Tuesday, February 23, 2010

2010 Draft Prospects - Tight End

Returning Tight Ends:
Kellen Winslow – 5 years ($6.725 million, $8.29 million, then $16 million split between 3 years I think)
Jerramy Stevens – 1 year, $1.4 million
John Gilmore – 1 year, $1.25 million
Ryan Purvis – minimum

Winslow was easily the top receiver on the team last year and was quick to develop chemistry with Josh Freeman, catching at least 4 passes in each of the rookie’s 9 starts. Young passers tend to look to the tight end early on, and Freeman has one of the game’s best at his disposal. Assuming Winslow stays healthy, there’s no reason to think they can’t/won’t build upon that relationship.

Stevens had a really quiet year and wasn’t asked to do much with Winslow drawing so many targets. Gilmore’s playing time and stats suffered as well causing him to resemble the Chicago version instead of the one that was relied upon for clutch catches in ‘08.

We’re obviously set at starter, but both Stevens and Gilmore are entering the last year of their contracts. Sure, the Bucs should be able to get through the year with what they currently have, but it might be wise to take advantage of the depth at the tight end position this year.

Here’s how I rank the draftees:

1) Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma (6-6, 260)
really athletic TE; great size and length creates mismatches; terrific ball skills in space and in tight quarters; can get in a stance or play in the slot; effective run blocker; great red zone weapon; huge upside; hands are too inconsistent for his skill level; missed '09 due to damaged knee cartilage

2) Aaron Hernandez, Florida (6-2, 250)
not a burner but always seems to be open; plus hands; productive; great eye for the sticks/endzone; plus footwork and agility; great short area quickness; not asked to block much in college; don’t like his size; routes need work

3) Dennis Pitta, BYU (6-5, 250)
not as big but reminds me of Jason Witten; really refined pass catcher; runs routes like a receiver; creates mismatches; not fast but pretty quick feet in tight spots; produced in college; he'll be a 25 year old rookie; not a great in-line blocker

4) Rob Gronkowski, Arizona (6-5, 260)
another big, athletic TE; nice hands; decent blocker but need to see more in this area; impressive speed for his size; missed all of '09 due to back surgery (herniated disk and nerve damage), huge red flag

5) Ed Dickson, Oregon (6-4, 244)
well built; good hands and quickness; strong runner; has some work to do on his routes and working in a pro style offense; not terribly aggressive when asked to block

6) Anthony McCoy, USC (6-5, 255)
big body; strong upper body; plus blocker; reliable pass catcher; long arms; works the middle of the field well; zero speed or quickness; no sudden movements; doesn't take advantage of his size

7) Jimmy Graham, Miami (6-6, 260)
wonderful project to work with; huge upside; nice size for TE; impressive agility for his size; looks like an instant red zone threat; does a good job of consistently catching with his hands; very limited experience and production; needs some coaching

8) Tony Moeaki, Iowa (6-4, 250)
underutilized receiving option; good size; brings some versatility; impressive hands and concentration; I like his upside; pretty decent straight line speed; gets a nice push as a blocker; isn't elusive; doesn't make anyone miss

9) Colin Peek, Alabama (6-6, 250)
underrated; simply performs; nice all round game; one of the best blockers in this class; not a tremendous athlete the like the highly rated tight ends; isn't going to run away from anyone

10) Dorin Dickerson, Pittsburgh (6-1, 222)
the definition of versatility, has played TE, WR, FB, and LB; might be too much of a tweener; not fast enough for anything more than a slot/situational receiver; too small for an in-line TE; likely too small for FB; like I said not big, but has impressive upper body strength; willing blocker; I like his quickness; certainly athletic but really raw and inexperienced; wasn't asked to run any complex routes

11) Andrew Quarless, Penn State (6-5, 248)
one of the more athletic players at the position; no reason he's not a better pro than collegiate player unless he just doesn't try; only a decent run blocker, doesn't seem to put a ton of effort into it; not impressed with his lack of production; his off field trouble is the main reason I have him so low; has the physical skills, needs to put it together and stay committed

12) Nate Byham, Pittsburgh (6-4, 265)
took a back seat to Dickerson this year; really nice size; tremendously slow feet from what I've seen; can't see him getting open as a pro; an asset as a run blocker which looks to be his future as a pro

13) Garrett Graham, Wisconsin (6-3, 235)
reliable hands; productive short game; small and looks even smaller than he's listed; not much speed at all; doesn't separate; not impressed with his strength, seems to go down easy; is he an NFL TE?

14) Jeron Mastrud, Kansas State (6-6, 253)
experienced and intelligent; pretty good all-round game for a college TE; Josh Freeman's college teammate; not much upside at all

15) Michael Hoomanawanui, Illinois (6-4, 267)
probably the best blocker in this class; limited receiving threat

My round for round favorite – Dennis Pitta
Gresham and Hernandez could go two full rounds before Pitta, but the BYU tight end has a chance to be comparably productive. He’s not nearly as athletic as the other two, but he’s a guy who consistently finds the open space in middle of the field and uses his body well against defenders. He’d be a fine compliment on a team with some deep threats outside. Teams like Arizona and New Orleans stand out to me as good fits.

Late sleeper – Tony Moeaki
Moeaki reminds me somewhat of Winslow. He’s a TE with athleticism rather than a WR lined up at TE. He doesn’t make a lot of wasted steps once the ball is in his hands and has some decent get upfield speed. Moeaki is my favorite option for the Bucs.

Most likely to be a Buc – Jeron Mastrud
I’m basing this 100% on the history with Freeman. Dickerson’s versatility and mid/late round grade might be enticing for the Bucs if he interviews well with them.

Bucs fans might not want to spend a draft pick on a TE since Winslow is featured so prominently in the offense, but like I said before, both Stevens and Gilmore are entering the last year of their contracts. I don’t see 4 TEs happening, so if one gets replaced, I’m guessing it’s Gilmore. That would mean that whoever the Bucs bring in would need to have some run blocking capability. Since posting my mock, I’ve revised my thoughts on TE just a bit. Moeaki, Pitta, and Peek are now my favorites of this draft class for the Bucs. I still like Jimmy Graham, but he’s a luxury we can’t afford. Given that we have Winslow and Stevens, I’m not sure Pitta is what they’re looking for either. If they were to draft a TE, I would prefer they spend a late pick on either Moeaki or Peek with Moeaki being my clear favorite.

Friday, February 19, 2010

2010 Draft Prospects - Linebacker

Returning Linebackers:
Niko Koutouvides – undisclosed; made $627,000 in ’09
Lee Robinson – minimum
Adam Hayward – 1 year $550,000
Geno Hayes – 2 years ($470,000 and $555,000)
Barrett Ruud – RFA
Matt McCoy – RFA
Quincy Black – 1 year $550,000
Rod Wilson – RFA

* Angelo Crowell – free agent (“earned” nearly $3 million from the Bucs in ’09)

Heading into the offseason, I think there’s only one starting LB that the majority of Buccaneer fans feel is a sure thing to return as a starter next year. That guy is Geno Hayes. He’s far from a finished product, but we’ve seen enough to get excited about his potential at WLB. The other two starters shouldn’t feel as secure with their roles.

Quincy Black’s first season as a starter was met with mixed reviews. He didn’t make the impact that was expected in a system that allowed him to be disruptive. Is he too much of a tweener? Should we be content with leaving the position alone and seeing what he turns into?

Then there’s Barrett Ruud, the MLB who took a lot of heat for the league’s worst run defense. Yes, we all know that Chris Hovan and Ryan Sims need to be replaced up front. That absolutely is going to happen, but does it need to or should it stop there? Hovan and Sims aren’t the only reasons Ruud was making tackles further downfield than he should have.

I feel that in the position he is currently occupying, Ruud lacks the strength and aggression we need to become an elite defense. He has excellent coverage skills for a Tampa 2 MLB, but he doesn’t shed blockers as well as you’d like or keep the short gains from becoming big plays. I’m not saying that Barrett is soft, but he’s not the initiator, the intimidating force that I think we need in the middle of this defense.

I rarely agree with or praise Raheem, but his statement about needing to get bigger at linebacker is 100% spot on. The fact that he even commented on it tells you they’re seriously thinking of upgrading/upsizing in the middle. Everyone else is getting bigger, stronger, and faster. Why must we settle for just fast? Why not get bigger, stronger, and stouter in the middle AND improve SLB at the same time. I’m tired of the “well we run the Tampa 2, and the MLB must be a Gemini, enjoy long walks on the beach, and prefer Coke over Pepsi. Get some damn players in here and work with what you’ve got. Football doesn’t need to be that complicated or restrictive.

Hell, I’ll sacrifice a little speed for guys who can consistently knock ball carriers backwards. Whether it’s done with Rolando McClain or someone else later on in the draft, I feel the Buccaneers need to move in the direction of a replacement at MLB.

Then the question is, what do you do with Ruud? Do you trade him? Ask yourselves this question – Is he going to get any better? Not a lot of immediate yeses I’d guess. Can you move him out to SLB, or is that too “disrespectful”? I’m not asking him to be Derrick Brooks, but is he made to be the leader of this defense? I think putting him on the strong side allows him to effectively utilize his coverage skills and gets us (hopefully) a little more imposing in the middle. Hell, I’d even consider him on the weak side if it weren’t for Geno Hayes. If Raheem wanted to dabble with the 3-4, he could play both Ruud and McClain inside.

Do you keep and build around a low ceiling LB who wasn’t given long term security, or do you get something for him before letting him walk as a free agent and roll with either Black or Crowell at SLB? A third round pick sounds about right. Is he a possible Gary Brackett replacement in Indy? There are more than a few possibilities here, but will the Bucs make a bold move?

Here’s how I rank the draftees:

Outside Linebacker:

1) Sergio Kindle, Texas (6-4, 255)
one of my favorite players and one of college football's top athletes; sideline to sideline player; great blitzer; quick change of direction; great edge rusher; collapses the pocket; gets great initial pop on blocker when rushing passer; consistently takes great angles to QB; closes extremely well; doesn't always get the most out of his talent; loses focus, misses assignment; sloppy breakdown at times; sky is the limit in the right system but looks to be a much better player when standing up (LB)

2) Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri (6-0, 240)
experienced and productive; really nice speed; pursues and closes well; playmaker; consistent tackler; hard hitter; effective blitzer; versatility to play inside and out in multiple schemes, but I think he's best as a 4-3 WLB or SLB; looks really comfortable in coverage; big personality (in a good way); a better player in space than in traffic; could be more physical, needs to if he's going to play inside; diagnoses well but doesn't always finish; tends to float and lose focus at times; takes too many bad angles and overpursues too much for a guy with his talent

3) Ricky Sapp, Clemson (6-4, 245)
a slight looking DE; projects as a 3-4 OLB; I like him there where he can focus on what he does best, rush the passer; consistent burst off the snap; impressive speed and agility; relies mostly on speed/quickness as a pass rusher but doesn't always take same edge speed rush; plays well in space; should wow at the combine; pretty consistent tackler; not a ton of production; partial ACL tear in '08; often overmatched vs. run

4) Navorro Bowman, Penn State (6-0, 228)
looks like an NFL player; plus game speed, quickness, and athleticism; very reliable tackler; looks really good going forward but is slow to adjust; a WLB who has occasionally plays inside; not terribly big; coverage isn't his strong suit; history of off field problems; really only a two year player

5) Darryl Washington, TCU (6-2, 226)
leader of one of the nation's best defenses; played inside in TCU's 3-4, but I think outside in a 4-3 might be his best LB fit as a pro; good straight line speed; nice range, sideline to sideline player; diagnoses plays well and closes quickly; plays aggressively; tackles well; not stout against the run; often handled 1 on 1; coverage skills need work, tends to float in zones and look out of place; not a ton of starting experience or production; I wonder if he might actually have a future as a safety

6) Eric Norwood, South Carolina (6-0, 250)
another guy I like; experienced and productive DE/LB; better off at LB; accomplished pass rusher; adjusts well on the move, can change direction with minimal steps; underrated in space, good instincts and reactions; well built, but I wish he was taller; doesn't have great timed speed but I like his game speed; skill set will limit him schematically

7) Koa Misi, Utah (6-2, 245)
under the radar; great game speed; really athletic edge rusher; a college DE who shined at OLB at the Senior Bowl; nice backpedal and looks comfortable dropping into coverage; quick in pursuit; experienced; undersized; not real stout against the run, but moving to 3-4 OLB would help

8) Dekoda Watson, FSU (6-1, 232)
leader; plus position speed; quick in short spaces; really good first step; big hitter; pretty consistent tackler; impressive coverage skills and is reliable in space; sideline to sideline speed; I like him as a T2 fit on the weak side; football-rare Tommy John surgery; better player than where he'll be drafted; I think he'll be an instant special teams contributor; can be overpowered; attacks well but doesn't always hold up

9) Roddrick Muckelroy, Texas (6-2, 235)
leader; tough, hard nosed player; shows discipline, sticks to assignments; doesn't have the speed of a lot of his teammates, but he simply makes plays; experienced and productive; WLB-MLB versatility at Texas, but is probably best as 4-3 WLB; seems to read plays well, wish he closed quicker; lacks sideline to sideline speed; doesn't shed terribly well; probably maxed out size-wise, and that's going to hurt him

10) Rennie Curran, Georgia (5-11, 220)
great straight line speed; really quick and explosive; reads, reacts, and closes very well; effective blitzer; navigates well through traffic; seems like he's in on every play; loves to initiate contact; wrap up tackler; very productive at Georgia; gives 100%; looks like a cornerback; size will be biggest problem at the next level

11) AJ Edds, Iowa (6-4, 245)
productive; good all-round game; seems disciplined; impressive coverage skills, specifically footwork and hips; reliable tackler; seems like he diagnoses well but isn't quick to close; seems like a backup SLB and special teams player

12) Thaddeus Gibson, Ohio State (6-1, 240)
14) Perry Riley, LSU (6-1, 240)
15) Cameron Sheffield, Troy (6-2, 249)

*O’Brien Schofield, Wisconsin (6-2, 238) – tore his ACL at the Senior Bowl

Inside Linebacker:

1) Rolando McClain, Alabama (6-4, 248)
leader; instinctive player; very much a student of the game; really good size; high effort; has good range; great run stopper; wrap up tackler who doesn't miss many and more often than not drives the ball carrier backwards; tremendous ability to diagnose plays; better coverage skills than given credit for; I think he's more scheme versatile than others do; not quick or sudden; would like to see him get under more blocks

2) Brandon Spikes, Florida (6-3, 243)
another big, productive, hard hitting LB; vocal leader; superb physical traits; explodes into his opponent; at his best moving forward; little stiffer than McClain and likely to struggle more in coverage (especially vertically); exhibits limited recovery speed; often struggles trying to take angles when moving laterally; can't recall him standing out as a blitzer; lacks some discipline

3) Pat Angerer, Iowa (6-1, 233)
a new favorite of mine; not terribly athletic or possessing any eye-popping measurables; simply makes plays; non-stop motor; hits hard; good instincts; impressive read and react skills; really like his comfort level in pass coverage, especially zone; at worst would be excelled depth behind Ruud if they don't want to move him outside or trade him

4) Sean Lee, Penn State (6-2, 234)
typical productive, tough PSU LB; instinctive; hard worker; sound tackler, consistently wraps up; reads play action well; takes good routes to the ball; looks better when he's chasing action rather than it coming to him; only minor quickness; OLB/ILB versatility; missed '08 with torn ACL; looks small; how much of his success is due to talent around him?

5) Micah Johnson, Kentucky (6-2, 254)
another one I really like; big, strong dude, nice upper body; powers through blockers; very active; good lateral speed and agility/movement; reads run and shuts down lanes; has the talent to be a high level player; interested to see how he does with NFL coaching; has been inconsistent; struggles in coverage

6) Jamar Chaney, Mississippi State (6-1, 244)
inside/outside flexibility; really quick for a MLB; doesn't seem to penetrate well; more of a catcher but plays disciplined, stays in position; shows good awareness in pass coverage; has the speed to play vertical coverage; put together pretty well, but I wish he was a couple inches taller; isn't overpowering as a head on guy

7) Darryl Sharpton, Miami (6-0, 230)
not of huge fan of his at the next level; plays hard, but I think he lacks the size and speed to make a difference in the NFL; some inside/outside versatility; not sudden; slow to adjust

8) Boris Lee, Troy (6-0, 245)
9) Kion Wilson, USF (6-2, 235)
10) Reggie Carter, UCLA (6-1, 224)

My round for round favorite – Rolando McClain

Late sleeper – Micah Johnson
There’s a good possibility he falls to the 5th round given the overall depth of this draft, and he’d be considerable upgrade in the middle from a physicality standpoint.

Most likely to be a Buc – Sean Weatherspoon
If he somehow lasts until we pick a second time, there’s a great chance he becomes a Buc. We know the Bucs are interested in him, and projecting any of these other linebackers is guesstimation at best.

I think that if you get a defensive tackle like Jared Odrick and a huge ceiling guy in Chad Jones at safety in round two to go along with McClain in round one, all of a sudden we’re looking a hell of a lot better on defense; even moreso if Ruud is at SLB instead of Black. If you trade Ruud you use that 3rd round pick along with the one we already had on offensive skilled position players. Some combination of Mardy Gilyard, Dezmon Briscoe, Demaryius Thomas, Dexter McCluster, Anthony Dixon, Toby Gerhart, and Joe McKnight with those two picks would give Josh Freeman a couple desperately needed weapons.

All that said, I don’t have a lot of confidence that McClain is going to be the pick. The only way I see it happening is if they trade down from #3, and even then it’s no sure thing. I still think the DTs go 1-2, but if the Rams go QB, Suh isn’t getting past Detroit or whoever trades ahead of us to get him. I think if McCoy is there for the Bucs at #3, he’s the pick. I have a hard a hard time seeing Dominik passing on the “ideal” DT for this defense. If he’s not there, Dominik is looking to deal down and will have his pick from any number of guys – Morgan, Spiller, Bryant, McClain, Okung, Graham, Price, or maybe still even Haden or Berry.

Assuming the Bucs were able to deal down from #3 and get another 2nd to go along with the 3rd for Ruud, this would be one hell of a start to the draft:

1 – Rolando McClain (LB, Alabama)
2a – Jared Odrick (DT, Penn State)
2b – Chad Jones (S, LSU)
2c – Kyle Wilson (CB, Boise State)
3a – Mardy Gilyard (WR, Cincinnati)
3b –Dezmon Briscoe (WR, Kansas)

One way or another, I think an upgrade/upsize in the middle is a matter of when not if.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

2010 Draft Prospects - Quarterback

Returning Quarterbacks:
Josh Freeman – entering second of five year contract
Josh Johnson – 2 years ($512,000, $600,000)
Byron Leftwich (for now) – 1 year ($2 million)
Rudy Carpenter – minimum

Josh Freeman took over the offense after the bye week and led the 0-7 Buccaneers to their first victory. He battled inconsistency all season but didn’t have much of a receiving arsenal to work with. My biggest issues are his poor accuracy and questionable decision making ability. He threw for less than 60% in 6 of his 9 starts, and it’s not like this is something new. Freeman was under 60% in 8 of his 12 games as a senior at Kansas State. He did show a little promise, but noticeable progression is needed. We’ll go as far as he takes us. The results weren’t any prettier when Josh Johnson was under center, but I think he showed enough to be a #2 QB. Leftwich won’t be back, and are we any better if Rudy Carpenter is?

Should we try to upgrade the #2 spot in free agency or get a #3 in the draft? Chad Pennington looks to be the best free agent option at the moment, but Miami and the Jets seem like far likelier options than Tampa. I think both Kyle Orton and Jason Campbell return to their teams as RFAs. Why not in an uncapped year? Also, is either one going to come here and sit behind Freeman? Almost everyone else is pure garbage and not worth wasting a roster spot on. I’d rather keep Carpenter or an undrafted free agent than sign David Carr, Rex Grossman, or Daunte Culpepper. The one exception I see at the moment would be Chris Redman. He’s been a #2 for a while, knows how to lead an offense, can throw the football, and has shown that he can step in and not embarrass himself when called upon.

As far as draft prospects, below are my rankings. This is in no way an indication of the order in which I think they’ll be drafted. Rather, this is how I rank their potential as NFL passers as I see it.

Draft Prospects:

1) Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame (6-3, 220)
effortless motion; confident; accurate; great touch on deep ball; plus passer on intermediate routes; most experienced pro style guy in this class; sees the whole field; good pocket presence, senses pressure; tough; footwork could use work; not an overpowering arm; doesn't always step into passes

2) Sam Bradford, Oklahoma (6-4, 220)
very accurate; really nice footwork; pro style offense experience; good pocket presence; reminds me somewhat of Peyton Manning in the pocket at times; quick release; always has head up downfield; some might have issue with his delivery; injury history / durability; not an elite arm

3) Tony Pike, Cincinnati (6-6, 215)
intelligent; leader; effortless motion; accurate; throws a very catchable ball; pretty good mobility for a big QB; I like him in a WCO; looks too thin; not terribly athletic; footwork needs work; doesn't throw well on move; would like to see more zip on his passes

4) Jarrett Brown, West Virginia (6-4, 225)
(stock up) plus size and mobility; very strong arm; underrated accuracy; I like his upside; only 1 year as a starter; comes from a run first offense; will have to adjust to NFL game speed; has a lot of work to do as a pocket passer

5) Colt McCoy, Texas (6-2, 210)
four year starter; plus mobility and accuracy; great on timing routes; quick release; makes plays with his feet; productive in college; slight frame; is he susceptible to injury?; is he tough?; hasn't played in a pro style offense; not an elite arm; his best asset (running/mobility) will be negated a lot in the pros

6) Jevan Snead, Mississippi (6-3, 222)
quick drop; really strong arm; underrated mobility; confident; precise when he's on; high upside; really inconsistent and unspectacular '09 season; doesn't step completely into throws; hasn't been forced to go through progressions; poor pocket presence; really disappointed me this season

7) Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan (6-3, 236)
four year starter; extremely mobile; nice run/pass combo; leader; nice game management skills; accurate; reads progressions well; not a terribly strong arm; short arms a lot of throws; game won't translate as well in NFL

8) Tim Tebow, Florida (6-3, 235)
great size; leader; winner; competitive; aggressive runner; nice deep ball; horrible and slow footwork; elongated delivery; poor touch; no pro style offensive experience; hasn't been forced to make reads; lack of speed will really hurt his game in the pros

9) John Skelton, Fordham (6-5, 252)
see Josh Freeman - great size; solid build; big arm; strong in the pocket; impressive speed and mobility for a guy his size; nice upside; slow delivery; inconsistent passing on the move; despite the strong arm he floats too many passes that would be INTs in the pros; poor level of competition in college

10) Levi Brown, Troy (6-4, 225)
I like his size; very accurate passer; noticeable poise and pocket presence; holds up well with pressure in his face; keeps his head up looking downfield; throws well on the run; really like his upside; makes throws at every level; not a ton of starting experience; shotgun spread offense at Troy

11) Tim Hiller, Western Michigan (6-5, 232)
experienced; good NFL size; intelligent; shows great command of the offense; accurate in short game; reads defenses; goes through progressions; sees the entire field; productive; upside; weak arm; poor mobility and footwork; mostly shotgun/spread offense

12) Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State (6-3, 215)
three year starter; legit running threat; quick; improving passing fundamentals; improving arm strength; poor feel for the pass rush; seems more comfortable outside the pocket; inaccurate

13) Sean Canfield, Oregon State (6-4, 220)
tough; decent arm; quick release; accurate passer throughout his career; seems to read defenses pretty well; lot of timing routes; could stand to add some muscle; not very mobile; lefty; poor NFL deep ball; don't see a lot of upside

14) Jonathan Crompton, Tennessee (6-4, 228)
don't like him as a prospect; too inconsistent; inexperienced; not impressed with his accuracy or command of the offense; did show some progress this season; I think he's a poor decision maker; don't see any upside as a pro

Tebow will surely go much higher than I have him ranked here. The reason I list him so low is because I think he has a really long way to go before he’s a viable option as an NFL QB. Every player I have listed above him is a much better pure passer at this point. Tebow was a tremendous college talent, but most of the key skills you look for in a QB – accuracy, the ability to read defenses, footwork, and the familiarity of leading a pro style offense – need a ton of work. He looks slow against elite talent and isn’t going to be able to run over NFL linebackers. Best of luck to the kid though.

My round for round favorite – Jimmy Clausen
I think he has the best chance of being great.

Late sleeper – Levi Brown
I like his all-round game and think that with some coaching he can develop into a decent starter.

Most likely to be a Buc – John Skelton
If you draft a QB, why not take a guy who matches up well skill-wise with your starter? I think he’d cost a sixth round and could be a sneaky late selection.

Of this draft class, Skelton and Brown would be my favorites for the Bucs, and given that this is Freeman’s show win or lose, it might be best to go with one of these guys as Leftwich’s replacement. If not, then I’d seriously consider Redman. He’s a veteran who would give you that fill in guy without causing Freeman to look over his shoulder. Or you can get really tricky and sign Redman, draft/sign Skelton or Brown, and trade Josh Johnson for a draft pick. I’m still a big Josh Johnson supporter, but if he’s not going to be anything but Raheem’s career backup, then I’d like to see him get an opportunity to develop elsewhere.

Monday, February 8, 2010

2010 Mock NFL Draft - Full 2 Rounds and all 10 Buccaneer Picks

With three long weeks to go until we get to the combine, here are my thoughts on how the first two rounds of the draft will play out as well as how the Bucs will utilize their ten selections. (It’s actually a combination of what I would do and what I think they’ll look to do.) I didn’t need Mark Dominick’s press conference to know that the Bucs aren’t going to be heavy players in free agency. There won’t be much talent on the market, and in an uncapped season, the thrifty Bucs will be easily outbid for anyone in which they show interest.

That means that a team with a ton of needs must be very wise with their draft picks. Working in Dominik’s favor is the enormous depth at nearly every position in this year’s draft. Ndamukong Suh is the best player available, but as much as I’d love to see Suh in pewter, I’m afraid the price will be too high. This really isn’t the year to be dealing up, especially when you need to upgrade at nearly every position on the field. Rather, I think this is the likeliest year for the Bucs to deal down. Interest in a quarterback or tackle could allow the Bucs to gain an extra selection or two and still end up with an impact player at a position of need.

Anyways, here’s how I see the draft going:

Round 1

1) STL – Ndamukong Suh (DT, Nebraska)
The worst team in the league selects the best player in the draft. I like Jimmy Clausen and Sam Bradford and acknowledge the Rams’ shoddy QB situation, but you don’t pass on the #1 dude when he fills a need. There’s also talk that they’re serious about dealing for Michael Vick, so maybe they try that out for a year. If that doesn’t work out they’ll still probably be bad enough to land either Jake Locker or Ryan Mallett in 2011.

2) DET – Gerald McCoy (DT, Oklahoma)
It’s going to be either McCoy or Russell Okung, and based on comments made by the head coach and other things I’ve read, I think they’re going to go for the defensive tackle. If you’re screaming Okung here, you’re preaching to the choir, but I just don’t think that’s what they’ll do. I’ve said multiple times that Suh and McCoy might be the two best players in the draft, not just at their positions, and now they may end up going 1, 2. McCoy and Sammie Lee Hill make a good middle on their defensive line.

3) TB – Rolando McClain (LB, Alabama)
I concede that this isn’t the most likely of picks, but I’d like to see them follow the logic I brought up earlier and upgrade two positions with one pick. McClain gives us a bigger, more physical presence in the middle and provides the Bucs with a defensive leader to compliment Freeman on offense. You could (hopefully) build upon and market the hell out of that for a decade. I think McCoy will be their pick if he’s there, but if he’s not and it’s not McClain, Russell Okung is the one that seems most likely to me. That goes towards the “all about 5” theme. Penn’s blimping up and is without a long term deal, so Okung isn’t out of the question. I still don’t see Eric Berry (draft is really deep at safety) or Joe Haden, and I don’t think they’re ballsy enough do go with Dez Bryant or CJ Spiller. Ideally, they trade down, take McClain, and acquire another pick or two.

4) WAS – Sam Bradford (QB, Oklahoma)
I’ve got to think that Jason Campbell doesn’t have much longer in Washington. He’s likely to return as a RFA next season, but beyond that, who knows? Russell Okung is still here, and their tackle situation is pretty bad. Mike Shanahan’s Broncos did take Ryan Clady in the first round when their tackle situation was ugly, so there is precedence. Still, I’ll go with the guy who seems to have the lead in the QB derby at the moment.

5) KC – Eric Berry (S, Tennessee)
Safety is certainly a position of need, and this figures to be right about where Berry will go. I think this is about as high as you’d see Dez Bryant go, but with the way Todd Haley handled Dwayne Bowe this year, bringing in a guy with a little flare like Bryant may not be the preferred choice.

6) SEA – Russell Okung (T, Oklahoma St)
Pete Carroll’s first draft pick as a Seahawk is a Big 12 tackle. Walter Jones may or may not be retiring, and Sean Locklear hasn’t looked very good there the last couple years when given a chance to replace him. Jimmy Clausen might be tempting as Matt Hasselbeck’s replacement.

7) CLE – Joe Haden (CB, Florida)
One of the league’s worst pass defenses adds a much needed shutdown corner. I don’t think that QB is going to be Holmgren’s pick in the first round. I’ve got him (and the Vikings) looking at Tony Pike a little later in the draft.

8) OAK – Anthony Davis (T, Rutgers)
I could go with the trendy pick and put Jason Pierre-Paul here given Al Davis’ insatiable appetite for athletic freaks, but I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and guess that he addresses his need at left tackle.

9) BUF – Bruce Campbell (T, Maryland)
Yes, I know their QB situation is junk, but so is their offensive line. Is Jimmy Clausen what Chan Gailey is looking for? What does he think of their current left tackle, Demetrius Bell? I think Campbell is too talented to pass up and both should and will end up being a top 10 pick.

10) JAX – Derrick Morgan (DE, Georgia Tech)
Their GM has talked about upgrading up front and applying more pressure to the QB, so I think they’ll go with a defensive end. Do they take Morgan or JPP? Morgan produced more in college, but JPP looks to have the higher ceiling and is quicker off the snap. Flip of the coin has Morgan as the pick.

11) DEN (via CHI) – Jimmy Clausen (QB, Notre Dame)
Here’s this year’s dropper and surprise pick. The Broncos use a pick they receive in the Cutler deal to take another QB with supposed attitude issues. Clausen is still my #1 QB, and while this may not look like a need at the moment, consider that Kyle Orton is a RFA this year and has no long term security in Denver. What he did last year is about as far as I think he’s going to take them. Left guard and nose tackle are needs, but this might be too early for Mike Iupati, Dan Williams, and Terrence Cody.

12) MIA – Dez Bryant (WR, Oklahoma State)
This isn’t very Parcells-like, but Bryant gives them a much needed receiving weapon. The Wildcat is cute, but Chad Henne isn’t taking this team anywhere without a #1 receiver. I think they’d love McClain if he was here, and Earl Thomas might draw consideration as well given Gibril Wilson’s poor season at FS.

13) SF – CJ Spiller (RB, Clemson)
It might not be a popular pick, but I think Spiller is a perfect fit for the Niners. Frank Gore is still the franchise and Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis are the top receiving options, but Spiller gives them an excellent return man and another explosive offensive weapon. With Crabtree and Davis able to work vertically and force defenses to stay honest, Spiller would have a lot of room to operate. Given their QB situation, they could certainly use more offensive talent at the other skilled positions. Spiller also allows them to continue a run-heavy offensive approach without destroying Gore. I’m not sure last year’s pick, Glenn Coffee, is that guy.

14) SEA (via DEN) – Jason Pierre-Paul (DE, USF)
The Seahakws come back with their second pick and get a much needed pass rusher. Free safety is also a need, and Pete Carroll knows all about Taylor Mays. I think Pete passes.

15) NYG – Earl Thomas (S, Texas)
Free safety is a huge need, and the Giants take Thomas, a player that might give them some cornerback versatility; another position where they could use help.

16) TEN – Everson Griffen (DE, USC)
Corner and defensive end are arguably their greatest needs, and I think this is a little high for the next cornerback. Jevon Kearse probably won’t be back, and Kyle Vanden Bosch might not either.

17) SF (via CAR) – Trent Williams (T, Oklahoma)
He has experience at both tackle positions and might be what they’re looking for at RT. The other guy I’m looking at here is Mike Iupati who seems like a Mike Singletary type pick. He’s raw, and the fact that they wouldn’t need him right away would give them some time to develop him.

18) PIT – Bryan Bulaga (T, Iowa)
As much as I’d like to set the Steelers up with two Trojans in the back of their secondary, I don’t think Mays will be the pick. Bulaga may not start right away, but I think when you look at their primary needs, he’s the best value.

19) ATL – Brandon Graham (DE, Michigan)
John Abraham will be 32, and Jamaal Anderson has been a flop. Prior to the Senior Bowl, I had him as our pick at 35 if he somehow fell that far, but I can’t see how that happens now. With his Senior Bowl performance, Graham moves up my board from the 24-32 range to this spot. Too bad he ends up in Atlanta where we’ll see him twice a year.

20) HOU – Dan Williams (DT, Tennessee)
I wasn’t feeling great about this pick until he bumped up his stock a little bit with a fine Senior Bowl week. If they do go the DT route, I tend to think that they go with a bigger, run stuffing tackle to free up Amobi Okoye rather than draft Brian Price to replace him. This is borderline value IMO for the next best corner.

21) CIN – Golden Tate (WR, Notre Dame)
Tate’s deep skills give a struggling Carson Palmer another offensive threat and help the run game as well by keeping defenses honest. I really like this fit.

22) NE – Sergio Kindle (LB, Texas)
Perfect fit; athletic pass rusher with versatility.

23) GB – Charles Brown (T, USC)
An athletic tackle with a solid pass protection fundamentals is just what the Packers need in order to keep Aaron Rodgers from being sacked another (NFL worst) 51 times.

24) PHI – Carlos Dunlap (DE, Florida)
I’m not completely sold on this pick, but Dunlap might make an immediate impact at LE since Trent Cole occupies the right side.

25) BAL – Jermaine Gresham (TE, Oklahoma)
Makes too much sense. Gresham is a huge upgrade to their passing game, and Flacco needs help.

26) ARI – Jerry Hughes (DE/OLB, TCU)
Adding a pass rusher will be one of their top priorities, and they get a good one here. Their top OLBs at the moment are 34, 33, 33, and 31 years of age.

27) DAL – Vladimir Ducasse (OL, Massachusetts)
Another surprise pick, Ducasse going before Iupati. I was going to go corner in this spot, but I think Jerry Jones is going to look to beef up the offensive line. Ducasse gives them actual versatility while Iupati’s is more of the hopeful variety.

28) SD – Terrence Cody (NT, Alabama)
I’m not thrilled with this pick (seems too obvious), but I really don’t think they’re going to take a RB here. I was also considering going with Maurkice Pouncey, but it’s probably a little early for that.

29) NYJ – Perrish Cox (CB, Oklahoma State)
The Jets don’t have a ton of needs, but upgrading across from Revis Island is one of them. Cox’s aggressive style of play should fit in well on the Jets.

30) MIN – Mike Iupati (G, Idaho)
He could easily go higher than this, and I could also see the Vikings going corner here. The thought of the combination of Iupati and Steve Hutchinson opening holes for Adrian Peterson is intriguing.

31) IND – Brian Price (DT, UCLA)
This is a BPA pick, not a need. Honestly, I’m still having a tough time putting him on a team, but he fits what the Colts are trying to do up front. Cornerback and defensive end are higher needs, but I’m not sure if the Colts would take the 4th corner in the draft or the enigmatic Greg Hardy here.

32) NO – Sean Weatherspoon (LB, Missouri)
Good pick for the Saints, bad for the Bucs.

Round 2

33) STL – Navorro Bowman (LB, Penn State)
Bowman gives them some athleticism next to Laurinaitis at linebacker.

34) DET – Jahvid Best (RB, California)
Going with Best gives the Lions a fill-in for the injured Kevin Smith and provides them with an explosive weapon to pair with Smith when he returns.

35) TB – Jared Odrick (DT, Penn State)
We must stop the run. After getting bigger in the middle with McClain in round one, the Bucs come back and take the quick and athletic penetrating tackle. My other favorites with this pick in order of preference –Brandon Graham, Brian Price, Jerry Hughes, and Arrelious Benn.

36) KC – Damian Williams (WR, USC)
Matt Cassel needs more than just Dwayne Bowe in the passing game, and after passing on Dez Bryant in round one they get round one quality with the 36th pick.

37) WAS – Selvish Capers (T, West Virginia)
Washington needs a lot of help up front, and Shanahan gets an athletic tackle to help him transition in his ZBS.

38) CLE – Chad Jones (S, LSU)
The Browns wisely continue adding to their depleted secondary.

39) OAK – Greg Hardy (DE, Mississippi)
Davis can’t help himself and takes the boom or bust pass rusher. I really like Navorro Bowman here if he’s still on the board.

40) SEA – Taylor Mays (S, USC)
Pete Carroll ends his former player’s suffering. They need help at FS, and I have a hard time seeing Carroll draft another safety when Mays is out there (even though I’d take Nate Allen instead).

41) BUF – Colt McCoy (QB, Texas)
I like the fit here with Chan Gailey as head coach, a guy who is familiar with spread offenses. They could implement that in Buffalo and let McCoy do what he does best. This would also take advantage of Marshawn Lynch’s and Fred Jackson’s receiving skills.

42) TB – Kyle Wilson (CB, Boise State)
I’ve had Mardy Gilyard here, but the more I think about it, the more I feel he’s not going to be the third receiver off the board in this draft, as I have had him showing up. If the draft shakes out this way, I think Raheem sees an opportunity to pick up a young Ronde Barber and put his cornerback situation in good shape. No, he’s not 6-0 or taller, but Wilson plays with a physical nature and doesn’t shy away from contract. He’s an all-round talent that is continuing to improve. Wilson gives the Bucs something they don’t have, starter material behind Barber and Talib. My other favorites with this pick in order of preference – Chad Jones, Brandon Ghee, and Brandon LaFell.

43) MIA – Ricky Sapp (OLB, Clemson)
They need a pass rusher whether or not Joey Porter returns.

44) NE (via JAX) – Brandon Spikes (LB, Florida)
I really like this pick. Lining the physical Spikes up next to Jerod Mayo would be a nice way to rejuvenate this defense.

45) DEN – Maurkice Pouncey (OL, Florida)
Pouncey makes it back to back Gator picks and gives the Broncos a bigger force on the interior. I really like this pick.

46) NYG – Brandon Ghee (CB, Wake Forest)
With Spikes off the board, it’s probably too early for another MLB here, so they spend another pick on the secondary that gave up 31 passing TDs this past year, second worst in football (Lions were the worst).

47) NE (via TEN) – Dexter McCluster (RB/WR, Mississippi)
The Patriots come back and go offense this time with McCluster. Julian Edelman is expected to take up most of the slack during Wes Welker’s absence, but adding a guy like McCluster will go a long way in helping as well. McCluster also gives Tom Brady the dynamic weapon he’s lacked during his time in New England.

48) CAR – Arrelious Benn (WR, Illinois)
The Panthers desperately need to upgrade across from Steve Smith, and Benn is great value here.

49) SF – Patrick Robinson (CB, FSU)
Yes, he’s my second rated corner, but that doesn’t mean he’ll go off the board second. Another good value selection here in an area of need. After going offense with the first two picks, Singletary upgrades at corner.

50) KC (via ATL) – Aaron Hernandez (TE, Florida)
Here’s a big pass catching upgrade at TE. I think Chief fans would be pleased with Eric Berry, Damian Williams, and Hernandez with their first three picks. Their once meager offense now boasts Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, Williams, and Hernandez.

51) HOU – Jonathan Dwyer (RB, Georgia Tech)
I question whether or not he’ll last this long, but he makes sense with the Texans. He’s not a receiver, but adding a rushing weapon like Dwyer makes Matt Schaub even more dangerous.

52) PIT – Nate Allen (S, USF)
I think Ryan Clark leaves in free agency, and Allen is great value here.

53) NE – Lamarr Houston (DL, Texas)
Houston joins Kindle in New England and gives the Patriots a third new addition to their front seven. After four picks, the Patriots have added two linebackers, a defensive lineman, and a versatile playmaker on offense.

54) CIN – Donovan Warren (CB, Michigan)
A third corner is needed in Cincinnati, and Warren joins former Wolverine Leon Hall in the Bengals’ secondary.

55) PHI – Kyle Calloway (T, Iowa)
Stacy Andrews was a disappointment at RT, and Winston Justice has been garbage as a pro. An upgrade is needed, and I like Calloway’s potential.

56) GB – Tyson Alualu (DL, California)
Their first year in the 3-4 defense was quite a success, but they still lack all the pieces to get to an elite level. Alualu helps.

57) BAL – Brandon LaFell (WR, LSU)
You’re going to hear the word “value” a lot this year due to this draft’s depth, but the Ravens get more of it here. It will be very un-Baltimoreish of them to go offense with their first two picks, but let’s get Flacco some help. Gresham and LaFell are the new Heap and Mason.

58) ARI – Devin McCourty (CB, Rutgers)
They need another corner, and the rising McCourty might be the best one on the board at this point.

59) DAL – Morgan Burnett (S, Georgia Tech)
The Cowboys get Ken Hamlin’s replacement.

60) SD – Ryan Mathews (RB, Fresno State)
With or without Sproles, they need a back they can run out there for the early downs. Michael Bennett isn’t that guy, but Mathews is. If they go with Dwyer in the first, they could take Cam Thomas here to fill the nose tackle need.

61) NYJ – Eric Norwood (LB, South Carolina)
The Jets go defense with the second pick in a row and get a pass rusher. About two thirds of their sack total was provided by the trio of Calvin Pace, Shaun Ellis, and David Harris. They need help.

62) MIN – Dominique Franks (CB, Oklahoma)
Antoine Winfield finished the year banged up, and Cedric Griffin tore both his ACL and MCL in their season finale against the Saints. Corner is an obvious weakness, and Franks is a guy with upside that can be worked into the rotation.

63) IND – Jon Asamoah (G, Illinois)
I’d like to give them a run stopping defensive end here like Alex Carrington, but after going with a defensive tackle with their first pick (at least here) and with two corners going just before them, I think they shift the focus towards the offensive line and bring in a guard who excels in pass protection.

64) NO – Kareem Jackson (CB, Alabama)
The Super Bowl champs select a collegiate national champion to close out the second round. With their six draft picks the Saints need to get one offensive lineman and spend the rest of them on upgrading the defense.


Some of the highest rated prospects still on the board after two rounds:
QB – Tony Pike
RB – Anthony Dixon, Joe McKnight, Toby Gerhart
WR – Mardy Gilyard, Dezmon Briscoe, Jordan Shipley, Demaryius Thomas
TE – Rob Gronkowski
OL – Jason Fox, Jared Veldheer, Mike Johnson, Matt Tennant
DE – Corey Wootton, Alex Carrington
DT – Cam Thomas, Geno Atkins
LB – Darryl Washington, Koa Misi, Roddrick Muckelroy, Sean Lee
CB – Amari Spievey, Javier Arenas
S – Reshad Jones, Darrell Stuckey, Larry Asante

So with their first 3 picks, the Bucs have upgraded at 5 spots – MLB, SLB, DT, CB, and PR. That leaves DE, WR, and SS as the positions in the greatest need of addressing. If we’re somehow able to get an additional pick in the first two rounds, I’d like it to be used on Chad Jones, Brandon Graham, Jerry Hughes, Arrelious Benn, Brandon LaFell, or Jahvid Best.

What to do with the remaining 7 picks:

Round 3
Mardy Gilyard (WR, Cincinnati)
There’s a good chance he’s still here three picks into the third round, and I think you’ve got to take him if he is. Gilyard gives Freeman a legitimate deep weapon who can give you at least one field flipping play per game. He also gives us a second dynamic return man in our first three picks; more of that field flipping ability. He can handle kickoffs while Wilson fields punts. No, I haven’t forgotten about Clifton Smith, but I’m not taking his concussions lightly nor am I passing up versatility and depth.

My other favorites with this pick in order of preference – Amari Spievey (if no corner so far), Dezmon Briscoe, Anthony Dixon, Darrell Stuckey, Corey Wootton, and Javier Arenas.

Round 4
Brandon Lang (DE, Troy)
I’ve been mentioning him for a while now. He really brings it as a pass rusher and has a variety of ways of getting into the backfield. Austen Lane and Jermaine Cunningham are other options here at DE, and I’d be fine with either one. This might be a little later than most would like for a pass rusher, but I think the value of the other selections was too great to pass up given the minimal pass rushing options available in those spots.

If we’re able to trade someone on the roster, maybe we can get an additional fourth round pick at some point. With that pick, I’d have to go with Charles Scott (RB, LSU). He’d also be my fourth round selection if we were to pick up a pass rusher prior to this pick.

Other options would be – Pat Angerer (if no McClain), Syd’Quan Thompson (if no Wilson or Spievey), Ciron Black, and Andre Roberts.

Round 5
Danario Alexander (WR, Missouri)
His medical history is a reason he’s likely to go this low in the draft, but there’s quite a bit of upside given a healthy future. I want to come out of this draft with two receivers and getting a big possession guy like Alexander (6-5, 212) to go with the dynamic Gilyard would be a nice pairing. There should still be a decent number of quality receivers available at this point, and given that we took Gilyard earlier, I’d be looking for someone like Mike Williams Taylor Price, Seyi Ajirotutu, or Eric Decker (if he’s still there) with this pick.

Other preferences include – Micah Johnson, Alterraun Verner, Myron Rolle, and Brandon Carter.

Round 6
Barry Church (SS, Toledo)
I’m still on the Church bandwagon and thanks to the depth at this position I think he’s still there at the top of round 6. He’s one of the most decorated players in the history of the MAC and provides a well rounded game that fits our defense. What stands out most to me is the way he consistently makes textbook tackles; something our current SS has yet to master.

If we’ve already addressed safety or add another pick along the way, here’s who I want – James Ruffin (DE, Northern Iowa), Corey Peters (DT, Kentucky), and John Skelton (QB, Fordham – a lot like Freeman; big dude with an arm and upside).

Round 7
Patrick Stoudamire (CB, Western Illinois)
James Starks (RB, Buffalo)
Drew Davis (T, Alabama)
Here the Bucs cap things off with a corner with upside, an all-round back who will fall due to missing last year with an injury, and a run blocking right tackle. Freddie Barnes (WR, Bowling Green), Malcolm Sheppard (DT, Arkansas), and Antonio Coleman (DE, Auburn) are three other guys I like late in the draft.

That gives the Bucs:
1 – Rolando McClain (LB, Alabama)

2a – Jared Odrick (DT, Penn State)

2b – Kyle Wilson (CB, Boise State)

3 – Mardy Gilyard (WR, Cincinnati)

4 – Brandon Lang (DE, Troy)

5 – Danario Alexander (WR, Missouri)

6 – Barry Church (S, Toledo)

7a – Patrick Stoudamire (CB, Western Illinois)

7b – James Starks (RB, Buffalo)

7c – Drew Davis (T, Alabama)

Or…the “Geaux Crazy Draft”
This includes the Bucs trading down in the 1st to gain a 2nd and 4th and trading a player to gain another 4th.
1 – Rolando McClain (LB, Alabama)
2a – Jared Odrick (DT, Penn State)
2b – Kyle Wilson (CB, Boise State)
2c – Chad Jones (S, LSU)
3 – Mardy Gilyard (WR, Cincinnati)
4a – Brandon Lang (DE, Troy)
4b – Charles Scott (RB, LSU)
4c – Ciron Black (T, LSU)
5 – Danario Alexander (WR, Missouri)
6 – James Ruffin (DE, Northern Iowa)
7a – Patrick Stoudamire (CB, Western Illinois)
7b – Freddie Barnes (WR, Bowling Green)
7c – Malcolm Sheppard (DT, Arkansas)

Other notes:

- Don’t be surprised if the Bucs take…
Chad Jones (S, LSU) in the 2nd or
Aaron Pettrey (K, Ohio State) in the 7th

- If the Bucs draft a tight end, I’d want it to be either Dennis Pitta or Jimmy Graham in the 4th or Colin Peek in the 5th.

- Tim Tebow goes to the Jaguars in the 3rd round.

With 10 selections we’ve improved at MLB, SLB, DT, CB (twice), PR, WR (twice), KR, DE, SS, RB, RT, and kick/coverage teams. And this is without the Bucs acquiring additional picks which is something I feel strongly that they’ll do this year. This mock won’t please everyone, but I tried to address each of our needs and do so in a manner that allows us to get the best value out of each selection.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Super Bowl XLIV Prediction

Fairly short and sweet this time.

On one hand New Orleans has the league's most dynamic offense, and the Colts are without their best pass rusher.

On the other hand how can you go against the best QB of this era? This is the biggest game of Peyton Manning's career, and his team didn't lose a game this year when he was leading the offense the entire time.

The Saints got after Favre, but Peyton doesn't get hit.

Peyton doesn't turn it over, but the Saints turned Warner and Favre over 3 times total while only allowing the 1 TD to Favre.

Do the Colts have an answer for Reggie Bush?

I realize the Jets and Ravens aren't nearly as potent offensively as the Saints, but the Colts were able to hold those two teams to 20 combined points in their first two playoff games. In the week prior to playing the Colts, the Ravens and Jets scored a combined 50.

My head says Colts, but my heart says Saints (Dad’s a member of Who Dat nation). I’ll be pleased either way this one turns out as I’m a huge Manning fan, and I think it would be awesome if the Saints finally won a title.

I think the Colts pull it out, but I’ll be rooting for a close contest where both QBs play extremely well and the Saints pull it out in the end.

Score prediction (going with heart):

Saints 31-27

Drew Brees game MVP - over 300 yards passing and 3 touchdowns

Saturday, February 6, 2010

2010 Draft Prospects - Running Back

Returning Running Backs:
Cadillac Williams – RFA
Derrick Ward – 3 years left ($3.25 million; $3.75 million; $4 million)
Earnest Graham – will earn $6 million if he’s on the team the next two years
Clifton Smith – ERFA
Kareem Huggins – minimum

BJ Askew – under contract for 3 more years ($875,000; $1.5 million; $1.3 million)
Chris Pressley – minimum

The Bucs as a team were 23rd in the league with 101.7 yards rushing per game. Cadillac had a really nice turnaround from injuries in ’09 and was able to stay on the field all year, but as warm and fuzzy as that was, he finished 23rd in the league in rushing. When you consider his injury history, the fact that he hasn’t run for 800 yards since ’05, and his contract status, it would make sense to have an eye on a replacement. Is that replacement in house? Ward earned $6 million last year which would have him set to receive $3.25 million since he gets $9.25 million in the first two years of the contract. That’s far too much for a guy who had double digit carries in only 5 games this past season. Are they going to increase his role, or is he a candidate for trade or release? Then there’s Graham. He’s due $3 million himself next year, is 30 years old, carried the ball 14 times in ’09, and has rushed for 264 less yards in his entire career than Chris Johnson did in just this past season alone. Smith suffered two concussions and wasn’t involved in the offense last year. Huggins was a preseason darling but nothing more.

If Askew is recovered from injuries sustained in that car accident, fullback is fine; especially with the experience Pressley earned last year.

Our backfield is far from ideal, but given all the other priorities, can the Bucs afford to spend an early pick on a playmaker like CJ Spiller, Jahvid Best, or Dexter McCluster or a lead back like Jonathan Dwyer, Ryan Mathews, or Anthony Dixon? The odds say no, but we’ve learned to never underestimate this Buccaneer regime.

My draft rankings:
1) CJ Spiller, Clemson (5-11, 195)
explosive playmaker; tremendous speed; nice compact build; patient runner; dynamic return man; nice hands; not strong between the tackles; not much of a pass protector; what's his workload going to be? Is he Chris Johnson or Eric Metcalf?

2) Jahvid Best, California (5-10, 194)
great speed; excellent body control; hard to get a solid shot on; nice elusiveness in the open field; no wasted movements; can catch; tough; good ball security; return skills; not very powerful; not a pass protector; concussion history

3) Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech (6-0, 228)
nice size; really strong runner; breaks tackles; runs well inside; nice speed for a big guy; feet move after contact; decisive runner; initiates contact; nice cutback vision; long strider; not shifty; played in spread option offense in college; wasn't used as a pass catcher; my biggest question is his ability to change direction

4) Ryan Mathews, Fresno State (5-11, 215)
runs hard; decisive, hits hole hard; balanced runner; nice pad level; quick feet; shifty; really nice vision, both inside and outside; gets outside quickly; has a nice slide step to the outside; underutilized stiff arm that is effective; doesn't have breakaway speed; wasn't used as a pass catcher in college

5) Dexter McCluster, Mississippi (5-8, 165)
(I have him grouped in with receivers, but I figured I’d list him here just to show where I have him slotted)
poor man's Harvin; very versatile; dangerous in open field; nice hands; great weapon in passing game, slot receiver possibilities; creates mismatches; Wildcat option; has been slowed by injuries; will size hurt him in NFL? can he take a pounding?

6) Anthony Dixon, Mississippi State (6-1, 240)
really like this guy; bruising runner, powerful; can't arm tackle him; finishes his runs; tremendous heart; productive; leader; showed some skill in passing game this year; might have FB versatility; I guess you can criticize him for not having elite speed, but he runs really well for guy carrying 240 pounds

7) Joe McKnight, USC (6-0, 200)
(I’ve flip flopped Dixon and McKnight at 6 and 7 a couple of times; virtually same rating)
great game speed; not bad size for a change of pace back; really reliable receiver; what stands out most to me his how he catches the ball and explodes upfield; really quick to the outside; nice elusiveness and footwork in tight spots; doesn't run with much power but doesn't shy away from contact either; decisive, has had turnover problems; questionable off field issue(s) at USC; is he just a change of pace guy?

8) Toby Gerhart, Stanford (6-1, 235)
powerful runner; runs through defenders; breaks tackles; plus pass protection; doesn't waste steps; allows blocks to set up; feet constantly moving; strong upper body; falls forward; money in the red zone; great vision; very effective on tosses; under-utilized receiver; not elite speed; monitor ball security, NFL defenses will attack it; not elusive

9) Charles Scott, LSU (5-11, 233)
powerful; thick legs; tough between the tackles; moves well for a big guy; hard to take down once gets going; underrated speed; gets to top speed pretty quickly; good footwork; no wasted movements; balanced runner; nice vision; tremendous game winning 33 yard TD run against Georgia this year; broke collarbone in '09; not elusive; not much of a pass catcher

10) Montario Hardesty, Tennessee (6-0, 215)
heart; tough runner; aggressive; decent size; showed receiving skills this year; not a lengthy resume; not impressed with his speed; not elusive; doesn't break a ton of tackles

11) James Starks, Buffalo (6-2, 211)
tall back; upright runner; competitive; good hands; accomplished receiver; nice vision, cuts well; plus speed for a bigger guy; great late round value; missed all of '09 with torn labrum in shoulder; could add a little bulk

12) Ben Tate, Auburn (5-11, 215)
strong pass blocker; tough runner; hard to take down; decent hands; won't break big plays; will struggle to go E-W in pros

13) LaGarrette Blount, Oregon (6-2, 240)
tough inside runner; douchebag who will go higher than I have him rated; took him off the board before the Boise State player hit the ground

14) Joique Bell, Wayne State (6-1, 225)
15) Andre Anderson, Tulane (6-0, 212)
16) Chris Brown, Oklahoma (5-11, 210)
17) Lonyae Miller, Fresno State (5-11, 220)
18) Stafon Johnson, USC (6-0, 213)
19) Andre Dixon, Connecticut (6-1, 200)
20) Keith Toston, Oklahoma State (6-0, 215)

My round for round favorite – Charles Scott
CJ Spiller might be more deserving since he’s the most talented player at the position and can instantly provide a boost to any team in multiple areas, but I think Charles Scott has a lot of potential for a back who can be had in the mid-late rounds.

Late sleeper – James Starks
I think he’s got a ton of upside and would go much higher if he had played this season.

Most likely to be a Buc – Dexter McCluster
Again, I list him with receivers, but I think he’s the kind of back the Bucs will target if they do indeed pursue someone at the position. I’d like to list Anthony Dixon or Charles Scott here, but if the Bucs go RB that means either Graham or Ward is likely gone. Either way they’re similar backs, so someone like McCluster would give them what they lack. I don’t support the pick since it would likely take a second rounder to get it done, but he’s the one I could see them drafting. Again, it’s all about 5.

There’s a ton of talent available in this draft at every position, and when you look to rank these players, guys at 5 and 10 are a lot closer talent-wise than in previous years. It’s going to be hard to emerge from this draft without talented players, so Dominik will have some help.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

2010 Draft Prospects - Cornerback

Returning cornerbacks:
Brandon Anderson – minimum
Ronde Barber – 1 year, $3 million
EJ Biggers – minimum
Torrie Cox – 1 year, $1 million
Elbert Mack – exclusive rights free agent
Derrick Roberson – minimum
Aqib Talib – signed for 3 more years
Stoney Woodson – minimum

The Buccaneer cornerback situation isn’t pretty. We have one solid starter, a 13 year veteran thought to be done before last season, and a regressing two year undrafted free agent as our third guy. There’s zero depth, and one starter is needed. Who are the options in the draft?

Here are my rankings and thoughts on each one.

1) Joe Haden, Florida (5-11, 185)
legit shutdown corner; great ball skills and field awareness; gets vertical to make plays; fundamentally sound; hard to beat deep; nice hips and change of direction; wish he was just a bit bigger; can get lost in traffic

2) Patrick Robinson, FSU (5-11, 190)
intelligent defender; presses well; plus speed and agility; good play recognition skills; breaks well; I like his footwork; likes to play physical; sometimes takes bad routes to ball; never reached potential at FSU; will likely measure shorter than he's listed

3) Perrish Cox, Oklahoma St (6-1, 196)
confident; makes plays; likes to be physical; good size and uses it size well; accomplished return man; not great speed but gets to high gear quickly; discipline/maturity issues; sent home from this year's bowl game by coach; somewhat raw at CB; I see big upside with coaching and discipline; would put him at #2 if I knew he would grow up

4) Kyle Wilson, Boise State (5-10, 190)
confident; very experienced and productive; strong upper body; plays strong/aggressive; nice hips and footwork; sneaky blitzer; doesn't waste too many steps; fine ball skills; developing sound all-round game; PR skills too

5) Brandon Ghee, Wake Forest (6-0, 191)
long legs and arms; thin build; nice ball skills; does a really good job of tracking the football in the air; very quick; effective blitzer; good tackler for his size; might get overpowered by bigger NFL receivers

6) Devin McCourty, Rutgers (5-11, 190)
high motor; plays bigger than he is; good in pursuit; KR skills; good straight line speed; not a great man/press coverage guy; doesn't appear to have that much lateral quickness; thin build; looks a little tight; twin brother is on the Titans

7) Donovan Warren, Michigan (6-0, 182)
nice size; breaks on the ball really quick; tackles well; doesn't give a ton of ground; doesn't look very fluid; plays too physical at times; uses hands too much; takes himself out of position on occasion; good not great speed

8) Dominique Franks, Oklahoma (6-0, 192)
pretty good coverage skills; doesn't give much ground; impressive speed; doesn't lose stride with receiver; returns punts; not a lot of experience; inconsistent from what I've seen; not dominant

9) Amari Spievey, Iowa (6-0, 190)
a guy I really like; nice combo of size and athleticism; long legs; already has good size but plays even taller; impressive ball skills; not a ton of experience at the position; love his upside

10) Kareem Jackson, Alabama (5-11, 185)
pretty decent size, well built; doesn't get pushed around by bigger receivers; nice coverage skills; good not great speed; experienced; showed improvement throughout his career; I like his potential; slow to react at times

11) Javier Arenas, Alabama (5-9, 198)
small; likes to play physical; tackles well; is eager to help in the run game; high effort guy; effective blitzer; uses his hands well when fighting blocks; PR skills are his best asset; doesn't have great speed; might top out as a nickel corner and/or be limited to zone coverage

12) Syd’Quan Thompson, California (5-9, 187)
extremely experienced and durable; short/undersized; plays tough; initiates contact; times his jumps well; has Barber-like ability to dive in traffic and make a tackle; looks really good with the ball in his hands; not great coverage skills; really like him in this defense

13) Alterraun Verner, UCLA (5-11, 179)
decent size, looks taller than he is; long strider; good not great speed but seems to always stick with receiver; four year starter; could get a little stronger; great character; questionable upside; is he an NFL starter?

14) Jerome Murphy, USF (6-1, 185)
he'll go higher than I have him rated; I just don't like the guy; not sure he has the mental makeup to be a consistently productive pro; one game in particular stood out to me (vs. CIN); in addition to getting repeatedly burned, he drew multiple stupid flags

15) Trevard Lindley, Kentucky (6-0, 175)
competitive; playmaking talent is there but rarely seen; his stock really tanked this year; didn't get any better at Senior Bowl; really thin; questionable upside; just is slow to react at times and doesn't have make up speed to recover; I've obviously soured on him

16) Patrick Stoudamire, W. Illinois (5-11, 185)
17) Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Indiana (6-1, 205)
18) Chris Cook, Virginia (6-2, 212)
19) Walter Thurmond, Oregon (6-0, 185)
20) Devin Ross, Arizona (5-11, 173)

My round for round favorite – Amari Spievey
Late sleeper – Patrick Stoudamire
Most likely to be a Buc – Syd’Quan Thompson