekend.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Everette Brown - How Low Will He Go?

A couple people have questioned the likelihood of FSU’s Everette Brown falling to the Bucs at pick #19. While that’s something that would pique my interest, I honestly hadn’t given it much consideration until now. Is he a versatile defender, or is he a true tweener? Let’s take a quick look at Brown’s game and see where he might fit.

Pros –
· Extremely athletic and quick off the snap
· Big upside
· Makes his living in the offensive backfield (21 TFL and 13 ½ sacks in ’08)
· Changes direction smoothly
· Explosive hitter
· Hard worker; well liked
· Balanced; great shoulder dip
· Uses his hands very well
· Best arsenal of pass rush moves in this draft (speed, rip, swim, hump); not simply a speed rusher
· Nice lower body strength

Cons –
· Weight; reportedly played in FSU’s bowl game at 225
· Height; measured 6-2 at the combine
· Not his fault, but the poor pro careers of Jamal Reynolds, Andre Wadsworth, Alonzo Jackson, and Reinard Wilson won’t work in his favor.
· As a 3-4 OLB, can he cover? (hasn’t demonstrated enough good or bad to have a real read)

Brown actually held up better against the run than some of the prospect reviews I’ve seen give him credit for. His weight will be a red flag for some teams, but Brown bulked up to 256 at the combine, and looked smooth in his position drills; both at DE and LB. He won’t get a ton bigger, but he can add a bit more weight to his frame without negating his speed. Remember, he’s not just a speed rusher, so I don’t see a weight gain limiting him at all.

What I like about him, and this shows his intelligence, is when he’ll fire off the line off the tackle’s outside shoulder, and then after the tackle overcommits, Brown uses his balance and sharp change of direction easily dispose of the tackle and track down the man with the ball.

I think it’s safe to say he’s not going in the top 5. That said, here are the picks from 6-19 and whether or not a 3-4 pass rushing OLB or 4-3 DE is high enough on their list of priorities:

6) Cincinnati – I’ve got DE as a need and the position that they could best address here if they decided not to go tackle. That said, I still have Brian Orakpo on the board at this point, and I don’t see Brown being drafted ahead of him by any team.

7) Oakland – They could use a pass rusher after the craptastic year Derrick Burgess had, but I slot that need behind WR, SLB, and T.

8) Jacksonville – With Reggie Hayward, Derrick Harvey, and Quentin Groves on the roster, DE takes a substantial back seat to LT, CB, WR, DT, MLB, G, and C.

9) Green Bay – Green Bay is one of several teams making the move to a 3-4 defense this year, and they’re looking someone other than Aaron Kampman to apply pressure to the QB. Here’s where I have Orakpo going. If he’s not there, with offensive tackle being as dire of a need (if not moreso) than OLB, there’s a good chance that another guy I already have off the board (Michael Oher) will be here when the Packers pick. They still run a ZBS up front on offense, and Oher has the footwork and athleticism to play in that scheme. Basically, I think that if it’s not Orakpo, they’d take Oher before Brown or another OLB. The odds of Orakpo and Oher both being gone by this pick are very very slim.

10) San Francisco – I think Mike Singletary is going to want some help getting to the passer, seeing as how the Niners ranked 16th in the league in QB sacks last season. Had they not brought in Marvel Smith, I think I would have put Andre Smith in this spot. He still might be the pick, but I think San Francisco is going to get a pass rusher here. Parys Haralson is a guy they like (and with good reason), but can they count on Marry Lawson enough to bypass Brown?

11) Buffalo – If Brown makes it past those last two 3-4 teams, he’d be available for another 4-3 team in sore need of a pass rusher.

12) Denver – Another team moving to a 3-4, they need help all over the front 7. Would they risk their first pick on a guy making the move to OLB? They still have to see if Jarvis Moss wants to be an NFL player, and Elvis Dumervill will play on the outside. Word is Tim Crowder and newly signed Darrell Reid are going to get reps there as well. I’m not as convinced that the latter two can play 3-4 OLB, but maybe it’s enough for the Broncos to look elsewhere with this pick.

13) Washington – DE (along with RT, G, and SLB) is up there on the list of priorities for the Skins. Word is they aren’t enamored with Brown.

14) New Orleans – I’ve got FS, WLB, RB, DT, CB, and RT as outranking DE on the needs list. Surely, they’ll find someone at one of those positions.

15) Houston – You know, if they hadn’t signed Antonio Smith from the Cardinals, I give DE a real shot here. Since they already have big money tied up in Smith and Mario Williams, I think it’s safe to say that DE won’t be the choice.

16) San Diego – I’ve got RT, DE, SS, RG, NT, WR, RB, and ILB all ahead of OLB on their list of needs.

17) NY Jets – I think it has to be either WR or QB with this pick. If not, I’d still put RB, DE, RT, and another WR ahead of OLB.

18) Denver (see #12)

Then you’ve got the Bucs who sorely need a pass rusher opposite Gaines Adams. Just my analysis, but I think picks 9-11 will determine Brown’s fate. “All” it would take is Green Bay choosing either Orakpo or Oher, San Francisco picking Andre Smith or Malcolm Jenkins, and Buffalo opting for Maybin or Cushing.

That opens up the possibility of Brown falling, but I don’t want to get too excited about that yet. Should it happen, I would absolutely embrace him being the pick.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mock Draft 2.0

There’s a bit of a shakeup from my last mock; most of it as a result of me believing the rumors that Matthew Stafford will emerge as the Lions’ choice with the #1 pick. Whether or not it’s all pre-draft smoke, I’m going under the assumption that he’ll be the pick. Here's how I see the first round playing out:

1) Detroit Lions – Matthew Stafford, QB (Georgia)
Hell, he thinks he’s the pick. Who am I to argue with him? I still think his play is too sloppy for a #1 pick, and I wish he had completed more passes at Georgia. He’s not quite as tall (6-2, 225) as last year’s productive first rounders (Matt Ryans (6-4, 220) and Joe Flacco (6-6, 230)), and he’s not much of a scrambler either. For those that get into this stuff, Stafford scored an impressive 38 on his Wonderlic, and followed up an outstanding pro day with a solid private workout for the Lions. Stafford possesses the strong arms teams covet, does a good job of keeping his head downfield when in the pocket and on the move, and the fact that he’s never missed a game to injury is an example of his durability. I wouldn’t blame the Lions for making Stafford the pick, but there’s a reason no one is inquiring about moving up to the top of the draft.
(previous pick – Jason Smith)

2) St. Louis Rams – Jason Smith, T (Baylor)
If Stafford goes first, the question isn’t whether or not the Rams take a tackle, it’s which tackle will they take? With the departure of Orlando Pace, and even before it really, tackle topped the team’s list of needs. I don’t think Daren Heerspink or Adam Goldberg is St. Louis’ idea of a franchise tackle. I believe they’ll go with the athletic big man from Baylor. Smith put up an impressive 33 reps at the combine (10 more than Monroe and 12 more than Oher) and is far from a fully developed product. He’s light on his feet, fluid from side to side, and would be a fine prospect in either a man or zone blocking scheme. He started 39 of the 42 games in which he played and spend time on both ends of the line (RT in ’06). I think he just needs some professional coaching to improve his technique and become comfortable playing in a three point stance. I see high upside and little risk.
(previous pick – Eugene Monroe)

3) Kansas City Chiefs – BJ Raji, NT (Boston College) Here’s where my draft takes an unpopular turn. I still see Curry as the overwhelming choice here in most mocks. The Chiefs are shifting to a 3-4 defense, and lack someone to man the most important position on the field. Glenn Dorsey isn’t that guy, while Tank Tyler will probably be the in-house option they give the first shot, I don’t think they’d consider the position secure. They didn’t address NT in free agency, choosing to bring in Matt Cassel (QB), Mike Vrabel (LB), Monty Beisel (LB), Zach Thomas (LB), Bobby Engram (WR), and Terrance Copper (WR). Raji is a huge (6-2, 337) and wide nose man who excels at clogging run lanes. He shows a nice burst off the snap and moves well in his zone. He shuts down the run and makes plays in the backfield, evidenced by his 16 TFL and 8 sacks in ’08. He’s by far the best defensive tackle in the draft and has withstood the false reports of him failing a drug test at the combine. I think the Chiefs would be foolish to pass up the dominant big man, especially considering their obvious need at the position.
(previous pick – Aaron Curry)

4) Seattle Seahawks – Eugene Monroe, T (Virginia)
With the trade of Julian Peterson to the Lions, a hole was created at linebacker. Aaron Curry is still on the board and could end up being the pick. One reason I think the Hawks would pass on Curry is because of the money they’re already committing to $8.3 million to LeRoy Hill via the franchise tag. Would they spend top 5 money on another linebacker when there’s an even bigger need at tackle? Monroe might not have the biggest upside of the draft’s tackles, but I think he’s the lowest risk of the bunch. Playing for Virginia, he was at left tackle when Branden Albert (KC’s 15th overall pick last year) was at left guard. Monroe has long arms and a thick lower body. He displays proper balance in his blocks, smooth footwork, and has experience in the pro style game that Jason Smith lacks. On the downside, Monroe dislocated his kneecap in the spring of ’06, requiring surgery, and missed two games with a knee injury in ’07. He could be a bit more punishing in the run game, but his pass blocking is the best/most advanced in the draft.
(previous pick – Michael Crabtree)

5) Cleveland Browns – Aaron Curry, LB (Wake Forest)
Most mocks will have Michael Crabtree as the pick here, especially with all the Braylon Edwards to NY rumors. If the Browns were to trade Edwards, they’d have absolutely nothing at receiver. Donte’ Stallworth is going to prison, and Josh Cribbs isn’t a #1 or #2 receiver. David Patten was brought in, but he shouldn’t be starting in the NFL at this point in his career. I think the Browns would be foolish to trade Edwards, especially after dealing Winslow to the Bucs. Whether it’s Anderson or Quinn at QB for the Browns, they’re going to need some help at receiver. Dealing Edwards, despite his own deficiencies, is a step in the wrong direction. Here, they get (IMO) the safest pick in the entire draft. Curry was a 4-3 SLB at Wake but could play inside or out in a 3-4 defense. The biggest reason I like this pick is because I’m sure Mangini would love to build his new defense around Curry. He’s a hard hitting playmaker with an explosive style of play (37 inch combine vertical, tied for #1 at LB). Curry is very smooth in his drops, sheds blocks, and is an intelligent defensive leader. Keep Edwards and draft Curry. They should still be able to get a solid WR with their second pick (36th overall).
(previous pick – Brian Orakpo)

6) Cincinnati Bengals – Michael Oher, T (Mississippi)
Andre Smith and BJ Raji are the popular mock selections. Here, Raji’s gone, and I really don’t think the Bengals will take the questionable Smith with the 6th overall pick. I know it’s the Bengals, and far be it from me to assume they will consider character, but I think that’s pushing it, even for them. Raji’s off the board. Otherwise, I think he’d be the pick. They could go DE with Orakpo, but with the loss of Stacy Andrews to the Eagles and their frustration with Levi Jones, I think they’ll go with a tackle here. Oher seems to be slipping down the board in most mocks, but not here. He’s the most inexperienced of the top tackles, but he has the desired combination of athleticism, size, and long arms. He drops into his pass sets well, and demonstrates the type of footwork and lateral mobility that could make him attractive option to a ZBS team like the Raiders as well. IMO, Oher will need the most coaching of this year’s top 4 tackles, but there’s quite a bit of upside there too if he’s handled properly. Some might have Crabtree going here to the Bengals, but I think they'll pass after signing Laveranues Coles.
(previous pick – BJ Raji)

7) Oakland Raiders – Michael Crabtree, WR (Texas Tech)
Even if Al Davis tried to address other positions (NT, SLB, FS, and DE), the talent just isn’t there. Raji’s gone, and you’re not going to take Ron Brace here. Aaron Curry would be a heck of a steal, but he’s gone too. There isn’t free safety worth a top 10 pick. They could surprise everyone and take Orakpo or Everette Brown at DE, but I really think Davis will want to get JaMarcus Russell a legit receiving threat. I like Chaz Schilens and Johnny Lee Higgins, but they’re not enough. Russell’s lack of consistency is a big part of the problem too, so bringing in a stud like Crabtree could help make up for Russell’s deficiencies. He’s a dominant, strong, and physical wideout. He doesn’t have elite speed, but he’s far from slow. His hands are excellent, and I’ve always been impressed with his body position and control. He adjusts well in the air and almost always puts himself in a better position to get the ball than the defender. He can run all the routes and line up all over the field. He could be a bit taller (6-1, 215), but he’s got just about everything you could want in a receiver. Crabtree had his cast removed just last week after undergoing surgery for the stress fracture in his foot that kept him out of the combine.
(previous pick – Jeremy Maclin)

8) Jacksonville Jaguars – Mark Sanchez, QB (USC)
All the talk is about who will trade up with the Jags and select Sanchez. Well, I think they stay put and take the guy themselves. Sanchez is this year’s late climber (why, who knows?) and seems to be a top 10 pick now at this point. Rumors have the Jags desperate to trade out of the top 10, and David Garrard seems to think they won’t take a QB. I call shenanigans. Denver won’t trade up, and it would make even less sense for the 49ers to do it. Unless the Vikings jump in as a darkhorse, that leaves the Jets at #17. Would the Jags be interested in going down 9 spots? The Jags are in a similar situation as the Raiders in that the talent just isn’t there to fill their more urgent needs (LT, CB, WR, DT, and MLB). I don’t see them taking Andre Smith, and #8 is still too high for a corner. The next DT isn’t going here either, and neither is a MLB. Jeremy Maclin was my previous pick, but after further deliberation, I really think QB is the pick. Garrard’s salary jumps to nearly $8 million in ‘10 (from $5.5 million in ‘09) , and depending on how he performs this year, they my have a decision to make come ’10. Having a guy like Sanchez in the wings for a year may help make that an easier decision. Sanchez doesn’t have the experience that teams prefer (16 starts at USC), and while his arm isn’t as strong as Stafford’s, he can make all the throws an NFL offense requires of a QB. He’s a fiery leader of the offense who does a nice job going through his progressions. He moves well out of the pocket and, like Stafford, does a good job keeping his eyes downfield. Sanchez would be best suited going somewhere he can learn and grow for a year, and this looks like the perfect situation to do just that.
(previous pick – Matthew Stafford)

9) Green Bay Packers – Brian Orakpo, DE/OLB (Texas)
With the Packers yet another team transitioning to a 3-4 defense, they will be looking for some players to fit their new scheme. They could use help throughout the front 7 and at either offensive tackle spot. With Oher off the board, I don’t think they’d be looking at Andre Smith here. Let’s move to the defensive side of the ball. Raji’s gone, so no NT. What 3-4 DE is worth the 9th pick? None. They could use a corner, but I think this pick is too high for either Malcolm Jenkins or Vontae Davis. That narrows it down to OLB for me, and the best one on the board is Orakpo. He has the speed/quickness necessary to make the move to OLB and the frame to get bigger. His 4.70 combine 40 kept him in the discussions to change positions. Orakpo shows nice hips and plays with a relentless motor. The weight room freak added 50 pounds of muscle since entering the Texas football program and maintained an 8% body fat figure the entire time. He can bench 515 pounds, squat over 600, power clean 380. His 10-10 broad jump demonstrates his explosiveness, and Orakpo also demonstrates sudden and smooth change of direction. He’s a playmaker.
(previous pick – Michael Oher)

10)San Francisco 49ers – Everette Brown, DE/OLB (FSU)
Make it 2 OLB in a row. There are a few ways I could see this pick going. If I hadn’t gone with Brown, my second choice would have been Andre Smith. The 49ers recently signed Marvel Smith to start at RT, and while that move alone wouldn’t/shouldn’t prevent the 49ers from considering Andre, would they really draft a RT in the top 10 and have him sit? That doesn’t seem like the best value for the pick. I still think this is too high to spend a pick on the secondary, and while the Niners could add another DL, I don’t see a 3-4 NT/DE worth the selection. Jeremy Maclin wouldn’t shock me, but I have a hard time seeing them spend this first pick on a receiver. I think Singletary will be looking for a defensive force; someone who can get to the passer. Brown certainly did that in ’08 (13 ½ sacks to go with a whopping 21 ½ TFL). He finished his career with 23 sacks and 46 ½ TFL (2nd all time at FSU). His 4.73 forty at the combine was fourth fastest for defensive linemen. I think Brown has what it takes to play either end in a 4-3 or OLB in a 3-4. He has a great body for the position and plenty of room to get bigger. He has a tremendous burst off the edge and is able to utilize multiple pass rush moves to beat his blockers. He moves very well laterally, and his smooth change of direction will benefit him if he does indeed make the switch to 3-4 OLB. As opposed to a lot of other athletes going through the FSU program, Brown is a legit good guy. Everyone likes him. I definitely think he would be a better “tweener” pick to play at OLB than this next guy…
(previous pick – Andre Smith)

11) Buffalo Bills – Aaron Maybin, DE (Penn State)
Here’s the anomaly of the draft. There’s no consensus on where he’ll end up or what position is best suited for him as a pro. He put up an impressive 12 sacks (tops in Big 10) as a sophomore and has the type of body coaches crave. He can (and would need to if he stays at DE) get a little bigger, but how much will that impact his speed? Maybin only started for one year at Penn State, where he showed tremendous explosion off the snap and fine foot speed. At this point, speed is pretty much his entire game, and he gets by on pure athletic ability. He’ll need to improve his repertoire of pass rush moves if he’s going to stay at end and be anything more than a situational player. I think he’ll really benefit from professional coaching and more snaps. The fact that his hips are so stiff and that he doesn’t move terribly well/quick laterally could turn off some teams hoping to switch him to OLB. I really think he’s probably better off developing as a DE. At this point in his career, he’s fairly easily overmatched by bigger blockers. The sky could be the limit with this kid’s skills. Boom or bust. Brian Cushing would be my alternate pick.
(previous pick – Everette Brown)

12) Denver Broncos – Rey Maualuga, LB (USC)
The Broncos are another team shifting to a 3-4 defense, and like the Packers, they could use help all across the front 7. Again, Raji’s gone, so there’s not a worth NT. They could go DE, and have been linked to Tyson Jackson, but the more I think about it, I really believe 12 is too high for a 3-4 end. I’m going against myself from my previous mock. Despite the fact that they do have a number of bodies at ILB, I do think this is where Maualuga goes. He’s a classic ILB who plays aggressive and is almost always around the football. Rey does overpursue more than teams would like and his technique could use some work. He battled a hamstring injury at the combine and ran a 4.65 forty at his pro day with a quarter-sized blister on his right big toe. Ouch! Maualuga doesn’t appear to have a huge upside, but his downside is limited as well. For a team that really needs to hit with defensive players, they could do worse than Maualuga.
(previous pick – Tyson Jackson)

13) Washington Redskins – Andre Smith, T (Alabama)
I think this is as far as the big man falls. The Skins should be looking at DE, SLB, or RT in this spot, and I believe that Smith would be the best value for the pick. He could come in and be an immediate starter on the right side of the line. He was this year’s Outland Trophy winner and is an absolutely dominant run blocker. You just can’t run the guy over. He gave up just one sack in ’08, and if his head is on straight, he’ll be a fixture on the Skins line for the next decade. That’s a big if though. His trouble started before the Sugar Bowl, where he was suspended for the game for his involvement with an agent. Then he shows up out of shape to the combine saying he just started working out. He went on to interview poorly with teams and dressed inappropriately in those sessions. I hate to take away what the guy did on the field during his time at Alabama, but how can you be so horribly unprepared for the biggest interview of your life? The fast rising Robert Ayers wouldn’t surprise me here at all, given their need for a DE, and I think Brian Cushing is in the picture as well. In the end, I’m giving the gifted tackle the edge.
(previous pick – Brian Cushing)

14) New Orleans Saints – Malcolm Jenkins, CB (Ohio State)
Jenkins isn’t the fastest or quickest corner in this draft, and that has flamed the speculation as to which position he’ll occupy at the next level. I think the guy is plenty talented and might be better off as a FS in the NFL. The Saints have a number of bodies as CB but need help at safety (despite signing Darren Sharper). Jenkins could come in and give them versatility right away. He’s a very intelligent player in the secondary, and his consistency earned him accolades as a 3 time Big 10 selection and 2 time All American. He’s physical, and his plus hands allow him to be a quite a playmaker in the secondary. He ran a fairly slow 40 (4.54) at the combine, especially for a top draft pick, and he didn’t improve upon those numbers at his pro day (4.55 and 4.58). He’s really on the low end of what you want speed-wise from a corner, and he doesn’t ideal upper body physical strength. They’re apparently really impressed with Brian Cushing too, and the Chris Wells rumors have run rampant. What does Sean Payton have against Pierre Thomas? I believe they’ll take the Buckeye that could help shore up a porous secondary.
(previous pick – Malcolm Jenkins)

15) Houston Texans – Clay Matthews, LB (USC)
I stole this pick from John McClain over a month ago, and I’m sticking with it. The Texans could go a number of ways with this one (S, CB, DT, WR, or RB), but I’m going with an active LB that gets into the backfield. DE (Ayers) could have been a selection had they not signed Antonio Smith in free agency, and Malcolm Jenkins might be their guy if he was on the board. Taking Maclin here wouldn’t shock me at all, but I still think they’ll go defense. I don’t think they’ll take Peria Jerry or a RB to team with Slaton in this spot either. Matthews is a better pass rusher than Cushing and has a more controlled style of play. His 10 yard dash time (1.49), which was better than what a player with the same 40 (4.62) normally runs, shows his explosiveness. He improved upon his combine 40, putting up a 4.57 at his pro day, despite checking in at 6-2, 245. He’s a riser who will probably surprise some with as high as he’ll be drafted; especially if he goes before Cushing as I’m projecting.
(previous pick – Clay Matthews)

16) San Diego Chargers – Jeremy Maclin, WR (Missouri)
You probably haven’t seen Maclin ending up with the Chargers in many/any mocks, but the draft is where the unexpected happens. If Maclin makes it out of the top 10, I think he falls right into the Chargers’ lap, and that would work out great for them. As it stands right now, DE, SS, RG, NT, and RT appear to be the Chargers’ biggest areas of need. Aside from DE, they’re not going to get good value at those positions. Given the choice between Maclin and Tyson Jackson, I believe they’d take a guy who would make the young Philip Rivers an even more dangerous passer. Maclin is a versatile weapon who can catch, run, and light it up in the return game. He has explosive speed but needs to work a little on his routes. He’s a good blocker for his size (6-0, 198) and is a well liked teammate. Jeremy’s one of my favorite players, and I think he’ll going to be a great pro. If he’s not there, I’m guessing they’ll take Cushing. Yeah, I know. It’s a theme. Cushing would fill a need with every team from picks 11-16, but I just have them going with other players instead.
(previous pick – Aaron Maybin)

17) NY Jets – Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR (Maryland)
The Jets biggest needs IMO are WR and QB. They appear to be content with Kellen Clemens (for some reason), so I’ve changed the pick from my previous mock. I think that with Jerricho Cotchery and Chansi Stuckey as their top wideouts, they could use a speed guy like DHB to stretch the field and keep defenses honest. To the non-surprise of many, he ran the fastest 40 (4.30) at the combine. DHB is tremendous with the ball in his hands, a threat to take any pass to the house. He definitely needs to work on his routes, as he’s primarily a straight ahead or deep post guy at the moment. Is he tough enough to take the poundings as an every down receiver? Will he get much stronger? I’m not sure, but knowing how valuable speed is in this league, the fastest guy in the draft won’t fall far. Teams that value character will have DHB high on their boards.
(previous pick – Josh Freeman)

18) Denver Broncos – Vontae Davis, CB (Illinois)
Yeah I know. This would be the perfect spot for the Broncos to come right back and get their DE (Jackson). That’s too easy. They did bring in Andre Goodman to team with Champ Bailey at corner, but both of those guys are 30. They’re also in a division with the Chargers (who just got Maclin in this draft) and the Raiders (who took Crabtree). Davis could definitely learn a thing or two about maximizing your natural abilities from a guy like Bailey. Davis is the my #2 preference for the Bucs if he’s on the board. He’s got the rare size/athleticism combination and just makes plays. He’s physical, doesn’t shy away from contact, and lead all Big 10 corners with 78 tackles this past season. Vontae tallied 7 INT and 2 blocked kicks this year, demonstrating his ability to go up and good the football. Davis enjoys the pressure of the spotlight. He’s not just an athletic guy, and that was shown by leading all corners with 25 reps on the bench at the combine. Vernon’s little brother has great straight line speed and terrific hip movement; ideal for any pass defense.
(previous pick – Hakeem Nicks (Chicago))

19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Larry English, DE (N. Illinois)
Even though I’m still terrified that the Bucs will take Michael Johnson with this pick, I’m leaving English here in my mock. I recently went into detail with my thoughts on English, so I won’t repeat that here. I just love the guy’s motor, determination, and ability to get to the passer on a consistent basis.
(previous pick – Larry English)
20) Detroit Lions – Robert Ayers, DE (Tennessee)
I think this is right about where Ayers should end up. After grabbing Stafford in with the first pick, the Lions could come back here and get someone (Britton or Beatty) to protect his blindside. But with as shoddy as that defense has been, they need help at all levels. I’m not as high on him as the experts are, but he’s got a really solid build. I don’t like that he really only produced one year at Tennessee and didn’t even total 10 sacks during his 4 years. His 15.5 TFL this past season show his ability to get into the backfield, but is he going to be much of a pass rusher in the NFL, where the game speeds up a more than a step from the college game? He’s got great lower body strength and will excel at stopping the run, but I would think you’d want more of a pass rush when taking a DE this high. He’s a big boom or bust guy IMO. Mike Mayock thinks that when we look back on this draft in 3 years, Ayers will be the best defensive player to come from it. If the Lions didn’t go with Ayers or the best available tackle, James Laurinaitis might get the call to solve their MLB woes.
(previous pick – Mark Sanchez)

21) Philadelphia Eagles – Knowshon Moreno, RB (Georgia)
I’m not sure how serious the Eagles are about taking a RB here, but what I do know is that they most certainly won’t draft Chris Wells. I love Brian Westbrook’s ability and consistency, but the guy can’t play forever. I think the dynamic Moreno is the perfect player to come in and slowly allow the Eagles to make a steady/slow transition from the Westbrook era. Moreno has outstanding vision, is electric out of the backfield, and catches everything thrown his way. He hits the hole quickly with little wasted movement (take that Reggie Bush) and is a hard guy to bring down for his size (5-11, 217). He does a good job allowing his blocks to set up before running into the backs of his linemen, and he has no problem taking the ball inside the heart of the line. Moreno has good, not great speed, evidenced by his unimpressive 4.55 and 4.63 combine 40s, but he’s a durable game changer. With the Eagles signing Stacy Andrews to play RT next to his brother, RG Shawn, and the acquisition of Jason Peters from Buffalo, they have seemingly addressed the departures of longtime tackles Tra Thomas (Jax) and Jon Runyan (unsigned FA). Brandon Pettigrew would look good in this offense, but I think the Eagles have messed around long enough with not providing a reliable backup to Westbrook. The drafting of Moreno ends that.
(previous pick – Brandon Pettigrew)

22) Minnesota Vikings – Eben Britton, T (Arizona)
I’ve got the RT position as the biggest area of need for the Vikings. They can and need to do better than Anthony Herrera. Britton’s strength is in the run game, and that may be a factor in deciding which end of the line he plays. Eben was a starter from day one at Arizona (37 games), seeing most of his action (24 starts) at RT. He’s big and athletic and was a team captain at Arizona. Dude’s pretty smart too. Britton has a nice body type for a tackle and isn’t carrying too much weight in a particular section. He plays really tough and is a tough drive blocker, I don’t know if he has enough quickness off the snap to man the LT position in the pros. That wouldn’t matter in Minnesota, where they’d be looking at him for the right side anyways. The guy was only flagged 4 times in his entire career. The Vikings might be interested in Peria Jerry as a backup to the Williamses, and although they'll be drafting a center, #22 might be too high for Alex Mack.
(previous pick – Peria Jerry)

23) New England Patriots – Brian Cushing, LB (USC)
This is probably a little low for Cushing, but with fairly even talent across positions in the first round, someone’s going to fall a few picks. He’d be a heck of a pick here. The Patriots need help at both inside and outside linebacker, and Cushing provides them with versatility at the position. Like his teammate Clay Matthews and big man Raji, Cushing was rumored to have failed a drug test at the combine. Like the others, the rumors surrounding Cushing were proven untrue. Cushing is very versatile, instinctive, and athletic. He showed up on the scene at UCS as a SS and played at DE, SLB, and MLB during his time there. His 30 reps at the combine tied for most at the linebacker position. Cushing is intense and packs a pop and would seem to be an ideal Patriot. He has nice hips and can turn and run with the TE and even RB. Cushing is an effective blitzer and pass rusher and just flies all over the field. I love this pick for the Patriots if they’re lucky enough to have him stay on the board this long.
(previous pick – Rey Maualuga)

24) Atlanta Falcons – James Laurinaitis, LB (Ohio State)
I don’t know if the Falcons feel this way, but I think this is too high for a safety. They do have a need at DT, more specifically NT, so Ron Brace might warrant consideration. Local fave Michael Johnson might have some supporters, but they already have John Abraham, Kroy Biermann, Chauncey Davis, and Jamaal Anderson at DE. They’re not all studs, but they’re all going to be on the team in ’09. The guy I really want to go with here is Brandon Pettigrew. I think the Falcons would really like to bring in a big, middle of the field target for Matt Ryan, but let me give you my logic on this one. Laurinaitis is a guy who IMO is being punished for returning for his senior year. He was a projected first rounder last year, and the longer you stay in school, the longer they have to nitpick your abilities. Mike Smith isn’t a paper skills guy and wants guys that just get the job done. Mike Mayock recent broke down the Falcons draft and said that Laurinaitis could play all three LB positions for the Falcons. Laurinaitis was a consistent performer for the Buckeyes, bringing hard hits and sound tackling. He did run a slow 4.78 forty at the combine, but he’s another guy where you just pop in his tape. He didn’t make a ton of big plays at Ohio State, but he made a lot of little ones. Laurinaitis has a little trouble disengaging from blocks and may have maxed out size-wise. Still, I think he’s the type of football player the Falcons will be looking for.
(previous pick – Michael Johnson)

25) Miami Dolphins – Darius Butler, CB (U Conn)
The Dolphins’ secondary was a mess last year, but they re-signed lone star Yeremiah Bell and grabbed Gibril Wilson after the Raiders released him. With the departure of Andre Goodman to the Broncos, the Phins are left with safety convert Jason Allen, Will Allen, Eric Green, and Joey Thomas at corner. The Dolphins really need to emerge from this draft with two corners, and I’ve got them taking one here. They need to hit with this pick, and taking the 4 year starter 2 year captain from U Conn would be a wise move. Butler is versatile enough to excel in either a man or zone scheme. He even lined up some at wideout. His 4.46 forty at the combine was the fastest at his position, as was his 43 inch vertical. The fact that he didn’t record a single interception in ’08 might have some wondering why a guy with zero picks would be worthy of a first round selection. Teams continually avoided his side of the field. He’s lanky with nice hips and good field awareness. Butler isn’t a strong as you’d like and isn’t a great run supporter, but there’s no doubting his coverage skills.
(previous pick – Vontae Davis)

26) Baltimore Ravens – Tyson Jackson, DE (LSU)
I’m not as high on Jackson as the experts appear to be, but I do think he’s a good find here at #26. The Ravens could use some deep speed for strong armed Joe Flacco, but I’ve already got DHB off the board. Would they spend a pick on Percy Harvin? The Ravens have been too conservative with their picks over the years for me to think he’d get the call. They’re in a good spot here either way. Their biggest needs are at WR, DE, T, and TE, and top talent is available at each of those positions. I’ll go with the consensus top 3-4 DE in the draft. Jackson didn’t put up great sack totals in ’07 or ’08, but he did make plays in the backfield (10.5 TFL in ’08). The fact that he doesn’t play well in space or put a ton of pressure on the passer is a good reason for the move to 3-4 DE. There he can utilize his greatest skills, which are strength, physicality, and an anchor against the run. He seems like the Ravens’ type of player.
(previous pick – Darrius Heyward Bey)

27) Indianapolis Colts – Peria Jerry, DT (Mississippi)

The perfect pick falls right in their lap. The Colts really need to bring in a playmaker up front, and they get great value here with Jerry. He’s a three technique who shows a nice burst off the snap and quickness to split the gap. He’s mature, as he should be at 25 years of age. The fact that he’s that old entering the draft will probably hurt his stock. He played well against top teams, providing the Rebels with an active force on the interior. Jerry pursues well, but he plays too high at times and can be taken out with leverage. He’s not a great run stuffer and would probably be best off as a three technique on a Cover 2 defense. If they don’t go DT, the Colts could snatch one of the top receivers off the board to make up for the loss of Marvin Harrison. There’s nothing behind Wayne and Gonzalez, and you know they’re going to want to make sure Peyton has plenty of weapons. I think Hakeem Nicks would be a heck of a pick in this spot, and I’d be very intrigued if they took Percy Harvin.
(previous pick – Ziggy Hood)

28) Buffalo Bills (via PHI) – Brandon Pettigrew, TE (Oklahoma St)In early mocks, Brandon Pettigrew was a popular pick to the Bills at #11. Well, now that they’ve acquired this late first rounder from the Eagles for Jason Peters, they can still get their TE at a greatly reduced cost. The Bills acquired Terrell Owens this offseason to give Trent Edwards a target opposite Lee Evans. They’re TE stable is sad with Derek Schouman, Derek Fine, and Jonathan Stupar making up the depth chart. They got their DE with the first pick, and if they don’t go with Pettigrew, a defensive tackle like Ziggy Hood or Ron Brace or a tackle like William Beatty may end up being the pick. Pettigrew is the best all round TE the draft has seen since Heath Miller in ’05. He has really nice size (6-5, 263) and is a physical blocker in the run game and catches everything throw his way. He’s a tough guy to tackle and will be a tremendous red zone weapon.
(previous pick – Knowshon Moreno (PHI))

29) NY Giants – Hakeem Nicks, WR (UNC)
Tackle and WR are the biggest areas of need for the Giants. Plaxico is officially out of the picture now, and the Amani Toomer era is over as well. Right now, Domenik Hixon is the Giants’ #1 receiver, and he’s backed up by Steve Smith, Mario Manningham, and David Tyree. Eli needs some help. Hence the Braylon Edwards rumors. If they can’t work out a trade, I think the Giants take Nicks here. He and Kenny Britt are the top two receivers (of the type the Giants will be seeking; no Harvin) on the board at this point, and the two are fairly similar players. I prefer Nicks because he’s more consistent and a harder worker than Britt. Neither one is going to win a sprint contest, but Nicks runs better routes, catches just about everything thrown his way, and was very productive the last two years. I see a lot of upside here, but the fact that he showed up a little heavier than expected at his pro day may drop him down some draft boards.
(previous pick – Eben Britton)

30) Tennessee Titans – Alphonso Smith, CB (Wake Forest)
Everyone (myself included) always wants to give the Titans a WR in the first round. When was the last time they actually did? How about Kevin Dyson in 1998. Before that it was Haywood Jeffires in 1987. Not saying it won’t happen, but history isn’t the its favor. The other big area of need as I see it is cornerback. Yes they have Cortland Finnegan and Nick Harper as starters, but Vincent Fuller isn’t anything more than a nickel guy. They don’t have anything behind those guys and would be wise to benefit from the draft’s depth at the corner position. Alphonso Smith is flying a bit under the radar IMO. He doesn’t have elite speed (4.51), but you don’t question his speed when you watch his film. He’s experienced, productive, and a solid run supporter. Smith has probably the best leaping/hands/playmaking combo in the draft. I think he’s going to be a good one.
(previous pick – Kenny Britt)

31) Arizona Cardinals – Chris Wells, RB (Ohio State)
It’s not much of a secret that the Cardinals are looking to bring in a RB, and they get one here. I previously had them taking Donald Brown over Wells, but Wells seems to be taking a late climb up draft boards. He’s rumored to go as high as #14 to the Saints, but remember, RB always fall in drafts. He may not fall this far, but I’m just not overly impressed with him. I do like his size (6-1, 235) and punishing stiff arm, but he just looks too average at times on film. He doesn’t explode through the hole and has shown very little as a pass catcher. Wells only missed 3 games at Ohio State, but he had more than his share of injuries ('07 - sprained left ankle, sprained right wrist, broken thumb; '08 - sprained right foot, turf toe, strained hamstring, concussion). A running back who has already piled up a bunch of injuries to various parts of his body may fall down some boards a bit. He’s a straight ahead, pounding runner who (IMO) needs to improve a bit to be a 3 down back in the NFL.
(previous pick – Donald Brown)

32) Pittsburgh Steelers – Alex Mack, C (California)
I’ve got the Steelers taking the man many are calling the best center prosepect in years. I think he’s a great fit for this team; a big, tough, firm commander of the offensive line. When you win the Super Bowl, you’re usually in position to take the best available player when your turn comes up at the end of round one. Mack was voted college football’s top scholar athlete in 2008 and was twice named the PAC 10’s top offensive lineman. Scouts believe he’s versatile enough to play guard in the NFL, and he even took some snaps there at the Senior Bowl. Mack missed the combine with an ankle injury, but that won’t dissuade teams from considering him at the bottom of the first round.
(previous pick – Alex Mack)

Notables left out of round 1:

Josh Freeman - QB, Kansas State
With the Bucs signing Leftwich, the number of teams looking for a first round QB was (hopefully) reduced by 1. Assuming Stafford and Sanchez are gone in the top 8, I don't see a team that's going to grab him in the first. GB, SF, BUF, DEN, WAS, NO, HOU, and SD won't take him. At #17, I think the Jets could do better than Kellen Clemens, but would they rather get a speed receiver that can play in '09 or a project QB to backup Clemens for at least a year? The rest of the teams picking in the first round, assuming Detroit gets Stafford at #1, have multiple needs ranking above QB. I think he falls at least to St. Louis in round 2 at #35 overall, but even then, if Ron Brace is on the board, they may want to get a needed DT. Seattle at #37 might be interested, but I corner is much more of a need than QB. Sean Smith and DJ Moore could be more enticing than Josh Freeman. After that, if the Niners at #43 pass on him, he could be in for quite a wait. It isn't absurd to think he could fall all the way to the Jets at #52.

Percy Harvin - WR, Florida
Harvin's a heck of a talent and a versatile playmaker. He has excellent vision and is a very tough player for his size (5-11, 192). My biggest question with Harvin is whether or not he'll be able to stay on the field enough to warrant a first round selection. I can't blame the guy for getting hurt, but his ankle, knee, hip, and heel issues can't be ignored. Combine that with the fact that you'd be paying big money to a guy who's probably going to touch the ball about 4 times a game. Harvin ran a 4.38 forty at the combine and had a very impressive pro day; running sharp routes and catching the ball well. In addition to the injury issues, off field flags (true or not) are being raised. That may be enough to bump the explosive player out of the first round.

Michael Johnson, DE (Georgia Tech) - The guy has been blessed with great size, long arms, and as much athleticism as any lineman in this draft class. He put up an eye popping 4.59 forty at his pro day and seems to have every on-paper skill you could ask for. Then you turn on the tape and see a guy who takes plays off, who disappears against the run, who lacks the upper body strength you'd like from a first rounder at his position, and who, despite his superior athleticism, wasn't able to earn a starting job until his senior season. I really hope the Bucs' reported interest in him is nothing more than pre-draft smoke.

Kenny Britt, WR (Rutgers) - Receivers fall in drafts, and if this one plays out as I suspect, I only see room for either Nicks or Britt in round 1.

Donald Brown, RB (U Conn) - Unless the Broncos take Knowshon Moreno with one of their first rounders, I don't think there's much of a chance that 3 back are taken in the first 32 picks.

William Beatty, T (U Conn) - I wouldn't be surprised if he did go in the first, given the value put on guys who can play LT. The Giants and Steelers at the bottom of round 1 would seem to have interest, and FWIW, I've got him going to the Lions with the first pick in the 2nd round.

Ziggy Hood, DT (Missouri) - I think Hood's draft position is contingent upon how early Peria Jerry gets picked; the sooner the better. One thing working in his favor is that some teams view him as a 3-4 DE, so he might increase his market there.

Sean Smith, CB (Utah) - Smith is a guy who could sneak into the bottom of the first round if a team prefers him to Alphonso Smith or maybe even Darius Butler.