2007 NFL Draft Wrap-up

Now that the biggest “non on the field” sporting event is done for this year and 255 players know their destinations, it is now time for myself and other talent evaluators to recap the action and then take a well deserved rest. I don’t like to give “Letter Grades”, because as I always like to say, “It takes 2 to 3 years to evaluate a draft”. That being said, some teams definitely did seem to strengthen their teams in the 2007 Draft. The teams that did well followed a blueprint that I believe has worked in the past:

  • Go for Larger School Players (BCS Level Players) in the 1st three rounds.
  • Judge the total player (Interview, Practice Habits, All Star Game, Combine, Pro Day, “Character”, and most importantly Game Film),
  • “Football Players” in the 4th round and higher (Day 2). Players that may not have all the measurables, but who can provide quality depth by helping on special teams or playing multiple positions.
  • Always consider your team’s needs with picks (Use the draft to replenish and build to establish the cornerstone of your team).

With this blueprint, GM’s have armed themselves with year-round scouting staffs that are dedicated to finding the next gem. However, no matter how much homework is done, most talent evaluator’s will have just as many Charles Rogers, Heath Shuler, Mike Mamula, Akilli Smith, and Tim Couch (All High 1st Round Busts) type picks on their resume as Tom Brady, Terrell Davis, and Seth Joyner (All late round finds) type picks. The draft process is a roll of the dice, but good teams like the Patriots always seem to find good football players year in and year out.

Tidbits from this year’s draft include:

  • Big Conferences Reign Supreme – NFL teams are looking for successful players from big conferences in the draft, because players are being taught pro techniques at these college and universities. A little over 70% of the players selected were from the 6 BCS Conferences. The SEC had the most players drafted overall with 41, followed by the Big Ten (32), ACC (31), Big 12 (28), Pac-10 (28), Western Athletic (17), Big East (16), Mountain West (9), Conference USA (8), and Mid-American (8). Overall 28 conferences were represented.
  • National Champs lead the way – The 2006 National Champion Florida Gators led the way with 9 players selected in the draft. Their highest player was DE Jarvis Moss going to the Denver Broncos at #17 overall (1st Round). The Broncos also decided to grab his teammate Marcus Thomas in the 4th Round. One player that I thought would be drafted from the Gators, but didn’t was their leader quarterback Chris Leak. Leak, who is the 2nd leading passer in SEC history, will now have to go the free agent route (Signed as a UDFA by the Bears). Other teams with a high number of players selected were Ohio State (8), Michigan (7), Notre Dame (7), Texas (7), Southern California (5) and surprisingly Hawaii (5). The Rainbows from Hawaii should be proud, because they had more players selected than Iowa and Georgia.
  • “Character” Matters – Teams have now placed a larger emphasis on drafting players that will be “Character Team Players”. Character definitely reared its head after Commissioner Roger Goodell said “Enough is Enough” issuing 2007 suspensions to habitual offenders Chris Henry (8 games) and Adam Pacman Jones (Season). Teams thought twice about players that had a lot of baggage (2 or more off the field incidents or drug use). This year’s “Character” poster player Marcus Thomas had to wait until the 4th round for the Broncos to grab him even though he had first round ability.
  • Here Come the Pats – The brain trust of Scott Pioli and Bill Belichek did not like the taste of losing to the Colts and then watching them hoist the Lombardi trophy. They set out this off-season to make that change. They added via free agency former Ravens OLB Adalius Thomas, former Bengals CB Tory James, former Dolphins RB Sammy Morris, former Eagles WR Donte Stallworth, former Bengals WR Kelley Washington and traded for former Dolphins WR/KR Wes Welker. That set the stage for the biggest news of Day 2 where they grabbed Randy Moss from the Raiders for a 2005 4th Round. Moss was so happy he re-negotiated his contract right away to fit in. Did I also mention they drafted Rodney Harrison’s replacement hard hitting Miami Safety Brandon Meriweather and cat quick DT Kareem Brown plus through trades they picked up an additional first and third round picks in 2008.
  • The “Slash” Effect – It is hard to believe, but it has been over 12 years since Steelers 2nd Round Draftee QB Kordell Stewart became “Slash” in 1995 as a multiple threat – multi position player in Chan Gailey’s Super Bowl Bound Pittsburgh offense. Teams have since tried to find the next “Slash” with former College QB’s or Developmental guys, last year it was QB/WR Brad Smith of the Jets in 2nd Round. The 2007 Draft featured Isaiah Stanback of Washington going to the Cowboys in the 4th round
  • Underclassmen learn school counts – 45 underclassmen applied for the draft and some prospered. We all know about Jamarcus Russell of LSU and Georgia Tech WR Calvin Johnson, but there were only 29 total underclassmen selected. That left 16 players left to scramble for training camp spots. Notables included: Notre Dame RB Darius Walker, Wake Forest LB Jon Abbate, San Diego State DE Allen Applewhite, and Ole Miss LB Rory Johnson

WINNERS

Arizona – The move to bring in Penn State OT Levi Brown may have been a little early at 5th overall, but he should be a cornerstone RT. Under new O-line Coach Russ Grimm’s tutelage I expect Brown to be motivated and he should help Edgerrin James improve greatly from last year. The addition of Brown and free agent Center Al Johnson should bolster the 30th ranked rushing team. When sure first rounder DT Alan Branch fell to the 2nd round, the Cardinals smartly jumped on him. He will be an anchor and he truly was a steal at the 33rd pick. I also like the special teams additions of OLB Buster Davis and WR/KR Steve Breaston.

Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons started the draft by grabbing young and athletic DE Jamaal Anderson. Jackson led the SEC in sacks and he should help off set the loss of Patrick Kerney to the Seahawks. They also grabbed my #1 Guard prospect in Texas’ Justin Blalock (6’3, 320). He will bring size and speed to one of the NFL’s smallest offensive lines. They also grabbed my #1 man to man cornerback in Arkansas DB Chris Houston. Houston will now team with Jimmy Williams, DeAngelo Hall, and raw 6th Round pick Auburn’s David Irons to form a turnover machine secondary. I also like that Roger Goodell did Arthur Blank’s job and sat QB Michael Vick down and explained to him in no uncertain terms he better shape up.

Baltimore Ravens – Once again Ozzie Newsome manipulated the draft well. He grabbed my #2 Guard in big Ben Grubbs from Auburn in the first round. Grubbs will be a road-grader that will clear the way for Willis Maghee. They then grabbed Devin Hester-esque WR/KR Yamon Figurs from Kansas State in the 3rd Round. Figurs by the way was the fastest player at the scouting combine. In the 4th Round they selected Le’ron McCray from Alabama, who was the only FB worth picking and he should be the next Sam Gash. In a move that I really liked they grabbed Heisman winning QB Troy Smith with the last pick of the 5th round. Smith will grow behind McNair and Brian Billick is a great quarterback teacher. Now they can let QB Kyle Boller leave when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Carolina – With LB Dan Morgan an injury risk, the Panthers took explosive Miami LB Jon Beason with the 25th pick. Beason will be a Day 1 starter and should team with Peppers to wreak havoc. They also set the stage to replace Keyshawn Johnson with a younger version of himself by selecting USC WR Dwayne Jarrett in the 2nd Round. They then grabbed Ryan Kalil also of USC (My #1 Center) also in the 2nd Rd, Explosive DE Charles Johnson in the 3rd round and my number one future special teams star of the future Penn State LB Tim Shaw in the 5th Round.

THE LOSERS

Denver – I know they had the 21st ranked pass defense, but did they three D-Lineman including DE Jarvis Moss (1st Rd), DE Tim Crowder (2nd Rd), and DT Marcus Thomas (4th). They inexplicably traded the rest of their Day 2 picks to select Thomas, who brought unneeded “character” exposure for a team still hurting from the Maurice Clarett fiasco from last year. Also the player they brought in to help the O-line Notre Dame OT Ryan Harris (3rd round) is too inconsistent. They forgot about bringing in a LB to replace the recently cut Al Wilson and a future replacement for the aging S John Lynch.

Kansas City – All have to say is where is the O-Line help?? Despite a glaring need for “big boys” on a run first team they went with WR Dwayne Bowe, DT Turk McBride and DT DeMarcus Tyler in the first 3 rounds. I know LJ was not happy not to see a road-grader or two.

Washington – Once again Daniel Snyder’s wheeling and dealing left the ‘Skins with only one first day pick and five overall players. I did like their selection of LSU S LaRon Landry, who was my number one defensive player. But they didn’t do enough especially finding a pass rusher to a D-line had only 19 sacks in ‘06.

Lloyd’s Leftovers:

  • Veteran player movement after the draft is always fun to see. It started on Monday as the Philadelphia Eagles released veteran linebacker Dhani Jones and the Buccaneers signed tight end Jerramy Stevens to a one-year, $600,000 deal that included no guaranteed money. Also after selecting Keyshawn Johnson clone Dwayne Jarrett in the 2nd round, the Carolina Panthers let Johnson go on Tuesday.
  • Look for Kansas City veteran QB Trent Green to also move soon to the Miami Dolphins via a trade once all of the logistics are sorted out. Green is still campaigning with GM Carl Peterson, but the Chiefs will not just give him away for nothing. They are rumored to wanting a future 2nd or 3rd round pick, which is high for a 37 year old quarterback with a concussion history. He could force the Chiefs hand though by showing up at minicamp, but I think he will have to wait until June to find a new team.
  • The following veterans may still be going to new homes even though they were not traded during the draft. RB Michael Turner (San Diego), DT Kris Jenkins (Carolina), WR Jerry Porter (Oakland), LB Lance Briggs (Chicago), and CB Asante Samuel (New England).
  • This year’s “Mr. Irrelevant” by being the last player selected at pick 255 in the 2007 NFL Draft was Alabama cornerback Ramzee Robinson. He waited 18 hours and five minutes over two days before he was taken by the Detroit Lions in 7th Round. He is a 5’10, 186 lb nickelback, who had 4 interceptions in his career at Alabama. He should definitely be a competitive player in camp and on special teams.
  • It is never to early for my 2008 Prospect Board including: Arkansas RB Darren McFadden, Louisville QB Brian Brohm, Penn State tackling machine LB Dan Connor, Massive LSU Defensive Tackle Glenn Dorsey, Michigan prototypical OT Jake Long, and the West Virginia speed combo of RB Steve Slaton and QB Pat White, but we have 11 more months to bring information and draft news about these guys.

That is it for 2007 Draft and may all the teams be enriched going into the 2007 season. BIGPLAY will be back in full force for the 2008 Draft in New York City. Thanks to Leslie Hammond and her staff at the NFL for making the Draft an enjoyable experience for BIGPLAY Football.

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2007 Draft Day 1 Review

Now that the anticipation, drama, and excitement of Day 1 of the NFL Draft is in the books. I wanted to take a look back a day that was unpredictable and enjoyable. And let’s no forget long!! The 72nd NFL Draft’s first day was the longest including a record 1st round of 6 hours, 8 minutes.

Some topics that must be talked about from Day 1 are listed below:

  • Raiders Return to “Excellence”? – In one of the only picks that I was able to predict, the Oakland Raiders decided that their man was JaMarcus Russell and selected him with the first overall pick. The big-armed quarterback calmly took the stage and the Raiders brought him home. There was no haggling over contracts, which cost Reggie Bush the first overall pick in 2006 and led the Texans to take Mario Williams. Russell will now team with Dominic Rhodes, Lamott Jordan , and the Raiders’ current set of WR’s (Ronald Curry, Mike Williams – traded from Detroit , and Jerry Porter) to restore their vertical passing game. Russell will get time to learn behind former Lions QB Josh McCown, who the Raiders acquired in a trade along with Williams.
  • Rip, Rip – That was the sound of mine and everyone’s Mock Drafts. No one can predict what will happen on Day 1 of the NFL Draft especially in the first round. Nothing was certain from the Lions selecting another WR Calvin Johnson in the first round to the Browns passing on Brady Quinn at #3 and then trading up to save him at #22. We saw rare in-division trades (Jets trading with Patriots and the Eagles and Cowboys working a deal ???) and players going places no one saw coming like Patrick Willis going to the 49ers at #11 after leading up to the draft everyone had Adam Carriker going at that pick. I even commiserated with ESPN NFL Writer John Clayton about the fun and unpredictability of the event as he didn’t have a lot of the slottings right.
  • Aggressive Trades – Teams not wanting to miss out on their guy were willing to ship later and future picks to move into position. The day included 17 trades starting with New York Jets to the delight of their fans at Radio City Music Hall moving into position with a trade with Carolina in the first round to scoop up Pitt CB Darrelle Revis at pick #14. Other bigger trades that I liked included:
    • Cleveland trading a high 2nd RD pick (#36) in 2007 and 2008 first rounder to Dallas for the Cowboys’ first (No. 22) pick. The Browns then grabbed Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn their hometown boy, who was suffering the green room until they rescued him. Dallas now will have two first round picks next year and they then shipped the #36 pick to Philadelphia to take OLB/DE Anthony Spencer, who should team with DeMarcus Ware to former a devastating combo at DE.
    • The Falcons moved up in the 2nd Round to grab my #1 man to man CB Chris Houston from Arkansas . They traded with the Vikings with the Falcons getting the #41 overall pick and the Vikings getting #44 ( 2nd Rd ) and #121 ( 4th Rd ). The Vikings used the pick to grab raw, but potentially explosive WR Sidney Rice from South Carolina
    • I don’t know how Scott Pioli and Bill Belichek do it every year, but they always have a plan for the future on draft day and they execute it. The Patriots sensing that a team would want to make a splash at the end, where some prospects are not worth a 1st Rd pick, traded down and gain a base for next year. They shipped their #28 pick ( 1st Rd ) to the 49ers for a 4th rd pick in 2007 (#110) and a coveted 2008 1st Rd pick. The 49ers think they got a cornerstone O-lineman Joe Staley in the deal, but I thought the Patriots got the better of the deal.

I don’t like to give “Letter Grades”, because as I always like to say, “It takes 2 to 3 years to evaluate a draft”. That being said, some teams definitely did seem to strengthen and weaken their teams for the upcoming season on Day 1.

Day 1 Winners

Cleveland Browns – I know everyone is questioning they gave too much to land quarterback Brady Quinn with the 22nd overall pick, but remember Charlie Frye is not the answer (17 INT’s) and they also landed Quinn’s new bodyguard left tackle in Joe Thomas. The team also moved up to grab troubled, but talent CB Eric Wright from UNLV. Many teams passed on him for “character” issues, but my scout and several teams think has turned the corner.

St. Louis Rams – The Rams went with “High Character” leadership type players. They added their new Grant Wistrom in Nebraska Defensive end Adam Carriker in the first round and Rutgers FB Brian Leonard in the second round. Carriker has the high-motor and effort needed to be a two-way DE and Leonard will flourish as a versatile back with his ability to block, run hard (especially at the goal line, 45 TD’s in College), contribute on special teams, and catch over. I also liked the move of adding CB Jonathan Wade from Tennessee , he is a raw and fast player who should contribute and add depth their young secondary.

Carolina Panthers – They probably had the best day of anyone going for “big school” players, who will be able to contribute right away. They traded down to grab more picks and then got Dan Morgan’s replacement in tough Miami LB Jon Beason. I also like that they brought in Keyshawn Johnson clone USC WR Dwayne Jarrett. They then grabbed USC Center Ryan Kalil 3rd round, which was a real steal, because he has first round value. They ended their day by grabbing Georgia speed rusher Charles Johnson in the 3rd round.

Day 1 Head Scratchers

I really didn’t see many huge reaches or losers, but two teams did some head scratching moves that caused their fans to be unhappy.

Miami Dolphins – They passed on grabbing Brady Quinn, who could have replaced the underachieving Daunte Culpepper and went with WR Ted Ginn. I really like Ginn’s explosive ability, but OT and QB were greater needs. Also Ginn is reported to have a Lisfranc problem in his foot and is wearing a walking boot.

Philadelphia Eagles – I had one Eagles fan scream at me “A #$@$#ing quarterback, WHY”. I am not sure why the Birds went this route, but many of their fans were not happy after their team traded down with the Cowboys (Hated Archrival) and then selected University of Houston QB Kevin Kolb with their first pick at #36. It was probably a long drive back to Philly for their disgruntled fans, but you have to think that the Eagles got a replacement for McNabb, but they will have to wait 3 to 4 years to see him.

Players Still Available on Day 2

–QB – Troy Smith, Ohio State: Smith is a good passer (30 TD’s), but there are questions about his “cocky” heisman attitude and height.

–Louisville RB Michael Bush: Said to be 90% recovered after having a metal rod inserted into his injured right leg that he broke in the season opener against Kentucky . Has the character and ability to comeback from the injury. If fully healed the hard running 6’2, 248 pound “big” back should be a Day 2 steal for someone. Bush reminded me of Eddie George when he was healthy.

–QB Chris Leak, Florida : Leak is the National Championship QB from Florida and he needs to be picked. He is a great leader and he threw for 23 TD’s last year and is the 2nd leading passer of all-time in the SEC.

–WR Legedu Naanee, Boise State: Naanee (6’2, 225) was a little used backup quarterback at Boise State , but should be a “Ace” on special teams in the NFL

–Zak DeOssie LB, Brown: DeOssie (6-4 3/8, 249 pounds) is not your average “Ivy League” player. He is a transfer from Boston College , who has the pedigree (Father Steve played 12 years in NFL. He also is a Long Snapper which is a plus when looking at roster spots.

–Jermon Bushrod OT, Towson St: Bushrod (6-4½, 315) is a big tough developmental type of Tackle coming from a small school. He may be this years Jhari Evans, who also came from a small college Bloomsburg and made a huge contribution as a starting guard on the Saints O-Line.

–Tim Shaw, OLB, Penn State: Everyone is talking about Pozlusny, but Shaw maybe a more explosive pro. He was a three-year starter at Penn State , playing at defensive end in 2006 and outside and middle linebacker from 2004-05. Recorded 171 tackles, nine sacks in his career.

–Syracuse CB Tanard Jackson (6-0, 195 lbs) is a good nickel and special teams candidate. He has good speed (4.49) and is smart in coverage. Jackson may not have top level “cover” corner speed but he is physical corner and should fit in with cover 2 or zone coverage schemes.

–Notre Dame WR Jeff Samardzija (6’5, 200) – Samardzija had 78 catches, 1017 yards with a 13.0 avg and 12 TD’s in 2006 and reminds me of Joe Jurevicius. Though he signed with the Cubs to play baseball, including a clause not to play football, I believe he will be back at some time. Remember how well Chad Hutchinson and Drew Henson played in the minors. Henson was taken by the Texans in the 6th round in 2003 just to trade his rights, which they did to Dallas for a 3rd round pick in 2005.

–TE – Ben Patrick, Delaware: He maybe the Alge Crumpler of this class. The Duke transfer has good down the field potential.

–WR/QB/RB – Isaiah Stanback, Washington: A utility player that is a tough team “Football” player. He will help on Special Teams, As a Developmental QB, In the Slot, On Returns, In the Backfield and Trick Plays 

  • Others: RB Antonio Pitman – Ohio State, WR Aundrae Allison – East Carolina, WR – Courtney Taylor of Auburn, LB H.B. Blades – Pitt, QB/WR Paul Thompson – Oklahoma, DB David Irons – Auburn and K Jusitn Medlock – UCLA

Lloyd’s Leftovers

–LSU leads the way – The Tigers had four players taken in round 1: QB JaMarcus Russell (No. 1, Oakland ), FS LaRon Landry (No. 6, Washington), WR Dwayne Bowe (No. 23, Kansas City ) and WR Craig Davis (No. 30, San Diego ).

–Miami for the 13th year in a row had a player taken in the 1st round of the draft. They had three overall three first-rounders (Merriweather #24 to Patriots, Beason #25 to Carolina , and Olsen #31 to the Bears)

–Big Schools reign in round one – NFL teams know where to go to find players, BCS schools in case you didn’t know. The best conference in college football the SEC led the way with 11 players in the first round from the SEC were taken in the first round. The Big Ten and the Atlantic Coast Conference were next with six each.

–The “Commish” Roger Goddell was everywhere at Radio City Music Hall . He spent quality time with media, fans, and players while working the room with ease. I really like his hands-on style of administration and lets hope he keeps up the good work.

–BIGPLAY Radio Guests Aaron Ross (Giants – 1st Rd, 20) and Chris Henry (Titans – 3rd Rd, 50) were 1st Day Picks, now all we need is Chris Leak to come off the board to be 100%.

That is a wrap and BIGPLAY will be back at Radio City Music Hall for Day 2 of one of the biggest events on the NFL Calendar.

2007 NFL Draft – Final BIGPLAY Football Mock Draft

With the draft days away and the smoke screening, cajoling, baiting, and other forms of trickery and deception heating up, the NFL Draft is in full bloom.   I am going to take one last stab at re-doing my mock to fit scenarios that I have been monitoring. 

All the draft boards around the league “seem” to be set and I do not anticipate any major changes before Saturday, but remember potential draft day trades involving the Tampa Bay Buccaneers moving up to grab Calvin Johnson and/or current NFL players moving including: RB Michael Turner (San Diego), DT Kris Jenkins (Carolina), QB Trent Green (KC), WR Randy Moss (Oakland), WR Jerry Porter (Oakland), LB Lance Briggs (Chicago), QB Josh McCown (Detroit), and CB Asante Samuel (New England) could affect the ebb and flow of the draft.

I will see you in NYC at Radio City Music Hall
1. Oakland (2-14): JaMarcus Russell, QB, LSU – The Raiders have so many needs, but this is the most glaring one.  They seem to now be committed to finding a leader at the quarterback position after stopgap types like Aaron Brooks, Kerry Collins, and Jeff George have not fit the bill over the years.  It would also seem with their extensive history of getting “vertical” that the big-armed Russell would fit right into a gapping hole in their lineup.  He has the aforementioned arm strength (80 yards plus with a great fastball) and better mobility than most give him credit for.  He was 25-4 as a starter and he led eight 4th quarter comeback victories. He was the nation’s No. 3-ranked quarterback in passing efficiency in 2006 while setting a school record for completion percentage at 67.8 percent and for completions with 232 out of 342 attempts and tying the record for touchdown passes at 28. He became only the second quarterback in LSU history to throw for 3,000 yards with 3,129 and finished with 6,525 yards and 52 touchdowns in three seasons (two as a starter). In terms of his leadership potential and ability, he reminds me of Super Bowl XXII MVP and former Redskins quarterback Doug Williams.
Primary Needs: QB, OT, OLB
 
2.  Detroit (3-13): Gaines Adams, DE, Clemson – Like the Raiders they need a lot.  I know everyone thinks that the Lions may trade down a slot and let the Browns grab Quinn or Peterson or The Bucs jumping up to grab Johnson, but Adams seems like the pick.  Head Coach Rod Marinelli understands that pressure from the D-Line is key in his “Cover 2” scheme.  He wants a player, who can be his Simeon Rice.  With the Lions concentrating on defense too much in the last couple of drafts, they will want a player to build around with last year’s pick LB Ernie Sims. Adams was the Atlantic Coast Conference’s defensive player of the year and should be a double-digit sack guy for years to come.  His 28 career sacks tied the school record held by Michael Dean Perry. 
Primary Needs: DE, OG, SS, CB

3.  Cleveland (4-12): QB. Brady Quinn, QB, Notre Dame – Many are predicting Adrian Peterson at this spot, but GM Phil Savage’s desire to grab a quarterback will win out.  Hometown boy Brady Quinn will attempt to stabilize the quarterback position, because current signal callers Charlie Frye (17 Int’s) and Derek Anderson have not got it done.  The pick really is a no-brainer because Quinn has been campaigning and Romeo Crennel is on the hot seat.  Crennel will trust his friend and former Quinn coach Charlie Weiss.  Quinn also has the credentials with 46 collegiate starts, 95 touchdown passes and over 11,000 yards.  Adrian Peterson may have been a good fit, but the Browns have signed Jamal Lewis and they need someone to get the ball consistently to Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards.
Primary Needs: QB, C, DE,

4. Tampa Bay (4-12): Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech – I am already hearing that Jon Gruden is enamored with Johnson’s size and big play ability.   There are even suggestions that Gruden might be willing to secure the 2nd Overall pick to make sure Johnson lands in his lap.  With the Bucs stable of quarterbacks (Simms, Garcia, Plummer, Gradkowski, and others) another receiver is needed.  Johnson is a true difference maker with the size of T.O, but possessing better speed (4.35 in the forty at the Combine) and less attitude.  With Joey Galloway getting older, Maurice Stovall learning, and Michael Clayton underachieving this is a natural pick. Johnson caught 76 passes for 1,202 yards and 15 touchdowns this past season and had his best game in the Gator Bowl versus West Virginia narrowly losing 38-35.  In the game he caught nine passes for a career-high 186 yards and two touchdowns.
Primary Needs: OT, C, OLB, CB

5. Arizona (5-11): Joe Thomas, OT, Wisconsin – For a team rebuilding from Denny Green’s problems, O-Line is the most glaring need.  The Cardinals are loaded on offense at every position except upfront.  New Coach Ken Whisenhunt and O-Line coach Russ Grimm will want a cornerstone player and Thomas is the guy.  In the past the Cardinals O-Line was an underachieving soft bunch with the departed Leonard Davis as their leader.  Now the Cardinals can bring in a strong high character leadership player. Thomas reminds me of former Redskins Pro Bowl lineman Jim Lachey.  He will be a 10+ years starter at RT, protecting QB Matt Leinart’s blind side and providing the run blocking that Edgerrin James craves.  Thomas will keep Leinart upright to get the ball to Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, Leonard Pope and the other playmakers on offense.
 Primary Needs: OT, S, DE

6. Washington (5-11): Jamaal Anderson, DE Arkansas – After the player they want Adams is off the board I see the ‘Skins going for the next best DE.  Their pass-rushing tandem of Carter and Daniels is long in the tooth and provided little pressure in 2006 (Only 19 Sacks, team record for lowest). Anderson at 6-foot-5, 288 pounds is a long fast player who will get after the passer and cause turnovers.  He notched 13½ sacks last year as a junior. With Anderson and Pro Bowl Safety Sean Taylor in the mix, the ‘Skins will be hard to game plan against.
Primary Needs: DE, OT, LB, DT

7. Minnesota (6-10): Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma –  Peterson is the wild card player of the draft, who can go anywhere from the 2nd pick to the 10th pick.  The Vikings already have Chester Taylor, but he showed he is more of a complimentary RB after an inconsistent 2006.  Peterson will team with Taylor to capitalize on the NFL’s new trend of having two quality backs (Colts, Bears, and Chargers).  Peterson who left school as a junior is an injury risk (Missed seven games this season with a broken collarbone), but he is productive when healthy.  He had 1,012 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns in about 6 games. He ran for 77 yards and two touchdowns, including a 25-yarder on the first play of overtime, in Oklahoma’s 43-42 overtime loss to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl.  Peterson ran for 4,045 yards in three seasons, ranking behind only 1978 Heisman winner Billy Sims ( 4,118 ) and Joe Washington (4,071) on Oklahoma’s career rushing list. His 1,925 yards in 2004 were a school rushing record and the most by a freshman in NCAA history.
Primary Needs: S, DE, RB

8. Atlanta (7-9) (Swapped with Houston – Schaub trade): LaRon Landry, S, LSU – The Falcons will have no choice, but to take the best player I believe in the draft.  Landry will come in and immediately learn and be groomed to replace the aging Lawyer Milloy.  The back 4 will be scary with Jimmy Williams, Dante Hall, and Landry patrolling back there.  Landry reminds me of Eagles All-Pro safety Brian Dawkins and he is a difference maker.  He started for LSU as a freshman in 2003, helping the Tigers to win it all and started the next 4 years.  I believe he should be ready to start immediately in the NFL, like his brother Dawan (5th Rd pick by Ravens in 2006). A tremendous athlete who I have been following since he was a high school quarterback.  He was impressive at the combine clocking  two 4.4 forty’s and looking very good in the cone and positional drills. His 12 career interceptions are tied for third all-time in school history and has 315 tackles in his career at LSU (7th All-time)
Primary Needs: DE, FS, WR

9. Miami (6-10): Amobi Okoye, DT, Louisville – Okoye is a young (19) maturing player that has a great upside.  A naturally quick DT, he is a penetrater, who will play on the other side of the ball on passing downs and will be stout against the run as he can put on more weight from his current weight of 287 lbs.  He is a very bright young man who will definitely step in and help aging Zach Thomas, Jason Taylor and Joey Porter.  Will be able to penetrate and push the pocket.  Should be able to contribute in several packages as a rookie including pass rushing.
Primary Needs: DT, WR, OT

10. Houston (6-10) (Swapped with Atlanta – Schaub trade): Levi Brown, OT, Penn State – The main reason that they will be looking for Brown to come in is that their QB’s have been sacked at a record pace.  Brown and last year’s draftee Eric Winston will provide the line with a great foundation.  Brown will lead the way for their stable of backs: the newly signed Ahman Green, Wali Lundy, and the reborn Ron Dayne.  He should plug the gapping hole at LT that has dogged this franchise since their inception when Tony Boselli fell apart.  Other than Thomas, Brown is the only other O-Lineman that carries a 1st round grade in my book. 
Primary Needs: OT, OLB, FS

11. San Francisco (7-9): Adam Carriker, DE, Nebraska – Carriker is another Nebraska high-motor  player in the mold of Van den Bosch and Grant Wistrom.  Had 20½ sacks and 41 tackles for losses in his career at Nebraska.  He would be a great fit in Mike Nolan’s speed oriented attacking defense.  Carriker would be another DE/LB in the mold of last year’s number one pick Manny Lawson and former 49er Julian Peterson.  Carriker also is a high-character leadership type player and at 296 pounds he has the size, strength, quickness and technique to develop into a starter at the next level.
Primary Needs: OT, OLB, DT

12. Buffalo (7-9): Leon Hall, CB, Michigan – The Bills recently lost Nate Clements in free agency and cut ties veteran Troy Vincent.  They need to find another CB who is smart and can contribute right away.  The secondary got a good piece last year with SS Donte Whitner, but they need a playmaker.  Hall’s stock has fluctuated over the past few months during the draft process, but it’s back up after he posted a 4.39 forty time at the combine. Though he isn’t a “cover” corner with blazing speed, he makes up for it with instincts, size and athleticism.  School record-holder in career pass breakups with 43 and added 12 interceptions.  He is not flashy, but he gets the job done like All-Pro Bucs corner Ronde Barber and former Michigan Heisman winner Charles Woodson.
Primary Needs: RB, OLB, CB

13. St. Louis ( 8-8 ): Alan Branch, DT, Michigan – Head Coach Scott Linehan knows that value of a strong D-line from his days in Miami.   The Rams have never replaced Grant Wistrom and the smallish Leonard Little needs to have a larger player added to the line.  DT Jimmy Kennedy has not gotten it done and Branch would be a good fit at #13. Branch a two-way DE/DT should contribute right away.  At 6-foot-5, 323 pounds, he can play all of the positions along the DL and fit into a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme.  A player that impressed me by showing discipline and commit to getting better after slimming down from close to 400 pounds.
Primary Needs: CB, DT, OT

14. Carolina ( 8-8 ): Patrick Willis, LB, Mississippi – I love this guy, because he plugs holes.  With Dan Morgan iffy with his concussion problems, the Panthers need a playmaker behind Jenkins and Peppers.  Willis is a rare player with size (240 pounds) and speed (4.51). Some people may view this as a bit high for an ILB, but I disagree. Willis has the best instincts of any LB in the 2007 class and 49ers Coach Mike Singletary raved about him at the Senior Bowl.  A 100 tackle guy who averaged 11.42 per game in ’06. He will need to learn to not be fooled by misdirection and take on guards and centers, but was a dependable three-year starter in the SEC and should be ready right away to contribute. He reminds me of Browns young LB D’Qwell Jackson.
Primary Needs: ILB, QB, TE

15. Pittsburgh ( 8-8 ): Jarvis Moss, OLB/DE, Florida – With the cutting of Joey Porter and he taking his double digit sacks with him to Miami, there is a big hole in the Steelers defense.  New Coach Mike Tomlin is going to stick with Dick LeBeau’s attacking 3-4 scheme and Moss is the type of player to play the crucial pass rusher role made famous by Porter, Kevin Green, Greg Lloyd and others.  A Junior Eligible, Moss (6-6, 251) is another great athlete from a deep OLB/DE class that should contribute Day 1. He is a bit raw, but is a fluid athlete.  In 26 games at Florida, he started 13 times. He finished his career with 87 tackles (64 solos), 15 sacks for minus-114 yards and 22 stops for losses. Moss knows how to get after the passer, just ask Troy Smith who was harassed all day by Moss and his mates in the National Championship game throwing for under 50 yards.  He reminds me of Jevon “The Freak” Kearse when he came out of the University of Florida.
Primary Needs: LB, FS, C

16. Green Bay ( 8-8 ): Marshawn Lynch, RB, California – With Ahmad Green going to Houston in Free Agency and Samkon Gaddo being traded in ‘06, the Packers need a RB.  With his ability to catch the football and get to the outside Lynch has a lot of Green’s characteristics. With quarterback Brett Favre sticking around who knows how long this offense needs weapons.  The Packers were on the cusp of making the playoffs and Lynch could definitely help.  Lynch showed the versatility that the Pack’s West Coast offense likes playing in 35 games (20 Starting). He became the fourth player in school history to rush for over 3,000 yards in a career, carrying 490 times for 3,230 yards (6.6 avg.) and 29 touchdowns. He also caught 68 passes for 600 yards (8.8 avg.) and six scores. 
Primary Needs: RB, CB, WR

17. Jacksonville ( 8-8 ): Reggie Nelson, S, Florida –  With Deon Grant leaving in free agency and Donovan Darius getting older, the Jags need a player of the future at the safety position.  Nelson has recently been rising on draft boards due to his blazing 4.35 time in the forty at Florida’s Pro Day.  Nelson was the defensive quarterback of the National Champion Gators defense.  He helped to hold Ohio State to less than 100 yards passing in the Fiesta Bowl.  In 25 games at Florida, Nelson started 18 times. He recorded 97 tackles (66 solos) with four sacks and six stops for losses. Has a nose for the ball as shown by his  two fumbles recoveries and two blocked kicks. He needs to work on his run support, but he will provide great over the top coverage and help Pro Bowler Rashaun Mathis.
Primary Needs: S, WR, OT

18. Cincinnati ( 8-8 ): Darrelle Revis, CB, Pittsburgh – The Bengals need help in their secondary.  They lost their two safeties and they need a player to team with last year’s draftee Jonathan Joseph.  The combination of Revis and Joseph will allow the Bengals to continue their attacking ways while having confidence in man to man coverage.  Revis, who is an underclassman is a gambler, but he is a playmaker, who will take turnovers to the house.  He also is a versatile player with the size and athleticism to contribute right away in the nickel and in the return game. In 35 games at Pittsburgh, Revis started 34 times. He registered 129 tackles (102 solos) with 5½ stops for losses totaling eight yards. He recovered two fumbles and caused another. Revis batted away 25 passes while intercepting eight others for 86 yards in returns with a pair of touchdowns. He blocked one field goal and returned 54 punts for 555 yards (10.3 avg.) and two scores.
Primary Needs: S, TE, DT

19. Tennessee ( 8-8 ): Ted Ginn Jr., WR, Ohio State –  With the suspension of Adam “Pacman” Jones for a year and Bobby Wade leaving for Minnesota in free agency, this is a need pick for kick returns.  After recently running a 4.4 forty and looking good in his workout, teams are now looking again at Ginn.  The Titans have several complimentary possession targets (Givens, Jacobs, and others), but they do not have a pure speedster on the team.  By teaming Ginn with Vince Young, the Titans will have one of the most explosive QB/WR tandems in the league.  I believe Ginn is this year’s Devon Hester (Raw, but Explosive Homerun Threat).  Look for the 6 foot, 190 lbs junior to take over all KR duties while learning the WR position.  This past season he caught 59 passes for 781 yards and nine touchdowns and as a returner averaged 11.1 per punt return, with one touchdown.  Would be a great fit on reverses and other trick plays.
Primary Needs: TE, WR, CB

20. N.Y. Giants ( 8-8 ): Paul Posluszny, LB, Penn State – A tough smart high character Giants  type of player (2 time captain at Penn State).  Has good size (6-1 ¼, 236), great football instincts, and intelligence.  He always is around the ball as shown by his stats as PSU’s all-time leading tackler (372).  He earned All-America, All-Big Ten Conference and Academic All-America honors in ’06.  Two-time winner of the Bednarik Award and matched his career-high with 116 tackles (69 solos) in ‘06. He also posted three sacks, 9.5 stops for losses, caused two fumbles and knocked down four passes.  Posluszny has played both inside and outside linebacker effectively at Penn State. Recently wowed scouts from all 32 teams as he showed no ill affects from his junior year knee injury running  his 40s in 4.58 and 4.62. Has the ability to cover running backs and tight ends one-on-one.  Reminds me of Chad Greenway.
Primary Needs: OG, WR, CB, SS

21. Denver (9-7): Joe Staley , OT, Central Michigan – Staley  (6’6, 296) has quickly risen up the board this off-season.  He is my 2nd rated OT, but he maybe a reach at this pick.  With Tackles Matt Lepsis and George Foster aging, Denver’s O-Line will need another young Tackle.  Typically the Broncos like athletic players who can trap block, play in a zoning blocking scheme, and move on their O-line and that is what Staley is best at.  He is a former TE, who has risen up the draft board due to this great speed and footwork.  Staley will the expected to start at RT and may move over to the crucial LT position  after Lepsis leaves.  He is a lot Lepsis in that he is learning to play OT after being a TE for a portion of his college career.  Hopefully he will continue to learn and be a solid player for Denver.  He worries me though as a boom or bust player.
Primary Needs: OT, LB, DE
 
22. Dallas (9-7): Michael Griffin, S, Texas – Even though they recently signed Ken Hamlin from the Seahawks to a free agent contract, Griffin still makes sense.  Hamlin and Roy Williams are both “down hill” in the box physical safeties and the Cowboys will need a coverage safety.  Griffin is fast enough to play nickel corner and safety.  He teamed with Michael Huff and Cedric Griffin as interchangeable parts in Texas’ championship secondary.  With more teams using multiple receiver sets a player of Griffin’s ability is a must.  The thing I like about Griffin is he is not afraid to also take on a ball carrier as shown by his 370 tackles in college.
Primary Needs: FS, OT, WR

23. Kansas City (9-7): Dwayne Jarrett, WR, USC – With the Chiefs top WR being the enigmatic and aging (33) Eddie Kennison, a better alternative is needed.  In looking at the Chiefs roster not a single WR jumps out at you.  The Chiefs have a great running game with Larry Johnson, but new quarterback Damon Huard will need help.  Jarrett will not light up anyone’s stopwatch (4.65 range), but he is a schooled route runner that uses his size to his advantage.  In 38 games at Southern California, Jarrett started 31 times. He set the school career record with 216 receptions and the Pac-10 Conference all-time mark with 41 touchdown catches, gaining 3,138 yards (14.5 avg.)  Should team with TE Tony Gonzalez to form a menacing duo around the goal line.  Jarrett’s greatest value will be around the goal line on jump ball type passes.   He will need a to convince everyone that he is not Lions flameout Mike Williams.  Reminds me of Cris Carter in that he will need to figure out “how” to get open and be physical against press coverage.
Primary Needs: OT, OG, DT, WR

24. New England (12-4) (Pick from Seattle – Branch trade): Chris Houston, CB, Arkansas – With the first of their two first round draft picks, the Patriots will be looking for more secondary help.  Franchised CB Asante Samuel is threatening a holdout and he maybe gone and recent free agent signee Tory James will be a stopgap player.  The Patriots need a man to man player in mold of former Pro Bowler Ty Law.  Houston is a player that has been moving up boards steadily since the combine and should provide the toughness that Belichek and Pioli covet.  Houston is an aggressive playmaking corner, who held Dwayne Jarrett to 5 catches for 35 yards in their ’06 battle.  He should help out in the nickel and dime while getting acclimated to the NFL. In 33 games at Arkansas, Houston started 27 times. He recorded 86 tackles (69 solos) with five stops for losses of 8 yards. He caused three fumbles, had a 12-yard reception and returned one punt for a 1-yard gain. He also batted down 22 passes and intercepted three others for 129 yards in returns.
Primary Needs: CB, S, OG
 
25. N.Y. Jets (10-6): Greg Olsen, TE, Miami – The Jets need to add an over the middle security blanket for Chad Pennington.  Current TE’s Baker and Pociask are not playmakers and don’t scare teams.  With no threats in the middle teams tend to load up in coverage on WR’s Cotchery and Coles.  Olsen from the “U” brings a lot of the same qualities of Jeremy Shockey (hands, speed, and leadership) without the attitude.  After initially signing at Notre Dame, Olsen started 26 for the Hurricanes. He totaled 87 receptions for 1,215 yards (14.0 avg.) and six touchdowns in his career. Olsen runs extremely well in the 4.5 range and is a willing blocker that should get better.  He is a hand catcher and rivaled many WR’s in catching ability at the combine.  Olsen will need to definitely give the tough Mangini more than 1 TD (2007 total) and improve on his run blocking, because the Jets are a run first team utilizing Thomas Jones and Leon Washinton.
Primary Needs: CB, S, TE, DE

26. Philadelphia (10-6): Anthony Spencer, OLB/DE, Purdue – With the recent trade for Takeo Spikes the Eagles seemed to have filled their most glaring need of OLB, but Spencer is a player they can not pass up.  Like 2007 Free Agent superstar Adalius Thomas, Spencer is an interchangeable player on defense.  With DE Jevon Kearse and OLB/DE Chris Gcong coming off-season ending injuries a player to rush the passer is needed.  I think Heckert and Reid will choose to grab solid “football” player types.  Spencer is a high character explosive edge player, who led the nation with 26.5 tackles for loss and also had 10 1/2 sacks.  He should team with the recently traded for Spikes to bring the heat from the edge and provide a needed pass-rush to help their secondary avoid big plays.
Primary Needs: DT, SS, OLB, WR/KR

27. New Orleans (10-6): Robert Meacham, WR, Tennessee – Remember Sean Payton is an offensive minded coach.  With Joe Horn being released and signing with the Falcons there is a need at receiver.  The 2006 season was Meachem’s breakout year. He moved to flanker and led the SEC with 1,298 receiving yards. He was second in the conference with 11 touchdown receptions and averaged 5.46 receptions per game. Meacham would give the Saints a homerun threat on the outside to compliment Marques Colston underneath and Reggie Bush out of the backfield.  Meacham looked fast and smooth at the combine catching the ball fluidly and running in the high 4.3 range.  Meacham is still learning the receiver position and should transition well working with Colston and Devrey Henderson.
Primary Needs: LB, WR, S
 
28. New England (12-4): Aaron Ross, CB/S, Texas – The Patriots defensive secondary has recently needed help to stop down the field plays and Ross should help there. He and the pick at #24 should be defensive picks to help add depth and help the defense get younger.  Like Randall Gay, Ross (6’1, 200) has the potential to play safety, slot coverage, or as a man to man corner. Ross is a tall, fast and athletic defensive back with playmaking instincts when the ball is in the air.  A full-time starter in 2006, Ross made the most of this opportunity. He earned All-American and All-Big 12 Conference first-team honors, in addition to being named the Thorpe Award winner (the nation’s top defensive back). The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year ranked third on the team with 80 tackles (59 solos). He added a sack, two stops for losses and 19 pass deflections. He caused three fumbles, recovered two and picked off six passes. He also scored once while averaging 10.4 yards on 23 punt returns.
Primary Needs: CB, S, OT

29. Baltimore (13-3): Ryan Kalil, C, USC – With Mike Flynn getting older and last years pick Chris Chester’s ability to multiple O-line positions, Kalil would be a great choice. The Ravens may want to replace Adalius Thomas, but getting protection for the aging Steve McNair and new back Willis McGahee is must.  Kalil is a smart battler, who is this year’s version of Nick Mangold, who started for the Jets as a rookie.  Kalil should be a fixture on the line for years to come. At the Senior Bowl, Kalil looked great in one on one drills while displaying a solid anchor in blocking. He is able to hold his own against bigger opponents by playing with great leverage.
Primary Needs: OLB, OL, QB

30. San Diego (14-2): Dwayne Bowe, WR, LSU – Bowe should get the call as the Chargers are in drastic need of a playmaking outside receiver to team with Tomlinson, Gates, and Rivers. At 6-foot-2, 222 pounds, Bowe impressed with his toughness and athleticism at the Senior Bowl. He will be the down the field player that Eric Parker has failed to be after averaging 15.2 yards per catch with 12 TDs in 2006.
Primary Needs: WR, OG, FS

31. Chicago (13-3): Jon Beason, OLB Miami:  With the trade of disgruntled OLB Lance Briggs imminent the selection of Beason would be a good choice late in the first round.  Beason is an athletic aggressive player who always seems to be around the ball.  He is able to work through the “trash” and make plays.  With Brian Urlacher staying at home, Beason will be able to rush the passer and play in coverage.  He should be able to contribute on special teams while learning Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 defense. 
Primary Needs: DT, OLB, CB

32. Indianapolis (14-2): Justin Harrell, DT, Tennessee – When you’re the champions you have many options.  I believe the Colts with the status of Cory Simon up in the air and Montae Reagor leaving will be looking for another quick penetrating D.  At 6’4 and 305 pounds Harrell should add value against the run and pass.  This high character player started 25 of his 35 games in college, finishing with 14 tackles for losses and four sacks.  The Colts also could be looking for an OLB to replace Cato June at this spot.
Primary Needs: DT, OLB, C

The All Inclusive 2007 Philadelphia Eagles Draft Preview

Going into the 2007 NFL Draft, the Eagles have re-established themselves as legitimate contenders once again. Their philosophy survived a roll coaster 2006 season, where they were 4-1 in their first five games (Aired the ball out), 1-4 in the middle (Heartbreakers to Tampa Bay and New Orleans and bad home loses to Jacksonville and Tennessee), and an improbable 5-1 to end the season. They showed character when many thought their season had been thrown away with the season ending knee injury to star quarterback Donovan McNabb. The team regrouped and showed their mettle winning the NFC East Championship again led by backup phenom Jeff Garcia. The moxy of Garcia, a change in offensive philosophy going to solid running game (ran over 60% down the stretch), and key turnovers especially ones caused by Brian Dawkins led the team on 6 straight improbable end of season wins including 3 divisional road victories and taking care of business in the playoffs opening round against the Giants. With the gut wrenching end of season “couldn’t stop the run / why did we punt” divisional playoff loss to the upstart Saints, it was hard to see the good of the season for some. But there were some great things that I liked: Westbrook running for over 1,200 yards, the O-Line staying healthy and dominating, Brian Dawkins returning to Pro Bowl form, and Andy Reid embracing the running game to name a few. The team does have some areas that need improvement as well Run Defense and Kick Returns are a couple. Overall did the season quench my undying thirst as a Philly fan for our elusive championship in a word “No”, but the team showed that in today’s NFL any team can get hot and make some noise.

Now in the draft it is up to Tom Heckert and Andy Reid to mold a team that can go from an improbable 10-6 record back to the 2004 squad that played in the Super Bowl. The personnel department led by the empowered Heckert now seems to view weaknesses and address them in their timeframe, so I am confident that they can sure up their weaknesses before training camp. We started to see some of the overhauling of areas of need this off-season as they addressed their OLB problems by trading a 2008 conditional late round draft pick and underachieving Darwin Walker for Takeo Spikes and backup QB Kelly Holcomb.

2006 Record with Breakdown

10-6 Overall Record, NFC East Champions

5-3 record on the road

5-3 record at home

1-3 vs. the AFC

9-3 vs. the NFC

5-1 in Division

Key Stats and Rankings

Offense

398 Points Scored, (Ranked 6th in the NFL)

42.1 % – 3rd Downs Converted – (8th Ranked)

28:38 in Time of Possession – (25th Ranked)

24 Giveaways, 9 INT’s, 15 Fumbles – (24th Ranked)

28 Sacks Allowed

Defense

328 Points Allowed, (Ranked 15th in the NFL)

29 Takeaways, 19 INT’s, 10 Fumbles – (19th Ranked)

2182 Rushing Yards, 136 per game – (26th Ranked)

40 Sacks

Overall

96 Penalties for 807 yards (18th Ranked)

+5 in Turnover Ratio – (9th ranked)

Offensive Stats including Rankings 

PASSING                                RUSHING          

CMP ATT YD    YPA  TD INT   ATT   YD   YPA   TD  Total YDS

323 544 4309  7.92 31   9     416 1984   4.77  13  6293

13    8      4      3    1   2      27    11      5     15    2  — NFL Rank

Defense Stats including Rankings 

PASSING                             RUSHING           

CMP ATT YD    YPA  TD  INT    ATT YD    YPA  TD   TOTAL Yards 

309 525 3067 5.84   17  19     489 2182 4.46  12   5249

17   23     9       2     8    8      25    26    24   13     15  — NFL Rank

Pro Bowlers : Shawn Andrews (OG), Brian Dawkins (FS), and Lito Sheppard (CB)

Stat Leaders

Passing

            Att   Cmp Yds    TD  Int

McNabb 316   180  2647  18   6

Garcia   188   116  1309  10   2

Rushing                Att  Yds   Avg  TD   Long

Westbrook 240  1217  5.1   7    71t

Buckhalter  83    345   4.2   2    20

Receiving               Rec   Yards  Avg   TD  Long

Westbrook 77   699     9.1    4    52t

L. Smith    50    611    12.2   5    65

R. Brown   46    816    17.7   8    60t

Tackles Trotter 112 (87 Solo, 0 Sacks)

Dawkins 93 (71 Solo, 1 Sack)

Considine 85 (59 Solo, 1.5 Sacks)

InterceptionsSheppard 6

Dawkins 4

M. Lewis 2

Sacks

Cole 8

Walker 6

J. Thomas 6

Kearse 3.5

Player Movement

IN

WR Kevin Curtis – Signed as a UFA from the Rams; $30 Million for 6 yrs, $2.5M Signing Bonus and $5M Roster Bonus in ’07; $1.5M Roster Bonus in ’08. In four seasons with the Rams, appeared in 51 games (11 starts), and posted 136 receptions. for 1,714 yds. and 12 TDs

QB Kelly Holcomb (trade Bills) – Backup Insurance QB, who had best year in 2003, appearing in 10 games (8 starts) for the Browns and set career highs in atts. (300), comps. (193), yds. (1,797) and TDs (10)

WR Bethel Johnson: Signed as a UFA from the Vikings; 1 yr, terms unknown. Former standout WR and KR at Texas A&M, who thus far has not lived up to expectations. Eagles are his 4th team (Patriots, Saints, and Vikings). Appeared in 11 games for Minnesota in 2006 and was the team’s featured kickoff returner. Led the AFC in kickoff return avg. (28.2) and returned 5 kicks for 50-yds.-or-more as a rookie in 2003

DT Montae Reagor – Signed a Free Agent after Colts declined to re-sign him. $8.3Million/3 yrs, $2M guaranteed. Undersized DT (6’3, 285) in the mold of most Tampa 2 D-lineman. A quick penetrating guy, who has health issues arising from a severe car accident in 2006. Recorded a career high in sacks (5.5) in 2005 LB

Takeo Spikes (trade Bills) – Former 2-time Pro Bowl LB that can play all 3 positions. Still rounding into shape after missing most of 2005 with an Achilles Tendon injury. Registered 76 tackles in 12 games in 2006

OUT

LB Shawn Barber: UFA Texans; $5.5M/3 yrs, $2M guaranteed, 49 Tkls, 0 Sacks and Int’s in ‘06.

QB Jeff Garcia: UFA Buccaneers; $7M/2 yrs, SB unknown, 6-2 as a starter including playoffs.

CB Rod Hood: UFA Cardinals; $15M/5 yrs, $2.5M guaranteed, 21 Tackles and 0 INT’s in 2006

S Michael Lewis: UFA 49ers; $30M/6 yrs, $9.8M guar., 2 INT’s, 57 Tkls in ’06 (Bad in Coverage)

WR Donte’ Stallworth: UFA Patriots; $33M/6 yrs, $1M SB, 38 catches, 725 yds, 19.1 ypc, 5TD’s

DT Darwin Walker (traded Bills) – 6 Sacks, 36 Tackles (Not good against the run)

LBs Coach Steve Spagnuolo Named defensive coordinator of the New York Giants

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

QB Koy Detmer – He was signed right before the playoffs only to be a trusted holder for David Akers. 10 years for a “holder” is enough. He isn’t expected to be back.

RB Reno Mahe – A utility player and a favorite of Andy Reid. As a running back he is not fast enough to get to the edge or big enough to be a viable replacement for Westbrook. Had 9.4 punt return average with 12 Fair Catches on 30 returns. He likely will be brought into camp, but with Bloom and B. Johnson on the roster, 5 years maybe enough.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

RB Correll Buckhalter: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown, 342 yards rushing w/ 4.2 ypr and 2 TD’s.

CB William James: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown, 7 Tackles and 0 INT’s

S Quintin Mikell: Potential UFA; 4 yrs, terms unknown, 41 Tackles, 0 INT’s

DE Juqua Thomas: UFA; $12.5M/5 yrs, SB unknown, 6 Sacks, 25 Tackles

Philadelphia Eagles – 2007 Schedule

Preseason

Week 1 (Aug. 9-13) at Baltimore (ETN)

Week 2 (Aug. 16-20) Carolina (ETN)

Aug. 26 at Pittsburgh 8:00 p.m. (NBC)

Week 4 (Aug. 31-Sept. 2) N.Y. Jets (ETN)

Regular Schedule

Sunday Sep 9 @Green Bay 1:00pm (FOX)

Monday Sep 17 Washington 8:30pm (ESPN)

Sunday Sep 23 Detroit 1:00pm (FOX)

Sunday Sep 30 @N.Y. Giants 8:15pm (NBC)

Sunday Oct 7 Week 5 BYE

Sunday Oct 14 @N.Y. Jets 1:00pm (FOX)

Sunday Oct 21 Chicago 4:15pm (FOX)

Sunday Oct 28 @Minnesota 1:00pm (FOX)

Sunday Nov 4 Dallas 8:15pm (NBC)

Sunday Nov 11 @Washington 1:00pm (FOX)

Sunday Nov 18 Miami 1:00pm (CBS)

Sunday Nov 25 @New England 8:15pm (FOX)

Sunday Dec 2 Seattle 1:00pm (FOX)

Sunday Dec 9 N.Y. Giants 1:00pm (FOX)

Sunday Dec 16 @Dallas 4:15pm (FOX)

Sunday Dec 23 @New Orleans 1:00pm (FOX)

Sunday Dec 30 Buffalo 1:00pm (CBS)

2007 Eagles Draft Picks

1st Round: No. 26 overall

2nd Round: No. 57 overall

3rd Round: No. 90 overall

4th Round: No. 125 overall – Traded to New Orleans in Donte Stallworth deal

5th Round: No. 162 overall

6th Round: No. 201 overall

7th Round: No. 236 overall

The Eagles received no compensatory picks for Free Agency losses before the 2006 season

Team Needs

  1. Big Defensive Tackle (320 +) – The Eagles are too light at the point of attack against the run. They gave up an average of 136 yards per game and the playoff game loss against the Saints truly showed a need (208 yards rushing and had a 10 minute edge in time of possession). Mike Patterson has not produced to a 1st round level and needs a partner to help in his development. Broderick Bunkley (only 9 TKL’s) maybe the guy, but we didn’t see enough of him in ‘06. Darwin Walker and his play for the sack mentality have left for Buffalo. Rayburn and Ramsey are each deficient in their own way and could benefit from adding a larger DT into the mix. The draft is light at this position, so a free agent move or Day 2 guy may solve this problem.
  2. Safety – Need to bring in a player with pedigree to replace Lewis at the SS position. Finding a future replacement for Dawkins is also a must. They need to find a player, who is a better tackler than Considine and a better coverage player than the departed Lewis. Bringing back Mikell was a good move, because he is a good special teams player, but he is not much more. There are at least 6 quality safeties in the draft so this area must be filled.
  3. LB – Even with the trade for Spikes, changes are needed on this underachieving unit. With Trotter and Spikes getting older and McCoy looking like a special teams guy at best, more is needed. The entire linebacking unit only had 3 ½ sacks and 2 Interceptions. The NFL is now built on hybrid players and schemes at the LB area. 4-3 teams often incorporate 3-4 coverage and pass rushing based on the talent at LB. The Eagles biggest problem is in coverage where they are constantly beat on play action and screens. This unit could also benefit from the addition of a larger DT, because too often this smallish unit has problems taking on Guards and Centers in space.
  4. Inside Running Physical RB – Last season Brian Westbrook showed he could make it through a season carrying the team. He ran for over 1,200 yards and an impressive over 300 carries. With his additional 70 + catches that is enough touches. The NFL is now moving toward tandems in the backfield as shown by the Colts, Saints, and Bears. The Eagles need to find a partner for Westbrook. Moats has been a huge disappointment and Buckhalter is a good story coming back from his knee troubles to have a 4.2 ypc, but he is a huge injury risk. I would like to have an inside runner, who helps grind out the clock to end games, convert 3rd and shorts, and punch it in from the 2 yard line or closer.
  5. CB – With Rod Hood leaving as a free agent, a big hole was left in the Eagles secondary. I am not sure if Will James can fill the role of covering the 3rd best WR on the field one on one. They need a quality backup, who can also play on special teams. They cannot afford to go with guys like J. Hanson again. I would prefer a larger CB, because WR are larger and physical.
  6. WR – With the jettisoning of Owens many thought this unit would fall apart, but we saw how important running the ball is in the NFL. Donte Stallworth was explosive (19 ypc), but he only had 38 catches and was too big of an injury risk to bring back at a big-ticket price. The signing of Curtis will help in the slot, in the leadership of this group, and on third downs. The key player is Reggie Brown, who is entering into his pivotal 3rd season in the NFL. He now needs to be the man and lead the rest of the roster. The group overall has depth and special teams ability with Baskett, Avant, Bloom, and B. Johnson in reserve. However I would like the team to bring in a WR who can return kicks and has speed. The Eagles still do no have a 4.4 or lower blazer on the team.
  7. DE – The Eagles got heat from a variety of players (40 sacks), but no one had double digits. With Kearse entering the later portion of his career, Darren Howard looking like a free agent bust, and the McDougle drafting looking like a complete waste another player is needed. I like the re-signing of Juqua Thomas and Trent Cole is a “speed ball”, but a young two way DE that can rush the passer and play the run is needed.
  8. TE – LJ Smith is blossoming into a player, but the Eagles still don’t have an upper echelon blocking TE. Schoebel is an average player, so they need a player who can contribute on special teams and can block well, because Westbrook loves to run wide. Getting a guy who can long snap also could off set the loss of veteran Mike Bartrum.
  9. OL – This unit was spectacular in ’06. All the members were healthy and played in every game. The consistency led to a powerful running game that brought Brian Westbrook to an elite level. Shawn Andrews lived up to his first round pedigree by turning in a dominant Pro Bowl season. Andrews, new Center Jamal Jackson, and Tackle John Runyan provided a powerful nasty group on the right side of the Eagles line. With Runyan and Thomas getting older, the team will need a swing player, who can play G or T. Probably will see a lot of 2006 draftees Jean-Giles and Justice this year.
  10. Backup QB – Even with the trade for Holcomb and the re-signing of AJ Feely there is a need to get a young quarterback into the system. They have tried in the past with Omar Jacobs, Timmy Chang, and Andy Hall, but now is the time to find someone to groom. Last year with Jeff Garcia producing at a high level, it showed that you can never have enough quality QB’s on your roster. Need to find someone who can learn the offense quickly and I would like to get a more mobile QB with skills similar to McNabb’s – Strong Arm and Escapability.

Offensive Roster Overview

QB’s – Donovan McNabb was on his way to another Pro Bowl season in 2006 when a “fluke” knee injury happened near the Tennessee sideline in week 10. His numbers at the time (2647 yards, w/18 TD’s) showed that he was back from the sport hernia injury in ’05. The question is “Can McNabb continue to play at a high level or art injuries a factor?” As he comes closer to thirty this question will be asked more and I say he has plenty left in the tank. He easily can lead this Eagles offense to great heights and the ACL injury is not the career “death” sentence it used to be. McNabb has attacked his rehab and I fully expect him to be ready for the start of the pre-season. I recently go to spend time with him in Miami and he was well rested and talked very positively about getting off to a good start in ’07. As mentioned in the team needs backup qb depth is always on the list. Last year’s season saving play of Jeff Garcia showed that you always need a good bullpen quarterback. AJ Feely I believe will be able to fill Garcia’s role and the risk of paying a 37 year old player was too great, no matter how great a starter he was down the stretch. I believe that Garcia’s age is going to catch-up to him. Feely looked good against the Falcon’s JV in the last game, but you have to wonder is he the same player he was in Miami and San Diego. Veteran Kelly Holcomb, who was considered a throw-in from the Spikes deal will be there to provide veteran leadership, but, I don’t think the front office views him as much more. The Eagles also have Jeff Mroz a street free agent from Yale on their roster. I am not sure if he is a NFL QB. I do hope that they bring in a Day 2 developmental type like Troy Smith.

RB’s – In 2006, Brian Westbrook the questions about his durability. I really liked that he was able to carry the ball over 300 times and hold up. His career high 1,200 plus yards are encouraging that his body is built up enough to make it through 16 tough weeks. With Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg going with a more ball control running offense at the end of 2006 the signs for a strong running game are there. The only caveat is this change an aberration or a paradigm shift. The ball control offense was able to close games out and setup timely efficient throws for Garcia. With McNabb returning will they stick with this scheme only time will tell. The Eagles now need to turn their attention to finding a tough inside running back to compliment Westbrook. The last couple of years successful teams like the Patriots (Dillon and Maroney), Bears (Benson and Jones), Steelers (Bettis and Parker) and others have went with a two-headed monster at running back. This helps in versatility, catching the ball, picking up the blitz, and keeping players fresh. 3rd & Shorts and goal line runs are still a question mark on this team enough that the Eagles tend to pass in these situations. Correll Buckhalter is on the roster and was re-signed at the Eagles price. He is a good story coming back from his knee troubles to have a 4.2 yards per carry average, but he is a huge injury risk after 3 knee problems in 4 years. The Eagles are also in the process of shopping draft disappointment Ryan Moats (3rd pick in 2005). After a good rookie year he digressed last year to the point he was not dressing. Reno Mahe as stated before has hung around the roster for 5 years and I believe he will be moving on since he is currently an unsigned free agent. Antoine Bagwell an unknown young player from California (PA) is on the roster, but looks like a training camp person. The FB starter in 2006, was Thomas Tapeh. He came back from a dislocated hip injury, but he is not a tough blocker or a reliable pass catcher (Saints playoff game). The Eagles also have Zach Tuiasosopo on the roster and he is good raw player out of the University of Washington. I like his toughness and he maybe an option, but they still need to get better at the position. Jason Davis ( training camp body) and Jeremy Cain (Long Snapper) also add depth at the FB position.

WR’s – With the jettisoning of Owens many thought this unit would fall apart in 2006, but we saw how important running the ball is in the NFL. The Eagles started the season going down field for big passing plays, but they only had a 5-5 record. After committing to the run they went 6-2 including the playoffs. The departed Donte Stallworth was explosive (19 ypc) and provided down the field ability, but he only had 38 catches and was too big of an injury risk to bring back at a big ticket price. The signing of Kevin Curtis from the Rams will help. A quick rather than fast guy he will help by catching around 60 passes out of the slot. I like his leadership and I believe third downs is where he will make a difference. Don’t expect him to make a big impact on the outside, because he is smallish and has trouble with press coverage. The key player is Reggie Brown, who is entering into his pivotal 3rd season in the NFL. He had 46 catches for 800 plus yards, but now is the time for him to develop into McNabb’s main target. The depth on the unit has improved by the removal of Pinkston, McMullen, Mitchell, and McCants. The next logical player to leave from the old underachieving group is Greg Lewis. Lewis has good speed, but he gets lost when going against quality corners and I don’t know about his special teams value. Hank Baskett (22 catches for 464 yards, 21.1 ypc, w/ 2 TD’s) was a great training camp story. He came over to the Eagles as an undrafted free agent via a trade with the Vikings for the underachieving McMullen. Baskett is not a 4.4 or less speedster, but I believe he will challenge for the 4th receiver spot. Jason Avant now needs to show that he was worth a 4th round pick. At Michigan he was a “go to receiver”, but so far he has reminded me of Wolverine NFL flameouts David Terrell and Marquis Walker. Jeremy Bloom came into the 2006 training camp season not ready to play football after being away from the game for 3 years. He subsequently injured his hamstring and never recovered. He spent the year on injured reserve working out by himself and he will need a strong camp to make the team as the 5th WR and return man. Hopefully he will be able to contribute as a KR more than Mahe, Moats, and Hood, who averaged less than 20 yards a kickoff. Remember the impact of Devin Hester in 2006, so Bloom succeeding is a must. Bethel Johnson signed with the Eagles in the off-season and is looking for a home after not doing much for the Vikings. Johnson needs to show he is more than a journeyman type (4 teams) after impressing as a rookie for the Patriots. It will be B. Johnson and Bloom vying for the open kick returner job. Mike Gasperson is over in NFL Europe trying to learn how to become an NFL WR, but he will have to battle in camp to advance from the Practice Squad and make the team. The other WR’s Jermaine Jamison, JJ Outlaw, and Bill Sampy are just guys on the team for training camp. They will have to fight off the competition in camp from draft picks and street F\A’s to make the team. I would like the Birds to draft or bring a WR with pure speed (Sub 4.4) and/or a former college QB/Athlete type. Former QB’s know how to get open, because they know defenses.

TE – This group needs to get more consistent in 2007. The TE position is supposed to be a stretch the middle of the field position in the West Coast offense. The Eagles under Reid have not been receiving the big plays from the TE position, while Gates, Crumpler, Heap, Gonzalez and others are proven threats for their teams. Starter LJ Smith again started quickly, but fizzled out at the end of the season. He may have suffered the most from the loss of McNabb, but he finished with good numbers (50 catches for 611 yards and 5 touchdowns). I liked how he cut down on his drops and was a much better blocker. Smith will have to continue his successful ways as 2007 is a contract year for him. As a 5 year veteran, he should be one of the cornerstones now on the team. The addition of Matt Schoebel in the off season from Cincinnati was supposed to be more impactful. Schoebel however was neither the proverbial “blocking TE” or 2nd string pass catcher (14 catches for 214 yards with 2 TD’s). At this point in his career he is a solid veteran, but not much of a threat. The long distinguished career of TE/Long Snapper Mike Bartrum seems to be over. He is on the roster, but the serious neck injury and age may cause him to retire. If he leaves, he will be missed, because he was so good you didn’t notice. Backup Lee Vickers seems to be a training camp body and will have a tough time making the team. I think the Birds should bring in a TE late (6th Round) or after the draft. You can always find a good TE late in the draft to develop. I particularly would love for them to bring in a former college basketball player with the size/athleticism that teams value (Antonio Gates).

OL – This group was cohesive, nasty, and stable for the first time in a while. Coming off an injury riddled 2005 season, the O-line came back strong. Former 1st Rd Pick Shawn Andrews led the group. Andrews lost 40 pounds on his way to a dominating Pro Bowl performance at RG. Andrews became the a great partner to RT John Runyan and Center Jamal Jackson as the right side led the way to 1984 yards rushing (11th in NFL). RT Jon Runyan again played at a consistent level and continued his amazing consecutive game streak to 160 games. Runyan was re-signed before the season and showed his leadership. The funny thing about Runyan and the Eagles is that he has pleaded to run more in games and he finally got his wish. I agree with Runyan, because the run is the only way to win consistently in the NFL. Center Jamal Jackson easily won the anticipated training camp battle with Hank Fraley (left for Cleveland). No longer did teams bring pressure up the middle and on running plays, Jackson was a dominant blocker. Jackson is a tough large player that loves to run block and get at LB’s. He is an effort player that plays to the whistle. The LG spot maybe the only position that may change in the 2007 season. Todd Herremans the starter last season is a former small college Tackle, who needs to work on his footwork. I like his effort, but he plays “high” sometimes. Herremans will be in a battle with Scott Young and 2006 draftee Max Jean-Giles entering camp. LT William Thomas turned back the clock in 2006 after looking like his Eagles career was coming to an end. The team brought in 2006 2nd Round pick Winston Justice as an insurance policy, but Thomas got his back strong and played well. He is on the last year of his contract and has been with the Eagles since the Ray Rhodes era. I see him playing out this season and maybe retiring as he has several off the field activities. The backups include the aforementioned Jean-Giles and Justice. Jean-Giles was a dominating SEC player, but he has been known to have weight problems. I do like his “tree trunk” drive blocking strength, but he will need to be in better shape to compete his Herremans. Some scouts have said Jean-Giles can balloon up to near 400 lbs at times. Justice was a big question mark coming out of USC without a “clean sheet”. He stayed out of trouble, but he did not even dress much after preseason. Hopefully he will be ready to be the “Swing Player” on the line capable of filling in anywhere and while preparing to replace Thomas or Runyan in the near future. Scott Young is very strong, but he is not a finished product. Unfortunately for him everyone saw his largest error as he was called on a false start in the New Orleans playoff game on a converted 4th and 10 play. Young, Nick Cole (Center and short yardage blocker), Jasper Harvey (NFL Europe), and Pat McCoy (Developmental Tackle) will be battling drafted players and free agents to make the squad in 2007. Competition will be the key for this unit to maintain their foundation from 2006, protecting McNabb, and continuing to run the ball with authority. I know O-Line coach Juan Castillo will be working hard to continue this unit’s success from 2007. I see the Birds adding an O-Lineman through the draft to provide quality depth. I really would like to see a player drafted that can play C and/or G and/or T, because this team always has injuries with this unit and versatility is very important.

Defensive Roster Overview

DE – This unit approaches 2007 at a cross roads. Several members of the DE unit have question marks around health and ability. The DE’s applied some pressure, but they did not get the necessary pressure to help the defensive secondary or play stout against the run. Any talk of the defensive ends starts with Jevon Kearse. Kearse now in his thirties is coming off a major knee injury. Though most people are saying there was minor structure damage, Kearse seemed to be in agony after taking the hit on the joint. He was placed on injured reserve and it gave a chance for the team to look at other candidates. I wonder if he ever will be able to gain his quick first step that is crucial for a speed rusher of his caliber. Kearse only contributed 3.5 sacks in half a season, so the prospects of him returning to Pro Bowl form are not high. When he does play he tends to run himself out of run plays and gets nicked up too often. One big area that I believe the DE’s need to improve upon is in run support. With the Eagles having one of the smaller D-Lines, they need to learn to play off run blocks and attack plays earlier. 2005 Draftee Trent Cole again showed that he is an explosive player leading the Eagles with 8 sacks. I believe he could be an outstanding situational pass rusher and hybrid player that could play OLB and DE. However I do not believe he is an every down DE. With his LB size (250 pounds), he does not have a good anchor against the run and he would be better in a rotation. Jerome McDougle again showed that he unfortunately is a 1st Round Bust. McDougle did not dress much and showed up in the Tampa Bay, recording his only sack that included a facemask penalty and dumb unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for kicking the flag on the play. He has only lasted on the team this long, because of his draft status and he is in the last year of his rookie deal. I don’t believe he will be back even if he has a good camp, thus ending a bad draft scenario for the Eagles. The Eagles thought before the 2006 season that they had signed Kearse’s partner in Darren Howard from the Saints, but he proved to be one of the bigger disappointments of the season. Howard seemed disinterested as he was beaten on running plays badly and produced only 35 tackles and 5 sacks. Howard will need to play a lot better to prove that he was worth his signing bonus. The bright side of this unit was Jacqua Thomas. He came to the Eagles as Kearse’s friend and showed his value after his buddy’s injury. Thomas was solid against the run and produced 6 sacks in a limited role. He clearly should have been the starter ahead of Howard. The Eagles did the right thing by bringing Thomas back and signing him to a good contract. Though the Eagles were respectable producing 40 sacks, they need more from their front 4 especially the DE’s. Also expect small college rush end and 2006 draftee Chris Gcong to contribute in this area, because DE is his more “natural” position. I expect to bring in another DE high in the draft, because of Kearse’s uncertain status and Howard underachieving.

DT – Every year it seems I am saying the same thing about the Birds DT, but I hold to my belief that the Eagles need a larger DT to take up two blockers and get bigger and more physical at the point of attack. With the Birds lightness at DE they need someone at DT to collapse the pocket and push the QB to the outside. The OLB’s are constantly fighting off guards and centers, because the DT’s cannot anchor down. Teams tend to go right at the Eagles DL with the run and they usually have some success (Over 130 yards per game average). The playoff game loss against the Saints truly showed a need (208 yards rushing and had a 10 minute edge in time of possession. Mike Patterson was signed to a huge extension during the 2006 season at a time when I believe he didn’t deserve it. Patterson is a quick but small player, who has worn down in the second half of his two seasons. He has not produced to a 1st round level and needs a partner to help in his development. Last Year’s 1st Round draft pick Broderick Bunkley was thought to be an impact player as a rookie, but he fell into the team’s doghouse and only produced 9 TKL’s. The main reason for coaches’ consternation stemmed from his poor practice habits. Bunkley is said to have learned his lesson and lets hope he is ready to play in 2007. The Eagles will need Bunkley, because Darwin Walker and his “play for the sack” mentality have been traded to Buffalo. Walker had 6 sacks, but he routinely ran himself out of plays and left large gaps up the middle. Look for 2006 6th Round Draftee Lajuan Ramsey to continue to be part of a solid rotation. Ramsey surprised by making the team and out playing the recently retired Paul Grasmanis. Sam “Truck Driver” Rayburn was a pleasant surprise in 2004 with 6 sacks, but after receiving an extension he has produced 2 sacks in the last two years. He will have to battle to make the team and he will best served playing in the DT rotation off the bench. The signing of Montae Reagor concerns me, because of health (car accident), size (another 290 pound DT), and cost (2 Million guaranteed). Why would the DT light Colts let Reagor leave? I have to think that Reagor’s serious accident where he wasn’t wearing a seat belt has left him with health issues. Hopefully he will be healthy by camp and return to his 2005 form where he recorded a career high in 5.5 sacks. In my opinion the current smallish DL rotation needs a bigger body from the draft or afterwards to clog up space allowing the other quicker players to attack, which will lead to turnovers. And let’s not forget stopping the run, which is paramount for winning NFL teams.

LB – This unit is in flux once again with several changes in the off-season and more to probably follow in the draft. One of the bigger changes was former LBs Coach Steve Spagnuolo being named defensive coordinator of the New York Giants. It will now be up to new LB coach Sean McDermott to find a way to utilize Takeo Spikes and bring aspects of the 3-4. Most of the successful NFL teams of the past few years have incorporated 3-4 looks to their 4-3 base. This allows for more position versatility and hybrid players rushing the passer. Something needs to be done, because the Eagles LB’s produced only 3 ½ sacks and 2 Interceptions in 2006. I like the trade of Spikes as a good start to the rebirth of this unit. Spike can play all 3 linebacking positions and should bring much need pedigree (2-time Pro Bowl) and swagger to this group. Look for Spikes to continue his return from an Achilles Tendon injury that he suffered in 2005. He should be fully recovered by camp and he should improve on his 76 tackles in 12 games from 2006. I fully expect Spikes to lineup at the SLB position currently manned by the underachieving Dhani Jones. MLB Jeremiah Trotter again played at a high level, but not near his Pro Bowl form. Trotter, who is approaching Thirty is no longer the sideline to sideline plugger of the past. He still is a big physical run stuffer (112 tackles), but he wore down badly at the end of 2006 and it showed in the playoff game. Trotter was fooled on play action plays and was a liability on seam routes in coverage. He would benefit from the team bringing a larger DT to help him not take on guards and centers, but he maybe entering his final year with the Birds. The team tried unsuccessfully to sign Robert Fowler from the Cowboys to challenge him, Fowler chose to go to the Titans. Trotter though brings leadership and fire that cannot be measured. WLB Matt McCoy is an “Effort” player, but he is not a starter. He cannot consistently cover as a weakside linebacker and is best on special teams and spot duty. You expect more from 2nd Round pick, but with his smallish size, teams target him on outside runs where he has to take on lineman. The player currently waiting to loss his job this off-season is the aforementioned Jones. Jones has been a 3 year starter with little results. He contributed only 76 tackles (many downfield 10 yards or more) and ½ sack. With so many teams having playmakers at LB, this is not enough. I fully expect that Jones will not be on the team going into 2007 and then maybe he can pursue one of his many off the field activities. The team made a wise choice in not re-signing nickel LB Shawn Barber. Barber was nagged by injuries throughout the year and Texans paid too much for an aging player, who contributed 49 Tkls, 0 Sacks and Int’s in ‘06. 2006 5th round pick Omar Gaither was the surprise player of the Eagles LB’s. Gaither was considered a long shot to make the team, but he showed he has the versatility to play all 3 linebacker positions and he maybe an eventual replacement to Trotter. Gaither has good size at 6’1, 240 lbs and good speed. He contributed 62 tackles and 1 sack in limited duty and he was on the field more than McCoy in the playoffs. Former 2006 3rd Round pick Chris Gcong was slated to make the difficult jump from small college DE to pro SLB. He was progressing slowly by all accounts, when he suffered a season ending “stinger” in training camp. Gcong is a good quick athlete with top flight speed, but I am not sure he has the instincts to be an every down LB. Since the addition of Spikes, the Eagles have been talking about moving him around as a rush end and OLB. He knows how to get to the passer as shown by his double digit sack numbers in college. McCoy and the rest of the reserve LB’s need to pick it up on special teams. The unit has not been the same since Ike Reese left for Atlanta. By the way, Reese was recently released and he would make a fine addition as a player/coach type for the LB’s. The rest of the reserves are just fill-in players and I have listed each with a comment: Dedrick Roper (Backup SLB, who the Birds are high on as a backup. He will have to earn his way on special teams.), Greg Richmond (Undrafted F\A, Birds are high on him, but show me on the field),Tank Daniels (Small School UDFA), and Craig Kobel (NFLE). I see the Eagles bringing in an athletic OLB and/or a younger MLB in the draft, because of age and the lack of playmakers in this area.

CB’s – The defensive secondary, especially the corners again established itself as the backbone of the Eagles defense. Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown played in every game and helped to allow the safeties to come forward with confidence. The unit only allowed a little over 3,000 yards passing (9th Ranked in NFL) and had an NFL 2nd best 5 yards per pass play. With a renewed pass rush the corners and safeties should be able to play a more attacking style, which will lead to turnovers. Lito Sheppard returned to his “big play” Pro Bowl form in 2006 picking off 6 passes and returning 2 for touchdowns. His interception and return from the goal line versus Dallas was a pivotal play in the season. Sheppard I believe is also becoming more physical with larger WR’s and teams tend to throw away from him. Sheldon Brown is one of the more physical corners in football, just ask Reggie Bush who was the recipient of his huge playoff game hit. I like his aggressive nature, but he needs to watch his penalties. He is one of the best tacklers in the NFL from cornerback and can blitz (52 tackles). He still needs to concentrate on not dropping easy interceptions and timing his jumps versus larger WR’s like Plaxico Burress. Roderick Hood decided to not sign the Eagles tender and became an unrestricted free agent this past off season. Hood who came to the Eagles as an undrafted free agent find and when he was not in the lineup teams always seemed to find the 3rd or 4th WR. Hood signed with the Cardinals and now has a chance to start opposite Antrelle Rolle. The Eagles nickel and dime packages definitely will need an upgrade with him gone. Will James (Peterson) was a good stop gap veteran, who I believe can contribute as an extra DB. However I am not sure with his iffy back and inactivity (out the game in 2005) that he will be around long. I like his size (6’1, 200), but he is not the same player that he was with the Giants his first two seasons. The nickel corner spot was supposed to be manned by former draftee Matt Ware, but he proved not to be the answer and was released. Also jettisoned was 2004 Draft Pick Dexter Wynne, who struggled in the return game and in coverage. With Ware and Wynne leaving the corners were left with Joselio Hanson and Dustin Fox. Hanson played his way onto the roster in training camp, but he struggled during the regular season. It is great to see a player ascend from NFLE, but I think he has reached his full potential. Fox is a former draft pick of the Vikings and excels as a tough physical player. He played well for Ohio State as a zone corner, but his man to man skills need improvement. Fox though should be a terror on special teams. The team will definitely be looking to add at least 2 CB’s to their Dime, Nickel, and training camp roster. I would like the Birds to bring in a first day player and with the talent rich CB group in this years draft they may take one in the first round.

Safeties – Last year served as a tale of two safeties as FS Brian Dawkins again showed why he is one of the best in the game, while the SS position was in flux as both Michael Lewis (coverage) and Sean Considine (tackling) struggled. Dawkins avoided the nagging injuries that plagued him in 2005 and led the team’s 2nd half resurrection along with Jeff Garcia (Remember the Giants game – 1 INT, 2 Fumbles Caused, 8 Tkls). Though not the same “all out” player of 5 years ago, Dawkins is the emotion leader of the team. He has learned to be smarter in his reads to compensate for loss of a step. After signing Dawkins in the pre-season of 2006 all fan worries of Dawk in another uniform subsided. Dawkins will finish his career as an Eagle (12 season) and now the team should start thinking about finding his eventual replacement. Lewis was a sure tackler, but he had a couple of crucial coverage lapses including letting Joe Horn beat him deep that left him out of favor with the team. His contract situation (final year) may have caused some of his problems with the team and took the 49ers money and ran. Considine was Lewis’ in season replacement, but he was not better in my opinion. Teams understanding that he was too undersized for the in the box SS position ran at him constantly. With Considine and Trotter on the field together several times teams ran seam routes to spots the pair couldn’t get to. I like Considine because he will throw his body in the mix in the mold of former Eagle Tim Hauck, but I don’t see him as a starter. He would be better served as Dawkins backup at FS and playing special teams, which is an area he excels. I liked the re-signing of Quintin Mikelle, because he is a main stay on special teams. At his size, I purely see him as a key backup at both safety positions. You may also see Dustin Fox get a look as a FS backup and Erick Harris is in NFLE learning as well. The draft will definitely bring a player who can learn and help on special teams next year. They may even grab a player in the first round (Brandon Merriweather or Reggie Nelson), because there are at least 6 quality safeties in the draft.

Specialists – This group will be led for the first time in awhile by a new coach as John Harbaugh has switched to secondary coach. New coach Rory Segrest will now be tasked with returning the unit back to it’s 2004 form. The Eagles in my opinion took a step back in kick returns and kick coverage (Allowed 1 punt return for a touchdown) in 2006. Kicker David Akers returned from a tough year in 2005, which included a bad groin pull. In ’06 he was a solid 18 for 23, but I didn’t like that he didn’t attempt a kick over 50 yards. He has the leg strength and a trend is starting in the NFL where guys are making longer kicks. Akers is entering his 9th season, so the team brought in developmental kicker EJ Cochrane for training camp. The punting situation is clearly unsettled as Dirk Johnson again was not consistent enough. He had a 34.9 net and had too many touchbacks (11). The Eagles were not happy with his hang time and they have brought in Australian Rules player Saverio Rocca, who it hoping to become the next Darren Bennett. It should be a good battle and the team will hopefully find a guy who can consistently drop the ball inside the twenty. The return game is in a state of flux as the team decided that an average of 20.8 on kickoffs and 9.4 on punt returns with 20 fair catches was not enough. The effect of Devin Hester in 2006 (6 returns for TD’s) is immense on the NFL. We all know the league is a copy-cat league, so now every team is looking for someone to make big plays on returns. The team is hoping that Jeremy Bloom (I/R in 2006) and Bethel Johnson (Vikings Free Agent) will provide the explosiveness needed on returns. Too often teams knew that the Eagles returns would not read blocking on kickoffs resulting in 20 yard or less and they also knew fair catches were the order of business on punts. Bloom who is returning from a torn hamstring needs to be the guy. Though he was away from the game for 3 years, he truly has a knack for returning the ball. Hopefully he has built his body up (slight frame) and is healthy enough to be the number one guy. Remember Bloom was a former All Big 12 returner before leaving to ski in the Olympics. I like that they brought Johnson in to challenge him and I fully expect a good battle with a scary duo that will help us forget Ryan Moats, Dexter Wynne, and Reno Mahe. I see the team grabbing a RB, or WR with return skills after the 4th round. I would also like to see them think about bringing Ike Reese back. They also need to think about finding more special team type players like Mikell and Considine.

2007 Draft Notes

I have always like big school players, because they have faced big time competition. The same guys they faced in conference (Big 12, Big 10, ACC, SEC, PAC 10, and Big East) will be the same guys moving to the next level. Big schools also run their organizations similar to NFL teams, so the learning curve is lower. I also like guys that play hard all season, which shows on game film and not just workout warriors. In the later rounds (5, 6, or 7) I also like to take shots on guys who may have a question mark (Size, Speed, etc) in some areas or a small college guy. I would also like the team to pick more football player types, who may not have the best draft numbers (40, HT, WT, etc), but who can produce or be switched to another position (Ex. Mike Vrabel or Dan Klecko). I also would like to see a utility player (Athlete/Former College QB) brought in who can be a goal line QB, Extra WR, or Return Man. Teams have had success with Ronald Curry, Drew Bennett, and Antwaan Randle El in this role.

I have broken down where the Eagles are picking and how I would use their draft picks considering the needs I listed earlier.

(1st – 26, 2nd – 57, 3rd – 90, 5th – 162, 6th 201, 7th – 236)

1st Round (26) Anthony Spencer, OLB/DE, Purdue , 6-3, 266

With the recent trade for Takeo Spikes the Eagles seemed to have filled their most glaring need of OLB, but Spencer is a player they can not pass up. With DE Jevon Kearse and OLB Chris Gcong coming off season-ending injuries, a player to rush the passer is needed. Like 2007 Free Agent superstar Adalius Thomas, Spencer is an interchangeable hybrid player on defense. He reminds me a lot of 2006 impact draftee Kamerion Wimbley, who played so well for the Browns. I think Heckert and Reid will choose to grab him because he is a smart high character solid “football” player. Spencer is a explosive edge player, who led the nation with 26.5 tackles for loss and also had 10 1/2 sacks. He should team with the recently traded for Spikes to bring the heat from the edge and provide a needed pass-rush to help their secondary avoid big plays. I also think he can help in coverage when needed with his 4.6 speed.

2nd Round (57) Brian Leonard, Rutgers, RB, 6-1, 224, 4.5

Too many people are trying to categorize Leonard as either a FB or RB. He has the speed and toughness to succeed at either position. Much like Mike Alstott or Brad Muster “back in the day”, Leonard can be utilized in so many ways. He can fill the role of a “big” back in short yardage situations (45 TD’s at Rutgers) and is learning to be an effective blocker as a FB. Current FB, Thomas Tapeh has difficulty catching the ball and that is Leonard’s forte with over 200 catches in his college career. Leonard is a “gamer” as shown by him volunteering and excelling on special teams at the Senior Bowl. Will be a leadership type team player, who will do anything as shown by him switching positions from HB to FB in ’06 to make room from Ray Rice in the Rutgers backfield.

3rd Round (90) Eric Weddle, Utah, CB/S, 6’0, 200

Weddle is a Jack of all trades, who maybe the best athlete in the draft. He was a 2-time Defensive Player of the Year in the Mountain West Conference and played quarterback, running back, safety, corner, and special teams during his career at Utah. He will be able to contribute in the nickel after primarily playing corner in 2006, but I think he is best suited as a future replacement of Brian Dawkins at FS. Weddle is a smart player, who reminds me of John Lynch coming out of Stanford. He has good speed and can hit. Very smart player who understands the game and where to be. Had 6 INTs this year on defense, 147 rush yards, 47 pass yards, and 7 total touchdowns.

5th Round (162) – Isaiah Stanback, Washington, WR/QB, 6-2, 216, 4.55

The utility player that the Eagles have desperately needed for some time. In 2005, the Eagles were enamored with “Slash” player Matt Jones, but didn’t get him. Stanback is a tough team “Football” player. He competed on the track team (10.48 in 100 meters) as well and was drafted by the Orioles in baseball. He will help on Special Teams, In the Slot, On Returns and Trick Plays. He was a 2-Year Starter at QB for Washington and was having a very solid Senior campaign when he injured his foot. Despite sitting out the team’s final five games, he still earned Husky MVP honors in his final season (1,325 yards passing with 10 touchdowns and 350 yards rushing w/ 4 TD’s). Stanback is one of the better all-around athletes in college football and played QB and WR during his days with the Huskies. He definitely will get a long look in his rookie season as a “Slash” due his to versatility and the success of Brad Smith in 2006.

6th Round (201) – Dallas Sartz, USC OLB, 6-5, 235, 4.6

Tough 4 year player that contributed on both rushing and passing downs. Was a defensive leader on a defense that played in 3 National Championship games. Sartz used a medical hardship in 2005 (shoulder) so he could return in 2006. A defensive captain who finished third on the team with 70 tackles (41 solos). He led the team with seven sacks and was credited with 9.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. Has the potential to be a good special teams player and contributor a couple of years down the line.

7th Round (236) – Pitt LB H.B. Blades, 5’11, 237, 4.69 – He is the son of University of Miami star DB Bennie Blades. Blades is a plugger type LB, who excelled as a tackler at Pitt. He routinely put up over 100 tackles and should be a good fit as an inside LB (Trotter replacement). He also should be a special teams captain type. He looked good recently at Pitt’s Pro Day clocking a 4.69 in his forty and had a 32-inch vertical. In 2006, was All-Big East and ranked fourth in the nation with 147 tackles (86 solos), adding a sack and 10 ½ stops behind the line of scrimmage. He reminds me of KC LB Derrick Rogers.

Sleepers

This time of the year as I appear on different radio shows and talk to friends/fans, they all want me to identify sleepers. With most teams employing several regional scouts and GM’s not sleeping much, teams now can find most prospects for the draft. The internet, NFL Network, and ESPN also help in identifying players early and reviewing them on tape.

I have listed some players below that may not be first or second round guys, but who I think can make a solid contribution on Sundays. Also remember late round gems (ex. Marques Colston, 7th Rd pick by the Saints in ’06) and undrafted free agents (ex. WR Rod Smith) are usually key contributors on special teams and can blossom into Pro Bowl players at the next level.

—Justin Durant, ILB, Hampton – He is slightly undersized at 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds (some scouts project him to safety), but he has a knack for picking throw the trash (Guards and Centers) to make tackles. Became the first player in the history of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference to win MEAC Defensive Player of the Year honors three times. Over that timeframe (2004-06), Durant racked up 321 tackles (107 per year) and 42½ tackles for loss (just over 14 per year). His older brother, Darian was a four-year starting quarterback for the University of North Carolina (2001-04). Also look for Durant and Hampton teammates CB’s Travarous Bain and Calvin Bannister to be Day 2 gems.

—Legedu Naanee, WR, Boise State – Naanee (6’2, 225) was a little used backup quarterback at Boise State, who knew he wanted to go to the next level. He only had 4 catches in 2006, but he volunteered to be the blocking WR and “Ace” on special teams for the Fiesta Bowl champs. With his strong showing at the combine (40 inch vertical and 4.41 in the forty) and his “can do attitude” I am sure there will be a place in the NFL for him.

—Louisville RB Michael Bush – Said to be 90% recovered after having a metal rod inserted into his injured right leg that he broke in the season opener against Kentucky. Has the character and ability to comeback from the injury. A legitimate Heisman candidate in ’06, he set school records for rushing touchdowns (23) and points scored (144) in a single season in 2005 when he was named first-team All-Big East. If fully healed the hard running 6’2, 248 pound “big” back should be a Day 2 steal for someone. Bush reminded me of Eddie George when he was healthy.

—Zak DeOssie LB, Brown – DeOssie (6-4 3/8, 249 pounds) is not your average “Ivy League” player. He is a transfer from Boston College, who has the pedigree (Father Steve played 12 years in NFL) and speed (4.03 short shuttle at Pro Day) to make an impact. I believe his greatest value will be on special teams where his speed and instinct will help covering kicks. He also is a Long Snapper which is a plus when looking at roster spots.

—Jermon Bushrod OT, Towson St – Bushrod (6-4½, 315) is a big tough developmental type of Tackle coming from a small school. He may be this years Jhari Evans, who also came from a small college Bloomsburg and made a huge contribution as a starting guard on the Saints O-Line. Bushrod could be moved to guard because of his arm length (34½ inches) and his great speed and footwork. Had a great Pro Day running his forty yard runs in 4.92 and 4.97 seconds, jumping 30½ inches in the vertical jump, 8-foot-6 broad jump and banging out 22 reps of 225.

—Tim Shaw, OLB, Penn State – Everyone is talking about Pozlusny, but Shaw maybe a more explosive pro. He was a three-year starter at Penn State, playing at defensive end in 2006 and outside and middle linebacker from 2004-05. Recorded 171 tackles, nine sacks, 15 quarterback pressures, three forced fumbles, 12 passes defensed and one interception. A former high school standout RB and track athlete, Shaw posted a blazing 4.42 in the 40-yard dash at PSU’s Pro Day. Will make a great special teams player while learning how to play LB. Reminds me of former Steeler Kevin Green in terms of having a great first step.

—Syracuse CB Tanard Jackson (6-0, 195 lbs) is a good nickel and special teams candidate. He has good speed (4.49) and is smart in coverage. Jackson may not have top level “cover” corner speed but he is physical corner and should fit in with cover 2 or zone coverage schemes.

—Notre Dame WR Jeff Samardzija (6’5, 200) – Samardzija had 78 catches, 1017 yards with a 13.0 avg and 12 TD’s in 2006 and reminds me of Joe Jurevicius. Though he signed with the Cubs to play baseball, including a clause not to play football, I believe he will be back at some time. Remember how well Chad Hutchinson and Drew Henson played in the minors. Henson was taken by the Texans in the 6th round in 2003 just to trade his rights, which they did to Dallas for a 3rd round pick in 2005.

—New Hampshire WR David Ball – He will not wow anyone with his speed (4.73), but the man knows how to get open. He broke many of Jerry Rice’s 1AA records and shows routes and savvy that will get him in a camp somewhere. He catches well and should be able to fit in on special teams and in the slot. Reminds me of former 1-AA players Sean Morey and Brian Finneran.

—UCLA K Justin Medlock (5-11 7/8, 201 pounds) – Everyone who knows me knows I am not a “kicker guy”, but Medlock impresses me. He is a left footed kicker who made 24 of 28 field goals (he had a string of 14 straight halted at Notre Dame) with an 85.7 percentage. Was ranked first nationally in field goals (2.18 per game) and 10th in the NCAA and first in the Pac-10 in scoring (8.82). Impressed me when he won the All Star Challenge making all 9 of his kicks including booming one from 55 yards easily.

—Former Texas RB Ramonce Taylor (5-10 1/8, 195 pounds) – Made a strong contribution helping the Longhorns win the 2006 Rose Bowl against USC, but had to sit out last season due to academic reason. He is a raw athlete that could play on either side of the ball and on special teams. He didn’t work out with his former teammates, but did show up well in his workouts running the 40-yard dash in 4.46 and having a solid 9-foot-11 long jump.

—Maine S Daren Stone – Another big (6-3 ¼, 220) safety who can run. With the NFL going toward speedier guys in the secondary, Stone should fit in. Had a great Pro Day clocking a 4.47 in the forty, a 39 ½-inch vertical and 11-foot-5 long jump. He should be a late-round steal and a maven on special teams.