Free Agency 101: The 2008 Free Agency Period is Upon us and it is Time to Shop Around the NFL

(Philadelphia, Pa) — Remember “Nate Clements”, all you fans out there with dreams of signing a player and moving onto the Super Bowl.  Clements last year’s “big” free agent signed the deal of a lifetime (8 years, $80 Million with $22 Million guaranteed) going from financially poor Buffalo Bills to the “cash heavy” rebuilding San Francisco 49ers.  The moves of bringing in Clements and fellow free agency pickups safety Michael Lewis and receiver Ashley Lelie were supposed to move the Niners into NFC West title contention.  Well, now we know that the Niners limped home with a 5-11 record posting the NFL’s 4th worst Net Point differential of negative 145 points with Clements posting okay numbers (94 TKLs, 4 INTs, 1 Sack), but far the investment return expected.I am sure generals managers around the NFL took note during the 2007 season of the Niners fortunes.  The Niners expected to win after shopping at Neiman Marcus in the offseason for players.  But not so fast…. as we saw the New York Giants fueled by a good draft (Aaron Ross, Kevin Boss, Zak DeOssie, Jay Alford, and others) melded with key veterans hoisting the Super Bowl XLII Lombardi trophy.  The Giants proved that playing as a “team” is omnipotent in the NFL rather than trying to buy a championship.  The G-Men cemented the same successful formula that the Colts, Patriots, and Steelers have subscribed to for years by looking to the draft first to build their team — Did you notice all of these teams have recently won a Super Bowl.  Over the years I have always told disgruntled spend-happy fans, “Good teams fill weaknesses on their roster with solid veteran players and draft picks and bad ones try to make a splash with free agents and usually fall apart”.

Timeframe: Begins at 12:01 a.m. EST on Friday, February 29th and runs to April 20th at 4 PM EST for unrestricted free agents

Salary Cap Information: The salary cap this year has been set for $116 million per team, which is $7 million higher than last year’s figure of $109 Million.  Remember TV and the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) have dictated the large pot of money that is out there.  Most of the teams are in good shape going into the free agency signing period due to good cap management.   Solid teams usually make good cap decisions (Cutting of high priced veterans, extending young ascending players, and signing value veterans at the league minimum: $750,000).  Teams with plenty of cap room (signing dollars) include: Jaguars ($46.3 million), Titans ($42.7 Million), Bills ($39.6 Million), Vikings ($35.4 Million), and Saints ($35.2 Million). While others like the Redskins ($22 Million over the cap), Colts ($2.3 Million under), Panthers ($5.7 Million under), Rams ($7 Million under) and Ravens ($7.4 Million under) will need to do some slashing and contract restructuring before trying to sign their upcoming draft picks and desired free agents.  For the Birds fans the Eagles have $31.3 Million.

Number of Free Agents: The National Football League announced that over 400 players are free agents of some kind and they can now negotiate with all 32 teams. That number includes the 12 free agents that were designated as “franchise” or “transition” players.

Key Terms

Restricted Free Agent – A player that has accrued three seasons of playing time and their contract has expired.  The player’s team must submit a “qualifying” offer (a salary level predetermined by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and its players). The player can negotiate with any team through April 20. If the restricted free agent accepts an offer sheet from a new team, his old team can match the offer and retain him because it has the “right of first refusal.” If the old team does not match the offer, it can possibly receive draft-choice compensation depending on the amount of its qualifying offer. If an offer sheet is not executed, the player’s rights revert to his old team after April 20.  These are guys that usually have trade value and their team will only let them go at their price (ex. The Eagles trading restricted free agent quarterback AJ Feeley to the Miami Dolphins for a 2nd Round pick in 2005)

Some of the bigger name restricted free agents:

Cleveland QB Derek Anderson

Dallas RB Marion Barber III

Atlanta OLB Michael Boley

Tennessee K Rob Bironas

Tennessee TE Bo Scaife

Kansas City P  Dustin Colquitt

St. Louis S  Oshiomogho Atogwe

Tampa Bay DT Jovan Haye,

Arizona T Elton Brown,

Baltimore G Jason Brown,

Arizona CB Eric Green

New England DT Mike Wright

Houston S C.C. Brown,

Indianapolis S Matt Giordano

Pittsburgh G Chris Kemoeatu

Unrestricted Free Agent – A player with four or more accrued seasons whose contract has expired. He is free to sign with any team, with no compensation owed to his old team, through July 22.  These are the guys that should be thanking Reggie White, a key marquee player who took advantage of free agency and was a huge signee in 1993 signing with the Green Bay Packers. Over 300 players have this designation. 

Some Bigger Name Unrestricted Free Agents:

New England  CB Asante Samuel

Chicago OLB Lance Briggs

New England WR Randy Moss (Book it that the Pats and Brady get him back)

Pittsburgh OG Alan Faneca

Dallas OT Flozell Adams

San Diego RB Michael Turner

Chicago WR Bernard Berrian

Seattle WR D.J. Hackett

Cincinnati DE Justin Smith

Arizona LB Calvin Pace

NY Giants FS Gibril Wilson

Oakland QB Daunte Culpepper

Cincinnati  S Madieu Williams

Dallas RB Julius Jones

Transition Player – A team can designate one transition player (or one franchise player) in any given year. The player’s team must offer a minimum of the average of the top 10 salaries of last season at the player’s position or 120 percent of the player’s previous year’s salary, whichever is greater. A transition player designation gives the team a first-refusal right to match within seven days an offer sheet given to the player by another team after his contract expires. If the team matches, it retains the player. If it does not match, it receives no compensation.

  • Pittsburgh Steelers Offensive Tackle Max Starks was the only player named as a “Transition Player” this year.

Non-Exclusive Franchise Player – A team can designate one franchise player in any given year as a “Non-Exclusive Franchise” player. The salary level offered by the designating team determines whether the player is an Exclusive or Non-Exclusive franchise player. A “Non-Exclusive” franchise player is free to sign with other teams, but his team has the right to match the offer after 7 days.  These type of players are offered a minimum of the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position as of April.  The deadline for making these designations for 2007 was Feb. 22.

  • Oakland CB Namandi Asomugha was the only player named as a “Non-exclusive” Franchise Players this year.

Exclusive Franchise Player – A team can designate one franchise player in any given year as an “Exclusive Franchise” player. The salary level offered by the designating team determines whether the player is an Exclusive or Non-Exclusive franchise player. An “exclusive” franchise player is not free to sign with another team.  These type of players are offered a minimum of the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position as of April.  Some teams use the tag as a way to initiate talks for a long-term contract, but usually players and their agents that are designated as exclusive franchise players are extremely unhappy and can cause distractions.  Their angst is due to the loss of an “upfront” signing bonus (guaranteed $$$).  Though they will be paid at the highest level of their position, players typically want the big payday that comes with being a free agent.  In the past we have seen franchised players miss all non-mandatory off season training activities and report late or holdout of training camp (ex. Seattle Seahawks Offensive Tackle Walter Jones in 2004 & 2005). The deadline for making these designations for 2008 was Feb. 21. Here are the anticipated salaries for franchised players Quarterbacks: $10.73 Million,  Cornerbacks: $9.47 Million, Defensive Ends: $8.88 Million, Linebackers: $8.07 Million, Wide Receivers: $7.85 Million, Offensive Lineman: $7.46 Million, Defensive Tackles: $6.36 Million, Running Backs: $6.54 Million, Tight Ends: $4.53 Million, Safeties: $4.34 Million, and Kickers/Punters: $2.51 Million

2008 “Exclusive” Franchise Designated Players

Kansas City DE Jared Allen

Seattle CB Marcus Trufant

Baltimore OLB/DE Terrell Suggs

Tennessee DT Albert Haynesworth

Indianapolis TE Dallas Clark (Franchise Tag then signed to long term deal w/ Colts) 

Dallas S Ken Hamlin

Carolina OT Jordan Gross

Arizona  OLB Karlos Dansby

Philadelphia TE L.J. Smith

Cincinnati OT Stacy Andrews

Green Bay DT Corey Williams

Cap Casualty – A veteran player that has been released from his contract usually as “cap relief” for his former team.  These players are usually let go before their contract bonuses or incentives kick usually around March or June before the next season (ex. DT Dana Stubblefield cut by the Washington Redskins in June of 2001) to free up cap space.  The veteran player is free to sign with any team, with no compensation owed to his old team and doesn’t have to wait until the free agency signing period begins.

Some Bigger Name 2008 Cap Casualty Players

Atlanta QB Byron Leftwich

Miami LB Zach Thomas (Signed with the Dallas Cowboys)

Atlanta TE Alge Crumpler

Carolina OG Mike Wahle

Miami QB Trent Green

Minnesota S Dwight Smith

Panthers LB Dan Morgan

Information from NFL.com was used in this article

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2008 Combine Review

By Lloyd Vance, BIGPLAY Football “Draft Guru” / Sr. NFL Writer

(Philadelphia, Pa) — The 2008 NFL Combine is now in the books with 333 invitees, over 600 NFL talent evaluators, and over 500 credentialed members of the media heading home.  Sure the combine is just players working out in t-shirts and shorts and it is not the same as game footage, but the event can help or hinder a prospect.  The event truly accentuates the fact that the overall draft process is not an exact science. “It’s an inexact science, if you can call it a science” said Colts General Manager Bill Polian last week during a combine interview — roughly 50% of the first round picks in the last 27 drafts have not lived up to expectations according to the NFL Draft Scout website.  But the NFL combine is one of the major four steps of the post college football regular season process — Bowl Game, All-Star Games especially the Senior Bowl, NFL Combine, and Pro Day/Private workout – that are all extremely important for building a powerful resume for the April NFL Draft.  The event has gotten so huge and popular that NFL Network carried 26 live hours of coverage that just didn’t seem enough. 

Prospects and their agents also seem to understand the importance of the event — in the 2006 Draft of the 330 players invited to the Scouting Combine, 222 were drafted — as more than half of the players attended “cheat-sheet” preparation camps in California, Arizona, Florida, and Texas.  Practice made perfect as several players were familiar enough with the drills to produce several noteworthy results from this year’s combine.  

Now that the weighing, timing, questioning, reviewing of injuries and backgrounds of the invitees is over and before we move onto Pro Days, here are some of my observations, news, and notes from the 2008 Event.

High Participation – With over 600 NFL talent evaluators traveling to Indianapolis, the combine is the one place where the entire set of NFL talent evaluators converge on one place for a week just to look exclusively at prospects.  Because of the high volume of evaluators, prospects knew that being on sidelines and waiting for their Pro Day would raise a red flag that could cost them millions — Top 10 picks are expected to receive $20 Million dollar signing bonuses.  With dollars fresh in their mind, prospects at the 2008 Combine continued the trend of high participation by invitees (top prospects and lower level players) that has grown with the past five drafts.  It was reported that close to 90% of the 333 invitees took part in the process (drills and interviewing).  Potential Top 10 picks Virginia DE Chris Long, Arkansas RB Darren McFadden, Michigan OT Jake Long, USC DT Sedrick Ellis, and others all showed their stuff at the RCA Dome to the liking of the NFL personnel evaluators.  However the event didn’t go by without some high profile guys like Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan (wanted to work with his own receivers), LSU defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey (Grandmother’s funeral and leg issues), Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson (hamstring), Penn State linebacker Dan Connor (flu), USC linebacker Keith “Shark” Rivers (ankle) and Oklahoma receiver Malcolm Kelly (quad) forgoing the drills and waiting for their on campus auditions.

Event Risers – These were players that we believe increased their value in the Combine.

RB Darren McFadden, Arkansas: The absolute star of the combine.  He understood that there were questions about is background (Possible dealings with an agent in school, bar fights, and paternity issues), but he showed that his performance on the field is all that mattered McFadden (6’2, 210) has drawing to comparisons to 2007 NFL Rookie of the year Adrian Peterson blistered through his forty in 4.33-seconds He also answered all of the “character” questioned posted to him in interviews and look for him to be a top 10 pick despite some people trying to find warts of this two-time Heisman runner-up — namely Mike Mayock who needs to forget about McFadden’s thin legs.

QB Josh Johnson, San Diego University: My number 1 “sleeper” prospect showed why he was the MVP of this year’s East-West Shrine game by leading all of the quarterbacks in running drills.  Johnson posted a great time 4.55 seconds which was faster than some receivers. But don’t think he is a conversion candidate as he hit on all of his throws and showed he had more than adequate enough arm strength. Look for the tall quarterback (6’3, 195) to come off the board around the 3rd round.

Defensive Back Justin King, Penn State University:  After leaving PSU as a junior, it seemed the former wideout didn’t have enough quality experience as a defensive back and many thought King left school too early.  The expected flop in Indy never happened as the 5’11, 192 pound corner showed that his disappointing 2007 was behind him by posting a 4.31 forty and looking smooth in his position drills.  By having such a good showing, King now looks more like a 2nd or 3rd round pick.

Defensive lineman Kentwan Balmer, North Carolina: This smooth defensive combo player (can play end and tackle) has been one of the biggest risers on draft boards.  Many evaluators have been comparing him to perennial Pro Bowler New England Patriots defensive end Richard Seymour due to his size and athleticism. Balmer (6’5, 308) was a second team All-ACC pick defensive tackle and has experience playing in 3-4 and 4-3 alignments for Butch Davis.  At Indy, Balmer came through looking explosive in all of the drills.

Wide Receiver James Hardy, Indiana: After coming to the combine with questions about his size, speed, and work ethic.  Hardy answered the bell showing he is not only big at 6-5, 217-pounds, but he is athletic as well.  Hardy put up a 4.48 in the forty and in drills changed direction well and snatched every ball thrown to him.

TE Dustin Keller, Purdue: Unlike USC top TE prospect Fred Davis (see Event Crashers), Keller (6’2, 245) was on the field and impressed.  The virtually unknown Boilermaker announced his presence by posting Vernon Davis type numbers of 4.53 in the forty, a 38-inch vertical, and banging out 26 reps at the bench.  He also impressed me with the fluid hands in the pass catching drills.

DE/OLB Marcus Howard, Georgia: With so many teams looking for the next DeMarcus Ware (a player that is fluid enough to cover at linebacker and fast enough to rush at defensive end) combo defensive end/linebackers are in vogue.  Howard (6’2, 245) to me was the number one combo showing fluid movement and hips while posting a sub 4.5 forty plus catching the ball well in drills.

Others deserving players mention:  Virginia DE and possible #1 pick Chris Long (Great footwork in drills and a 4.71 forty), Hawaii QB Colt Brennan (rebounded from the flu at the Senior Bowl and showed he was very accurate in drills), Michigan Offensive Tackle Jake Long, (Combine high 37 reps and good explosiveness in drills), Michigan State receiver Devin Thomas (Great speed at 4.4, size (6’2, 216) and great hands) and Cal receiver/return man DeShean Jackson (looked like Steve Smith at 5’9, 170 and running a 4.35)

Event Maintainers – These were players that we believe were solid and did not hurt their value at the Combine.

DE Vernon Gholston, Ohio State: While everyone was drooling over Chris Long, Gholston showed why he was the only person to collect a sack versus Jake Long this year.  The athletic Ohio State star (6’4, 258) posted top 10 numbers 4.69 in the forty, a vertical of 35.5 inches and equally Jake Long in the bench press with 37 reps Also showed good change direction in the bag drills.  He still needs to work on his hands as he didn’t look natural in that aspect.

QB Joe Flacco, Delaware: After a stellar week at the Senior Bowl, Flacco came to work at Indy.  He was tall and big (6’6 3/8, 236) plus fast running a 4.78 in the forty.  In the passing drills I could here several scout talk about his obvious arm strength and accuracy.  The Pitt transfer can make all of the throws and he looks better than bigger school passer Michigan’s Chad Henne.  Will need to work more under center and on his drops to continue move up draft boards.  Right now he is a solid second rounder in my book.

DT Trevor Laws, Notre Dame:  The golden domers didn’t have much to smile at this year, but Laws was a pleasant surprise producing 112 tackles as a senior.  After a good week at the Senior Bowl, where he showed his quick twitch explosiveness, Laws (6’1, 300) came to work in Indy.  He showed that he had good up field movement in drills, good body control in the shuttle, posted a forty in the 5.05-5.10 range and did 35 reps.  I am going to nickname him “Baby Sapp”, because he reminds me of the former Bucs star.

WR Donnie Avery, Houston:  The small receiver (5’11, 186) expected to be the fastest player at the combine ran an amazing 4.4 forty despite having a pulled hamstring.  He also catch the ball well and we can’t wait to see him at full strength.

Others either maintaining or moving up boards from Indy include: Notre Dame safety Tom Zbikowski (4.52 in the forty, 24 reps, and showing better than expected moves in drills), Texas Tech receiver Danny Amendola (Looked like a Wes Welker clone with his size (5’11, 180), quickness, and hands), Troy State Leodis McKelvin (ran well and he catch the football), Miami Safety Kenny Phillips (looked like Ed Reed in drills), and Michigan running back Mike Hart (did not have top speed at 4.6 range, but reminded me of Packers back Ryan Grant with the way he attacked drills and was competitve at everything)

Event Crashers – These were players that we believe hurt their value at the Combine and will need to make up ground going into the draft.

TE John Carlson, Notre Dame: The big tight end (6’5, 256) looked more like a “blocking” only prospect as he ran a pedestrian 4.90 and 4.98 in the forty, which were some of the slowest for tight ends.  Carlson did rebound by catching the ball, but the scouts I talked to see him as a “Kyle Brady” blocker first tight end.  Definitely looks like a 4th rounder now after some thought he was a 2nd round pick in his junior year.

TE Fred Davis, USC: Came to the combine as the number one ranked tight end prospect, but he struggled in drills, especially catching the football.  Sulked and chose not to run the forty after his problems in the drills, which some raised an eyebrow to.  This year’s John Mackey Award winner as the nation’s top tight end, definitely has work to do at Pro Day to keep his high standing.  Davis (6’3, 250) did have an impressive 24 reps of 225 pounds.

Offensive Tackle Jeff Otah, Pittsburgh:  The huge O-lineman will not be winning any bathing suit contests as he measured in at a giggly (6’6, 358) with most linemen running around 5.00 to 5.20 range, Otah didn’t even come close as he ran a Clydesdale like 5.56 in the forty. Some scouts didn’t seem to mind, because when the pads go on the huge Pitt tackle has a nasty streak.

WR Mario Manningham, Michigan: After coming into the season as a can’t miss prospect, Manningham was up and down.  He would make a spectacular catch then drop several routine throws – pull the Ohio State game tape.  Manningham continued the trend at Indy running in the drills well and catching the ball fluidly, but a huge flag has to be raised by his forty times of 4.59 and 4.68 seconds.  With so many other receiver running well, the Big Blue receiver lost some ground.

Miscellaneous Notes

Speed again shines on Indy’s “fast” track – Once again the prospects showed that you don’t have to be Deion Sanders to produce an eye popping time.  Overall twenty-one players ran a sub 4.4 second forty with East Carolina running back Chris Johnson taking the title.   Johnson blazed to a time of 4.24 seconds tying former Eastern Kentucky receiver Rondel Melendez’s 1999 record.  Johnson’s time may have moved him into being the first senior running back picked in April.  The 5’11, 195 pound back has been compared to Eagles star running back Brian Westbrook.  Other players burning up the combine track included Troy CB Leodis McKelvin (4.38), Penn State DB Jimmy King (4.31), CB Tyvon Branch (4.31), Tennessee State CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, (4.33), Boise State DB Orland Scandrick (4.34) and Indiana DB Tracy Porter (4.37)

RB’s are Deep – If you even want to take away Darren McFadden’s performance this group is exceptional.  Underclassmen Rashard Mendenhall (Illinois), Jonathan Stewart (Oregon), Felix Jones (Arkansas), Jamaal Charles (Texas), Ray Rice (Rutgers), Steve Slaton (West Virginia) and Kevin Smith (Central Florida) all turned in 4.4 forties or better and show great hands and explosiveness in drills.  We may even see ten running backs taken in the first two rounds.

Podium time for the Coaches and GM’s – One of my favorite new wrinkles at the combine this year was the slate of GM’s and coaches holding their own press conferences at the event.  I could go from hearing Giants Super Bowl Champion GM Jerry Reese to Texans GM Rick Smith without missing a beat.  Though you know the evaluators are not going to tip their hand, it is always good to get some insight.  BTW:  Why weren’t the Eagles’ draft braintrust of Head Coach Andy Reid or GM Tom Heckert at the podium.

What You Benching?? – I would love to see a 225 bench press lifting contest head to head of this year’s champs Vernon Gholston and Jake Long (37 reps) and current NFL strongman free agent offensive guard Larry Allen.  Of course we would need loud mouth Arizona Cardinals Strength and Conditioning Coach John Lott as the moderator – “Come on Meat, HUP, HUP!!”.

How Awesome is NFL Network !! – Again NFL Network brought the combine to the masses by providing the aforementioned 26 Hours of original programming of the event and all 333 hopefuls.  I could listen to draftniks Mike Mayock and Charles Davis all day breaking down all of the players (Sorry Mel, but these guys are the best). 

The official workout results of the top performers at the 2008 Scouting Combine times are now posted at http://www.nfl.com/combine/top-performers

That is a wrap and BIGPLAY will definitely be there next year to cover the Combine, which is now a major happening as seen by the over 500 credentials handed out this year.

The Atlanta Falcons Finally Get Some Good News as They Win the Coin Flip for the 3rd Overall Pick

By Lloyd Vance, BIGPLAY Football “Draft Guru” / Analyst and NFL Senior Writer

(Indianapolis, IN) — The Atlanta Falcons finally got some good news as they won the coin toss for 3rd overall draft position on Friday.  The Dirty Birds will try to rebuild under new GM Tom Domitroff and head coach Mike Smith with the third pick at the April 26th NFL draft.

Look for the Falcons to think quarterback with the pick (BC quarterback Matt Ryan ???) with the Oakland Raiders having the fourth and the Kansas City Chiefs the fifth pick.  All three teams finished at 4-12 and their opponents had an identical record (first tiebreaker)

With the coin flip settled there will be 31 picks in the first round of this year’s draft (New England forfeited its own pick from losing its choice, taken away as part of the penalty for its illegal taping of opponents’ signals).

The final 2008 NFL Draft first round order is listed below (Team listed with their 2007 regular season record and opponents winning percentage)

1      Miami          1-15,  .539

2      St. Louis      3-13, .512 

3      Atlanta        4-12,   .516 

4      Oakland       4-12,  .516 

5      Kansas City  4-12,   .516 

6      New York Jets  4-12,  .523 

7      New England (from San Francisco) 5-11,   .465 

8      Baltimore     5-11,      .516 

9      Cincinnati     7-9,        .461 

10     New Orleans 7-9,      .477 

11     Buffalo        7-9,       .516 

12     Denver        7-9,       .516 

13     Carolina       7-9,       .520 

14     Chicago        7-9,      .543 

15     Detroit         7-9,      .543 

16     Arizona         8-8,     .434 

17     Minnesota     8-8,     .504 

18     Houston       8-8,      .516 

19     Philadelphia  8-8,      .563 

20     Tampa Bay   9-7,      .469 

21     Washington   9-7,      .555 

22     Dallas (from Cleveland) 10-6,  .425 

23     Pittsburgh     10-6,     .453 

24     Tennessee     10-6,   .500 

25     Seattle          10-6,   .414 

26     Jacksonville   11-5,   .516 

27     San Diego     11-5,   .500 

28     Dallas           13-3,   .496 

29     San Francisco (from Indianapolis) 13-3,   .516 

30     Green Bay    13-3,   .469 

31     New England (pick forfeited) 16-0,     .469 

32     New York Giants 10-6,    .516

NFL Combine 101: The 2008 NFL Combine is here and you need to be ready

By Lloyd Vance, BIGPLAY Football “Draft Guru” / Radio Analyst

(Philadelphia, Pa) — The NFL’s biggest “workout session” called the NFL Combine takes center stage at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis from Thursday February 23rd to Tuesday February 28th as potential draftees dreams can be made in 4.29 seconds (a very good forty-time in case you didn’t know).  It is hard to believe that the zany idea of past Dallas Cowboys draft braintrusts Gil Brandt and Tex Schramm from over 25 years ago to gather all of the draft’s prospects in one place so every team could get a look together has come so far — you can thank former University of Kansas option quarterback Nolan Cromwell for the madness as he was traveling from team to team in 1977 with the same information giving the forward thinking Brandt the idea for the combine – has become off the chart “huge”. How large is this one-time anomaly event, well the NFL Network will broadcast 26 live hours of coverage — more than even the Senior Bowl’s 19 hours. There will also be a Super Bowl like “Radio Row” atmosphere at the Indianapolis Convention Center so fans can get instant results — no more “urban legend” results like Deion “Prime Time” Sanders running a “slow” as he called it 4.19 forty-yard dash in secrecy at the 1989 event.

The NFL Combine is part of the annual arduous four-month long “NFL job interview” process for college players to get to their dream of being drafted.  The process has four distinctive parts — Bowl Game, All-Star Games especially the Senior Bowl, the combine, and the private workout (Pro Day) – that are all extremely important for building a powerful resume for potential players and a successful draft board for NFL personnel departments.  The event is such a big deal that approximately 600 NFL Draft evaluators including head coaches, general managers and scouts plus their “favorite” tag-alongs the media — almost 400 credentialed members of the media including BIGPLAY Football — will pack into the RCA Dome to watch 335 college players do whatever is asked of them in shorts and tee shirts.   These poor kids will be stamped with their cattle number like “QB03” and then they will be poked and prodded every which way to Sunday as they will be interviewed, examined, x-rayed, measured, run all over, made to jump, twisted, bent, interrogated on their past… you name it all to enhance their spot in the 2008 NFL Draft.

With this year’s success of the “Little Giants” — rookies including Kevin Boss, Jay Alford, Ahmad Bradshaw, Aaron Ross, Zak DeOssie, and others making a huge impact on the 2007 Super Bowl champion Giants — plus a record 35 rookies starting on opening day in the 2006 NFL Season, the importance of the draft in building a competitive team is omnipotent throughout the NFL. The hoopla over the event to me is borderline insanity as most scouts I talk to put more credence in regular season game tape, All-Star game performances, talking with college staffs, bowl games, and almost anything else over seeing guys tested at the combine in shorts.  But statistics show players need to go and participate especially early entrants in the draft, because they don’t have the advantage of going to All-Star games — In the 2006 Draft of the 330 players invited to the Scouting Combine, 222 were drafted. 

The combine is also important, because of the “love” factor, every year some NFL personnel evaluators fall in love with a prospect based solely on the combine (see Eagles 1995 first round draft pick and 7th overall pick DE Mike Mamula – moved up the board from a 2nd or 3rd round pick to a top ten pick mostly based on his high marks at the combine).  Teams can get an “I gotta have him” attitude usually leading to draft day moves and players can enhance their draft value and drive up their rookie contract value based on their work in Indy.  The agents definitely know the value of the combine as in recent years players have been pulled off college campuses to prep for the event at combine specific facilities.  The players learn everything from interviewing skills, how to take the Wonderlic Test, explosive running techniques and pumping iron at pre-combine training camps in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and Southern California (ex. Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida has 32 players training with coach Tom Shaw at high-end prices paid for by agents).

The Events

On the Field Drills

“The Forty” – This is the glamour event of the combine as guys want to show the world how fast they are.  The player starts from a three-point stance and runs 40 yards as fast as possible. The player is timed in 10, 20 and 40 yard increments, to gauge the player’s explosion and speed.  Now track speed is good, but “football speed” — ability to run fast while cutting or changing direction and catching the ball — is most important.  Too often guys go to speed camps and “manufacture speed” (see 2007 Draftee Washington State WR Jason Hill) causing scouts to take a harder look at their game film. 

225 Pound Bench Press – This is the second most talked about event of the combine as everyone the same as when I was in high school wants to know “What can you bench??”  At the combine everyone except quarterbacks and wide receivers are required to show how many reps they can do at two twenty-five.  Of course this event is led by famous loud mouth Arizona Cardinals Strength and Conditioning Coach John Lott — “Come on Meat, HUP, HUP!!”  Remember that players with longer arms have a tougher time pumping out reps and shorter squat guys usually can do some good damage in this event.  To show you the importance/non-importance of this event, the record holder former Ohio State DE/LB Mike Kudla (45 reps in 2006) wasn’t even drafted.

Standing Vertical Jump – This event shows the explosiveness of players from a still position.  With the NFL passing game based a lot of times on jump balls this event is of ought most importance to receivers and defensive backs.  From a flat-footed position the player jumps up and smacks at plastic flags on a pole.  When you watch this event think of explosive Niners TE Vernon Davis, who had a tight end record of 42 inches at the 2006 combine.

Broad Jump – Another explosion drill.  From a standing position a player’s lower body strength is tested as squat and jump forward as far as they can.  This event is usually led by the running backs. Jumps are measured from the starting point to the player’s back heel.

Three Cone Drill – This event is a test of a player’s speed, agility and cutting ability. Three cones are set up in an “L “shape (triangular format) with 5 yards between each of them. From a three-point stance at the first cone, on a coaches whistle the player has to sprint five yards ahead to the first cone then touch a white line — then sprint back to the starting cone touching a white line there — then running to the outside of the second cone – then cutting right to circle around the third cone – then finishing by running around the second cone and returning to the first cone.  This sounds exhausting just thinking about running this drill.

20-Yard Shuttle – This is the old fashioned test most of us did in the Presidential Physical Fitness challenge, remember how much fun that was in fifth grade.  This drill tests speed, agility, and coordination. From a three point stance on a whistle a player runs 5 yards to one side touches the yard line – then runs ten yards in the other direction touches the line there and runs back to the original line.

60-Yard Shuttle – Same as the twenty-yard shuttle, but longer.   This time the player has to go 10 yards to a line then 5 yards back then 10 yards the other way then 20 yards back and finishes this time 10 yards to the starting point. This is an endurance monster sorry big boys on the O-Line.

Position Drills – This is my favorite event at the combine, because position coaches know what specific practice drills that their position players need to know to succeed.  They design ball motion drills usually around blocking dummies.  I love watching the D-Lineman practicing their rip moves and running full force at a blocking dummy.  Also watch for receivers running routes, quarterbacks being asked to throw the infamous out-pattern to the far sideline, and college defensive ends trying to make the transition to linebacker in the NFL trying to catch the ball – at the 2007 event former NFL coach working for the NFL Network called several non-catchers “volleyball” players as passes bounced off their hands.

Off the Field Events

Measurements – Hey players do you want to feel like a piece of cattle.  As soon as players arrive in Indy they are give a cattle number (ex. QB03) and every player in attendance is measured head to foot with their height, weight, arm length, and hand size recorded.  And you thought that All-American lineman was really 6’7 and 325 from his college game day program thought wrong as he was only 6’4 ½ and weighed in at a sloppy 344.  Also the combine has a new piece of equip called the “Bod Pod” where players get in a space ship type machine and it measure s their body fat percentage.

NFL Team Interviews – Like any young person going from college to a job, players need to ace their interviews.  Teams know what this want to ask to get at player’s past and their future.  This used to be a mad scramble where teams would hoard players they liked.  But now teams get about fifteen minutes to get to know a player with a limit of 60 players for each team. This usually occurs at the convention center or player hotel with every team looking to see what makes a player tick.  Remember “character” is the number one item on most teams list along with toughness, interests on and off the field, and intelligence (the Giants and Patriots are notorious for measuring a players understanding of the “game of football”).  In 2006, young defensive tackle Amobi Okoye of Louisville showed coaching staffs that he was wise beyond his 19 years and parlayed it into being a top fifteen pick.

The Wonderlic Test – If there is one part of the NFL Combine experience I do not like or understand it is the Wonderlic test.  The test is designed to measure a player’s I.Q. through a 50 question test administered in 23 minutes.  Most players are tired/uninterested when taking the test, which leads to a majority of guys not completing the test.  Some agents have started to have their clients cram for the test like the SAT coming out of high school, but at least you can take that test multiple times.  This is one shot deal that many people put way too much emphasis on.  I can still hear all of the preposterous Vince Young test score reporting from 2006 – By the way did Vince’s score preclude him from winning the 2006 Rookie of the Year award.  And a did you know fact is that Hall of Fame quarterbacks Dan Marino and Terry Bradshaw both scored a 15 while colossal bust Akilli Smith scored a 37.  Here is a sample question: “Paper clips sell for 23 cents per box. What will 4 boxes cost” – take all the time you need, because all I care about is your FBI or Football Intelligence.

Injury Evaluations – All players walk around with their x-rays and injury history.  Teams and their doctors will poke and check any little thing that doesn’t sound or look right.  I know players like Jason White a former Oklahoma quarterback and past Heisman Trophy winner who had bad knees have to get tired of answering question after question about their condition.  You can’t blame teams for checking everything when they are investing so much, but most people knew former Louisville running back Michael Bush suffered a bad leg injury in his senior year before he even went to the combine.

The Cybex Machine Test – This machine will work the heck out of a player’s knee as they are strapped to basically a spring-loaded madman creation. The Cybex machine tests a player’s knee movement and flexibility. While this test seems like any other medical test, it can be the difference in being a Day 1 or 2 pick.

Drug Test – Everybody wants to make sure players are clean coming into the NFL.  So like any other new job a drug test is administered looking for illegal drugs including marijuana (allegedly Warren Sapp test positive for weed at the 1995 combine), cocaine, and performance-enhancing drugs (Luis Castillo of the Chargers test positive for ‘roids at the 2005 combine, but still went in the first round).

Schedule of Groups

Saturday February 23

Offensive Lineman

Tight Ends

Specialists (Kickers, Punters, and Long Snappers)

Sunday February 24

Quarterbacks

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Monday February 25

Defensive Lineman

Linebackers

Tuesday February 26

Cornerbacks

Safeties

The Players

There will be over 300 players throughout the four day event with every position represented from QB to DE to Long Snapper.  Not all invitees will participate in all events and some may pick and choose or wait for their Pro Day to show their stuff – Thanks Agents!!  Some players who I will be interested in seeing their efforts are Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan (Had a bad Senior Bowl, has a suspect arm and is he all hype), Arkansas running back Darren McFadden (Will he work out, is he the top player in the 2008 class, and how is he physically), Hampton defensive end Marcus Dixon (How is his character (off the field past), is he ready for the NFL, and does he deserve to be labeled a sleeper) and Notre Dame safety Tom Zbikowski (Is he all hype or is he a player, Is he finished with boxing, and is he fluid  enough to play safety in the NFL).  You can see a complete list of all the combine invited players at our friend site Great Blue North Draft Report.

Top Combine Event Metrics

Fastest 40 Yard Times  

4.19 – Deion Sanders (DB), Florida State – 1989 (Hand Timed)

4.28 – Jerome Mathis, (WR), Hampton – 2005 (electronic)

4.29 – Fabian Washington, (CB), Nebraska – 2005

4.30 – Darrent Williams, (CB), Oklahoma State – 2005

4.30 – Yamon Figurs, (WR), Kansas State – 2007

Most 225 Pound Reps 

45 – Leif Larsen, (DT), Texas-El Paso – 2000

45 – Mike Kudla, (DE), Ohio State – 2006

44 – Brodrick Bunkley, (DT), Florida State – 2006

43 – Scott Young, (OG), BYU – 2005

42 – Isaac Sopoaga, (DT), Hawaii – 2004

Best Vertical (Who are these guys???)

46 – Gerald Sensabaugh, (FS), North Carolina – 2005

45 1/2 – Derek Wake, (OLB), Penn State – 2005

45 – Chris McKenzie, (CB), Arizona State – 2005

45 – Chris Chambers, (WR), Wisconsin – 2001

43 1/2 – Dustin Fox, (FS), Ohio State – 2005

43 1/2 – Kevin Kasper, (WR), Iowa – 2001

Fastest 10 Yard Times

1.43 – Aundrae Allison, (WR), East Carolina – 2007

1.43 – Eric Weddle, (SS), Utah – 2007

1.43 – Marcus McCauley, (CB), Fresno State – 2007

1.45 – Leon Hall, (CB), Michigan – 2007

1.46 – Colin Branch, (FS), Stanford – 2003

Fastest 20-Yard Shuttle Times  

3.73 – Kevin Kasper, (WR), Iowa – 2001

3.76 – Deion Branch, (WR), Louisville – 2002

3.78 – Dunta Robinson, (CB), South Carolina – 2004

3.82 – Dante’ Hall, (RB), Texas A&M – 2000

3.83 – Kevin Bentley, (OLB), Northwestern – 2002

Fastest Three Cone Drill Times

6.45 – Sedrick Curry, (CB), Texas A&M – 2000

6.48 – Rogers Beckett, (FS), Marshall – 2000

6.49 – Carlos Rogers, (CB), Auburn – 2005

6.50 – Leon Hall, (CB), Michigan – 2007

6.51 – Jon McGraw, (SS), Kansas State – 2002

NFC Scores a 42-30 Comeback Victory over the AFC in the Pro Bowl, but Does Anyone Care

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Led by Adrian Peterson the NFC cameback to beat the AFC in the 2008 Pro Bowl 

(Philadelphia, PA) — Well the NFL’s biggest snore fest called the Pro Bowl was played this weekend in Honolulu as NFC scored a 42-30 comeback victory over the AFC. Rookie of the Year Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson continued his magical season by winning the game’s MVP award after running for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Peterson said after the game “We didn’t get into the playoffs, so for me to come here and do this at the Pro Bowl means a lot.  He added “I came with a goal: win the game and be MVP.”

Peterson joined future Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk (1995) as the only rookies to be voted MVP of the Pro Bowl.  The former University of Oklahoma star had several highlight runs including a 39-yarder on one TD drive, and a 17-yard run where he made four AFC defenders miss him as he went in for the score.

In the end, the NFC players won $40,000 dollars which will help for their room service and bar bills, while the AFC team $20,000 compensation.  The AFC still leads the all-time series 20-18.

I want to go on the record to say that I am not a big fan of the Pro Bowl.  The game is a great reward for the players selected, but too often the week is about a vacation and very little about football.  Many veterans that have been selected tend to find an injury (See Tom Brady and Randy Moss) so they don’t have to make the long trip.  I like that Commissioner Goodell is talking about moving the game to the mainland after Hawaii’s contract runs out in 2009 and holding it in possibly California, Florida, or Texas.  The players have all balked about the game’s possible move, liking the fun and sun of Hawaii better.

However something needs to get done.  I was extremely disappointed that they didn’t even bother to hold the skills competition this year.  I have always loved the NFL’s fastest man competition —  I can still see Hall of Famer Darrell Green, Willie Gault, Rod Woodson, Alexander Wright, Ron Brown, and others competing to see who held the title. It was a shame to not see the speedsters or the other competitions where the NFL’s best show off their exceptional skills.

Here is hoping that they can find a way to “spice up” the event next year, so it looks more like an All Star game and less like an exhibition wrapped around an Aloha vacation.

Signing Day 2008 Gets a Surprise as Terrelle Pryor needs more time

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  #1 Recruit Jeanette (PA) senior do-it-all quarterback Terrelle Pryor had a huge surprise for everyone on signing day as he decided he wouldn’t sign as expected.

(Philadelphia, Pa) —  Surprise, Surprise…After fielding 150-200 text messages a day from recruiters, #1 Recruit Jeanette (PA) senior do-it-all quarterback Terrelle Pryor — who is being advised by Pittsburgh Steelers backup quarterback Charlie Batch — still was not ready to choose a school.  Pryor surprised everyone by not announcing his intent and saying that he needed more time.  I am sure he doesn’t need not worry about his spot with his three finalists: Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State because they will definitely hold a spot for the super prep when he makes his decision.  I still believe that the nation’s best spread-option quarterback will be calling Ann Arbor, Michigan home to join Rich Rodriguez at the University of Michigan. 

If Pryor picks Big Blue, he would be following in the footsteps of former Pennsylvania high school player of the year in 2003 and option wizard Steve Breaston –converted to WR/KR in college.  Pryor who was the 2008 US Army All Star Football Game MVP  finished his decorated high school career with a state championship in December plus he had 4,250 career yards rushing and 4,249 yards passing, becoming the only player in Pennsylvania history to eclipse the 4,000-yard barrier in both areas.

Even though Pryor did not choose a school several other notable African American High School Quarterbacks finalized their college decisions by signing letters of intent on Wednesday including:

NAME                     HOMETOWN             COLLEGE
Darius Banks          Culver City, CA          East Washington
Tyler Bass              Stockbridge, GA         Maryland
Dominique Blackman  Carson, CA             Washington
A.J. Blue                Dallas, NC                  North Carolina
Ebahn Feathers       Fresno, CA                Fresno St
Deron Furr              Columbus, GA           Auburn
MarQueis Gray        Indianapolis, IN         Minnesota
Robert Griffin         Copperas Cove, TX    Baylor
Will Hill                  West Orange, NJ       Florida
Aramis Hillary         Johnston, SC         South Carolina
Jacory Harris          Miami, FL                 Miami (FL)
Boo Jackson           Torrance, CA             Ohio (JC Transfer)
Star Jackson           Lakeworth, FL           Alabama
D.C. Jefferson       Winter Haven, FL       Rutgers
Chris Johnson         Philadelphia, PA         Villanova
Orhian Johnson      Gulfport, FL               Ohio State
Luther Leonard       Burien, WA               Washington
Randall Mackey       Bastrop, LA              Ole Miss
E.J. Manuel            Virginia Beach, VA     Florida State
Sancho McDonald    Miami, FL                 Middle Tenn.
Tom Reamon Jr.     Newport News, VA     Old Dominion
Jeremy Sanders      Corsicana, TX           Baylor (JC Transfer)
Burton Scott              Prichard, AL          Alabama
Matt Scott                 Corona, CA           Arizona
Darron Thomas         Aldine, TX             Oregon

The 2008 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinee Class is Announced

(Philadelphia, Pa) — The Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinee class for 2008 was announced on February 2, 2008 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The six-man class was selected from another stellar list of 17 finalists that had been determined earlier by the hall of fame selection committee.  The event is always one of the most anticipated and controversial parts of Super Bowl week since every fan and writer has his/her own favorite that they believe deserves the honor hands down.  This year’s six-man group includes Defensive end Fred Dean, cornerback Darrell Green, wide receiver Art Monk, cornerback Emmitt Thomas, linebacker Andre Tippett, and tackle Gary Zimmerman.But the announcement was not without controversy as a couple of omissions namely Cris Carter and former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue were not on the list.  Believe me as someone that has been in the room prior to the selection process — the Pro Football Writers of America Annual Meeting is usually pretty close to HOF voting time and several of my follow writers are on the selection committee — you can see and hear that there were definitely some fireworks and strained discussions when selection committee met.

Going into the voting I was sure that we would definitely hear the news that Darrell Green and Emmitt Thomas would be selected for induction, which they were.  But I was shocked by news that all-world wide receiver Cris Carter and former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue did not receive the honor.  I believe Carter got caught up in people voting for long time omitted receiver Art Monk, causing the NFL’s second all-time receiver in catches (1,101) to not get the call in his first year of eligibility.  Look for Carter — who I marveled at as a youngster in Philly for his knack of catching touchdowns during his early troubled years with the Philadelphia Eagles — to be inducted in 2009, because his resume is just too good.  To me Carter’s numbers and impact overshadow current Hall of Famer and former Chargers receiver Charlie Joiner, so expect him at the top of the list in 2009.

Former Commissioner Tagliabue I believe was caught up by the fact that some writers view him as a “businessman” first and a caretaker of the game second.  Tags made some tough decisions over the years that helped the league grow, but also ruffled some feathers in the process.  Look for the Commish that bridged the gap from NFL famed architect and leader Pete Rozelle to the present, to also get in eventually.  But I think the writers like to make the league’s former top lawyer and poster boy for bureaucracy squirm.

I know the new members of pro football’s elite fraternity cannot wait for Sunday, August 3, 2008 at 8:00 p.m in Canton, Ohio when they get their gold jackets (NBC has the coverage this year).  Going into the 2008 ceremony the Pro Football Hall of Fame has 249 members with a breakdown of: 47 (pre-1946 players), 21 coaches, 17 contributors (owners, league officials, GM’s, etc) and 164 player from the Modern Era (1946 to the Present).

Here is a brief bio on each of the HOF’s new members:

  • Fred Dean, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, was one of the league’s most feared pass rushers during his 11-season career with the San Diego Chargers and San Francisco 49ers.
  • Darrell Green was known for his great speed (3-time NFL’s fastest man champion) during his 20 seasons with the Washington Redskins from 1983-2002. He intercepted a pass in 19 straight seasons and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s.
  • Art Monk was the consummate possession receiver as he accumulated 940 receptions for 12,721 yards and 68 touchdowns during his 16-season career. His career-high 106 catches in 1984 was a NFL record at the time. He was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1980s.
  • Emmitt Thomas was voted in as a Seniors Committee candidate this year.  Thomas rose from an undrafted free agent to become one of the finest cornerbacks in the late 1960’s. He ranks fourth all-time in interceptions by a cornerback with 58 picks during his career with the Kansas City Chiefs from 1966-1978.
  • Andre Tippett was the “poor man’s Lawrence Taylor” as he starred as a pass rushing outside linebacker playing five Pro Bowls for the Pats in his eleven year career.  He amassed 100 career sacks and was a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1980s.
  • Gary Zimmerman was a cornerstone lineman for both the Vikings and Broncos.  He got the tough lineman HOF distinction by being named to two NFL All-Decade Teams (1980s and 1990s). A strong offensive tackle with a good punch, Zimmerman won a ring in 1997 with the Broncos retiring with seven Pro Bowl appearances.

I think other than the glaring omission of Carter that the voters got it right.  It will be fun to see who doesn’t get in the next time as surefire upcoming picks include: Rod Woodson (2009), Emmitt Smith (2009), Deion Sanders (2010), and Marshall Faulk (2010)

Here are names of my PFWA brethren that vote for the hall of fame if you want to lobby for your choices for the Class of 2009 — Frank Cooney, Paul Domowitch, Ed Bouchette, Bernie Miklasz, Jerry Magee, Ira Miller, Clare Farnsworth, Ira Kaufman, David Climer, David Elfin, Kent Somers, Len Pasquarelli, Scott Garceau, Mark Gaughan, Charles Chandler, Dan Pompei, Chuck Ludwig, Tony Grossi, Rick Gosselin, Jeff Legwold, Mike O’Hara, Cliff Christl, John McClain, Mike Chappell, Sam Kouvaris, Bob Gretz, Edwin Pope, Sid Hartman, Ron Borges, Pete Finney, Vinny DiTrani, Paul Zimmerman, Charean Williams, Howard Balzer, Jarrett Bell, John Clayton, John Czarnecki, Nancy Gay, Dave Goldberg, Peter King, Bob Oates, Len Shapiro, Vito Stellino, and Jim Trotter. 

Lloyd’s Leftovers

My Top 10 Guys that deserve to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Quarterback Randall Cunningham – A three time MVP and a four-time Pro Bowler, who is also the NFL’s career rushing leader for quarterbacks (4,928 yards).  Passed for almost 30,000 yards plus he was the NFL’s ultimate weapon in the 90’s.

Running Back Terrell Davis – T.D’s career was cut short by injuries, but who was better than him during his brief career that produced two Super Bowl titles and a 2,000 yard season. Was a 3-time Pro Bowler and 4-time All-Pro selection in his too quick seven-year career.  Finished with 7,607 yards.

Defensive End L.C Greenwood – Another cornerstone of the Steel Curtain.  The gold-shoed pass rusher produced six Pro Bowls and four rings.  He needs to join Joe Greene and the other Steelers in the Hall.

Wide Receiver Bob Hayes  – An amazing receiver that revolutionalized the NFL’s view of elite game-breaking speed (Gold Medalist in 100 yard dash in 1964).  His 73 career TDs are ahead of both Michael Irvin and Monk. Won a ring with the Cowboys in 1971

Center Dermontti Dawson – Unbelievable cornerstone lineman for the Steelers in the ‘90s.  Took over from Mike Webster (HOF) and didn’t miss a beat. 

Punter Ray Guy – Should be the Hall’s first punter as I say no one better hang time than this Raider great.  He was great athlete with a crazy strong leg.  This 7-time Pro Bowler and 9-time All-Pro player averaged 42.4 yards per punt with a long of 77 yards.

Defensive End Derrick Thomas – With the election of Tippett you have to think it is a matter of time for this pass rushing maven.  He was unbelievable in the ‘90s collecting 126.5 sacks and going to nine consecutive Pro Bowls.  He also holds the  NFL record for sacks in a single game (seven).

Cornerback Lester Hayes – Mr. “Stick Um” from the Raiders glory teams of the 1980’s was unbelievable at taking away teams receivers.  With his partner Mike Haynes already in, Lester needs to be in.  Did I mention that he made five Pro Bowls and was the Defensive Player of the Year in 1980.

Running Back / Kick Returner Herschel Walker – Everyone remembers the infamous trade from Dallas to Minnesota. But this guy was one the best all-around players in the NFL.  He amassed 5,000 return yards and 13,000 yards from scrimmage plus let’s not forget his play in the USFL.

Cornerback Eric Allen – This silky smooth corner was one of the best one on one cover guys in the ‘90s.  He may not have been as good as Prime Time, but who is.  He provided sticky coverage for the Reggie White led Gang Green Defense while being a 6-time Pro Bowler and 6-time All-Pro selection.  Had 54 career interceptions plus he played in the Super Bowl for the Raiders.