NEWS AND INFORMATION ON THE NFL DRAFT
by Pigskin Paul Guillemette, Associate Editor/Chief Scout
Got comments! Let Paul know.
October 15: WHO CAUGHT MY EYE IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL THIS WEEK
Lots of heavy action, sprinkled with more upsets highlighted Week 8 of College Football. Here's a look at some prospects for the 2015 NFL Draft that got my attention.
JAY AJAYI/RB/BOISE STATE #27 6'0/215 You can't get a clear read on his talent just by looking at the stat sheet. BOISE has a history of alternating their RB so the cupboard is never bare from one season to the next. It is highly likely though that he will post numbers this year to match his outstanding 2013 season, when he gained 1425 yards rushing, including 18 TD. Through 7 games this year he's already at 867 yards and 8 TD. In the Fresno game the D was keying on him from the start. He patiently loosened them up by catching 4 passes and blocking well in pass pro. As the game progressed he wore down the entire defense finishing the night with 30 carries for 158 yards and 2 TD. He's a power runner who breaks tackles and will move the chains on 3rd and short, but he also shows speed when a big opening appears. He looks to me to have excellent pro potential and at 250 carries a year he needs to give serious thought to 2015 Draft entry before the tread gets worn down too far and he ends up injured his senior year in school. NFL teams will particularly love his nose for the end zone. A definite Top 100 prospect on my list.
TREY DePRIEST/ILB/ALABAMA #33 6'2/250 For some reason DePRIEST isn't impressing most scouts and I don't get it. He's certainly no better than a 3rd Rounder, but he looks the part to me of a 3-4 scheme ILB. He's savvy and finds the ball well. He can shock & shed blockers with his strong hands. He has solid tackling technique and takes good angles to the ball most of the time. Given his size and functional strength, he is a punishing tackler who takes a toll on his opponents. He was 'Bama's 3rd leading tackler in 2013. I also happen to think he's better than adequate at dropping into pass coverage over he middle for his size. The game with A&M marked his 46th career game played at 'BAMA. That's the most for any defender on their current roster. TREY is also strong in pursuit of the ball, ranging all the way to the boundary. Right now I consider him to be under-appreciated for his hard work and results, much like a guy named HAWK who plays inside in the PACKERS defense. If he's not TOP 100 then he surely becomes a Day 3 priority pick.
ANTWAN GOODLEY/WR/BAYLOR #5 5'11/225 I've been waiting over a month for this guy to get his quad healthy and jump back into the Baylor receiving rotation. He's back now and looking strong. He's a unique body type for a wideout. But his thickness does not preventing him from running good patterns and getting in and out of his breaks quickly. He's a solid hands catcher. He has good long speed and is a solid deep ball threat, not just a possession catch guy. In the upset Loss to WVU he was PETTY's most dependable receiver with 9 catches for 132 yards and a TD. There were too many dropped balls on PETTY passes, but not by GOODLEY. I was not impressed however, with some of the 4th quarter barking GOODLEY aimed at PETTY. He seemed oblivious to the pocket pressure being exerted on PETTY and was clearly bitching about lack of balls thrown his way, and seeming misreads on his patterns. He needs to be more supportive of his QB in those situations. At times, with his size and catching ability he reminds me of ANQUAN BOLDIN. If he finishes the season strong he has a solid chance to go by Round 3 next May.
GENEO GRISSOM/OLB/E/OKLAHOMA #85 6'4/255/ The Sooners went down to defeat for the second time this season due to mistakes on both sides of he ball. But their PK was the true goat this weekend. That being said GRISSOM was part of an athletic but underachieving Defense that displays a lack of big play ability and intensity. GRISSOM is a prime example of that syndrome. He's a great looking physical specimen, who plays standing up most of he time, but he puts his hand on the ground and slides inside on 3rd and long. He's usually around the action, but unless executing an outside pass-rush I don't see any sense of urgency to his play. I also don't think he wants to throw his body around to get to the ball. He plays in spurts and gets caught up in the traffic way too much. He had 2 consecutive sacks to end the first half, but then just ran around the rest of the game. Given his physical numbers he just doesn't seem to make many plays. He should shine in his shorts at the Combine, but he's going to have to get tougher and more consistent to the ball on the field. He should be a Top 100 prospect based on his look, but his overall play doesn't deliver the goods.
ANTHONY HARRIS/FS/VIRGINIA #8 6'1/190 Virginia has been one of the biggest surprises in the country this year. Expected to be a bottom feeder in the ACC, again, the team is 4-3 (with a tough schedule), which doubles its win total from 2013.The surge has primarily been led by stout defensive work. And the best player on that D is HARRIS. He led the nation with 8 INT last season, while racking up 80 tackles. His INT count is only at 1 so far, but through 7 games he's already been credited with 65 total tackles. He flew all over the field in the tight loss to DUKE, recording 14 tackles for the game, as well as 1 PBU and 1 QBH. Despite being under 200 lbs. he gives receivers and runners cause for pause with his violent hits. He even dings himself at times with the speed and violence of his tackles. He has great field vision and ball awareness. His energy and effort are relentless. His size and style of play remind me of... wait for it... ED REED. He may not be a First Rounder next May, but he should be. He would upgrade half the secondaries in the NFL the first time he walked out onto the field. I luv me some ANTHONY HARRIS and look forward to watching him up close and personal in Mobile next January.
MARCUS MURPHY/RB/RS/MISSOURI #6 5'9/195 Now that I have freed up my mind from its "little guy" complex I present another short guy who is dynamite in a bottle. Get the ball into his hands 15 times a game, or more, and he will be a difference maker for your team. And after watching him 4 times this season I don't even care what he runs for a 40-time at the COMBINE. His work this past weekend against Florida in the Swamp was the perfect example of how this explosive playmaker can change a game for his team. MURPHY began the game by taking the opening kick-off 96 yards for a TD. He rushed the ball only 8 times for a paltry 23 yards, but did score another TD. THen he capped off his days work with an 82-yard Punt Return for a TD. The Mizzou Offense was almost as bad as the Gators, but MURPHY's work made it look like a landslide offensive performance. I have very little doubt that MURPHY will be just as effective as a pro with his multi-dimensional skill work. Any solid NFL team looking for a playmaker would be silly not to draft this guy. The only question is how early in the DRAFT?
CODY RIGGS/CB/PR/NOTRE DAME #2 5'9/185 This feisty, athletic little CB has been a big part of the fine start to the Domers' season. His number one asset is his change of direction ability, which is key for a Corner, especially in the pro game. His speed is good, his quickness exceptional. He's also pretty aggressive in support of the run defense for his size. RIGGS had his moments at FSU, and held up well overall. He shows some nice shake and bake in the Punt Return game, and is dependable at fielding punts. I don't see a guy who strikes me as an NFL starting CB. But I do think he will make a good Nickel Back and play a serious role on Special Teams. With those return skills and his tackling ability he should be able to play on all Special Teams units. Mark him down as a late Round PIck, 5-7.
DERRON SMITH/FS/FRESNO STATE #13 5'11/200 This hard hitting, ball hawking FS is considered to be among the top S prospects for 2015. His 2103 season cemented him as such. He's not putting up the numbers, especially in Picks this year, but as many talent evaluators like to say most INT are as much luck as skill. His all-around skills are what attract scouts. He is just as happy to play in the box against the run as he is to drop into coverage. He's a solid tackler who displays good form and energy. Against Boise I thought he took some poor angles to the ball and missed a few tackles. But no one is perfect. He runs sideline to sideline and shows good ability to find the ball and pursue. In a tight game he made a big 3rd down TFL late in the 2nd Quarter to keep Boise from tacking on a late score. EVerything about his play is better than average and when you roll that into a neat package it makes him a potential NFL starter, with solid Special Teams potential.
P.J. WILLIAMS/CB/FLORIDA STATE #26 6'0/200 An awful lot of folks have this guy marked down as an elite NFL CB prospect. I am not sold yet. He is a supremely talented athlete with the size and speed you look for. And overall he had solid coverage on Notre Dame receivers Saturday night. He has super confidence in his own ability which is critical in the make-up of a shut down Corner. He also demonstrated to my eyes that he will make tackles downfield. My biggest criticism of his play against ND was his propensity to get rubbed off of his man on crossing plays, at which point he stopped hard pursuit and watched the play from 10-20 yards away. Big gains resulted several times when he failed to fight his way through the picks and pursue in an attempt to catch up with his man. That won't fly at the next level. His desire needs to catch up with his physical skills. I began noticing RONALD DARBY out on the field with his more aggressive style of play in the second half, and less of PJ. He might be best served to return for his senior season and work on his toughness and desire to finish every play even when beaten. Especially if he fancies himself as a First Rounder.
T.J. YELDON/RB/ALABAMA #4 6'1/220 After relatively disappointing NFL results for 'Bama RB like INGRAM & RICHARDSON this century the football world seems almost indifferent to the exploits of YELDON. Yet after watching him closely this year in 4 games, he looks like the brightest RB prospect since a guy named ALEXANDER left the Crimson Tide for a strong NFL career. And YELDON is clearly faster than ALEXANDER. My notes indicate that his patience and vision in picking his holes is exceptional. I also believe that he has excellent balance and shakes free of anything but a full contact tackle attempt. He is strong enough to move the pile at the end of runs if needed. Although not a pure speedster, he is a long striding, smooth runner with little wasted motion. EVen though he shares carries in the 'Bama backfield he gets max results in his limited touches. As Alabama absolutely dominated TEXAS A&M this past Saturday YELDON romped for 114 yards and 1 TD on only 13 touches. They don't throw much to him, but he seems to have soft hands and moves naturally out in space. For his size I am surprised at his jump-cut and explosion ability. Assuming he comes out for the 2015 DRAFT I see him in a small group of elite backs that will be hard to pass on for the entire first round.
Ocrober 15: Here's a look at Draft eligible guys who caught my eye this past week in college football, though, not all of them in a positive manner.
MICHAEL BENNETT/DT/OHIO STATE #63 6'2/290 To be totally honest I do not see how some people have his guy in their First Round Draft projections. He is likely to be pretty scheme limited because of his size, or lack thereof. In the Buckeyes impressive win over Maryland I saw him get lost in the wash as an undersized guy, just as often as I saw him use his speed and quickness to impact a play. He will need to go to a pro system like the SEA HAWKS where speed and quickness are most important at almost all the defensive spots on their roster. In fact, I see him being a very similar pro to his namesake with the SEA HAWKS. If he gets moved around and unleashed most of the time to rush the passer he can be a big-time playmaker at the next level. But even a mediocre Terps OL stymied him at the line-of-scrimmage more times than not especially against the run. For my money he's 2nd Round material for about less than half the NFL teams, at best.
ANDRE DEBOSE/RS/ATH/FLORIDA #4 6'0/190 I'd still have to admit that it is very unlikely DEBOSE gets drafted next May, but he's likely to post a sub 4.4/40 at the COMBINE (if invited) or his Pro Day. And that alone will get attention in NFL Personnel Departments. He's been injured more than he has been healthy in college. He's also not defined what actual position from scrimmage he might play, but his explosiveness as a return man is elite. He has blazing speed, good field vision and good balance. Sound like a guy named HESTER a bit?! While trying to help the Gators beat LSU without much of a contribution from their Offense, DEBOSE got a crack at 2 Punt returns and took them 62 & 53 yards respectively. The longer one he took to the house for a TD. His speed and elusiveness will make some NFL team want to spend some time trying to find him playing time from scrimmage for him. I'd say that if he stays healthy this entire season and blows up his workouts some NFL team will be highly tempted to take a 7th Round flyer on him. If AL DAVIS were still alive DEBOSE would go in the first 3 Rounds.
TREY FLOWERS/DE/ARKANSAS #86 6'4/267 FLOWERS is a very different player from CHRIS SMITH who went to the JAGUARS this past Draft as a speed pass-rush specialist. FLOWERS does not have the burst into the pocket that SMITH possesses. But he's a better all-around player. His game situation awareness is highly praised by his coaches. He will try to stand and fight against the run, but needs a SAM-LB supporting him. ARKANSAS almost got the Crimson Tide last weekend and FLOWERS stats give clear indication as to what kind of player he is. For the game he was credited with 8 tackles, including 3 TFL and 1 sack. He also had 1 PBU. He gives his team that kind of effort and productivity week in and week out. For an NFL team that feels he can be a solid fit for their defensive scheme I'd expect him to be a 3rd Rounder. He should also be pretty impressive with his football smarts in interview situations.
DAVID HELTON/LB/DUKE #47 6'4/230 HELTON is typical of a lot of today's college athletes. They do a lot of good things out on the field of play, and are significantly better than the average player of 10+ years ago. But when you add up the total of their parts it is still unlikely they can count on a pro sports career as being in their future. HELTON is a long framed player who reacts well to the ball. But he's not an impact guy because he's a tick too slow and not strong enough to throw people around. But how do you ignore a guy who had 133 tackles in 2013? He was all over the field again in the big road win at GA TECH. He was credited with 4 tackles against Tech, though he was around the ball constantly. Once again however, he had no impact plays. It is his lack of Sacks, TFL, FF & INT that makes him just another guy in the big picture of things. His hustle and smarts could win him a Special Teams job for a while in the pro game.He's also an academic All-America. I think he goes to an NFL Training Camp next summer (if he wants to), but just don't see him getting drafted in May.
DUKE JOHNSON/RB/MIAMI #8 5'9/205 JOHNSON is a special player in a lot of ways. He's a leader by example and is also not afraid to make his voice heard on the sideline. Most of his noise is from his contention that he's a difference maker and needs the ball in his hands more. I can't argue with that. He's quick in and out of moves and can turn on the jets when he gets out in wide open spaces. When in doubt he will attempt to run through and over defenders. THE DUKE has good balance and runs with low pad level, always driving forward to finish the play. He'll pound between the tackles but has enough speed to get to the corner. Even though he doesn't have a lot of catches on his resume' he is a dependable receiver. Against Cincinnati he carried the ball 10 times for 162 yards and 2 TD. His long run in that stat was an 80-yarder. He also caught 4 balls out of the backfield. He's a decent blocker in pass pro and should improve under NFL coaching. He's a Top 100 player in my mind, but he'll need to go to a team with a coaching staff that can handle his fiery temperament, without it becoming a distraction to his team. He's going to leave MIami as their all-time total yardage leader because in addition to his running acumen he also has return skills that often get lost at MIami with all of its speedster receivers returning most of the time. I project that he will come out early and get drafted in Round 3, which will just place another big ship on his shoulders.
VINCE MAYLE/WR/WASHINGTON STATE #1 6'3/220 This former Juco player has played a key role in the Leach-led resurgence of Wazoo football. Even if they don't win many games they are now scaring opponents, especially with their offense. MAYLE is a sure handed, big bodied receiver who doesn't lose many possession battles with defenders. He has above average speed and dependable hands. I don't actually see him as the perfect fit for this kind of run & gun Offense. He's better served for the pro power game ala SAN DIEGO, where he will be targeted more often. He's not afraid to come across the middle and seems to really track the ball well once it is in the air. Against the tough and physical STANFORD Defense last weekend he tallied 6 catches for 78 yards and 1TD. He's a really solid athlete with a long, smooth stride to his deep patterns. He can gain some extra yards after the catch because he will break tackles of smaller defenders. Because of those qualities he has more big play potential than his speed might indicate. He also looks like he has some serious potential as a Kick Returner at the next level. Post season play in All-Star venues will help establish his final draft status, but I'm liking this guy as an even more productive pro than collegian.
TYRONE MONTGOMERY/WR/RS/STANFORD #7 6'2/215After watching this talented young athlete perform well again against Washington State I am still trying to project just how well his game is going to translate to the NFL. He's a jack of all trades and master of most as a collegian. He's always leading his team in total yards gained. In addition to catching the ball he runs a few reverses and even handles their "wildcat" package at times. He's also a prolific Kick Returner (30.3 yards per return in 2013) who has added Punt Returns to his workload this season. Against Washington State he caught 7 balls for 72 yards. He returned 3 punts for an average of 21 yards per and added 70 yards more on 3 Kick Returns. He's got a long. lean body and I am guessing his hands are above average in size watching him hand snatch the ball, especially along the sidelines. And yet I am not sold that he will be an elite pro. He is smooth and glides around with long strides. He also seems to see the whole field and picks his openings well, whether running patterns or on returns. But I don't see any burst or third gear to his game. He falls somewhere in between TIM BROWN and LARRY FITZGERALD when I watch him in action. His numbers indicate a First Round talent, but something concerns me about that seeming lack of explosion. Somehow my mind is saying a very good No. 2 WR for some NFL team, but not an elite receiver.
ANDRUS PEAT/OT/STANFORD #70 6'67/310 An awful lot of folks have PEAT projected to be a TOP 10 prospect. And in today's NFL everyone is always looking for elite pass protectors. But I am going to temper my enthusiasm for this big guy just a bit. Round 1; yes. Top 10; not for my taste. He's long and athletic, with agile footwork and good balance. He needs some serious weight room work at the NFL level. He pushes defenders around with his long arms and quickness, but does not dominate and pancake. He's good in his back-peddle, but can be susceptible to both strong and fast pass-rushers. He does not dominate the line-of-scrimmage in goal line and short yardage situations. He reminds me greatly of another top Stanford OT named BOB WHITFIELD. As a pro WHITFIELD was sound and functional, but not All-World. That is what PEAT looks like to me right now. He will start for 10-years in the NFL but may not get to many Pro Bowls. This may sound crazy given his size, but he's more of a finesse player than a dominant presence right now.
TERRANCE PLUMMER/ILB/UCF #41 6'1/240 With the departure of BLAKE BORTLES/QB to the NFL, the UCF Offense has wilted this season. Consequently, more and more has been asked of the Knight's defense to win ball games. The team is a bit talent deprived in its front seven, with the big exception of PLUMMER. He led the team in tackles in 2013 with 110. His demonically possessed style of play this year may allow him to eclipse that mark by season's end. This past Thursday night UCF held off BYU for a 31-24 OT home victory. And the Tasmanian Devil leading the D was PLUMMER, who had to leave the game in OT with cramping in the still 80-degree plus Florida night. PLUMMER filled up the stats sheet and notebooks of scouts watching the contest. His game total were as follows: 17 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 1 pass break-up. The rumor that he sold popcorn at halftime is urban legend. He will likely test out in the middle of the pack in a Combine setting, but he gets a lot done on-the-grass in games. Count on him to earn his keep on Special Teams alone at least for the start of his pro career. He should be draftable Rounds 5-7 and should really help improve the bottom dozen on some NFL roster going forward.
CODY PREWITT/S/OLE MISS #25 6'2/215 Now that the Rebels are proving to be the real deal with wins over 'Bama & A&M, the accolades are rolling in for some of their leading players. As an NFL prospect for 2015 PREWITT is probably their No.1 guy. He appears to have the size and athleticism to fight for an NFL starting job. He's also showing some savvy and maturity this season. In the big road win in College Station his 1st-half 75-yard pick-6 seemed to be the play that convinced his teammates that they could control the game and not get caught up in an offensive shootout with the Aggies. Typical of the all-around steady work he's been doing he was also credited with 7 tackles for his evening's work. His lack of elite speed keeps him from being a top prospect, but his size and ability to tackle in space give him a solid shot to be an early Special Teams standout and sub-package contributor. I think his Combine numbers will determine whether he's a 3rd or 4th Rounder come May.
JAXON SHIPLEY/WR/RS/TEXAS #8 6'1/195 Clearly, anything JAXON does will be compared to his older brother Jordan, who was productive as a Longhorn, and had a decent turn on NFL depth charts. But from watching him play, I believe that JAXON has better speed and quickness than his brother and a better chance to be a productive receiver in the NFL. He has not been blessed with an exceptional QB at Texas because of injury issues to DAVID ASH, primarily concussions. But he runs his patterns sharply and gets open regularly, based on a nice combination of quickness and good route running. As the LONGHORNS gave Oklahoma all they could handle last Saturday JAXON caught 9 balls for 115 yards, though failing to make it into the end zone. He also returned 2 punts for an average of 22.5 yards. He might want to gain another 10 lbs. for the pro game, but that should not adversely affect his decent, not great, speed greatly. He works the entire field and has very dependable hands. The sidelines are among his best friends on game day. He won't make many Top 100 prospect lists, but I see a guy who could go in Round 4 and in a couple of seasons be a No. 3/4 NFL WR and steady Special Teams contributor.
LAKEN TOMLINSON/OG/DUKE #77 6'3/320 Sometimes it's hard to break a mental stereotype of what kind of prospects come out of certain colleges. It hasn't been often in my 50+ years of watching college football that a really good big guy comes out of the Duke football program. Watching TOMLINSON forces me to adjust that perception. Has a chance to start over 50 games as a Blue Devil. Was first team All-ACC in 20134. He has the wide base and natural knee bend that NFL OL coaches are looking for. He's not an elite athlete, but he's not just another big guy either. He moves well whether backing into pass pro or firing out to pull and/or get a second level block. Were he a bit taller and longer he has he feet to give it a try at OT, but why mess with a good thing?! TOMLINSON plays smart and hard. He also does a nice job of staying on his feet and off the ground most of the time. Maybe you could wish for a little bit more aggressive player, but he's certainly not a softie. Most NFL teams will find it appealing that he played in an offense that required both run blocking and NFL style pass pro. He's currently working on getting himself into a Friday Draft slot next May.
MALCOM BUNCHE/OT/UCLA #78 6'6/320 The MIami-grad/transfer was originally slated to play LG for the Bruins, but he showed the coaching staff that he was capable of anchoring that OL at LT. The big guy was never a full-time starter for the Hurricanes in South Florida, but has emerged immediately as the main body guard for HUNDLEY's blind side. He's a well conditioned player who carries his 320 lbs. well on his long frame. He moves his feet well whether sliding around in pass-pro or getting to second level blocks in the running game. In the two games that I have watched him so far this season I saw him remain on the field til the end, even fighting through an ankle issue in the Texas game. His maturity and athleticism have been a god-send for both the UCLA coaching staff as well as MR. HUNDLEY. He's gone from a curiosity to a solid draftable prospect with his play so far this season.
LA'EL COLLINS/OT/LSU #70 6'5/310 For as many players as LES MILES has put into the NFL during his tenure at LSU, guys at the OL positions have not fared as well at the next level as say RB/WR/DB/DL... well to be honest almost every position but QB. COLLINS may be the next exception to that trend. COLLINS wisely came back for his senior season and has been elite in his overall play thus far this season. Although some still consider him a better prospect at OG, I don't see why. When I have watched him against UW & MS. ST. he has looked very proficient on the outside in both the run game and in pass pro. His large frame and long arms allow him to keep defenders off his body. For his size, he shuffles his feet well. COLLINS leaves his feet more than I would like to see when he is run blocking to cut defenders. Getting his pad level low is of course a challenge for him and may explain this habit. But he is long enough and agile enough to complete most of those run blocks while upright, thus allowing him to make another clean-up block if the play gets further upfield. Better hand/arm use would aid in that scenario. He may not be an immediate NFL starter, but he has a chance, and should develop further with ongoing coaching at the NFL level. He's on the cusp of being a first rounder next May.
COREY CRAWFORD/DE/CLEMSON #93 6'5/270 If you took a picture of this guy out on the field, in uniform, in his stance waiting for the snap most would look at the shot and say, 'superior athletic specimen, elite player'. Sad to say that hasn't happened yet for CRAWFORD. He is not appreciably better than he was playing in all 14 games as a true freshman. To my eyes much of that is due to what appears to be a non-flexible body. Most of the time he springs straight up at the snap and runs stiffly after the ball. He often fails to set the edge on his side of the field if the ball comes back at him. His quickness is minimal, and he only gains speed if he can run in a straight line. He can penetrate straight ahead and get into the backfield so if the ball comes his way he may make a play. At times he uses his arms/hands to move blockers away from his body, but he also dances way too much with blockers. I also don't think he acts like an all-out effort warrior. He's a better athlete than line-mate JARRETT, but his motor (and productivity) cannot compare. His physical appearance will likely cause some NFL team to draft him, but it will be Day 3 and at best they may be getting a 4-3 DL rotation player, who comes out on passing downs to make way for a more effective pass-rusher.
AMARLO HERRERA/ILB/GEORGIA #52 6'2/240 He was second on the Bulldogs 2013 defense in total tackles with 112. He reportedly came back to school for his senior year at a trimmed down 240 lbs. And he does look even quicker than in the past. He's surprisingly adept in pass coverage over the middle of the field. He can keep up with TE/RB in that first 10 yard area. He's a complete backer who uses his solid body to plug the middle of the field against the run. Often, when AMARLO meets the ball carrier the pad pop is explosive. Despite more pub for his inside mate RAMIK WILSON, it is HERRERA who stayed out on the field for all three downs. In fact I started the UGA/TENN game watching and taking notes on WILSON. By the end of the first quarter it was clear I might not been watching the more complete, productive player, at least on this day. WILSON may have more athletic upside, but by Draft Saturday some NFL team will take this productive player, who also has Special Teams Ace written all over his style of play.
SEAN MANNION/QB/OREGON STATE #4 6'5/220 An awful lot of folks have MANNION as a potential high round Draft selection for next May. His size, above average arm and experience have great appeal. But I am not among his fans, and his play against USC was an example of why I am skeptical of his pro potential. Purely and simply put, he wilts under pressure. Take a look at his final stats in the resounding loss to theTrojans. He was 15/32-123 yards -0 TD- 2 INT. As the Trojans got ahead and turned up the pass pressure MANNION's body and facial language was that of a deer in the headlights; frozen with fear. He piles up his impressive stats against over-matched opponents then comes up small in the big boy games. HC MIKE RILEY has him coached up as best he can, but when the pocket starts to collapse MANNION falls to pieces, like a CARSON PALMER. He'll probably pad his stats this coming week against Colorado, but will fade down the stretch against defenses like STANFORD, OREGON & WASHINGTON. I've watched his pattern of play for 3 years and it has not changed. There is no way this player should be drafted before Day 3.
HOWARD MATTHEWS/S/TEXAS A&M #31 6'2/215 Task one for KEVIN SUMLIN at A&M this season was to toughen up an athletic but over matched defense from 2013. They may not be dominant yet, but there are signs of improvement. One of the leaders by example for the AGGIES D is MATTHEWS who has been a solid starter for the team during his career in College Station. He has 20 career starts coming into 2014. He's a solid in-the-box guy who piled up 90 tackles for the AGGIES in 2013. He also can play the pass as evidenced by his 9 PBU and 3 INT last season. He was key in the win over Arkansas, cleaning up downfield on the many occasions when RB got through the A&M DL. He's a solid leader who sets an example with his play and attitude for his younger teammates. He had a key PBU late in the game on an attempted 3rd down pass to Arkansas' star TE/HENRY. I would also project him as a solid Special Teams candidate at the pro level. Mark him down as draftable, Day 3.
DESMOND ROLAND/RB/OKLAHOMA STATE #26 6'2/210 There is something to be said for a college RB who will run between the tackles, block in pass pro and pretty much do whatever the caching staff asks him to. That is ROLAND in a nutshell. But he lacks the speed and/or quickness IMO to play at the next level. He's just not fast or quick enough to get around defenders. He's also not stout enough to move that line-of-scrimmage. He's even a tad slower than JOE RANDLE who preceded him at Okie State as the primary RB option, and who is struggling to remain as the 3rd string RB in Dallas right now. Against TX TECH ROLAND ran for 23- 86- 1TD, while sharing RB duties. He's a slid collegian, who I just don't see having anything special enough to make him draftable.
MARTELL SPEIGHT/OLB/ARKANSAS #47 6'0/228 Even just a few years ago a guy with SPEIGHT's size and skill set would only rate a Training Camp invite as an URFA, with a slight chance to play a couple of years as a Special Teamer in the League. But in today's pass-happy NFL a slightly undersized guy with speed and quickness can also help out on passing downs. SPEIGHTS could turn out to be such a guy. He's a JUCO transfer who played a little last season as a junior, but really came to life this past Spring Practice session for the Razorbacks. Now he's a starter and is flying all over the field making tackles for them. He had double-digit tackles against A&M and was all over the field this past weekend. His speed disrupted several play calls. He's also an incredibly vicious, though clean, tackler for his size. He's like a heat seeking missile, with a nose for the ball. Should make a dynamic Special Teams player, especially on coverage units. Based on his overall play this season so far, he looks like a draftable player in the later rounds.
JAELEN STRONG/WR/ARIZONA STATE #21 6'4/215 STRONG looks to me like a man among boys right now, ala a guy named ALSHON currently playing with DA BEARS. He looks even bigger than his listed size, but his body remains very flexible and he's already quite adept at locating and catching back-shoulder throws. He uses the sideline to his advantage with his leaping ability and big frame allowing him to screen defenders off the ball. He's also good at locating the ball in the air. A strong runner after the catch, he works the middle of the field fearlessly. He took quite a licking at times from the Trojans secondary last Thursday night, but kept coming back for more, finishing the game with 12 grabs, for 146 yards. That is with the back-up QB starting. The Sun Devils also featured him on dump-off screens to the wide side of the field, where he used his size and straight line speed to good advantage wracking up yardage ala STERLING SHARPE. He's also the team's go-to guy for 3rd down catches. He led the team with 75 catches in 2013 and could be a candidate for 100 catches this year. If he stays healthy I see no reason for him NOT to enter the 2015 Draft. He looks to me to be a Top 5 WR prospect and ready to move on. His job at ASU is just about done.
JUSTIN WORLEY/QB/TENNESSEE #14 6'4/225 BUTCH JONES is off to a flying start rebuilding the VOLS football program to SEC prominence. As he recruits in all areas to rebuild roster talent, a very pleasant surprise has been the QB play of senior WORLEY. WORLEY finally got a shot at serious playing time last season and looked OK. But his play behind a completely new OL this season is off to a rousing start after 4 games. His gritty play in the near upset of GEORGIA, on the road was inspiring to his young teammates. Under heavy pressure all day WORLEY hung in there, even returning to play after injuring his throwing arm elbow. His final stats don't even tell the whole story of his effort, but they are indeed impressive. WORLEY was 23/35 (67%), 264-yards, 3 TD, 0 INT. Compare those numbers with MANNION's above. The big guy can spin the ball and make every kind of throw. He stands tall in the pocket to make his reads and throws. Though not a runner, he moves around a bit. He shows the kind of guts and determination that a pro QB must have to be successful. He is coming on fast and I believe is looking late draftable. I'd luv to see this guy down at the Shrine venue come January.
September 23: WHO CAUGHT MY EYE IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL THIS WEEK
AMEER ABDULLAH/RB/NEBRASKA #8 5'9/200 ... For the past two years I have been ignoring the exploits of ABDULLAH, because somehow I got it in my disjointed brain that he was too small for full-time NFL wars. Then a light went on and I thought of DARREN SPROLES & ANDRE ELLINGTON. So I decided it was time to watch him with a scout's eye and what better game to pick than against the always physical Hurricanes. The quickness and tenacity of this young man took my breath away. My notes on his play in this game were a full page long. He's tough as nails, getting most of his yardage running between the Tackles. His forward lean is constant, thereby maximizing his gains. He's an explosive jump-cut runner who seldom goes down on first contact. His lean-style puts him even closer to the ground and makes him a tough target to find and hit. He can squat in excess of 550 lbs. to give you an idea of his lower body strength. He ripped around and through the 'CANES Defense for 229 yards on 35 carries. He also displayed explosive return skills. In this game he passed JOHNNY RODGERS as the Nebraska all-time yardage leader. He's the real deal and has to be a Top 100 prospect. I can think of 20 NFL teams for which he could be their No.1 RB. Think RAY RICE with considerably more speed and explosion. Wait past Round 2 and he's already off Draft Boards next May.
STEPHONE ANTHONY/LB/CLEMSON #42 6'2/235 ... The Clemson defense had a chance to come up big against the Seminoles with WINSTON suspended and ANTHONY led the way. Most of the night DC BRENT VENABLES unleashed the hounds, chief amongst them being ANTHONY. ANTHONY used his strength and quickness to full advantage and spent a great deal of time in the FSU backfield. He was used effectively on multiple blitzes and was very aggressive at shooting gaps to grab RB in the backfield. He also displayed his ability to drop into pass coverage whether it was covering RB out in the flat for dump offs or locking onto TE over the middle of the field. In the 4th Quarter he was the guy who tipped a pass intended for NICK O'LEARY that resulted in an INT and the Tigers final TD drive of the night. He's probably best suited for a 3-4 scheme as a pro, but I have a feeling he'll post some very impressive numbers at the COMBINE that will fit almost all schemes. He has good size and excellent athleticism. Could be best suited outside in a 4-3 scheme as a pro. He's a true top 100 guy who came up big on the biggest stage of all last Saturday.
THURSTON ARMBRISTER/OLB/MIAMI #34 6'3/235 ... It's not a scouting note, but yes he was named after the THURSTON HOWELL, the 3rd, character on Gilligan's Island. He has really made his mark as a senior earning a starting OLB job. He is a big hitter, like many Hurricane defenders, and has good ball instincts. He is very strong against the run, but can also run with receivers in space. He can indeed be called upon for an occasional blitz with his speed. ARMBRISTER was a part time starter in 2013 and is well on his way to eclipsing his 33 tackles from last year. He plays like a man who should get to show his stuff in the post-season. I like his look a lot as an under the radar senior prospect. Look for him to be at the SHRINE venue, and post some solid numbers at the COMBINE.
AMARI COOPER/WR/ALABAMA #9 6'1/205 ... Clearly, COOPER is the best WR in this year's prospect list. He's just a notch below SAMMY WATKINS from last year, because he does not possess the explosiveness of SAMMY. He came too 'Bama as a five star recruit at 5'11/85 lbs. Much to the delight of NFL personnel people he continues to grow physically as he refines his receiving skills. We didn't quite see the elite match-up we hoped for with Florida's premier CB/HARGREAVES who was in and out of the lineup with dings & nicks much of the day. But it didn't seem to matter how the Gators tried to defend him COOPER got open. His first big play of the day was a 79-yard TD catch in the first quarter. By day's end AMARI had 10 catches, for 201 yards and 3 TD. He's a "hands-catcher" who can go long, but is also willing to work the middle of he field as well. He picks throws out of the air, tucks the ball away and runs past people. No doubt in my mind that he is the best all-around receiver for the 2015 Draft and deserves Top 10 selection like WATKINS last year.
MARIO EDWARDS/DE/FLORIDA STATE #15 6'3/295 ... We only got to watch EDWARDS for a half against Clemson, because he suffered a concussion on a group tackle late in the second quarter. But it was not hard to see what his game is all about, and how it likely translates to an NFL career. He looks even bigger than his listed size, and people just bounce off of his solid frame when he gets a solid hitting angle. Stout, would be my best shot at describing this man/child. He has decent range for his size, but is a bit tight. He looks best suited for a 3-4 DE slot as a pro. He is not much of a pass-rusher because quickness is not his game. He also looks to have average arm length. Despite his NFL pedigree genes, I don't see him as an elite athlete or prospect. Again, a guy who would be a solid 2nd Rounder. He also looks to be a good fit for a team like Green Bay, which uses a 2-man DL a significant amount of the time.
B.J. FINNEY/OC/KANSAS STATE #66 6'4/305 ... I always like to find those OL who are grinders and fundamentally sound. They often do better as a pro than some of the more athletic players, especially on the interior. FINNEY is as solid as they come. He calls the line play assignments and was very effective getting out to second level blocks against a very deep and athletic Auburn defensive front. He can be bullied at times by massive NT types, as was evidenced in the Wildcats TD drive. The actual TD run went outside but FINNEY was simply knocked backwards, and on his ass, in the center of the formation. He's clearly pumped up and as weight-room strong as he is likely to get. He may also be a bit slow afoot for a precision-passing Offense, but I could see him fighting for an NFL job on a power running team like either San Diego or Kansas City. RIght now he reminds me of a NICK HARDWICK over achiever. He has played OG so might have serious NFL value as an Interior OL back-up. I like his play and attitude, but can't see him in my Top 100 list.
TRE' JACKSON/OG/FLORIDA STATE #54 6'4/340 ... The past couple of years have provided some seriously good, monstrous OG for the NFL. I'm thinking of LARRY WARFORD/LIONS, CHANCE WARMACK/TITANS & GABE JACKSON/RAIDERS. Here comes your next jumbo sized, surprisingly athletic OG. I saw JACKSON running downfield 20+ yards on multiple occasions Saturday night looking for 3rd level blocking opportunities. I also noticed that the Clemson blitz action went away from JACKSON's area. On almost every play TRE' had his man locked up and stoned at the line-of-scrimmage. I will go so far as to say that if every member of the FSU OL had played as effectively as JACKSON did, there would have been more of a running game established, and much less pressure by Clemson on stand-in QB/MAGUIRE. I did not check official game stats, but I do not recall #54 being called for any of the multiple OL penalties in this game against FSU. He was the most effective of the 5 FSU senior OL Saturday night. He's in my Top 50 right now.
TYLER LOCKETT/WR/RS/KANSAS STATE #16 5'11/175 ... It wasn't a great performance by LOCKETT against AUBURN, but it was a solid opportunity to watch him work against a very talented Defense, that was clearly focussed on minimizing his impact on the game. He was double-teamed all night long, which in part allowed teammate SEXTON to lead the Wildcats in receptions. LOCKETT dropped 2 balls in my notes, including a bullet throw in the end zone that got through his hands and bounced off his chest, and the resultant deflection resulted in an INT. Elite receivers cannot let that happen. But overall he made some nice catches amongst his 6 balls for 45 yards. He showed very well as a Punt Returner, and got to display his jitter bug, multi-move running style. He's quick enough to break open and fast enough to run long. He looks like a TD waiting to happen on almost every return that gets past the first 5 yards. He showed his acrobatic moves on some jump balls against multiple defenders. The lack of a running game by K-State allowed AUBURN to concentrate on shutting him down all night long. In an NFL Offense, with a strong armed QB, I see LOCKETT as being the same explosive kind of threat as DeSEAN JACKSON, now in Washington. If this is his weakest effort, against an elite team, geared to shut him down, then he's still a top WR prospect in my book.
NICK MARSHALL/QB/ATH/AUBURN #10 6'1/210 .. He's not RG3, but I'm not prepared to close the book on MARSHALL as an NFL Athlete and 3rd string QB option. When he got in a groove in the second half against K-State he was slicing up their defense with some excellent throws both short and long. He finished the night, against a solid though not great Wildcat defense, with 17/31- 231 yards- 2 TD- 1 INT. He also ran 10 times for 46 yards. He's a good all around athlete with quick feet and a head for the game. If he can display some strong athleticism at the COMBINE and impress teams at the white board he could become a late Draft Pick. Being that he plays for AUBURN I wold expect he will get an audition for the NFL during Senior Bowl Week. It could be quite interesting. He looks like a bigger bodied, better armed DENARD ROBINSON to me.
CLIVE WARFORD/TE/MIAMI #46 6'4/260 ... Purely and simply, in two games I have watched Miami play this season against Louisville and Oklahoma, WARFORD grades out as the best all-around TE prospect I have seen this month. He has ideal size and above average athleticism. Against Nebraska he caught 7 balls for 80 yards and a TD. And he's not just a dump-off target. I saw him 15+ yards down the field on 3 different occasions. He's a solid blocker right now, but pro scouts will be looking for improvement in that area as the season wears on. He displays dependable hands and better than average body control and flexibility for a man his size. He can run a bit after the catch and will make DB pay for tackling him low. A good, not great, player who has a chance to move up Draft Boards in this mediocre draft eligible group at the TE position. As his Freshman QB improves WARFORD could be a serious beneficiary of more targetting in the Hurricanes passing attack.
September 17: WHO CAUGHT MY EYE IN WEEK THREE OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL
SHANE CARDEN/QB/EAST CAROLINA #5 6'2/220
CARDEN is the "sleeper" in the 2015 QB DRAFT group in my opinion. He runs the show for a mid-level program and does it quite well. He came out like gang busters against VA TECH, then leveled off as the coaches got a bit predictable and TECH's Defense got after him. But after TECH tied up the game late it was CARDEN who pretty much ran the whole show engineering the winning TD drive. He has an above average arm and decent mobility in the pocket. He's a step too slow to be a real running threat. He can put touch on the ball, and I really like his quick release. He makes mistakes in his reads too often and forces the ball into coverage. Accuracy can be an issue in streaks. His final game stats are good, but his completion percentage was way too low. He went 23/47-427 yards and 3 TD passes, 0 INT. Some of his issues came from working against a defense which was athletically superior to most of his offensive mates, especially the OL. I say he's a great candidate as a 3rd Round PIck next May going to a team with a QB guru on the coaching staff, and a vet QB starter in his early to mid 30's. Given a couple of years to be nurtured by NFL coaching his talent could translate into an NFL starting job in 2-3 years. Overall, he is the real deal, who has room for improvement in a more sophisticated system.
DAVID COBB/RB/MINNESOTA #27 5'11/225
This was a tough game to grade COBB on since the team speed of TCU was so much better than Minnesota that the Offense was stymied all day long. But in that tough setting COBB showed enough to make me think he's a late draftable prospect. He is quicker than fast, but made some very nice cuts to and through the hole, when there was one to find. He also showed nice hands and movement with the ball after the catch. They did seem to use him less when they were counting on the RB to block I pass pro, but that's not for lack of effort on his part. My most important note on the day was that he looked shifty and quick for his weight. If presented with a decent hole to run through he looks like a back who will bounce and cut his way to 5-15 yards with some regularity. In essence he will get what's blocked. I'd rate him as a solid NFL candidate for a 3-man RB rotation for teams like WASHINGTON and the CHARGERS. He's going to have some big number days in the Big 10 schedule. A decent Day 3 Draft candidate.
SEAN HICKEY/OT/SYRACUSE #60 6'5/295
It is almost too easy, and certainly dangerous, to get carried away comparing players to guys from their school who played the same position, but in some cases it is too obvious to avoid. HICKEY looks and plays for all the world like JUSTIN PUGH, who preceded him at The CUSE at the same LT slot. He's a trim athletic tackle who uses his hands/arms well to control his opponents, and moves his feet like a jumbo ballerina. He's not overpowering in the running game, but he uses his length and athleticism to move defenders in the direction he wants, to direct them away from the running hole. You might not want to run at his side in a goal line situation when the jumbo DL is on the field. Don't dismiss this performance because it was against a MAC team in Central Michigan. The DL for the Chippewas is deep and has some quality players this year. I'm not convinced he's a first rounder, but just like PUGH, certain teams in the League may grade him very highly and take him late on Day One of the DRAFT. Any precision passing offense would be a good fit for him.
CHUCKY HUNTER/DT/TCU #96 6'1/300
The good news is that this guy is clearly a team leader and well respected by his teammates. He works hard and never gives up on a play. But it was also pretty clear to my eyes that he's just another guy when it comes to having NFL potential. He's a space eater of sorts, but does not make very many plays. He lacks the quickness to shoot gaps and gets caught up in the wash much of the time. It looks as if his arms are fairly short, which is another strike against him. He's going to be part of a DL rotation at best, and near the bottom of a 53-man roster. Having said all that he did force a fumble and actually dropped into shallow pass coverage effectively a couple of times. I doubt he'll rank as draftable on my ist at season's end, but I would certainly consider bringing him into an NFL Training Camp if my team played a base 4-3 scheme.
A.J. JOHNSON/ILB/TENNESSEE #45 6'2/245
JOHNSON has been a star for the VOLS since his freshman season. He was 1st Team SEC last season and came back for his senior season. That may have been a wise decision since he has had several disciplinary situations while in Knoxville. But to his credit he keeps earning his way back onto the roster and is the leader of a very young defensive unit this season. He had 324 career tackles coming into this season. He's a smart player with elite level athleticism. He looked out of place at times against Oklahoma, but it appeared to me some of that was a result of trying too hard to be in he right place for the tackle on every play. He's a solid tackler and can cover TE/RB over the middle of the field. I think he's best suited to play on the inside in a 3-4 scheme. Leading an overmatched team against OKlahoma must have left him exhausted at the end of the day. But he acquitted himself well overall. ILB aren't usually First Rounders, but JOHNSON looks to me like he has a chance come May. But he may have some 'splainin' to do in team interviews about his off-field issues as a VOL come COMBINE time.
CHRISION ROSE/DE/EAST CAROLINA #93 6'4/300
I had no inkling about ROSE as a prospect before watching the game with VA TECH on Saturday. But clearly, he's a big bodied DE designed to play n a 3-4 NFL scheme. He can move around a bit and knows how to set the edge against the run. He also did a nice job generating some push and getting his long arms up into the sight and throwing lanes of TECH QB/BREWER. Like most 3-4 DE he does not have pass rush quicks or moves. He could stand to work on his hand usage to control and move blockers. He quite often slid inside to play head-up over the OC in a 2-man DL alignment on long yardage downs. That reminded a great deal of how the PACKERS have slipped into a 2-man DL formation on passing downs during the CAPERS era in Green Bay. In fact he reminds me a bit of former ECU Pirate CJ WILSON who was drafted late by Green Bay and currently is in his 5th year in the NFL with the RAIDERS. ROSE pursues the ball well on half of the field. He also keeps his head up and uses his eyes and legs to pursue the ball. GIven his size and skill set he could find himself in late round draft consideration if he plays more games in the manner he did against VA TECH.
THOMAS TEAL/DT/N.C. STATE #69 6'1/305
I'm really surprised that TEAL gets so little luv and attention for his play along the Wolfpack DL. His game is very similar to that of GENO ATKINS when he was at GEORGIA. TEAL has excellent quickness for his size and generates good pressure up the middle. He used a very quick and very effective inside spin move to collapse the passing packet on multiple occasions against USF. He is functionally strong, while at the same time showing good pressure and pursuit speed. Though he only recorded 40 tackles last season, they included 3 sacks, 8 TFL and 4 QB hurries. He looks to be primed for even more impressive numbers this year. He is not even on the initial SENIOR BOWL prospect watch list right now, which I find surprising. People could be sleeping on this guy, who might have a very bright pro future. I expect him to be highly visible during the ACC Conference schedule. To my eyes he has Top 100 prospect potential written all over him.
LETERRIUS WALTON/DT/CENTRAL MICHIGAN #58 6'5/323
Those of you who follow Pigskin Paul realize that I am a sucker for prospects who fit the "Big Ugly" classification. Take a look at WALTON's size and you know why I am featuring him. He's playing DT, not the nose, on a deep DL rotation at CMU this season. He shows flashes of disruptive ability at times, but overall looks a bit stiff. He does not use his long arms well at all keeping blockers off his body. He spent way too much time content to lock up and dance with the Syracuse OC & OG. He needs to be taught to deliver a shock blow and push them aside with his long arms. He keeps his feet well and can run a bit. I think he would benefit from being left out on the field longer to get more reps. He also has an annoying habit of ducking his head and looking at the ground while trying to push through blockers. This of course makes him lose track of the ball entirely at times. If anything the word for WALTON is potential with a capital P. THis is one player I would luv to see working out at the SHRINE venue come January.
JULIAN WILSON/CB/OKLAHOMA #2 6'2/200
Despite the crack down by NFL officiating crews on DB who manhandle receivers, full sized CB who can handle man-cover responsibilities are still all the craze around the League. WILSON has been a standout performer early this season for the Sooners. He played the Nickel spot last season, but now has a full-time CB job and is handling it very well. His deflection INT, which he returned for 90+ yard TD against Tennessee, was a clear indicator of his talent and NFL potential. He's the most exciting senior pro prospect CB I have seen this early season. He's fearless in man-cover, which makes sense given his athleticism. He looks like a guy who could blow up the COMBINE with his speed numbers come the post-season. And by the way he has been a fearless, aggressive tackler. He clearly is aware of his ability and is supremely confident in his ability. Playing for a top ranked team will only help push up his ranking. Mark me down as projecting him to have serious 1st Round potential for next May.
********September 11: Youth will be served ....
The fine art of turning over NFL rosters features multiple approaches from different General Managers and Personnel Departments. I always find it interesting to see how much turnover has taken place on team rosters around the League. I'm especially curious as to how much change is from Rookies and how much is from veteran acquisitions, such as trades, Vet Free Agency, CFL signings, etc. Listed below are all NFL teams with info on how many Rookies made the teams and how many players overall are new to the rosters. The rosters I looked at were on September 4 & 5. More changes have taken place since then, with many more to follow. I have also indicated with an asterisk (*) teams that might have a new player on IR/Scheduled For Return. Each team may designate one such player at any time during the year. In my numbers refugees from the CFL do not count as Rookies. Remember it is a snapshot in time, because NFL rosters are a very fluid thing, what with multiple reserve lists, commissioner suspensions and Practice Squads to raid for perceived needs as the season progresses.
TEAM Rookies FA vets Total
CARDINALS 8 11 19
FALCONS 7 12 19
RAVENS 9 6 15
BILLS 7 10 17
PANTHERS 7 10 17
BEARS 10 14 24
BENGALS 7 3 10
BROWNS 11 13 24
COWBOYS 9* 10 19
BRONCOS 7 7 14
LIONS 9* 9 18
PACKERS 9 2 11
TEXANS 10 11 21
COLTS 7 11 18
JAGUARS 11 9 20
CHIEFS 9 9 18
DOLPHINS 13 9 22
VIKINGS 9 8 17
PATRIOTS 7 8 15
SAINTS 7* 5 12
GIANTS 8 13* 21
JETS 7 7 14
RAIDERS 8 15 23
EAGLES 8 7 15
STEELERS 6* 7 13
RAMS 10 5 15
CHARGERS 9 7 15
49'ers 9 7 16
SEAHAWKS 7 4 11
BUCCANEERS 6* 16 22
TITANS 6 12 18
REDSKINS 6 6 12
Some random observations...
There were an average of just over 17 new players per team across the NFL; assuming that's relatively normal number, it suggests that NFL teams turn over their roster just about every three years on average!
DA BEARS with 24 new players on a 53-man roster for a team that just missed the Play-Offs.
PACKERS with less than double-digit Rookies, although they did stash 2 more on IR.
I found it curious that in a year when most felt the Draft Class was strong only 6 teams kept double digit Rookies.
At the same time 13 teams added double digit new vets.
I don't have the exact average, but it feels like fewer new players per team than in recent years.
No surprise to me that with LOVIE SMITH in charge the BUCS kept only 6 Rookies, but added 16 new vets, most in the League.
BROWNS led with 24 new players, though DA BEARS tied them.
No surprise that PACKERS had fewest new vets on their roster with 2, or that BENGALS were next with 3. They both grow their own.
I was a little surprised that a mediocre COWBOYS team only found help from 19 new players.
Lots of second/third year guys made rosters after spending Practice Squad time with teams. But that's another story for another day perhaps.
September 10: Prospects who stood in college football this week
There was a mixed bag of games and prospects to watch in Week 2 of the College Football season this past weekend. I avoid giving any evaluation of a team or players based on cup-cake games, of which there were many. Thus you won't find any SEC players featured this week. So let's move along to players who saw action in real, competitive match-ups.
BLAKE BELL/TE/OKLAHOMA #10 6'6/260
Instead of pouting and/or transferring when he lost his job as starting QB for the Sooners BELL took seriously the move to the TE position. And he looked good in that role against TULSA last Saturday. His natural size and athleticism are hard to ignore. He also looks to have big, soft hands and a large target/catching radius. He pulled in two passes in the game, one of them for a TD. The Sooners admit his inline blocking leaves room for much improvement, but his attitude and size are both positives in that process. Certainly not draftable right now, but let's review this project in December. I liked what I saw and he's young enough to make this position change.
CARL DAVIS/DT/IOWA #71 6'5/315
DAVIS in not an elite prospect, but with his natural size and strength he's well above average as a pro prospect. He has a nice combination of decent size along with functional strength. BALL STATE double team blocked him much of the day and still could not move him off the line of scrimmage. He penetrated on multiple occasions, but did occasionally lose track of the ball with his push effort. I liked the fact that he left the field hurt in the early 4th quarter, but came back in to help his team stop the Ball State and get the ball back into the hands of the IOWA Offense. He's not a first rounder IMO, but certainly deserves a Top 100 draft spot from a 4-3 scheme NFL team next May. AS with most Hawkeye players he is fundamentally sound. But buyer beware to some degree, because like many players from IOWA his upside is probably limited. FERENTZ and his staff coach up most of their guys to their max ability during their college careers.
IFO EKPRE-OLOMU/CB/OREGON #14 5'10/195
Despite not fitting the new template for bigger CB in the NFL this young man clearly has what it takes to be a success at the pro level. He's fast, quick and tough. He is not intimidated by bigger receivers and relishes tackling in run support. He also has excellent hand/eye coordination and ball skills. As Oregon was trying to put away the Spartans in the 4th quarter IFO made a diving INT off a deflected pass to end a drive. He also was elusive and explosive as a Punt Returner. He's just a titch bigger, but I think he can have the kind of effect for a defense that the BEARS & COLTS have gotten from TIM JENNINGS during his fine NFL career. Despite his relative lack of size, he's looking like a strong candidate for Round 1 Draft status next May.
DEVIN FUNCHESS/WR/MICHIGAN #1 6'5/230
If there was a bright spot for MICHIGAN fans in their shutout loss to NOTRE DAME, it had to be the work of FUNCHESS as he makes his conversion from TE to WR. Despite not having elite WR speed he gets open and uses that big body to screen off defenders from the ball. He has very soft hands and is a natural at snatching the ball out of the air. He reminded me of KELVIN BENJAMIN, who had the breakout year at FSU in 2013. Against a solid NOTRE DAME secondary he caught 9 balls for 107 yards. And just when the game announcers were questioning his downfield ability he pulled in a 33-yarder down the sideline. Needless to say his experience as a TE also makes him an effective downfield blocker for the running game. He should clearly be the go-to guy for his team and should amass some big numbers by season's end. At this pace he's a potential late First Rounder.
JUSTIN HARDY/WR/EAST CAROLINA #2 6'0/190
One of the most dependable receivers in the 2015 Draft class, he showed his skills off in the road game against the Gamecocks. He's developed a great chemistry with his QB sidekick SHANE CARDEN and it shows in the frequency he is targeted by CARDEN. Against the Gamecocks HARDY caught 11 balls, for 133 yards. He works the middle of the field fearlessly, coming out of the slot on most plays. He is a solid hands catcher. He also has some shake-and-bake after he catches the ball. Not a speed burner/long ball threat, but he is a very solid route runner, who is dependable for his QB. He looks to me to have the skill set and savvy to head into the NFL like former MAC star GREG JENNINGS. He's a Top 100 player with a chance for Round 2 ala JARVIS LANDRY this year.
MARCUS MARIOTA/QB/OREGON #8 6'4/215
The first bit of good news is that MARIOTA was moving around like his old self on in this one. I liked the fact that he ran sparingly but effectively. He is impressively accurate most of the time when rolling the pocket. Against one of the toughest Defenses in the country he went 17/28, 318 yards & 3 TD, with 0 INT. He also gained 42 yards on 9 runs. I will also point out that his young, inexperienced receivers dropped multiple catchable balls. He also performed under a lot of pocket pressure for most of the game, until Spartan defenders ran out of gas in the 4th quarter on a very hot day in Oregon. He also looked to make some nice throwing adjustments as STATE blitzed from all over, all day long. He can throw long or short, and has pro level mobility, arm strength and game awareness. He's my top NFL QB prospect and don't see how he doesn't come out for the 2015 NFL DRAFT. He should put up some huge numbers again this season against most PAC 12 defenses.
MICHAEL McFARLAND/TE/SOUTH FLORIDA #80 6'5/250
As I was quick-scanning a few games late in the afternoon Saturday this young man caught my eye. That can be hard to do when the second string QB is trying to run the offense at this level of play. I'd like to see a certified scale weight on this guy, cause he sure looks a lot slighter than his program weight. But I liked what I saw of this long, tall target as he appeared to find holes in the zone regularly to be running open downfield. He has long arms and seemingly large hands. He showed good straight line speed on a couple of occasions when he caught the ball with some room to run, and even ran through a couple of tackles. He finished the day against Maryland with 4 catches for 55 yards. I'm going to want to see more of him n action, but for a guy who's name I didn't see on any prospect watch lists he stood out to me in this one, against good competition.
ERIC PATTERSON/CB/BALL STATE #5 5'10/190
I'm still trying to figure out how IOWA snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against BALL STATE last Saturday. But I can tell you not to blame this young man, who was the leader of the CARDINALS defense. He is not a ball hawking INT guy, but does everything else you can ask of a defender. He finished the almost-upset with 9 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL and 2 pass break-ups. He's all over the field and is fearless in pursuit of the football. His lack of INT numbers for his career will hurt him, but he certainly looks like he could play in sub-packages at the pro level and should have solid Special Teams potential. If he continues to play well all season his numbers at the COMBINE will have a lot to say as to whether he gets drafted next May or not.
ADAM SHEAD/OG/OKLAHOMA #74 6'4/320
I tuned into the SOONERS game determined to write about one of their two massive OT, either WILLIAMS or THOMPSON, but it only took about 10 minutes for SHEAD to catch my eye in a major way. He looked more mobile and athletic than either of the OT, and he absolutely mauled the defenders he blocked. Some of the best yardage gained on the ground was through holes he opened. He looked aggressive, but very much under control. He got to second level blocks and stoned his man in pass blocking. Finding interior OL who are both strong and athletic is the challenge for NFL scouts. This guy looked to fit that bill to my eyes in this game. He bears some further close scrutiny as the season progresses. His performance is exactly what I hope to discover on college game days, as it literally caught my eye from a scouting perspective.
September 3: Prospects who stood in week one of the college schedule
September has just begun and we have already completed a dynamic and surprising Week One of the 2014 College Football season. As I watch the game action every weekend I am also poised, with pen in hand, to jot down notes on players who caught my eye as potential NFL players. Mostly good, and occasionally bad, I will give you weekly thumbnail sketch of players Who, literally, Caught My Eye.
TONY CHICKILLO/DE/MIAMI #71 6'4/277 ... He's not quite the athlete some thought he would be coming out of high school, but he's been a tough productive player for the 'Canes. He played his usual hustling game in the loss at Louisville. His work included a sack and forced fumble early in the 2nd quarter that seemed to temporarily give MIAMI game momentum. He's best suited for a pro 4-3 scheme due to his size. His hard work and moves get him into the backfield constantly. He is also adept at flashing into QB sight lanes. I felt he almost tipped two passes Monday night. In general he finds ways to wreak havoc on opposing Offenses. He's a 100% effort guy, who should work his way into a Round 4 selection spot.
GERALD CHRISTIAN/TE/LOUISVILLE #10 6'3/245 ... CHRISTIAN is a player who sometimes flies under the radar because he's not a physical specimen or much of a 'flash' guy. But he does a bit of everything and helps his team win. He's not a blazer, but he finds holes in the defense and shows nice hands. He caught 6 balls, for 69 yards and 1 TD in the win over MIAMI. He also blocks fiercely downfield and on the edge. As an inline blocker he lacks the size and strength to really move defenders off the line. He was an essential offensive component in the big opening win for LOUISVILLE. He's well suited for today's back-up TE in an NFL precision passing attack. He's looking like a guy who could make himself draftable by season's end.
RASHAD GREENE/WR/FLORIDA STATE #80 6'0/180 ... This will-of-the-wisp wideout is going to hold a ton on FSU receiving records when this season ends. In all the glitz & glamour of the Seminoles national championship it was almost a lost footnote when he announced he would return to school for the 2014 season. Despite not having ideal size, by NFL standards, in a thin WR class for the 2015 Draft, GREENE could be so productive he's hard to bypass in late Round 1. He is a smooth route runner, with good speed. He runs precise patterns and has shake and bake after the catch. He quietly wore Okie State out with an 11 catch, 203 yards, 1 TD receiving night. A great start, against a quality opponent, for GREENE. Just ask Mr. WINSTON how happy he is to have GREENE back in the fold.
TODD GURLEY/RB/GEORGIA #3 6'1/228 ... Nothing that GURLEY does can be considered a surprise, but in an offense that rotates 2-4 RB every week putting up numbers like he did against a tough/veteran CLEMSON defense was epic. GURLEY rushed a mere 15 times, for 198 yards, and 3 TD. He also returned a kick-off 100-yards for a TD. He's down about 7-10 lbs. from last season and looks more explosive than ever. He's quick to the hole and explosive through it. He seems to make cuts without slowing down. Wait for it... he looks to me like a better pro-prospect than former Bulldogs straight-line star HERSCHEL WALKER. If he keeps this pace up, and stays healthy, I believe the 2 year draught of no NFL Draft 1st Round RB is about to end as he comes out early.
GRADY JARRETT/DT/CLEMSON #50 6'1/290 ... UGA ran Clemson into the ground to open the season, but don't blame JARRETT. The productive, high effort DT was his usual self in trying to hold the line for the Tigers who as expected had to rely on their D, given their inexperience on the Offensive side of the ball. JARRETT wore down, like the entire defense, because of too much time on the field and a bigger, deeper UGA O. Not to mention the dynamic GURLEY. JARRETT has solid NFL potential as long as he can play in a DL rotation, with a bigger DT next to him. He's not an elite player, and lacks the explosion off the snap of a GENO ATKINS, but he showed again in this game that his heart is bigger than his body and he will make plays given talent around him. He looks draftable to me, but not in the Top 100.
ERIC KENDRICKS/ILB/UCLA #6 6'0/230 ... While the UCLA Offense stumbled in their opener @ VIRGINiA, HC JIM MORA and his staff had to count on their Defense to save the day. They delivered as a group and as usual their 2013 100+ tackling machine led the way. KENDRICKS is a bit undersized by NFL standards, but he is a natural at finding the ball and making plays. His all-around ability reminds me of CHRIS BORLAND who led the BADGERS stout Defense last season. In his all over the field performance KENDRICKS most impactful play of the day was probably his Pick-Six adding another 6 points to the scoreboard for the offensively challenged Bruins. KENDRICKS won't be listed as elite for the 2015 DRAFT, but his productivity should make it hard for some team to not take him in the Top 100 Picks.
SHAWN OAKMAN/DE/BAYLOR #2 6'9/280 ... Yes, you read those size numbers correctly. The PENN STATE transfer is one of the more intriguing players in college ball. He's so long he still looks skinny at 280 lbs. Can't wait to see some official numbers on this arm length and hand size. He's playing in a two deep DL rotation, but as the schedule toughens I expect him to get more playing time, especially against passing teams. He looks to have natural outside pass rush ability and teams are gong to have to scheme just to contain him. SMU had no clue how to neutralize him. Count on OAKMAN to have some highlight reel plays ala CLOWNEY before the year is over. He's only a junior, and pretty raw, but if he flashes some more big games against Top 25 teams it may be hard to keep him in Waco for another season.
CEDRIC OGBUEHI/OT/TEXAS A&M #70 6'5/300 ... I did not see anything in OGBUEHI's play against South Carolina to indicate that he won't be the 3rd straight AGGIE OT to go in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft come May, 2015. His body type and style of play reminds me a lot more of LUKE JOECKEL than RYAN MATTHEWS. I'm not sure he'll ever be able to beef up that body of his. THat means his best shot as a pro would likely be a precision passing Offense like Green Bay or New Orleans. He shows the length and foot speed to keep pass rushing defenders in front of him. And he can easily get to second level blocking assignments in the running game. He's a savvy, polished player who is likely to be considered elite as a prospect and instant Rookie starter as a pro.
STEPHON SANDERS/DE/OLB/SMU #23 6'3/250 ... It was tough to assign a draft grade to SANDERS based on this game, where SMU was completely outmanned to take on BAYLOR. But he is an interesting long range, developmental project. He plays with his hand down, as an edge rusher most of the time. But he's undersized for that role, and isn't super quick off the edge. He did show some ability to drop back into coverage, but also looked lost in space more often than not. He also looked a bit soft to me both mentally and physically. I think he needs to lose about 10 lbs., tone up in the weight room and get some serious coaching as a potential 3-4 D, OLB at the pro level. Let's call him developmental project player.
KEVIN WHITE/WR/WEST VIRGINIA #11 6'3/210 ... WHITE may be a real developmental prospect to watch this season. NFL teams will be searching far and wide to find enough WR prospects to keep the pass-happy league content after last season's mother lode of NFL prospects. KEVIN is a physical specimen who just did not develop as quickly as hoped/expected in the WVU offensive scheme last year as a JC recruit. He caught only 35 balls in an Offense that completed under 55% of it's throws in year one, post-GENO. But if one game can be a valid indicator, the light may be going on for WHITE right now. Against an athletic Alabama Defense WHITE played his way to 9 catches, for 143 yards and 1 TD. His size and speed could lead to lots of catches since QB/TRICKETT looks more comfortable at the helm this year.
August 28: UNDRAFTED ROOKS WHO COULD/SHOULD MAKE THEIR TEAM
It's always a dangerous game to predict who is making an NFL roster and who is getting cut. There are always some significant moves and then some head-scratching minor ones. So even as the process continues here is my short list of 25 guys I saw enough of in pre-season games to make me think they deserve spots on 53-man rosters.
ASON ANKRAH/DE/LB/#65/TEXANS He has really adapted quickly to the 3-4 scheme of the TEXANS and DC ROMEO CRENNEL. He has shown a high motor and some pass rush ability. Why not one more Rookie on a rebuilding team... assuming they admit to rebuilding.
COREY BROWN/WR/RS/#16/PANTHERS He was the best all-around receiver for the Buckeyes last year, and is showing ability in all phases as a rookie in pANTHERS camp. The tie-breaker is that he also shows well as a return guy.
MALCOLM BUTLER/CB/#29/PATRIOTS Watching him in pre-season play you'd think he was watching REVIS very carefully. He has the speed and quickness to stay with receivers and shows a basic ability to keep track of his man as well as locating the flight of the ball. He's looked really solid to me.
CHANDLER CATANZARO/K/#7/CARDS As I projected after game 2 of the pre-season, the temptation to replace an old leg with a stronger, cheaper young one was just toot tempting for CARDS. The only thing keeping him from being drafted late was lack of a long resume'. CLEMSON scored TDs, not many FG needed.
DEANDRE COLEMAN/DT/#75/JAGUARS Talent and size were never in question while he was at CAL. HIs desire and fire were in doubt. He has been dominant at times in the pre-season and best of all has been his constant effort.
BROCK COYLE/ILB/#45/SEAHAWKS He's gotten a lot of reps filling in for injured vets and has made the most of the extra playing time. He has nice size and strength, but best of all his range has been a pleasant surprise. Also the kind of intense player Coach PETE likes.
ROY FINCH/RB/RS/#29/PATRIOTS The guy os tiny but his speed and quickness is world class. This team always keeps some guys because of "special" skill sets. His touches need to be limited so he's not broken in half, but his big-play potential is frightening for opponents.
JON HARRISON/OC/#72/COLTS He's not a special athlete, and has to combine guile and smarts to make up for some physical short comings, but since KHALED HOLMES went down he has hustled his way to success snapping the ball to MR. LUCK.
RYAN HEWITT/FB/H-B/#89/BENGALS Ever since BENGALS decided to not keep a traditional FB they have struggled to run in short yardage and goal line situations. HEWITTT is changing that and he also shows good hands as a receiving threat. Versatility and athleticism should earn him a roster spot.
ALLEN HURNS/WR/#88/JAGUARS LEE has been inconsistent, and ROBINSON can't get healthy. Enter HURNS who has been catching everything in sight, especially from the QB of the future BORTLES. He's a starter right now IMO.
JAMES HURST/OT/#74/RAVENS HURST has been playing up a storm when I have watched RAVENS games. He's athletic and technically sound. I could see him taking over at LT fairly soon allowing MONROE to slide over to RT. But for his Bowl game leg injury he'd have been drafted in Top 100.
CHRISTIAN JONES/LB/#96/BEARS This may be my biggest projection, but this long/lean athlete has so many physical tools and such mobility that he would seem to have starting potential with solid NFL mentoring/coaching. BEARS are rebuilding their defense and his potential is high.
HOWARD JONES/LB/#47/STEELERS JONES wowed everyone at the COMBINE and he's carrying forward by putting that athleticism to good use in pre-season. If he shows enough on Special Teams to stick, he's a great long range project.
ZACH KERR/DT/#64/COLTS Oe of my faves at SHRINE Week KERR has gotten more and more playing time with injuries to others and is showing he can move that big body. Energy level is outstanding for a big guy, and he inspires teammates.
BRANDEN OLIVER/RB/RS/#43/CHARGERS the team already has Mighty Mouse WOODHEAD on their squad, but he's 30ish. OLIVER has been powerful and explosive at times. If he can refine his receiving skills they may have to find a place for two midget RB on the roster.
TYLER PATMON/CB/#35/COWBOYS In a secondary that needs improving this guy has emerged as a pleasant surprise while some high priced vets nurse injuries in Big D. He battles hard for his size and has definite ball skills with his quickness. He also looks to have some return ability as well.
SOLOMON PATTON/WR/RS/#86 The kid who really came on as a senior at Florida seems to have won the return jobs in Tampa. He may also see the field for some reverses and screens as well. He blazes at times and is also quick.
MIKE PENNEL/DT/#64/PACKERS No one ever questioned his size/talent and he appears to be controlling himself off the field. With the RAJI injury the door is wide open and this big guy appears to be holding up quite well while running with the first team D.
LOUCHIEZ PURIFOY/CB/PR/#7/COLTS He was highly regarded until he ran into some legal issues in college and then did not run well at the COMBINE. But he's been fast enough n Camp to provide some coverage help and earn more tries as a returner.
JACQUES SMITH/DE/LB/#45/FALCONS He came on real strong from the start in Camp. Has leveled off recently, but his physical skills attract and he seems to get it. If he improves on coverage units he could grab a roster spot and develop.
DANIEL SORENSON/S/#49/CHIEFS Looked solid at Shrine Week and then put up better than expected numbers at the COMBINE. Came into Camp and showed smarts and willingness to try anything coaches asked of him. Attitude can help a lot earning a roster spot.
JUWAN THOMPSON/RB/#40/BRONCOS Denver needs to replace the depth in their RB corps and this guy has been tough and productive for them in he pre-season. CUTCLIFFE isn't winning with mirrors at Duke. THOMPSON is a solid athlete and very competitive.
COREY WASHINGTON/WR/#6/GIANTS This tall guy (6'4/210) from a small school has been a difference maker playing with back-ups in the pre-season. He uses his size to win ball competition with defenders and gets open. He could sneak onto this roster if they keep 6 wideouts.
DAMIEN WILLIAMS/RB/#5/DOLPHINS This hard charging runner couldn't get along with his coaches at Oklahoma. But his talent was never in question. He also has good speed for his size. He's beating out THOMAS & GILLISLEE right now.
Now I'll just hope that not too many of these guys get cut in the next 5 days. If some do, then hope your favorite team grabs a couple of them. They really look like keepers to me. Day 4 of the Draft can be very fruitful for teams that work it!
August 25: Pre-season GBN College Football Rankings
July 28: Most Important New Faces for each NFC Team
CARDINALS The OL has been a sore spot for this team seemingly forever. They gain last year's Round 1 Pick JON COOPER/C/G back from injury, but he doesn't count here. The big news is the VFA signing of JARED VELDHEER/OT who was an emerging player for the RAIDERS until injured last year. He is 27-years old and could be a solid starter at LT for them most of the remainder of this decade. Mark this down as a potential huge upgrade. This could really help the nervous-in-the-pocket CARSON PALMER.
FALCONS Lots of comings and goings in Atlanta this off-season. But clearly their first pick in the 2014 Draft of OT/JAKE MATTHEWS has to be the most significant roster addition. This is a team with a Franchise QB that needs better protection. MATT RYAN was sacked 44 times last season. MATTHEWS has great bloodlines and is as savvy and talented as it gets. He's an instant starter with Pro Bowls in his future.
PANTHERS Carolina has one of the emerging young talents at QB in the NFL in 25-year old CAM NEWTON. But amazingly the team allowed his top 3 WR (SMITH/LaFELL/GINN) to leave town, leaving a huge void much like BRADY faced in New England last year. IMO that automatically makes First Round WR/KELVIN BENJAMIN the most critical new player in PANTHERS camp. The limited experience underclassman needs to beat the NFL rookie receiver learning curve and become a major weapon for CAM right now. No pressure young man!
BEARS PHIL EMERY's big task this off-season was to retool DA BEARS DL, much like he did with the OL in 2013. He has brought in 6 VFA and spent his 2nd & 3rd Round Draft PIcks to bolster said DL. Without a doubt the most immediate impact should come from JARED ALLEN/DE, who the VIKINGS bid adieu to as they rebuild their entire roster. ALLEN had his typical double-digit sack numbers last season, but even more importantly he brings the kind of energy and fire to the field and locker room that DA BEARS lost when URLACHER retired. I guarantee you that JAY CUTLER s glad to have him on board as a teammate.
COWBOYS The COWBOYS need a lot of help to be serious Play-Off contenders, especially on Defense. A healthy VFA/HENRY MELTON/DT is just what the doctor ordered for newly appointed DC ROD MARINELLI. MELTON was establishing himself as an elite inside pass rush specialist who was also solid against the run before being injured last season. It should be noted that MELTON had blossomed under the tutelage of MARINELLI during the LOVIE SMITH regime in the Windy City.
LIONS The biggest addition in Detroit is starting the Camp off on the PUP list. And it may seem strange to some of you that I think a VFA WR/GOLDEN TATE is a big help in the wide open STAFFORD Offense in Detroit. But it might surprise many of you to learn that after MEGATRON the next highest catch total for a WR in Detroit last season was 39 by the since departed NATE BURLESON. TATE was the bell-cow receiver in Seattle last year with 64 regular season catches. STAFFORD's high flying offense is the main asset for the LIONS on most Sundays. Play to your strength, as they say.
PACKERS No I am not going to anoint a VFA named PEPPERS here. I am going with First Round Draft Pick HA HA CLINTON-DIX. The PACKERS ranked 24th on Defense against the pass in 2013. And the entire S group contributed 0 INT to that disappointing effort. If HA HA can play smart and athletic S like he did in college it will be a major upgrade for the entire Defense, which will be under the microscope this season. The unusual VFA signings of PEPPERS & GUION by TED THOMPSON would seem to indicate that the team is all-in for a 2014 season Super Bowl run. CLINTON-DIX needs to be an impact Rookie.
VIKINGS This team is clearly rebuilding to position itself for a Play-Off contending roster by the time their new stadium opens in 2016. Any major progress in attaining that goal has to start with a new NFL franchise caliber QB. MATT CASSEL may be number one right now, and may even start the season at the helm, but I expect TEDDY BRIDGEWATER/QB/Rookie to take over that job sometime during the 2014 season. BRIDGEWATER doesn't have to star immediately, but getting established as THE MAN at the QB position by season's end is crucial to this team.
SAINTS The SAINTS clearly see their Super Bowl window starting to close, whether they admit it publicly or not. Their crafty field general DREW BREES is 35-years old and not getting any taller or quicker. They have also taken some major personnel hits because of injury and Salary Cap issues. Their best immediate prospects for a deep Play-Off run clearly lie with continued progress on Defense, which clearly began last season under new DC ROB RYAN. The team was a dead even 0 in turnover/takeaway ratio, and a big part of that mediocrity was a paltry 12 INT as a team. Expect VFA/S/JAIRUS BYRD to add significantly to that total. BYRD is a serious ball hawk who will be counted on to spur that secondary on to bigger turnover numbers, thus setting up the O for even more BREES-led fireworks and scoring.
GIANTS The usually staid GIANTS were quite busy shuffling players on and off their roster after a disappointing non-Play-Off 2013 campaign. The team needs a big bounce back from ELI MANNING. You just don't expect a guy like ELI to throw almost twice as many INT and TD passes. The running game needs to get better, the pass protection needs a major upgrade, defense needs more QB pressure and takeaways. But the biggest single addition could be First Round Pick WR/ODELL BECKHAM. BECKHAM has rare speed to get open deep for the big armed ELI and he may get a chance to add a boost in the return game. If he can replace the production of a good year by NICKS, ELI may have a big bounce back season.
EAGLES DeSEAN JACKSON was waived, and LeSEAN McCOY was clearly worked too hard last season. That's why I really like the acquisition of DARREN SPROLES/RB/RS from the Saints. In a CHIP KELLY scheme the versatility of a SPROLES primarily as a receiver and in the return game should really shine. SPROLES caught 71 balls in the Big Easy last season, which would have placed him second on the EAGLES team. McCOY caught 52 balls in addition to rushing it another 314 times. 20 touches per game for McCoy would be ideal. SPROLES taking some of his catches away would be a good thing. SPROLES is past his prime, but he still looks more than capable of a couple more productive years in Chip Kelly's schemes. He might also upgrade their Punt Return efforts.
RAMS Lots of good young talent being added to this team with a solid 11-man Draft Class. Despite the good work of ZAC STACY in 2013, it seems to me that TRE MASON/RB/R might be a major contributor to the 2014 RAMS running attack. He has burst and speed that STACY can only dream about. STACY averaged less than 4 ypc in 2013. MASON should be able to exceed that number. They'll both get their share of carries, but MASON should provide the team with more of a long ball threat. MASON may be short, at 5'9, but he weighs in at over 205 lbs.
49'ers There really isn't a lot of room for Rookies to jump right into this team's lineup. But it may surprise you when I say that the Niners passing attack ranked 30th in the League in 2013. More than KAEPERNICK the issue may have been some injury and productivity issues with the receiver group. CRABTREE missed much time to injury, but still ranked 4th overall in catches with only 19 for the year. Leading receiver ANQUAN BOLDIN will be 34-years old in October, and BRUCE MILLER/FB was the third most productive receiver last year with 25. OK, enough of what's not quite right and let me get to the chase in proclaiming recent trade acquisition STEVIE JOHNSON/WR as their most significant newcomer in the city by the bay. JOHNSON is 28 and should be in his pro prime. JOHNSON in an off year (for him) had 52 catches in Buffalo last season. If he can get along better with HC HARBAUGH than he did with HC MARRONE he could give the team a solid Big 3 and allow KAEPERNICK to move the passing game up several notches.
SEAHAWKS It is always a crap shoot to figure out how new players are likely to fare in PETE CARROLL's competition based atmosphere. The most intriguing new player could be the team's first pick of the 2014 Draft: PAUL RICHARDSON/WR. He has that blazing, smooth speed that can take the top off of most defenses. He'll get NFL hardened in Camp going against the physical Seattle secondary group. He could also prove valuable in the return game. It would seem that PERCY HARVIN will need to be spelled regularly to conserve his health. That could get RICHARDSON on the field more than many might expect.
BUCCANEERS Another team with a ton of new faces in Camp to provide an upgrade for this 4-12 team. Clearly in a LOVIE SMITH scheme of things the passing game will play third fiddle to Defense and the running game. But for a team that ranked 32nd (dead last) in the passing game R/MIKE EVANS/WR could have a huge immediate impact in resurrecting some semblance of a passing attack for this team. After all, proclaimed starting QB/VFA/JOSH McCOWN thrived last season in Chicago working with big wideouts in MARSHALL & JEFFERY. Why can't he duplicate that with the jumbo combo of VNCENT JACKSON & MIKE EAVNS?
REDSKINS It should only take about 3 seconds to figure out who I am picking for this team. His name is DeSEAN JACKSON/WR, the unexpected/belated Christmas present for RG3, who the EAGLES decided was addition by subtraction. The boys in Old D.C. already had a good receiving corps before JACKSON. Now they have the proven, big play guy to compliment PIEERE GARCON, who led the NFL with 113 catches in 2013. Who wouldn't luv to bring in a guy coming off an 82 catch, 1332-yard, 9 TD season? By the way JACKSON wont turn 28 until December.
July 24: Most Important New Faces for each AFC Team
Breathing new blood into NFL teams is the name of the biggest game for team Personnel Departments, especially in this day and age of Veteran Free Agency where every team loses players when new contracts must be hammered out, all the while watching the Salary Cap bottom line. Here is my breakdown of the most important, immediate acquisition for each A.F.C. team as Training Camps open.
RAVENS First team up and I am about to cop-out with a tie here between new OC GARY KUBIAK and WR/STEVE SMITH. The RAVENS O fell apart last season ranking 29th in Total Offense in the League. They were also 25th ranked in scoring. Part of the value of both of these new guys is bringing in some new attitude and confidence. SMITH has likely seen his best days on the field, but his hard-ass, workmanlike attitude will set the kind of tone for the offense that RAY LEWIS used to bring on D. SMITH still caught 64 balls last season which would have been second on the RAVENS behind TORRY SMITH's 65. KUBIAK was the OC in Denver before moving to the TEXANS as HC. His biggest job is to rebuild the confidence of JOE FLACCO who threw more INT than TD in 2013.
BILLS Not too much pressure to go along with being a Rookie for SAMMY WATKINS/WR. Trading up to take him at Pick 4 overall cost the BILLS their Round 1 Pick in 2015. They also felt free to trade their top wideout this decade STEVIE JOHNSON to the 49'ers. WATKINS will be expected to exceed JOHNSON's 52 catches and 3 TD... by a lot. And he will have to do it with second year QB/E.J. MANUEL who started 10 games as a Rookie and is coming back from 2 procedures on his left knee.
BENGALS The Law Firm has been a steady/heady RB for the BENGALS, but his 3.4 ypc tells you he lacks the explosiveness to break the big one. GIO BERNARD looked good as a Rookie, but is best out in space catching the ball and doing selected return work. Second Round PIck JEREMY HILL/RB is a power back who can break big runs and should be dynamite in the Red Zone. He could be the best big back this team has had since COREY DILLON, and put DALTON in better down-and-distance situations than he had last year. I look for him to gain carries as the season progresses.
BROWNS Remember now this is for 2014, not down the road. So forget MANZIEL, please. VFA BEN TATE/RB may help the BROWNS the most this season. The BROWNS leading runner in 2013 was WILLIS McGAHEE who averaged 2.7 ypc. TATE played on an equally bad Houston team and rushed for 771 yards at a 4.3 ypc clip. He's 26-years old and gets his chance to emerge as "the man" in a running game behind a decent OL. The BROWNS ranked 27th in rushing offense last season. TATE should help improve that and take some pressure off of HOYER or MANZIEL. There, I got back to MANZIEL for you
BRONCOS This team certainly doesn't need a whole lot of help on Offense with MR. PEYTON back, but it would be nice if the O didn't need to score 37 points every week, in part because of a shaky Defense that ranked 19th overall in 2013. The team had 41 sacks last year, which ranked 13th in the NFL. But they lost 2 of their 3 top sack-men in PHILLIPS (10) & AYERS (5.5). A healthy, and not suspended VON MILLER will help a lot in 2014, but the big addition is DEMARCUS WARE/DE, who had an injury plagued 2013 and wanted out of Big D. The COWBOYS let him go and the BRONCOS expect/hope for double digit sack production out of WARE this season.
TEXANS This team was so bad in 2013 help could come from anywhere and they'd be grateful. I don't see significant immediate help at QB for them, so the impact on defense by No. 1 Pick JADEVEON CLOWNEY/LB/E needs to be huge. CLOWNEY & the return of BRIAN CUSHING/LB should help a guy named WATT be even more productive than his 10.5 sacks of 2013. Both on and off the field CLOWNEY needs to be the next WATT and help improve on the 29th ranked sack total of 32 from 2013.
COLTS Even though I am a believer that REGGIE WAYNE will be back, the man is 36-years old. HAKEEM NICKS/WR needed a change of pace from the GIANTS. Now he needs to bounce back to his hand-snatching self. His slump year of 56 catches with the G-Men would have been 2nd on the COLTS receiving list last season. He needs to bounce back and give the COLTS that needed 3rd impact receiver that ANDREW LUCK deserves. If fully healthy the 26-year old could be a good long range contributor as well.
JAGUARS There is no doubt that the biggest impact, long-term, needs to come from draftee QB/BLAKE BORTLES, but this team is still so weak that they need to be patient on that front. I see MARQISE LEE/WR/RS being the player who needs to emerge right away. Remember both BLACKMON & ACE SANDERS start the season on suspended lists. Given that the JAGS 2013 offense ranked 31st overall, 31st in rushing & 22nd in passing someone has to emerge to jump start that O. The explosive LEE looks to me to be the best equipped new guy to come in and stretch the field a bit.
CHIEFS The team lost far more than it gained on the personnel front this past off-season. We won't even talk yet about the potential CHARLES contract holdout. Of what little the team could afford to add It seems to me that the ability of 4th Rounder De'ANTHONY THOMAS/RB/RS to provide yardage and big plays on multiple fronts would put him in a spot to replace the versatile DEXTER McCLUSTER who moved on to Tennessee. THOMAS, like DEXTER, may not fit as a defined position player, because of diminutive size, but his speed and elusiveness make him a threat with the ball any way you can get him touches.
DOLPHINS So many new faces, so many holes to fill. But when your young franchise QB gets sacked a league high 58 times the OL takes precedence for improvement. And new LT/BRANDEN ALBERT is the key component in protecting a righty throwing QB. He comes to South Florida after 83 starts in 6 years in K.C. His new contract contains $25-million guaranteed. He must perform like a Pro-Bowler right away and lead the youngsters who will likely join him in that huddle.
PATRIOTS This one may really surprise most of you, but I think the ability of BRYAN STORK/R/OC to win the starting position from RYAN WENDELL is key for the running game and the health of TOM BRADY. WENDELL is a try-hard, solid technician who is a bulked up 300 lbs, soaking wet. He gets overpowered too often especially when the team faces 3-4 defensive fronts. STORK is a bigger man, and a tough guy as well. He could help prevent that up-the-middle pressure that got to BRADY too often in 2013. That would also free up WENDELL to be a valuable interior back-up at all 3 spots.
JETS Lots of new faces on the 2014 JETS roster, but given how poor the JETS Offense was in 2103, when they ranked 25th in total offense & 29th in scoring VFA ERIC DECKER/WR needs to show that he can a No. 1 WR in the Big Apple. The leading JETS wideout had 43 catches in 2013, while DECKER was hauling in 87 throws for MR. PEYTON in Denver. Whether it's the development of GENO SMITH or the resurgence of MIKE VICK, DECKER needs to be front and center as the team's leading receiver this season.
RAIDERS The hoopla, if there is any in the Bay Area, is about MATT SCHAUB & DEREK CARR being the new QB tandem for the RAIDERS. That is fine, but the biggest factor immediately in either's success may lie, in great part, in the hands, literally, of WR/JAMES JONES/VFA. JONES has had some nice years in Green Bay, including a 59 catch 2013 season, without A-RODGE for half the year. But his talent, experience, size & contract says he's another guy who has to become his new team's No.1 WR . JONES needs to play big and help a young group of receivers develop their game in 2014.
STEELERS Don't be yawning at this selection, but given MIKE TOMLIN's aversion to Rookie mistakes, I am thinking VFA/NT/CAM THOMAS may have the biggest immediate impact for this STEELERS' team. THOMAS will give the 3-4 scheme a true stopper in the middle ala CASEY HAMPTON. It's not glamorous, but the 330 lb. THOMAS will hold the line of scrimmage and help the STEELERS D improve their ranking of 21st against the run in 2013.
CHARGERS It's not that CB/JASON VERRETT didn't deserve to be a 1st Round PIck, but the CHARGERS had to something to help their CB position this off-season. The biggest move of immediate help for the CHARGERS may have been the signing of VFA/CB/BRANDON FLOWERS who became a Cap/contract casualty in K.C. The CHARGERS, who squeaked into the Play-Offs, did so despite a 29th ranked Pass Defense, which only mustered 11 INT the entire 2013 season. And don't think FLOWERS won't really rise to the occasion when he plays against the CHIEFS twice in 2014.
TITANS Lots of things are changing in Nashville with this team, and a big move was sending RB/CHRIS JOHNSON packing. That left oft-injured SHONN GREENE, he of 295 yards & 3.8 ypc in 2013, as the top returning RB. But the TITANS were able to draft RB/BISHOP SANKEY in Round 2 of the Draft and expect big things from him. He's not a straight line speedster, but he's quick, tough and catches well out of the backfield. I look for he and GREENE to split duties early and then for him to gradually get the majority of the carries.
*********July 11: Prelude to Training Camps: QB Competitions
Once Training Camps open in about 2 weeks any new issues and questions will arise. But for now, here are some thoughts about what we already think we know scrolling around the League.
Don't anticipate a large number of starting QB battles to be taking place unless injuries crop up early to starters. Here are a few of the seemingly legit competitions to watch:
JAGUARS The word since the DRAFT is that CHAD HENNE is the team's starting QB and BLAKE BORTLES will be groomed to eventually take over the job. That is probably true, but if BORTLES impresses in Camp and pre-season game action the team will be looking for an excuse to pull the plug and get on with the future ASAP. Best case scenario would be a mid-season QB change, but desperate times call for desperate measures and it will be hard to hold off on BORTLES if the team is 2-8 at their very late BYE week. Remember the last time the JAGS took a young QB early in the Draft and stuck him in as their starting QB early in his Rookie year?
VIKINGS Ditto the above pretty much where MATT CASSEL is about the same quality as HENNE, which means he's a decent veteran backup, not a starter. Once again the team's BYE Week is pretty late, after 9 games, so they may be tempted to put TEDDY BRIDGEWATER in sooner if they are struggling, which I fully expect they will be. Good thing TEDDY likes to throw with a glove on because Minnesota is pretty cold by November when he may get the call to action.
JETS This may be the closest we can come to a good old-fashioned Training Camp QB competition. GENO SMITH showed just enough last season to indicate he might become a decent NFL starting QB in time, but patience is not likely to be a luxury for REX RYAN, with WOODY JOHNSON as his owner. MICHAEL VICK is not in town to carry a clip board and cheer on SMITH. He will get a full shot to win the starting job in Camp. THen SMITH can come back and finish the season after VICK gets hurt in a couple of months.
That's all folks! Really! There are some other teams with a changing of the QB guard a possibility, but I do not believe it will come down to Training Camp competition.
BILLS A healthy E. J. MANUEL is the QB of choice in Buffalo and if anyone else on their current roster comes out of Camp as the starter watch for the BILLS to challenge the 0-16 futility record of the LIONS.
BROWNS BRIAN HOYER is the man for now. Most of Training Camp with MANZIEL will likely revolve around how to fit him into the offensive system in place and vice versa. Then they will also have the task of keeping him off twitter pages.
TEXANS TOM SAVAGE may be the future, but he played so little in college between his transfers that BILL O'BRIEN, Head Coach, will develop him and count on RYAN FITZPATRICK in a struggling retooling year for the team.
RAIDERS DAREK CARR is the future, but the eggs for this year's RAIDERS are in the MATT SCHAUB basket, for better or worse. SCHAUB needs all the reps in Camp to rebuild his shattered QB ego and learn the RAIDERS system.
BUCCANEERS Even though MIKE GLENNON had a decent Rookie showing in 2013 HC/LOVIE SMITH & GM/JASON LICHT see 34-year old JOSH McCOWN as the answer at the helm of a rebuilding team. Trust me, there is no way GLENNON is competing for the starting QB position.
Barring injuries, and there will be injuries, the rest of the NF teams (that would be 24 in number) are dialed in with their current starters and at most are looking to sort through a few Camp guys to find their back-up QB. Heck, I'd be willing to bet almost half the teams in the League will start the regular season with only 2 QB on their rosters.
July 1: SOME RANDON NUMBERS - AND THOUGHTS - ON A QUIET JULY MORN
NFL training camps start to ramp up in less than a month, but for now all is relatively quiet around the league. And thathad me looking at the NFL record book and thinking of the soem of the milestones that are within reach in the next season or so for some of the NFL's enduring stars. Of course, compared to baseball and basketball football is much less of an individual "stats" game by nature. But with the advent of Fantasy Football and video games the emphasis on football skill position stats has ramped up big time in the past decade. Even though I'm not big into either of those football avenues I always take a peek at record chasing in the NFL as each season approaches. And as PEYTON MANNING and TOM BRADY approach the end of their careers their n "numbers" begin to come into clear focus. Overall, there will be more than a few statistical milestones to watch for in the 2014 season from them and a few other players around the League. After a mind-bending 55 TD pass season in 2013, MR. PEYTON has just pulled out into the passing lane when it comes to chasing down BRETT FAVRE's career TD pass record of 508. PEYTON only needs to toss 18 TD passes this year to take over the leadership spot in this important passing category. BRADY & BREES are well back at 359 & 363 respectively, but clearly are closing in on DAN MARINO's mark of 420. MANNING will have to have at least two more big seasons in the areas of completions and passing yardage to eclipse FAVRE's totals there. FAVRE ended his career (we think) with 71,838 passing yards, with MR. PEYTON currently sitting on 64,964 yards. FAVRE also holds the lead in completions at 6,300, while MANNING has 5,532. Those gaps look fairly significant at first blush, but remember the numbers he put up in today's NFL in 2013: 450 completions & 5477 yards. Two more years at that pace and the records are his. Some have speculated that MR. PEYTON might hang up his spikes after the 2014 season if the BRONCOS can win the Super Bowl in Glendale, AZ next February. I say perhaps, but if he's still feeling healthy don't think for a minute that PEYTON would not come back to chase those two records. I think he is acutely aware of his stats, and those of FAVRE, and wants to go out on top in all 3 statistical categories if possible.
It's a long way from the kind of numbers listed above, but current PACKERS QB AARON RODGERS is only 12 TD passes shy of 200 for his career. A seemingly modest 25 TD passes this would jump him up past TERRY BRADSHAW, amongst others. Back to BRADY & BREES... who are both primed to pass JOHN ELWAY for career yards at 51,475. Average career years by either or both would move them past ELWAY. It does seem that both these esteemed QB are chasing DAN MARINO's career numbers before they retire, but neither is likely to hit the rarified air of FAVRE/MANNING numbers.
Meanwhile, Minnesota RB ADRIAN PETERSON appears to be about two good seasons away from breaking into the Top 10 career marks for rushing yards and TD. He needs 9 TD this year to hit triple digits of 100.
REGGIE WAYNE/WR/COLTS is set to move up the receiving records list big time if he can return to the field in good health in 2013. The 35-year old WAYNE ranks No.11 all-time with 13,566 receiving yards. That puts him within striking distance of the No. 7 name on that list, another ex-COLT MARVIN HARRISON. WAYNE already ranks No. 8 all-time in receptions with 1,006. He's 96 catches behind HARRISON on that list. Nothing is imminent quite yet for ANDRE JOHNSON or LARRY FITZGERALD, but both could be eyeing some HOF numbers by the time we look at their totals again next year at this time.
A statistical milestone of note is certainly within striking distance for the RAVENS pass-rushing ace TERRELL SUGGS this season. SUGGS needs 7 sacks to move past 100 for his career. He would join only 30 other players with triple digit sacks if/when he does so. He's only be about half way to career sack leader BRUCE SMITH's mark of 200, however. JARED ALLEN, currently at 128.5 sacks, could push up into the Top 10 all-time with his typical double digit total this season. DA BEARS will certainly be providing him with every opportunity they can to do so.
Let's break away from the stats chase for a little bit and touch on a couple of other tidbits of moderate interest as we are about a month before the start of NFL Training Camps. It's a fact that every season several of the previous years Play-Off teams will not return to post-season play the following season. Mark these two teams down as my early "favorites" to take a major step backward this season:
CHIEFS GM JOHN DORSEY and head coach ANDY REID took this team from the outhouse (2-14) almost to the penthouse (11-5) in 2013. I look for them to fall back to about a .500 record, at best, in 2014. The off-season VFA losses were heavy and there was little to no money to bring in much new talent. And of course the old cliche tat they won't sneak up on anyone this time around does apply.
PANTHERS An awful lot of things went right for the PANTHERS last season as they went 12-4. But their roster was all but gutted by retirement and VFA. CAM NEWTON must proceed with 3 of his top 4 receivers from last season no longer on his roster. The retirement of mainstay LT JORDAN GROSS is a huge blow to a young, mediocre OL. CAM may spend much of this year running for his life. Their D is young and solid up front but their secondary was also depleted by the loss of MITCHELL/S & MUNNERLYN/CB. Could be a long, frustrating year in Carolina.
On the other side of the coin my early picks to move up to replace these two teams in thePlay-Off picture are:
FALCONS Injuries, and a lack of depth, plunged the FALCONS down to a 4-12 mark in 2013. After getting rid of a few older, more expensive players GM THOMAS DIMITROFF, at the behest of Owner ARTHUR BLANK, set out to make the team bigger and tougher and deeper. Resisting the temptation to trade up for CLOWNEY some VFA additions and a solid draft have the roster looking much better. The biggest challenge will be replacing TONY GONZALEZ/TE, but this team should bounce back in 2014.
STEELERS I like a lot of the roster moves that the team made this off-season. But a big question mark is still whether or not MIKE TOMLIN will play his rookies instead of red shirting them. Mistakes or not the team needs the young talent infusion of a very athletic/fast group of draftees and second year players. New talent and a healthy OL group hold the key, but the path is there to take the AFC North title back from the BENGALS.
June 23: 2014 PACKERS ROSTER ANALYSIS: YOUTH WILL BE SERVED AGAIN
I printed up a copy of the Green Bay Packers roster last Saturday, the 14th of June. After looking through the 90-man list I came up with a few information odds and ends that might interest their die-hard fans who don't want to comb through and spend their time accumulating such mundane numbers. I confess I am a detail geek, which is part of having an anal personality. SO let's get on with it.
Did you realize: The current roster contains only 6 players who are 30 or older. A few more will turn 30 between now and the end of the season, but not many my friends. There are only 2 players with double digit years of playing experience on the roster. JULIUS PEPPERS, who you will get used to as DR PEPPERS in my writings, is entering his 13th NFL season, and AARON RODGERS who is about to start season 10. My how the time does fly. I certainly realized RODGERS sat some seasons while getting ready to replace FAVRE, but a 10-year vet already?! No wonder I feel old most days. As another aside it should be noted that RODGERS is still only 30, turning 31 late in the upcoming season.
In keeping with the age/experience theme I will also note that of the 90 current roster members, 27 are Rookies and 26 are entering their second NFL seasons. I should point out that I consider these 1-year vet listings as second year guys, because that's how long most have been out of college. That means that 53 out of 90 players (59%) have been in the League less than 2 years.
Most of the above numbers are far from the NFL average for age and experience, especially on a perennial Play-Off team like the PACKERS. During the TED THOMPSON regime the roster has been one of the 5 youngest teams around every season, once the SHERMAN era roster purge was completed. They have ranked youngest overall on multiple occasions.
As any good PACKERS fan realizes, the team also prides itself on acquiring and keeping their own players. No change in that regard this year. I count 71 of the 90 players on the present roster as having been originally signed or drafted by the PACK. MATT FLYNN/QB was their draft pick, went away and came back, so he counts. And a few current players like AARON ADAMS/OT, CHRIS BANJO/S, JARRETT BOYKIN/WR and others never played a down for another team, but did originally sign elsewhere. They aren't even included in this count.
So as always, it means the pressure to succeed in each year's Draft process is critical to sustaining the success of the football team in Green Bay. Accordingly, the development of this year's Rookie class of 27 is critical for the team to keep building its talent base. I certainly don't claim to be the know-it-all talent evaluator, but since I am writing this piece I will give you my player rankings of PACKERS Rookies as we headed into the 2014 DRAFT. I only ranked the Top 300 prospects, so their other Rookies who weren't on my list will not be included in the list below. But I am sure some of them will make the team and contribute, since I have no doubt the collective talent IQ of the Green Bay scouting group exceeds mine, at least by a little bit.
PP Rank 19 HASEAN CLINTON-DIX/S Draft Pick R1/21
PP Rank 53 DAVANTE ADAMS/WR Draft Pick R2/53
PP Rank 81 ADRIAN HUBBARD/DE Draft Pick URFA
PP Rank 122 CARL BRADFORD/LB Draft Pick R4/121
PP Rank 139 JARED ABBREDERIS/WR Draft Pick R5/176
PP Rank 207 KHYRI THORNTON/DL Draft Pick R3/85
PP Rank 233 JEFF JANIS/WR Draft Pick R7/236
PP Rank 236 RICHARD RODGERS/TE Draft Pick R3/98
PP Rank 248 DIMITRI GOODSON/CB Draft Pick R6/197
PP Rank 285 RAIJON NEAL/RB Draft Pick URFA
PP Rank 292 MIKE PENNEL/DT Draft Pick URFA
PP Rank 300a COLT LYERLA/TE Draft Pick URFA I had LYERLA off my Draft Board because of off-field issues, thus the 300a.
Having only 47 players n the current roster with only 1 year in the League or being Rookies would make a lot of NFL fans nervous about their team's prospects. But most PACKERS fans have gotten used to the THOMPSON school of roster building (and Salary Cap control) due to winning season after winning season during his regime. Here's betting that when the Training Camp dust settles and the final roster is announced the PACKERS will once again have one of the youngest rosters in the NFL.
June 15: Chicago Bears
Things have changed under the guidance of GM PHIL EMERY, and Drafts in Chicago are getting more productive and useful.
Round 1 Pick 14 KYLE FULLER/CB/VIRGINIA TECH 5116 190 4.46/40 A/32.875" H/9.375" V/38.5" He may not be the 14th best prospect in the Draft, but he's really good and just what the doctor ordered for a team with 2 really good CB, who both happen to be on he wrong side of 30. FULLER started all 4 years at TECH. He's a solid cover corner who also plays the run fiercely. He's a solid tackler and athletic enough to match up with any NFL receiver. If he doesn't beat out either TILLMAN or JENNINGS he'll surely be the 3rd CB in sub-packages right away. Lost some playing time as a senior to a groin muscle injury. This pick makes more sense than some fans think.PP Rank #24
Round 2 Pick 51 EGO FERGUSON/DT/LSU 6027 315 5.00/40 A/32.5" H/10.750" BP/24 Not a flashy guy, but a good all-around player who will push the pocket on occasion, and hold the point of attack as well. He provides a nice combo of size and athleticism to a team that is retooling it's DL. VFA provided lots of help for this team at DE, and the Draft needed to bring in some interior help. Is an aggressive and good energy player. In a DT rotation he could be a real force late in games with his energy. Like FULLER in Round 1 this is a solid pick of a good athlete, who brings help at a position of need.PP Rank # 60
Round 3 Pick 82 WILL SUTTON/DT/ARIZONA STATE 6004 303 5.36/40 A/31.250" H/10" BP/24 Two years ago when he weighed a tad over 280 he was as highly regarded as AARON DONALD. He got it in his head that he had to be heavier to get ready for the NFL. He topped out at about 315 as a senior, and was pretty much just a slow, fat guy. He's been losing weight again for about 4 months and that's the guy DA BEARS drafted. If he regains his quickness with his weight loss he'll be a superior compliment to FERGUSON. Has been a spirited player and team leader kind of guy at ASU. In 2012 he had 64 tackles, 23.5 TFL & 13 sacks. That's the player PHIL EMERY was drafting here.PP Rank 107
Round 4 Pick 117 KADEEM CAREY/RB/ARIZONA 5093 207 4.69/40 A/31" H/9.125" He could be a very sound back-up RB for this team. He was incredibly productive in college rushing for 4239 yards and 48 TD. But here's the down side to that... he touched the football 743 times as a runner, and 77 more catching passes. Is he used up, or close to it? Logic would say yes. He's a strong inside runner with churning legs and good balance. He'll take over from Michael Bush when FORTE needs a break. He may remind a bit of a guy named PAYTON in style, but he's likely a solid back-up player for a 3-5 year stretch. Not likely to break anything long with his speed, or lack thereof.PP Rank 133
Round 4 Pick 131 BROCK VEREEN/DB/MINNESOTA 5115 199 4.46/40 A/30" H/8.25" V/34" Excellent athlete who has played CB and certainly should be able to do so in sub-packages as a pro. More athletic than any S currently on DA BEARS roster. Shot up Draft Boards quickly after testing out as the top S at the COMBINE, from a workout numbers standpoint. 3-year stater with savvy and a high FBI (football IQ). Another strong pick at this position in the Draft. I could see him as a starter for them sooner rather than later.PP Rank # 138
Round 6 Pick 183 DAVID FALES/QB/SAN JOSE STATE 6015 212 4.99/40 A/31.750" H/9.25" Reminds me a lot of AARON RODGERS coming out of college, with his size and style of play. But we clearly know that he does not have RODGERS arm strength or overall athleticism. Could play as a pro in a precision passing Offensive scheme, which isn't CUTLER's style, but TRESTMAN can certainly coach that scheme. Seems like a solid career back-up type who can be a caretaker QB for short stretches of games. He has good field vision, high football IQ and a quick release. Registered a 53 mph throw velocity which is borderline NFL speed. I feel this is a solid value pick for a team that lost McCOWN and has an injury prone QB in CUTLER.PP Rank # 195
Round 6 Pick 191 PAT O'DONNELL/P/MIAMI 6040 220 4.70/40 Solid athlete with a long, strong leg. Will need to refine his directional punting to succeed as a pro. Has athleticism to make some big plays on fake punts if the defense does not pressure him. This looks like a big picture pick designed to save money now as well as provide a long range answer at the position. The job appears to be his to lose since the expensive vet PODLESH is on another roster now.PP Rank # 252
Round 7 PIck 246 CHARLES LENO/G/T/BOISE STATE 6037 303 5.10/40 A/34.375" H/10.125" Played mostly OT for Boise, starting 3 years, but may be best suited inside as a pro. He has the size and athleticism to at the least make him attractive as a 3-4 position backup. That's always a desirable attribute for a game day roster in the NFL. I had him ranked considerably higher, so of course I see this as a great value in Round 7. His arm/hand strength is one of his best attributes. He could indeed battle for a starting position in a year or so.PP Rank # 171
I continue to be impressed with the overall value and drafting philosophy of GM PHIL EMERY. Every pick in this group was a productive college player who appears to have enough athleticism to transition to the NFL and at the least strengthen a roster, whether starting or not. I also like how EMERY fills needs without reaching. Value at the PIck is a recurring these days in Chicago. BEARS fans should be encouraged at the EMERY style of roster building.
June 13: New England Patriots
I always wonder what surprises LITTLE BILL has in store for us as the DRAFT begins. One thing is for sure... when the DRAFT ends you'll always find me staring at the PATRIOTS selections and scratching my head a bit. It was the usual mixed bag this year, but in the end I liked the results.
A couple months ago I had EASLEY as a firm first rounder. But as I kept thinking about a guy who tore both ACLs during his college career and was still rehabbing the latest one leading up to the Draft, I just had to move him down my Board. Clearly the PATS were less concerned than I. He's a special athlete when/if healthy. He is truly explosive off the snap and can shed blockers on his way into the backfield. He also displays an incredibly low center of gravity to duck under blockers. No doubt the PATS can find multiple ways to use him. If he gets/stays healthy he helps upgrade the New England defense talent level big time. If he's limited by the knees, then he was an arrogant, in-your-face pick by BELICHICK. PP Rank # 70
Round 1 Pick 29 DOMINIQUE EASLEY/DL/FLORIDA 6016 288 4.89/40 Arms/32.875" Hands/9.75" BP/26
Round 2 Pick 62 JIMMY GAROPPOLO/QB/EASTERN ILLINOIS 6022 225 4.97/40 A/31" H/9.250" V/30.5"The small school kid knocked them dead with his post-season talent auditions. He was Shrine Game MVP/O, looked good in Mobile and tested well at the COMBINE. Strong arm, with an incredibly quick release which is key in today's NFL. His ball velocity was measured at 56 mph, which is well above average. He'll have lots to learn, but TOM TERRIFIC says he's playing until he's 40, so there is time to learn & mature. You want a guy playing at a lower level of competition to dominate, so how about over 5,000 passing yards, 53 TD & 9 INT in 2013. Unless he flops, it looks to me like the PATS will be trying to deal RYAN MALLETT before he hits Free Agency in 2015. PP Rank # 43
Round 4 Pick 105 BRYAN STORK/OC/FLORIDA STATE 6037 315 5.00/40 A/34" H/10" BP/23A very solid, smart football player, who started 3 years for the Seminoles. Not pretty, but very functional. Can move his feet and uses his big hands to latch onto and/or shed defenders. Better football player than athlete. Better size and strength than the PATS have had at OC in a while. It would surprise me if he does not win the starting OC job before BRADY leaves town. This is good value at the Pick and in an area of considerable need for the team. PP Rank # 130
Round 4 Pick 130 JAMES WHITE/RB/WISCONSIN 5091 205 4.57/40 A/29.25" H/8.25 BP/23Solid all-around player who happens to be a bit short by NFL standards. He runs hard and shows elusiveness in the open field. Like most Wisconsin RB he reads his blockers very well and shows good patience. He is a solid blocker in pass-pro which will earn him points with this team. Could handle some return work perhaps. Could he become their replacement for WOODHEAD? I ranked him lower overall, but for their scheme this is good value. PP Rank # 210
Round 4 Pick 140 CAMERON FLEMING/OT/STANFORD 6047 323 5.28/40 A/34" H/9.875" BP/26A young mountain of a man who started 3 years at RT for the Cardinal. I see him on that side of the line being groomed for a year or two while they prepare for back/Cap issues with VOLMER. With some better technique in pass-pro he could be an above average NFL OT. Can get stronger in an NFL weight room. Is smart & tough. This is a very good upside pick at the end of Round 4. PP Rank # 114
Round 6 Pick 179 JON HALAPIO/OG/FLORIDA 6034 323 5.34/40 A/33.625" H/10.25"A team Captain and a 3-year starter in college. I thought he had a disappointing year as a senior, until I found out he played through a pectoral muscle tear all season because the team had no OL depth due to other injuries. Taking that into consideration he showed heart and brains to get by and be a decent player. He's a mauler and a brawler more so than an athlete, but that will be OK with the PATS. His bullish strength and tenacity should make him a fan favorite in New England. Has a wide base and solid lower body strength. PP Rank # 186
Round 6 Pick 198 ZACH MOORE/DE/CONCORDIA 6054 270 4.79/40 A/33.750" H/9.625"This guy is a small school athlete along the lines of CHANDLER JONES. It will be up to the PATS staff to develop him and scheme ways to utilize his length and athleticism. His upside could be huge. He might even be able to play some standing up at OLB when they play their 3-4 sets. Great potential value in this guy. A 3-year starter in college. PP Rank # 147
Round 6 Pick 206 JEMEA THOMAS/DB/GEORGIA TECH 5092 192 4.52/40 A/30.675" H/10"If he were 3 inches taller he'd have gone in Round 3. He'll be a Special Teams ace and can play either CB or S in some sub-packages. Has good ball skills and those large mitts will help him greatly. This guy should stick around a while and be a very valuable back-up right away. I would not be shocked if he doesn't find a home somewhere in their secondary and stick around for a good long time. PP Rank # 203
Round 7 PIck 244 JEREMY GALLON/WR/RS/MICHIGAN 5074 185 4.48/40 A/29.5" H/9.375"Large hands for his height. Is a solid hands catcher and elusive after the catch. Looks and acts like a RB in his style of play. He's not afraid of contact at all. Could be a solid PR candidate. His size and quickness clearly earmark him for a slot receiver position. Could he be the next TROY BROWN? PATRIOT fans would certainly luv to see that development.PP Rank #223
As the Friday night Draft action ended, I had this funny feeling that BELICHICK was blowing off this Draft and was going to make bizarre picks all the way through. Silly me. LITTLE BILL really got to work on Saturday and picked up a lot of serviceable talent. Yes, I was surprised that there wasn't a WR taken until Round 7 and no one for a TE slot, but this is a solid effort overall with some serious young talent about to don pads in Foxboro this Fall.
June 9: Cleveland Browns draft review
The long suffering BROWNS fans watched their team go into the Draft with double-digit Picks; trade around; pass on MANZIEL; then get MANZIEL. Then they find out their top WR had failed another drug test and is facing suspension for all of 2014. Then spent 2 days watch their team refuse to draft a WR for the balance of the proceedings. It was a crazy ride, but something fans in Cleveland should be getting used to.
Round 1 Pick 8 JUSTIN GILBERT/CB/OKLAHOMA STATE 6001 202 4.36/40 A/33.152" H/8.675" A 3-year starter, with 7 INT as a senior. Clearly the best all-around CB in this Draft. He has also been a Special Teams ace in college both on coverage teams and as a Return Man. Has a record 6 kick-off returns for TD in his COWBOYS career. Has extreme confidence, bordering on cockiness. His demeanor reminds me of Prime Time. Matched up with JOE HADEN, it should provide the BROWNS with the best CB duo in the NFL. Also helps the secondary by freeing them to move SKRINE to cover the slot where he is best suited to play. This pick was a bit of a surprise and word is new GM RAY FARMER was on notice that this is the guy the Owner wanted. Sounds like another franchise a bit to the south of Ohio. But fans were deeply disappointed at no JOHNNY FOOTBALL. PP Rank #11
Round 1 Pick 22 JOHNNY MANZIEL/QB/TEXAS A&M 5116 207 4.66/40 A/31.275" H/9.875" For most BROWNS fans all is forgiven because MANZIEL is now in the house. The little dynamo will have a lot to learn about pocket-presence and QB security (slide baby slide), but the most exciting college QB in the past decade will have a chance to help resurrect this franchise. Now it is time to find out how flexible and creative KYLE SHANAHAN really is without his dad looking over his shoulder. The team needs to make the MANZIEL era begin soon and work to everyone's advantage. MANZIEL was on pace to complete 70% of his 2013 throws, until his late season thumb injury. He still completed 69.9% of his throws for 37 TD, with 13 INT. For those thinking he's too short I say his height rounds up to 6' in my books. I would also point out that some film geek has determined that of his 864 collegiate passes attempted, only 12 were tipped a, or behind, the line of scrimmage, Expect HOYER to start the season, but when his first injury crops up around mid-season MANZIEL may take over for good. PP Rank # 7
Round 2 Pick 47 JOEL BITONIO/G/T/NEVADA 6042 302 4.95/40 A/33.875" H/9.675" This young man moved up Draft Boards tremendously during the post-season. He was above average at everything he did at the Senior Bowl venue and impressed at the COMBINE. Check out that 40-time. He's right on the cusp of being big enough and long enough to play OT like he did in college, but he looks to have an immediate job opportunity with the BROWNS replacing OG/SHAUN LAUVAO, who went to D.C. in VFA. Plug him inside and he's an upgrade overall. If an OT slot opens in the future he could probably jump out there and produce. This may not have been a glamour pick, but I am marking him down as the second immediate starter of this Draft for the BROWNIES.PP Rank # 47
Round 3 Pick 71 CHRISTIAN KIRKSEY/OLB/IOWA 6016 233 4.65/40 A/32.375" H/9.375" Might be a bit high for my taste, but he is a solid, productive player who will be accountable when he hits the field. He should be a Special Teams leader with better all-around skills than some of their pass-rush style OLB currently on the depth chart. With the massive size the BROWNS have on the DL he might get enough protection to play inside if needed. Don't look for an immediate starter here, but a versatile athletic addition to a LB corps that has a lot of 4-3 DE on it's depth chart at OLB.PP Rank #143
Round 3 Pick 94 TERRANCE WEST/RB/TOWSON 5092 225 4.54/40 A/31" H/9.125" I'm not going to beat around the bush. What we have here is a small school, later pick who is the same style runner as TRENT RICHARDSON. Except that he comes a lot cheaper and with less pressure and expectations. WEST is a between the tackles runner who will get the tough yards on third down. He won't break a lot of TD runs, but will get the yards that are blocked for him. I would expect him to back-up BEN TATE, but come close to matching his carries total by the end of the year. Will need some time to learn pass-pro, which was not on his plate much in college. THis is another solid, value pick, though not flashy.PP Rank #90
Round 4 Pick 127 PIERRE DESIR/CB/LINDENWOOD 6010 198 4.56/40 A/33" H/9.675" V/35" No one in their right mind expects this guy to step in and play a lot other than in sub-packages, but eventually he could see lots of playing time because he's a good athlete and fits that mold of full-sized CB. Note those 33" long arms. He started the post-season at the SHRINE venue and got better as the week progressed. He got invited to the Senior Bowl and looked better, and more confident, as the week went on there. Has long range potential to be a solid press-cover Corner which is what he looks to prefer to do. For now he needs to devote himself to hustle and hard work learning how to be a Special Teamer and gain playing time, with confidence from his coaches. Big upside Pick, and a good value in Round 4.PP Rank #89
Say good night to the BROWNS after Round 4. The team wheeled and dealed, working the Draft. At times they made me roll my eyes, but when the dust settled they had 2 Top 12 players, an extra Round 1 PIck for 2015, and then went on an URFA signing binge. I think it was disappointing that they traded away so many picks that they did not have a chance to draft a WR or two on Saturday. If none of their URFA WR pan out that strategy is going to haunt them with GORDAN gone for the season. But it was a good effort overall, with significant young help added to the roster. I was critical of their effort immediately following the Draft, but have changed my mind a bit since then. I'd better express some luv for this effort since 5 of the 6 players they drafted were ranked in my TOP 100!
******June 6: Oakland Raiders draft review
REGGIE McKENZIE has taken 2 years to get the team out of Salary Cap Hell, and now he is beginning to have enough Draft Pick ammunition to make an impact on his roster with some quality Rookies. Here is his latest group of young talent.
Round 1 Pick 5 KHALIL MACK/OLB/BUFFALO 6025 150 4.59/40 A/33.250" H/10.250" True to his RON WOLF/TED THOMPSON roots McKENZIE stuck to picking the best available player available. By the time the Draft rolled around MACK was on just about everyone's Top 5 list. He might not have fit their biggest need, but he's a blue chipper. He's an exceptional athlete as you can see from his measurables and he is a hard working player on the field. His stats for 2013 speak for themselves: 100 tackles, 19 TFL, 10.5 sacks, 3 INT. And that was for a defense with not a ton of talent around him, which allowed opponents to scheme to avoid him. He's an every down player and has to be an impact Rookie in 2013. He has excellent hand use, whether for shedding blockers, stripping the ball or catching errant passes. Excellent value here for the RAIDERS.
PP Rank # 4
Round 2 Pick 36 DEREK CARR/QB/FRESNO STATE 6023 215 4.69/40 A/31.5" H/9.125" V/34.5" It was no secret that the RAIDERS liked CARR. The pleasant surprise was when he was still there for them in Round 2. Count me in as one who felt he was a first round talent. I think he suffered guilt by association because his brother DAVID was not a star in the NFL after being the first overall pick in the Draft. He is a much better athlete that many give him credit for. Not his 40-time and Vertical from the COMBINE. He has an above average arm and can make all the throws required of an NFL QB. He needs some work on pocket presence and throwing under pressure. If MATT SCHAUB can hold down the QB job for a couple of seasons, the RAIDERS coaching staff can develop CARR on the sidelines like the PACK did with RODGERS. 2013 stats of note: 68.9% completion rate, 50 TD, 8 INT. Could become the RAIDERS best QB since RICH GANNON.
PP Rank #20
Round 3 Pick #81 GABE JACKSON/OG/MISSISSIPPI STATE 6032 335 5.51/40 A/33.750" H/10" BP/30 Plug him in and run the ball right up his butt. He's a big, naturally strong guy who is surprisingly agile (in a short area) for his mass. He'll be adequate in pass pro with room for growth under pro coaching. I do not see any significant difference between JACKSON and CHANCE WARMACK last draft, other than the fact that WARMACK played for a championship team with a lot more talent around him than JACKSON had at STATE. Based on that comparison I see this pick as a potential steal of serious magnitude. He should upgrade the interior OL of the RAIDERS significantly.
PP Rank #49
Round 4 Pick 107 JUSTIN ELLIS/DT/LOUISIANA TECH 6014 335 5.27/40 A/33" H/10.125" There may have been no player who improved their Draft stock more than "JELLY" with his play at the All-Star venues last January. He got everyone's attention at the SHRINE Classic even though he looked raw and drew lots of coaching attention. He got a call-up the week after to perform in Mobile and again more than held his own against better known competition. He's a space eater who can also penetrate a bit against smaller OL. He can either be a 1-technique or a true NOSE depending upon the scheme the RAIDERS go with. He may not "start" as a Rookie but I would expect him to be part of a DT rotation for a team with a lot of DE masquerading as DT. Good pro potential in ELLIS.
PP Rank 106
Round 4 Pick 116 KEITH McGILL/CB/UTAH 6033 211 4.51/40 A/33.120" H/10.250" McGILL had a solid career in college, but may have benefitted greatly from the sudden big CB luv affair around the NFL. He started 40 games in his college career, and is best in press-cover where he can use his size to bang around receivers ala BRANDON BROWNER. He has good ball skills and reacts well to the ball in the air. His speed is adequate for Corner primarily because of his size. Do not be surprised if he gets a strong look at the S position in Training Camp. The RAIDERS are pretty thin on the back end and he could provide a serious talent upgrade on the deep end. If you look at some of his measurables form a S position perspective they would be quite impressive.
PP Rank # 100
Round 7 Pick 219 TRAVIS CARRIE/DB/OHIO 6000 212 4.49/40 A/31.875" H/7.750" Another good athlete who may have a better shot in the NFL as a S. His speed would be very good playing deep or in the box. He also has good cover skills and is an above average tackler. A little bit of hip tightness, makes me question his pro level CB potential. Has a tough guy attitude and should be a very solid member of the Special Teams units. For his career at Ohio he averaged over 10-yards per punt return. EVen though I did not have him ranked in my Top 160 I was well aware of him and have no issue with him being a quality Round 7 pick. Good value here for this team.
PP Rank NR
Round 7 Pick 235 SHELBY HARRIS/DL/ILLINOIS STATE 6'2 288 I am not going to pretend that he was on any of my scouting lists. But over the past decade (since the JERRY KILL days) this school in central Illinois has been a happy hunting ground for NFL scouts. The PACKERS have been partial to this program in recent years. The word is that HARRIS has good quickness and natural penetration skills at the line of scrimmage. I had seen his name deep down on some other lists and clearly he made an impression on someone in the RAIDERS scouting force. This pick has all the earmarks of REGGIE listening to the pleas of somebody in their personnel room who stood on the table to plead for this player. Sometimes it works out.
PP Rank NR
Round 7 Pick 247 JONATHAN DOWLING/S/WESTERN KENTUCKY 6026 190 4.52/40 A/33.125" H/9.250" A very good athlete who has some ego issues and needs to find a way to put some meat on his bones. His numbers give you an idea of how the Florida transfer stands out as an athlete. He is also a very aggressive tackler for his body frame. But many NFL folks think he'll be broken in pieces trying to play as an active S at the NFL level. In his collegiate travels their have also been questions about how coachable he is. The RAIDERS have never been shy about trying to work with "bad boys" so the spirit of AL DAVIS to some degree lives on in REGGIE McKENZIE.
PP Rank 259
This is a solid Draft effort for a team trying to pull itself out of a veritable Black Hole. CARR could be their QB of the not too distant future and MACK, JACKSON, McGILL could earn starting jobs in the present tense. I like the work here and think it's an above average effort.They also did a nice job signing some URFA who I thought were draftable. Young competition should abound in RAIDERS Training Camp this summer. That has not been the case for far too long with this franchise.
*******June 5: More draft reviews: Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh always seems to pile up quality picks every year, but when looking at their roster the need for some quality/quantity infusion of youth is badly needed right now. At first glance this group looks solid.
6011 237 4.43/40 A/32.375” H/10”
There is no question about this guy’s athleticism or production. He amasses 144 tackles in 2013, including 23.5 TFL, 7 sacks & 4FF. The big question is whether he’s best suited for an Inside or Outside position. I see a slightly undersized, pursuit ILB who thrives if next to a big-bodied partner. He runs sideline to sideline, and stays upright. He could remind fans of JAMES FARRIOR with his range and penetration ability. Is also sound in pass drops.
PP Rank # 29
Round 2 Pick 46 STEPHON TUITT/DE/NOTRE DAME
6054 304 4.95/40 A/34.750” H/10”
Ideal 5-technique athlete. Injuries slowed him down last season. Reminds me some of Richard Seymour. Can penetrate, as reflected in his 2013 stats of 9TFL, 7.5 sacks, 1 FF, 13 QB Hurries. Given loss of AARON SMITH/BRETT KEISEL/ZIGGY HOOD over the past 3 seasons it was about time to bring in a stud DE. TUITT should be just that. On my Draft Board this gives STEELERS 2 first round talents.
PP Rank # 22
Round 3 Pick 97 DRI ARCHER/RB/RS/KENT STATE
5076 173 4.26/40 A/31” H/8.875”
This is not your normal STEELERS pick. But his big play potential is an exciting prospect for OC TODD HALEY. In fact, I’m thinking that HALEY may have come to HC TOMLIN with a list of ways to use ARCHER to attack opposing defenses. They may have to fight the temptation to have ARCHER on the field too much. Designing a weekly game plan to get ARCHER his most effective 15 touches should tickle HALEY’s fancy. I like this out-of-the-box pick for them.
PP Rank # 111Round 4 Pick 118 MARTAVIS BRYANT/WR/CLEMSON
6036 211 4.42/40 A/32.675” H/9.5” V/39”
Once again not your typical STEELERS draftee. He’s long on potential and a bit short on productivity in college. Don’t expect to see him on the field much early in the season, as he learns how to play WR in the NFL. But athletically he reminds me a lot of vet receiver named PLAXCO. He could be a nice long term compliment to ANTONIO BROWN, but fans may need to be patient.
PP Rank #93Round 5 Pick 157 SHAQ RICHARDSON/CB/ARIZONA ST
6001 195 4.43/40 A/31” H/9.25” V/38.5”
A good-sized, athletic Corner who was rising up the charts after a bit of an under the radar career for the Sun Devils. He has solid ball skills and will tackle on the edge. 3-year college starter. If he responds to pro coaching we could be finally be looking at the replacement for IKE TAYLOR.
Round 5 Pick 173 WESLEY JOHNSON/OL/VANDERBILT
6053 300 5.11/40 A/33.125” H/10.250
A 4-year starter in a resurgent Vanderbilt program. But he’s light in the pants and not a great athlete. But his stock came up with his display of versatility in the post-season. He moved inside to OG at the Senior Bowl, and made some snaps at the COMBINE. Now he’s looked at as a potential quality 5 position back-up, who might compete for some starting time. This is a solid value in Round 5.
PP Rank # 193
R6 Pick 192 JORDAN ZUMWALT/LB/CAL
6045 235 4.71/40 A/31.250” H/8.75”
A solid, smart football player. Better football player than athlete. Should earn his spurs on Special Teams initially, but could work himself into a LB rotation with time. Plays with his hair on fire, but understands his job. He drove offensive players crazy with his 100 mph, all-out play during Senior Bowl practices. The kind of player who fits the old time STEELERS mold.
PP Rank # 161
R6 Pick 215 DANIEL McCULLERS/DT/TENNESSEE
6066 352 5.45/40 A/36.625” H/11”
A monstrous specimen in a big man’s game. Running is a labor for him and he takes a long time to build up momentum. But his strength and wingspan eat up a lot of space. My biggest concern on the Nose is that chop blocks on those long legs could exact a heavy price. He was surely worth a risk in Round 6. May be a short time contributor.
PP Rank # 102
Round 7 Pick 230 ROB BLANCHFLOWER/TE/UMASS
6041 256 4.80/40 A/33.750” H/9.625
Good hands catcher with a large receiving radius. Uses his body well to screen off LB in coverage. Team Captain. Was drafted here for a reason. His injury history is concerning, but he’s too good when healthy to overlook. Is a solid blocker both inline and as a move H-B. If he stays healthy hew could make his mark for both his receiving and blocking ability. Very good value with high upside.
PP Rank NR medical concernsThis appears to be a very solid draft class with a high level of talent. It is also clear that these players display traits that fit the image of STEELERS football. Well above average effort. In fact this is one of my favorite draft groups of 2014. It would not be hard to envision all 9 players making the fall roster. This effort should help turning over of the roster in the direction of more youth and athleticism.
June 2: Draft Reviews:
With the 2014 draft now almost a month past, I've had some time to reflect on some of the things that several teams were able to accomplish with their picks, or not. So over the course of the next few weeks, I'll be reviewing the drafts of some of the key teams from around the league, starting with a couple of NFC East heavyweights.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Round 1 Pick 12 ODELL BECKHAM/WR/LSU
5’112 198 4.38/40 32.75” ARMS 10” Hands
With all due respect to HAKEEM NICKS this is an explosive upgrade at WR for a team who’s QB is historically a deadly deep passer. I say historically, because ELI had a bad year throwing deep in 2013. But most feel that was because of a poor running game, bad protection and no speedster in the receiver corps. BECKHAM should fix some of that as soon as he learns the playbook and develops chemistry with his QB. BECKHAM can also provide a serious boost in the return game. This might be a little higher than most thought, but his draft stock was rising after a late LSU Pro Day, and it fills a big need for the team.
PP Rank # 17
Round 2 Pick 43 WESTON RICHBURG/C/COLORADO ST
6’033 298 5.08/40 33.375” Arms 9.250 Hands
Anther player who rose up draft boards starting with a solid week in Mobile, a steady Combine & a good Pro Day. Was a Team Captain. Has a maxed out body and could be overwhelmed by elite/big NT. But there are no such guys in the NFC East. Has decent all-around athleticism and long arms for an OC. Natural knee bender. A round too high for my taste, but fits another big need. He reminds me a lot of SHAUN O’HARA and most GIANTS fans will see that as a compliment.
PP Rank # 91
Round 3 Pick 74 JAY BROMLEY/DT/SYRACUSE
6’301 306 5.06/40 33.5” Arms 9.25” Hands
Another player who really helped his draft stock as a senior and in the post season. I had him as a Top 100 prospect until my final rankings. Team Captain. Not a special athlete, but a productive player who saved his best for last. He’ll fit well into a revamped DT rotation for the GMEN. Was very productive & explosive as a senior at The ‘Cuse totaling 13.5 TFL, 9 sacks & 3 FF. Could develop into a CULLEN JENKINS clone and his eventual replacement.
PP Rank # 124
Round 4 Pick 113 ANDRE WILLIAMS/RB/B.C.
5’113 230 4.56/40 33.5” Arms 9” Hands
Prototypical straight-line, downhill, power runner who should mesh well with VFA/JENNINGS & speedster DAVID WILSON. Will gain the tough yards. Will get yards after initial contact if going North/South. Gives you nothing as a receiver, and needs to improve his pass-pro. Solid addition for a traditional Offense that struggled to run the ball last season.
PP Rank #96
Round 5 Pick 152 NAT BERHE/S/SAN DIEGO STATE
5’10 190 4.56/40 30.675” Arms 8.5” Hands
Played a hybrid LB/S ball hawk for the Aztecs. Will need work on intricacies of NFL S play. LB trapped in a DB body, ala a guy named BOB SANDERS. Should be a Special Teams ace, who they hope can be coached up as a Safety. Team Captain. Should fit in some sub-package defensive roles.
PP Rank # Not ranked in my Top 260.
Round 5 Pick 174 DEVON KENNARD/LB/USC
6’030 249 4.69/40 33.375” Arms 9.375” Hands
Son of former NFL OL DEREK KENNARD. Team Captain. Moved around a bit as a Trojan and was nicked up too much. But he is athletic and shows some natural pass-rush both standing up and with his hand on the ground. Can drop into short coverage and roams sideline to sideline. Looked smooth and football smart at the SHRINE venue. Could provide some needed pass rush if moved around a bit to confuse blocking schemes. Very solid value for this team, at this Pick, IMO.
PP Rank # 218
Round 6 Pick 187 BENNETT JACKSON/CB/NOTRE DAME
5’117 195 4.48/40 31.375 Arms 9.25” Hands
Better all-around athlete than his overall college play would indicate. Team Captain. Will support against the run and shows smarts in coverage. Good locker room presence and dependable. Should contribute on Special Teams and make a solid sub-package boundary Corner. May never start in the NFL, but should be able do enough well to stay in the top 2/3 of the roster. Good value in Round 6.
PP Rank # 217
Summary: Once we get past BECKHAM there isn’t a lot of sizzle in this Draft group. But there a few potential starters, and a lot of guys that be role players and upgrade the young talent component of the roster. IMO a key to this draft is RICHBURG being able to plug & play at a high level to solidify the OL that is in transition, and must come together right away to make ELI a viable star QB again. He has not been that the past two seasons.
Even though they seemed to ignore the OL, the GIANTS also did some nice work signing URFA types. They signed QUARLES/T, MANUMALEUNA/T & WYNN/E along the DL and I would bet at least 1 of those guys makes the roster. I also like C.J. BARNETT/S and XAVIER GRIMBLE, at a serious position of need, TE.
As has been noted on more than one again in the past, we traditionalists don’t necessarily see the COWBOYS as being America’s Team, but P.T.BARNUM/JONES has sold that image so hard an awful lot of America buys into it. So, without any further ado, here’s how I view their Draft effort last month.
Round 1 Pick 16 ZACH MARTIN/OL/NOTRE DAME
6042 308 5.00/40 A/32.785” H/9.5”
One of the most sound and effective OL I have watched in the past 5-10 years. He is athletically below the norm, but more than compensates with his smarts, toughness and effort. Assignment sure. A 4-year starter for ND and a Team Captain. May move inside to OG, but will start somewhere right away. More picks like this one and the COWBOYS might be almost as good as JERRY JONES thinks they are.
PP Rank #12
Round 2 Pick 34 DeMARCUS LAWRENCE/DE/BOISE STATE
After such a smart pick in Round 1 the team traded up to get LAWRENCE. Yes, they need pass-rush help and he does that well (10.5 sacks in 2013), but he’d have been a better fit back when they played a 3-4 scheme, for my taste. I doubt he will hold up against the run with his hand down. DC ROD MARINELLI is going to have to scheme and move him around to get max impact from the Pick. This is a reach that cost them Picks they could not afford to give up. He ain’t no DeMARCUS WARE folks.
PP Rank # 64
Round 4 Pick 119 ANTHONY HITCHENS/LB/IOWA
6003 241 4.72/40 A/32.250” H/9.25” 23 Reps
A very productive player at Iowa, who led the team in tackles the past 3 years. But he’s not a great athlete and isn’t starting material unless he can plug in the middle to replace SEAN LEE. Will be a Special Teams ace and will work his butt off to do whatever they want him to. His work ethic and attitude are exemplary. He’ll contribute, but this was too soon IMO.
PP Rank # 241
Round 5 Pick 145 DEVIN STREET/WR/PITT
6027 198 4.55/40 A/33.375 H/9.25” 37”/Vert
A very productive college player, who provides a large catching radius for his QB to target. He’s not fast but covers a lot of ground with long strides. Can go up for high throws. He needs work, but could develop into a capable replacement for the departed MILES AUSTIN in the near future. Size says he’ll be a big help in the Red Zone. Good value at this spot.
PP Rank # 146
Round 7 Pick 231 BEN GARDNER/DE/STANFORD
6040 275 4.97/40
A solid, hard working undersized DE who lost the last third of his senior year to a knee injury. It also prevented him from participating in All-Star Games and Combine work. An overachiever and Team Captain. If healthy, MARINELLI will love him as rotational DL hustler. Hard guy to cut. He plays hard & smart. Good upside at this Pick if healthy.
PP Rank #246
Round 7 Pick WILL SMITH/OLB/TEXAS TECH
An out of nowhere pick of a kid who surfaced in the 2013 season for TECH. Go find him on anyone’s Draft Board. Jumped up to record 120 tackles as a senior in 2013. Might have appeal as a Special Team candidate, but if he makes the team it will surprise me greatly. Maybe I missed on him and they have found a real sleeper. Clearly they think he is a late bloomer.
PP Rank NR
Round 7 Pick 248 AHMAD DIXON/S/BAYLOR
6000 212 4.62/40 A/32.250” H/9.875”
I high profile player who most of us felt would drop because of a lack of cover skills, and undisciplined play. But this far? This is a great value for Round 7. An aggressive in-the-box player who should excel on Special Teams. With self-discipline and good coaching DIXON should certainly be able to work his way into some sub-package roles.
PP Rank # 158
Round 7 Pick 251 KEN BISHOP/DT/N. ILLINOIS
6010 308 5.10/40
A run stopping, fire-plug defender. He anchored the Huskies DL for the past 2 years totaling over 100 tackles. He might need some weight room time to increase his strength for the NFL. Has a chance to compete for a back-up role in Big D.
PP Rank NR
Round 7 Pick 254 TERRANCE MITCHELL/CB/OREGON
5111 192 4.61/40 A/33” H/9.675”
I’m scratching my head that this guy was almost undrafted. Not elite and clearly lacks CB speed, but he had a productive college career and has a nose for the ball. He had 5 INT in 2013. I’m not aware of a medical problem or off-field issue of note. This should be a steal of a selection this late.
PP Rank # 121
Summary: This is a mixed bag of Picks in my opinion. And I think it leaves itself open for debate as to whether the team really helped its roster a whole lot or not. I give JONES credit for not yielding to temptation and drafting MANZIEL in Round 1, but have major questions about some of their other picks. The Cowboys also signed a ton of URFA, which usually leads to at least a couple of pleasant surprises, which their roster could use badly.
Bottom line is that this was a below average Draft for a team that really needed a major talent infusion, whether their fans realize it or choose to swallow the company propaganda again.
May 27: Thinking Out Loud: Random thoughts on the passing NFL scene
ROGER GOODELL clearly has his work cut out for him in the coming months before Training Camps open. He has two serious offenders of the NFL’s personal code of conduct. And what will make this adjudication complex and tricky for the Commish is the fact that one offender, JIM IRSAY, is a team owner, the other RAY RICE is a player and NFLPA member. GOODELL has been firm and fast in this discipline relative to player transgressions during his tenure as The Boss. Now the world of NFL players will be watching intently as it is time for GOODELL to practice his discipline on someone whose discretion he serves under. This is a defining moment for the GOODELL regime, which is already viewed as being “heavy handed” in his dealings with the hired help. Now how about the Boss?!
For the many fans wondering
why BILL BELICHICK chose a QB in Round 2 of the 2014 NFL Draft, I would
that the move was quite easy to understand. TOM TERRIFIC will be 37
when the NFL season starts. His only back-up is 26-year old RYAN
the PATS intend to be sitting out his final year of NFL apprenticeship
BRADY. Barring a change of heart, or catastrophic injury BRADY has said
intends to play until he’s 40. Expect
MALLETT to be traded in the next 12 months and GAROPPOLO to be groomed
QB in waiting who gets the distinct honor of trying to replace BRADY in
seasons. Good front offices are always
playing the game like a chess match and trying to think multiple moves
That is what the Pick of GAROPPOLO is all about.
The CAROLINA PANTHERS, in this day and age of pass-happy Offenses in the NFL, still over-stock their roster at the RB position and have a deep and talented crew in DeANGELO WILLIAMS, JAMES STEWART & MIKE TOLBERT. One could make a strong argument that an inordinate number of Cap dollars are tied up at the position accordingly. That goes a long way in explaining the drafting of TYLER GAFFNEY/RB/STANFORD in Round 6 of the recent Draft. He only lasted that long because he is a talented baseball player and NFL teams have long been shy of committing to athletes who can use another sport as leverage when contracts come up. But GAFFNEY has expressed his desire to play in the NFL. At just under 6’ tall and weighing 220 lbs., he ran for 1709 yards & 21 TD last season at STANFORD. He’s a faster version of former Stanford standout TOBY GERHARDT. Did I forget to mention that he ran a 4.49/40 at that size at the COMBINE?! IF he looks good in Training Camp look for the PANTHERS to dump some salary at RB to make room for the inexpensive GAFFNEY.Do you still wonder why SEATTLE is such a popular landing spot for veterans around the NFL? The latest example of the organization’s benevolent treatment of its players was on display this past week. When GARRETT SCOTT/OT/Round 6 came to Seattle for the first Rookie mini-camp team doctors red flagged a serious heart condition that will prohibit him from playing pro football. The team, led by CARROLL & SCHNEIDER, signed SCOTT to a standard Rookie contract, despite the exam results and them waived him with a medical issue the next day. The net result is that SCOTT will walk away from Seattle with more than a half-million dollars to start his life over in another career pursuit. Classy, classy move by the SEA HWAKS.
Speaking of dollars and cents here are some numbers for you to consider when watching your team’s roster being shuffled over the next 3 months in preparation for the 2014 NFL regular season. Per the current CBA, the following salary figures are guaranteed:
Rookie minimum salary $420,000
4-6 year vets $730,000
10+ years service $955,000
That may help you understand some of the roster moves that will take place on all teams. Teams just luv those Rookie contracts. That’s why Special Teams aces, in general, have to be very special to hang around for those purposes only after being in the League for a while. The cost makes some of these guys too expensive to keep around.I also want you to consider the following numbers and put them into proper perspective. Like all pro sports traveling team players get daily meal allowances. Again, per the current CBA here are the 2014 season levels of meal allowances:
Sounds pretty good until you
consider that because of travel, meetings and practices most of the
unprovided meals will end up being from a hotel room service menu.
stay at 4-5 star hotels in major cities I can guarantee you that a
juice, milk, cold cereal and toast will easily eat up that $22
allowance. And let’s not forget how much these big guys need
to eat to sustain their playing weights.
They are not getting rich off meal money, like say baseball players who
at the stadium for a game and find buffet tables set up, as they pocket
lunch money of $32.
I am most anxious to watch
proceedings in the STEELERS Training Camp this Summer as the overall
clearly continue to get younger. It’s a good season for trimming down
veteran percentage of the team’s roster because of the talented volume
Rookies that will be showing up in Latrobe. But to keep more Rookies
MIKE TOMLN must be more willing to play his rookies as opposed to red
them, which he has done a lot of in the past, in this man’s opinion.
can make more mistakes than good vets, but talent must win out in
That $133million Cap number sounds like a lot until you start to divide
into about 55-60 pieces. And Rookies are by far a team’s least
to fill roster spots. One of the biggest questions is going to be how
TOMLIN/HALEY determine the work load, in touches, for diminutive
speedster DRI ARCHER.
He is a game breaker, but at 5’076, 173 lbs., not
having him get broken into little pieces by big
angry defenders is a
huge challenge in game plan design. Remember this guy ran a Combine
4.26/40 in Indy. He can do more than just return kicks & punts, but
exposure restraint will need to practiced.
May 20: ALL-STAR VENUE
especially true since
the NFL continues to put the kiss of death on inclusion of declared
Underclassmen in game participation. Even though I have yet to run
across an underclassman that claims to have left school early to play
in any of these games, the NFL clings to its stance that the All-Star
venues should in no way whatsoever serve as an inducement to players to
leave college early. That rationale strikes me as a convoluted logical
progression concocted in combination by some of the greater minds at
the NCAA & League offices. But for now let’s just run some quick
numbers up the football flagpole. Each of those 3 games have roster of
slightly over 100 players. There is some player double-dipping so let’s
just say 300 players are involved Now let’s roll in another 100 (more
or less) Underclassmen who cannot participate. Then add in another 50
players who are rehabbing, and/or being held out of the games by their
agents, usually because “they have nothing left to prove”.
The biggest challenge in the coming years (and I do mean now) will be coming up with a realistic formula that allows Declared Underclassmen to participate if they so choose. If the NFLPA is serious about its game then expect them to prompt agents into litigation with the NFL to pressure this point forward.
Whoa now, Pigskin Paul got sidetracked on a little tangent there. Let’s get back to what these games produced for the May 2014 NFL DRAFT:
SENIOR BOWL Hail to the King, long live the King!
Once again the contest really wasn’t much of a horse race here. The game whose biggest advantage is a loyal local football fan base, and the fact that the NFL dispatches current coaching staffs to the game pounded its competitors into submission. The game claims 84 draftees, but I am only giving them 83 because even though AARON MURRAY/QB hung around he was rehabbing a knee and never put on pads. It should also be noted that 7 first rounders came from this game. That is a solid number given that 15 players in Round 1 were Underclassmen and therefore not eligible to attend the proceedings in Mobile. But less than 10 means failure to meet the SCOTT WRIGHT Rule, that at least 1o players from he Senior Bowl rosters will be drafted in Round 1 each year. For Scott’s sake I hope we get an Underclassmen inclusion rule of some kind sooner rather than later. My number of 3 still comes very close to meaning hat 33% of the 2014 Draft Class participated in Senior Bowl Week.
EAST-WEST SHRINE CLASSIC Not close & no cigar!
This venue is beginning to bounce back from a Draft quality standpoint. I counted 31 draftees from this week’s event. The highest draftee was JIMMY GAROPPOLO/QB who went @ Pick 62, Round 2. IT should be noted that GARAPPOLO was one of 7 players who earned promotions to the Senior Bowl the following week as players left that venue with injuries and other complications. The game has now been in St. Petersburg playing at the TROP and has recouped after two years in Orlando drawing crowds of less than 10.000 per game in the Citrus Bowl. One can only hope for the day that this games sells out each year since it supports Shiners’ Hospitals for Children. “Strong legs run, so that weak legs may walk”!
NFLPA Game Can We Buy Our Way In?
Year three was a marked improvement for visibility of this venue, although it clearly looked and felt like the NFLPA was tossing around a lot of money in Southern California to attract attention and court media favor. In essence this game is taking the place of the failed TEXAS vs. NATION Game, which never lived up to its own Texas-style hype, IMO. But the stands were pretty much empty for this game and the quality on the field was URFA level pretty much. 14 players were drafted from this game with KHYRI THORNTON/DT being the highest Pick at No. 85 by the PACKERS. Because it’s the players union this game can compete if it is willing to court the agents and spend big bucks. But that is still a slippery slope, and I’d bet dollars to donuts that the key here is taking the Underclassmen battle directly to the NFL. They tried that approach on a limited basis in 2013, but when the NFL forbade it’s teams from attending the practices or games because of underclassmen being included the NFLPA backed down this year. By the way guys how about you show a little PC and fine a new date for your game, perhaps after the Senior Bowl. I found it not a flattering look at all to take your game into direct competition with the oldest All-Star venue, which just happens to put it’s profits into children’s’ hospitals. Really D SMITH, is it the Shriners you want to take dollars away from. Wake up man and show some heart.
So in essence not much really changes in the All-Star game market for the time being. And from this man’s viewpoint that is not bad at all. The SENIOR BOWL runs a first class operation and works hard to include their community, NFL teams and the media. They deserve to be the Top Dog of All-Star action.
May 17: DRAFT Notes … Part 2
I began to question the leadership style of new BROWNS GM RAY FARMER when he steadfastly refused to pay any heed to prospect Pro Days. I’m not a fan of them, but any chance to see or hear something from a prospect should be worth a plane ticket or two. But I really began to wonder whether he “gets it” after seeing what the BROWNS did during the 2014 NFL Draft. As far as I can see he only progress they made was picking up an extra 1st Rounder next May. But by the time FARMER was done “working the Draft” a team going in with 10 picks ended up with 5 players to show for their efforts. And please don’t tell me the Picks that got away didn’t matter because they were all Round 5 or later. Last time I looked the BROWNS were still a double-digit Loss team in 2013, with plenty of holes to fill on their roster. What exactly was the wisdom of not keeping a few of those picks to draft a couple of WR to bolster a crew that looks to be without JOSH GORDAN for the entire 2014 season? Is FARMER really running the show, or is he just a front man for hands-on owner JIMMY HASLEM? Sorry BROWNS fans I think something smells in Cleveland right now and it isn’t Lake Erie any more.
Nice touch by ERIC EBORN to propose to his lady friend at the Empire State building on Draft Day. Wise move by a young man, about to make millions, and who probably doesn’t want to live alone in Detroit. Downright romantic if you ask me!
In my soul I really do like RICH EISEN, but can’t he do a little bit better than talk about QB every time there is a one second pause from the other guys at the NFLN head table. Give me a break Rich, teams have other needs. I was to the point of nausea by the time MANZIEL was finally taken and that was only 22 Picks into the process. Then RICH moved on to his list of other QB to harp on.
It seemed for all the world to me like BILL BELICHICK was fooling around and blowing off the 2014 Draft with his strange work on Thursday & Friday. DOMINIQUE EASLEY is a talented football player, when he’s not injured. But at this point he has been injured as often as he is healthy. Taking him in Round 1 is more than a bit questionable. For all the trading out of Round 1 that BELICHICK does I think he could have moved back to mid-Round 2 & still gotten his man. Then I was surprised to see them grab QB JIMMY GAROPPOLO, especially when they did not/were not able to trade RYAN MALLETT for a Pick or two. But I do like the long range potential of JIMMY G. At this point I see him as more of a long-range option to replace BRADY then MALLETTT. But on Draft Saturday Little Bill and the PATS really swung into action. Every one of their 6 Day 3 picks I had ranked higher than where they were able to select them. All of them fit need areas on the current PATS roster and several should even have long term starting potential. I would also note that their initial list of URFA looks promising as well.
It is still early in the process, but I think it is worth revisiting the Draft Day 2012 trade that allowed the REDSKINS to draft RG3. GRIFFIN still looks like a long term star QB to me, so the REDSKINS fans should have no complaints overall. But let’s take a quick peek at the 5 players that the RAMS have parlayed with the picks acquired from the REDSKINS to secure RG3. From 2012 the RAMS got DT/MICHAEL BROCKERS & CB/JANORIS JENKINS. In 2013 the team used acquired Picks to draft LB/ALEC OGLETREE & RB/ZAC STACY. In this Draft they selected GREG ROBINSON/OT with the final of 3 No. 1 Picks. That’s pretty much 5 starters to rebuild their roster with. Barring injury the RAMS could have had the most lucrative haul since the COWBOYS traded HERSCHEL WALKER to the VIKINGS way back when.
I will now confess a little case of not being able to see the forest through the trees syndrome during this year’s Draft process. I spent a lot of time searching for a player comparison for JADEVEON CLOWNEY. At first I thought of ED JONES, but CLOWNEY is clearly not towering enough to measure up to TOO TALL. Then I thought MARIO WILLIAMS, but I still believe that CLOWNEY is more athletic than SUPER MARIO. But NFL Network has sold me on the concept that CLOWNEY is very reminiscent of WILLIE McGINEST in his build, athleticism & skill set. WEST COAST WILLIE was undervalued by many as a pro, but teams that had to play against those PATS teams schemed a lot to avoid WILLIE & RICHARD SEYMOUR. What a coincidence that the guy who schemed to wreck offenses with SEYMOUR & McGINEST, is the same ROMEO CRENNEL who can devise nightmares for opponents with CLOWNEY & J.J. WATT now in his tool box. How could we have ever doubted that the TEXANS would take CLOWNEY in that top spot?!
I found the frank honesty and straight forward nature of JEFF FISHER to be refreshing, when he paraded out SAM BRADFORD the week of the Draft and said how this was his QB going forward, not JOHNNY MANZIEL. You have to know FISHER a bit to understand that it was no smoke screen or misinformation. AS he stated clearly, one of the big reasons he took the RAMS job in the first place was because of the presence of a young franchise QB like BRADFORD. I think he and LES SNEAD were also front and center in the MICHAEL SAM discussions after SAM was taken in Round 7. I’m not sold that FISHER is a game day tactical genius, but I do believe he is the quiet, self-confident leader that is attractive and successful in a locker room of professional athletes. IMO, the RAMS had one of the most fruitful drafts of any team in the League. The NFC West is truly the most dominant division in the NFL, at least on paper.
RYAN SHAZIER/LB/STEELERS struck me in his facial resemblance to the NBA’s RAY ALLEN. He looks just like RAY would have had ALLEN shaved his head early in his career.
Crazy, but humorous (at least to me) quote from CARDINALS GM STEVE KEIM talking about AARON HERNANDEZ, COLT LYERLA and other troubled off-field footballers. He stated that ‘NFL personnel departments, if enamored with physical talents of HANNIBAL LECTER, would have made a note in their scouting reports that he might have an eating disorder’. Made me roll on the floor for a moment or two.
May 14: NFL
it was feast or famine for players from Aggieland. 3 were
gone by Pick 22, and then there were none drafted the rest of the
32 WR was a
good indication of both the importance, and talent level of
this year’s draft group.
May 9: Quick Hits
& Random Thoughts from Round 1 of the 2014 draft
JOHNNY MANZIEL may be sporting a shaved head ala JEFFGARCIA/TRENT
DILFER very early in his NFL career. Watching him in Green Room the
hairline is falling back on sides as well as top. Could be good look
for the kid.
1) JADEVEON CLOWNEY/DE/SOUTH CAROLINA
2) SAMMY WATKINS/WR/CLEMSON
3) GREG ROBINSON/T/AUBURN
4) KHALIL MACK/LB/BUFFALO
5) JAKE MATTHEWS/T/TEXAS A&M
6) MIKE EVANS/WR/TEXAS A&M
7) JOHNNY MANZIEL/QB/TEXAS A&M
8) ANTHONY BARR/LB/UCLA
9) TAYLOR LEWAN/T/MICHIGAN
10) ERIC EBRON/TE/UNC
11) JUSTIN GILBERT/CB/OKLAHOMA STATE
12) ZACH MARTIN/T/NOTE DAME
13) BLAKE BORTLES/QB/UCF
14) AARON DONALD/DT/PITT
15) C.J. MOSLEY/LB/ALABAMA
16) TEDDY BRIDGEWATER/QB/LOUISVILLE
17) ODELL BECKHAM/WR/LSU
18) DARQUEZE DENNARD/CB/MICHIGAN STATE
19) HASEAN CLINTON-DIX/S/ALABAMA
20) DEREK CARR/QB/FRESNO STATE
21) MARQISE LEE/WR/USC
22) STEPHON TUITT/DE/NOTRE DAME
23) BRANDIN COOKS/WR/OREGON STATE
24) KYLE FULLER/CB/VA TECH
25) CALVIN PRYOR/S/LOUISVILLE
26) LOUIS NIX/DT/NOTRE DAME
27) BRADLEY ROBY/CB/OHIO STATE
28) DEE FORD/DE/AUBURN
29) RYAN SHAZIER/LB/OHIO STATE
30) JASON VERRETT/CB/TCU
31) KONY EALY/DE/MISSOURI
32) XAVIER SU'A-FILO/G/UCLA
33) TIMMY JERNIGAN/DT/FLORIDA STATE
34) JORDAN MATTHEWS/WR/VANDERBILT
35) MARCUS SMITH/LB/LOUISVILLE
36) RA'SHEDE HAGEMAN/DT/MINNESOTA
37) CARLOS HYDE/RB/OHIO STATE
38) KELVIN BENJAMIN/WR/FLORIDA STATE
39) CYRUS KOUANDJIO/T/ALABAMA
40) AUSTIN SEFERIAN-JENKINS/TW/WASHINGTON
41) ALLEN ROBINSON/WR/PENN STATE
42) DEONE BUCANNON/S/WASHINGTON STATE
43) JIMMY GAROPPOLO/QB/E. ILLINOIS
44) BISHOP SANKEY/RB/WASHINGTON
45) JEREMY HILL/RB/LSU
46) JACE AMARO/TE/TEXAS TECH
47) JOEL BITONIO/G/NEVADA
48) MORGAN MOSES/T/VIRGINIA
49) GABE JACKSON/G/MISSISSIPPI STATE
50) JU'WUAN JONES/T/TENNESSEE
51) JARVIS LANDRY/WR/LSU
52) KAREEM MARTIN/DE/UNC
53) DAVANTE' ADAMS/WR/FRESNO STATE
54) TROY NIKLAS/TE/NOTRE DAME
55) SCOTT CRICHTON/DE/OREGON STATE
56) JIMMIE WARD/S/N. ILLINOIS
57) DONTE MONCRIEF/WR/OLE MISS
58) MARCUS MARTIN/C/USC
59) CODY LATIMER/WR/INDIANA
60) EGO FERGUSON/DT/LSU
61) KYLE VAN NOY/LB/BYU
62) JEREMIAH ATTAOCHU/LB/GA TECH
63) JACK MEWHORT/T/OHIO STATE
64) DEMARCUS LAWRENCE/LB/BOISE STATE
65) DAVID YANKEY/G/STANFORD
66) LAMARCUS JOYNER/S/FLORIDA STATE
67) TRENT MURPHY/DE/STANFORD
68) ANTONIO RICHARDSON/T/TENNESSEE
69) TRE MASON/RB/AUBURN
70) DOMINIQUE EASLEY/DT/FLORIDA
71) DAQUAN JONES/DT/PENN STATE
72) A.J. McCARRON/QB/ALABAMA
73) C.J. FIEDOROWICZ/TE/IOWA
74) PAUL RICHARDSON/WR/COLORADO
75) TELVIN SMITH/LB/FLORIDA STATE
76) CHRIS SMITH/DE/ARKANSAS
77) CHRISTIAN JONES/LB/FLORIDA STATE
78) BASHAUD BREELAND/CB/CLEMSON
79) CHRIS BORLAND/LB/WISCONSIN
80) CYRIL RICHARDSON/G/BAYLOR
81) ADRIAN HUBBARD/DE/ALABAMA
82) TERRANCE BROOKS/S/FLORIDA STATE
83) DEVONTA FREEMAN/RB/FLORIDA STATE
84) BRENT URBAN/DE/VIRGINIA
85) WALT AIKENS/CB/LIBERTY
86) TRAI TURNER/G/LSU
87) JAYLEN WATKINS/CB/FLORIDA
88) LOGAN THOMAS/QB/VA TECH
89) PIERRE DESIR/CB/LINDENWOOD
90) TERRANCE WEST/RB/TOWSON
91) WESTON RICHBURG/C/COLORADO STATE
92) ED STINSON/DE/ALABAMA
93) MARTAVIS BRYANT/WR/CLEMSON
94) WILL CLARKE/DE/WEST VIRGINIA
95) STANLEY JEAN-BAPTISTE/CB/NEBRASKA
96) ANDRE WILLIAMS/RB/BOSTON COLLEGE
97) RUSSELL BODINE/C/UNC
98) RUSS COCKRELL/CB/DUKE
99) ZACH METTENBERGER/QB/LSU
100) KEITH McGILL/CB/UTAH
101) CHARLES SIMS/RB/WEST VIRGINIA
102) DANIEL McCULLERS/DT/TENNESSEE
103) AARON MURRAY/QB/GEORGIA
104) LACHE SEASTRUNK/RB/BAYLOR
105) PHILLIP GAINES/CB/RICE
106) JUSTIN ELLIS/NT/LA TECH
107) WILL SUTTON/DT/ARIZONA STATE
108) KELCY QUARLES/DT/SOUTH CAROLINA
109) SEANTREL HENDERSON/T/MIAMI
110) ANTHONY JOHNSON/DT/LSU
111) DRI ARCHER/ATH/KENT STATE
112) ED REYNOLDS/S/STANFORD
113) BRANDON THOMAS/G/CLEMSON
114) CAMERON FLEMING/T/STANFORD
115) BRUCE ELLINGTON/WR/CLEMSON
116) TRAVIS SWANSON/C/ARKANSAS
117) MICHAEL SCHOFIELD/T/MICHIGAN
118) MARCUS ROBERSON/CB/FLORIDA
119) CRAIG LOSTON/S/LSU
120) TOM SAVAGE/QB/PITT
121) TERRANCE MITCHELL/CB/OREGON
122) CARL BRADFORD/LB/ARIZONA STATE
123) SHAYNE SKOV/ILB/STANFORD
124) JAY BROMLEY/DE/SYRACUSE
125) DAKOTA DOZIER/G/FURMAN
126) CARAUN REID/DT/PRINCETON
127) TYLER GAFFNEY/RB/STANFORD
128) JACKSON JEFFCOAT/LB/TEXAS
129) AARON COLVIN/CB/OKLAHOMA
130) BRYAN STORK/C/MIAMI
131) JORDAN TRIPP/LB/MONTANA
132) BRANDON COLEMAN/WR/RUTGERS
133) KADEEM CAREY/RB/ARIZONA
134) ANTONE EXUM/S/VA TECH
135) KEVIN NORWOOD/WR/ALABAMA
136) LAURENT DUVERNAY-TARDIF/T/McGILL
137) SHAQUELLE EVANS/WR/UCLA
138) BROCK VEREEN/DB/MINNESOTA
139) JARED ABBREDERIS/WR/WISCONSIN
140) CROCKETT GILMORE/TE/COLORADO STATE
141) JERICK McKINNON/RB/GA SOUTHERN
142) BILLY TURNER/T/N. DAKOTA STATE
143) CHRISTIAN KIRKSEY/LB/IOWA
144) MATT HAZEL/WR/COASTAL CAROLINA
145) DEVON STREET/WR/PITT
146) CHRIS WATT/G/NOTRE DAME
147) ZACH MOORE/DE/CONCORDIA
148) VICTOR HAMPTON/CB/SOUTH CAROLINA
149) DEZMEN SOUTHWARD/S/WISCONSIN
150) MARQUESTON HUFF/S/WYOMING
151) TREY MILLARD/FB/OKLAHOMA
152) RASHAAD REYNOLDS/CB/OREGON STATE
153) PRESTON BROWN/ILB/LOUISVILLE
154) SHAMAR STEPHEN/DT/UCONN
155) E.J. GAINES/CB/MISSOURI
156) HOWARD JONES/OLB/SHEPHERD
157) YAWIN SMALLWOOD/ILB/UCONN
158) AHMAD DIXON/S/BAYLOR
159) LAWRENCE TALIAFERRO/RB/COASTAL CAROLINA
160) BRANDON DIXON/CB/NW MISSOURI STATE
161) JORDAN ZUMWALT/ILB/UCLA
162) TREVOR REILLY/LB/UTAH
163) RYAN GROY/G/WISCONSIN
164) MARCEL JENSEN/TE/FRESNO STATE
165) LAMIN BARROW/ILB/LSU
166) JOHN BROWN/WR/PITTSBURGH STATE
167) JAMES HURST/T/UNC
168) DENADRE COLEMAN/DL/CAL
169) DeANTHONY THOMAS/ATH/OREGON
170) JAMES GAYLE/DE/VA TECH
171) CHARLES LENO/T/G/BOISE STATE
172) DION BAILEY/S/USC
173) JOSH HUFF/WR/OREGON
174) SHAQ RICHARDSON/CB/ARIZONA
175) ZACHARIAH KERR/DT/DELAWARE
176) DEION BLUE/CB/ALABAMA
177) JORDAN NAJVAR/TE/BAYLOR
178) RYAN HEWITT/FB/TE/STANFORD
179) T.J. JONES/WR/NOTRE DAME
180) TYLER LARSEN/C/UTAH STATE
181) TAJH BOYD/QB/CLEMSON
182) XAVIER GRIMBLE/TE/USC
183) CODY HOFFMAN/WR/BYU
184) DAMIAN COPELAND/WR/LOUISVILLE
185) ISAIAH CROWELL/RB/ALABAMA STATE
186) JON HALAPIO/G/FLORIDA
187) JOHN URSCHEL/G/PENN STATE
188) PRINCE SHEMBO/LB/NOTRE DAME
189) ROBERT HERRON/WR/WYOMING
190) TYLER STARR/LB/SOUTH DAKOTA
191) KENDALL JAMES/CB/MAINE
192) MAX BULLOUGH/ILB/MICHIGAN STATE
193) WESLEY JOHNSON/C/G/T/VANDERBILT
194) BEAU ALLEN/NT/WISCONSIN
195) DAVID FALES/QB/SAN JOSE STATE
196) MAURICE ALEXANDER/S/UTAH STATE
197) XAVIUS BOYD/LB/WESTERN KENTUCKY
198) SPENCER LONG/G/NEBRASKA
199) DEDE LATTIMORE/ILB/SOUTH FLORIDA
200) RYAN CARRETHERS/NT/ARKANSAS STATE
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