2009 NFL Draft Review

By Lloyd Vance, Taking It to the House “Draft Guru” / Sr. NFL Writer

(Philadelphia, Pa) – Now that the biggest “non on the field” NFL event is done for this year and 256 players know their destinations, it is time for myself and other talent evaluators to recap the action and then take a well deserved rest.

The 2009 NFL Draft definitely had a ton of buzz, hype, and excitement as Radio City Music Hall was electric when the event kicked off at 4 PM on Saturday.  NFL evaluators continued to keep with a fast pace in trading and picking as there were not many countdowns/waiting for selection.  On Day 1 the first round took only 3 hours, 23 Minutes, which broke the previous record for time from the 1990 draft (3 hours, 24 minutes).  The impressive thing is that the draft moved swiftly despite there being 28 trades on Saturday and Sunday.

The NFL had nine players in the “Green Room”  (Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree, Wake Forest LB Aaron Curry, USC LB Brian Cushing, Kansas State QB Josh Freeman, Virginia OT Eugene Monroe, Mississippi OT Michael Oher, Texas DE Brian Orakpo, Baylor OT Jason Smith, and Georgia QB Matthew Stafford) with only OT Michael Oher enduring the “Aaron Rodgers”  treatment.  Oher was rescued by the Baltimore Ravens at the 23rd spot.  Of his wait Oher said, “”It could have been shorter, but it doesn’t matter. I got drafted and that’s the most important thing…I was excited because I knew I was going to get drafted. Don’t feel sorry for me”.

Tidbits from this year’s draft included:

Sanchez steals the show – You knew it was going to be a long day for first overall pick quarterback Matthew Stafford when he was booed and razzed with chants of “Over-rated” after he was announced to the Radio City crowd as #1 pick.  The boisterous crowd and everyone else was abuzz about where USC quarterback Mark Sanchez was going to end up.  Everyone was talking possible landing spots (Washington, Seattle, Denver, Jacksonville, New York and others), but it was the New York Jets who made the trade of the 2009 NFL Draft.  The Cleveland Browns traded their first-round pick (5th Overall) to the Jets for the Jets’ first (No. 17) and second-round (No. 52) picks, plus DE Kenyon Coleman, QB Brett Ratliff and DB Abram Elam. The pick netted Sanchez and the place went nuts when he was announced.  Unfortunately he was not there in person to receive the love, but you could tell everyone including the J-E-T-S fans were much more pumped about Sanchez.

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 72% of the players selected were from the 6 BCS Conferences. The SEC had the most players drafted overall with 37, followed by the ACC (33), PAC 10 (32), Big 12 (28), Big Ten (28), Big East (27), Mountain West (16), Conference USA (10), Mid-American (10), and Western Athletic (10).

USC had too much talent not to win it all in ’08, right?? – For the second consecutive draft, Southern California had the most first-round draft choices with three – LB Brian Cushing, LB Clay Matthews and quarterback Mark Sanchez.  USC now has 63 first-round selections since the inception of the common draft in 1967 – the most of any school.  USC had the most players selected with 11 Trojans having their name called on Saturday or Sunday.  The rest of the schools with the most players were South Carolina (7), Oregon State (7), LSU (6), Missouri (6), Cincinnati (6), Georgia (6), TCU (5), Penn State (5), and Maryland (5)

Players selected for the ‘Wildcat’– It is hard to believe, but it has been over 14 years since Steelers drafted QB Kordell Stewart to be a multi-purpose threat. But with the emergence of the Wildcat formation in the 2008 NFL season, teams were looking for multi-purpose players.  The Eagles traded up to select speedy WR Jeremy Maclin who took snaps out of the Wildcat at Mizzou, the Vikings selected WR Percy Harvin in the first round, the Texans grabbed former Rice TE James Casey in the 5th and the Lions selected WR Derrick Williams also in the 5th Rd.  But it was the Miami Dolphins, whe selected the player made to run the Wildcat formation, West Virginia Quarterback Pat White.  The Dolphins grabbed the NCAA’s all-time leading rushing quarterback with the 44th overall pick and the possibilities are unimaginable with him in the line-up.

The “U” loses their first round streak – The University of Miami (Fla.) for the first time in 15 years did not have a first round pick.  So the “U’s” miraculous streak that started with All-American defensive tackle Warren Sapp being selected No. 12 overall by Tampa Bay in 1995 is over. In fact the only Hurrican drafted was linebacker Spencer Adkins in the 6th round by the Falcons.  The formerly mighty Notre Dame football team also had only one player selected (Safety David Burton – 4th Rd by Denver) as did Florida State.  If you can believe it, Western Michigan beat the three former powerhouses with 2 players selected.

Rookies Better Watch Their Pockets – With rookie guaranteed money reaching $40 Million dollars (QB Matthew Stafford got from the Lions a 6-year, 72 Million Deal w/ 41 Million guaranteed), a rookie salary cap is in the NFL’s future in the next CBA.  Can you believe Stafford got more up front money than Colts future hall of fame quarterback Peyton Manning (Signed a seven-year, $99.2 million contract. The deal included a $34.5 million signing bonus).  Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a recent interview about a possible rookie cap, “I’m a big fan of the rookie salary cap… I think that it is very much in the best interest of our veteran players, being able to be rewarded for what they achieve on the NFL field, and to the kind of money that’s being guaranteed for rookies that have not played – there’s still a question of whether they can play at the NFL level. That’s something that I don’t think is appropriate, and I think it’s one of the things that we’ve already outlined with the union that we want to discuss and reevaluate it.”

Receivers Make a Comeback – After not having a receiver selected in the first round in 2008, this group proved it had good depth in 2009 starting with a positional high six receivers going in the first round (Oakland (7th) Darrius Heyward-Bey, San Francisco 49ers (10th) Michael Crabtree, Eagles (19th) Jeremy Maclin, Vikings (21) Percy Harvin, Giants (28th) Hakeem Nicks, and Titans (29) Kenny Britt).  The NFL is a passing league for sure as almost every team took a developmental receiver in the draft with a total of 34 receivers being drafted. Here is the breakdown by position:  Defensive Backs (55, but half were Safeties and the other half CB’s),  Linebackers (31), Running Backs (23), Defensive End (20), Tight Ends (20), Offensive Tackles (18), Defensive Tackle (17), Guards (13), Quarterbacks (11), Centers (8), Punter (3), Kicker (2), and Long Snapper (1),

Draft Report Card

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 and others seemed to be using darts to pick players in the 2009 Draft.

WINNERS

Philadelphia Eagles – After the Broncos jumped on RB Knowshon Moreno ahead of them, the Birds didn’t panic as they took the best player available.  The Eagles made the first of three draft trades to move up and select explosive Missouri WR Jeremy Maclin in the first round.  The move to add one of the fastest players in the draft should have brought a smile to QB Donovan McNabb’s face.  In the second round the pick of versatile RB LeSean McCoy will help keep Brian Westbrook healthier.  On Day 2 the Eagles stayed aggressive on the offensive side by adding field-stretching tight end Cornelius Ingram (5th).  The defense and special teams finally got their guy with the addition of DB Victor “Macho” Harris (5th).  Add in trades for veterans CB Ellis Hobbs and OT Jason Peters, making this a very good April haul for the Eagles.

Miami Dolphins – The fingerprints of Bill Parcels continue to be on this franchise.  The Dolphins brougt in Big Conference players  Illinios CB Vontae Davis (1st), West Virginia QB/Wildcat specialty player Pat White (2nd), Utah CB Steve Smith (2nd), big USC WR Patrick Turner (3rd), and Ohio State WR Brian Hartline (4th).  Parcels even got a small-school “Jersey Guy” in Monmouth TE John Nalbone (5th).

New England Patriots – You have to like the Patriots haul just based on sheer volume as head coach Bill Belichick brought in 12 new players through the draft.  The Patriots were involved in 7 draft trades, their biggest decision was trading out of the first round.  But the process gained them four second round picks grabbing tough Oregon SS Patrick Chung, big Boston College DT Ron Brace, smooth corner from UConn and Prime U Darius Bulter along with Houston OT/OG Sebastian Vollmer.  Also selected emerging South Florida linebacker Tyrone McKenzie in the 3rd and tough Penn State O-lineman Rich Ohrnberger in the fourth round.

Houston Texans –  Texans GM Rick Smith needed a good haul in the 2009 NFL Draft and he seemed to have gotten it.  He was able to fill needs on defense and give a nice infusion of talent to an 8-8 team on the cusp of the playoffs.  The Texans went heavy with defense early by selecting USC LB Brian Cushing (1st), Cincinnati versatile DE Connor Barwin (2nd), and New Mexico DB Glover Quin in the first four rounds.  Smith didn’t forget about his offense though as he added Alabama scrappy center Antoine Caldwell in the 3rd round and tight ends North Carolina State’s Anthony Hill (4th Rd) and Rice’s James Casey (5th – Wildcat Candidate)

Others I thought did a nice job on Saturday and Sunday were Jets (only three playes, but a huge impact), Colts, Bears, Packers, and Seahawks

HEAD SCRATCHERS, BUT I WOULDN’T CALL THEM “LOSERS”

New Orleans Saints – This team needed more especially on defense than CB Malcolm Jenkins (1st).  We will have to see if Jenkins is fast enough to play corner or stout enough to play safety in the NFL.  Overall only three selections is not a good thing for a team that missed the playoffs in 2008.

Denver Broncos – Did they really need RB Knowshon Moreno in the first round when they already had Lamont Jordan, Correl Buckhalter, and Selvin Young on their roster at running back.  I like the picks of Tennessee DE Robert Ayers, Wake Forest playmaking CB Alphonso Smith, and Notre Dame special teams ace David Bruton.  However they gave up too much to trade up to select Smith early in the second round — Broncos’ traded their 2010 first-round pick to Seattle for pick 37 in the second round.

Dallas Cowboys – Another wild and crazy draft for the Jerry Jones’ team.  The Cowboys had a bad Day 1 where they didn’t have a first round and then passed on their 2nd round selection then traded it away.  After having no picks on Day 1, the Cowboys reached for Western Illinois LB Jason Williams (3rd), Ball State OT Robert Brewster (3rd), and USC kicker David Buehler (5th). Brought in 12 players, but the only ones I really liked were Texas A&M quarterback Stephen McGee (4th) and Cincinnati CB Mike Mickens (7th).

Tennessee Titans – Might have had the biggest panic move/selection of the first round when they picked Rutgers WR Kenny Britt with the 30th pick.  Then added underachiever Auburn DT Sen’Derrick Marks (2nd) and can you believe it another player from “Football Factory” Rutgers in Jason McCourty (6th).

Oakland Raiders – They passed on Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin to select Maryland WR Darrius Heyward-Bey!  To make matters worse they really reached for Ohio Safety Michael Mitchell, in the second round.  We will see if Al Davis found a player in Missouri defensive end with a great name, Stryker Sulak.

Others I thought would have gotten low grades if I believed in grades were Redskins, Vikings, and Chiefs,

The 8th Round Begins for Some Players

Every year thousands of players are left heartbroken as “Mr. Irrelevant” (2009’s version was South Carolina kicker Ryan Succop picked 256th by the Kansas City Chiefs) is selected thus ending their dreams of being selected in the NFL Draft.  Sure being drafted is an honor, but there have been many outstanding undrafted players including: Broncos great receiver Rod Smith, former Eagles tough strong safety the late Andre Waters, Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, and many others.  The great thing for undrafted players is that they can now choose their landing spot in the NFL and possibly enhance their chances by finding a good roster situation before signing.

Some 2009 undrafted players to keep an eye on in training camp are

LSU LB Darry Beckwith

Mississippi State DB Derek Pegues

Oregon RB Jeremiah Johnson

Boise State RB Ian Johnson

Hampton DT Chris Baker

Alabama QB John Parker Wilson

Jackson State CB Domonique Johnson

Wisconsin RB P.J. Hill

Tennessee OG Anthony Parker

Central Washington TE Jared Bronson                         

Tennessee State Center Cecil Newton (Signed by Jaguars)

Tennessee State OG Cornelius Lewis

Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell 

Texas WR Quan Cosby (Signed by Bengals)

West Virginia OG Greg Isdaner 

Penn State DE Maurice Evans

Ohio State OT Alex Boone

Hartwick QB Jason Boltus

Tuskegee QB Jacary Atkinson

Purdue LB Anthony Heygood

Lloyd’s Leftovers:

Untagged – With the Seattle Seahawks selection fo LB Aaron Curry in the first round, they apparently have no need for LB Leroy Hill.  On Sunday, the Seahawks announced that they would be removing the franchise tag from Hill, making him a free agent immediately.  I guess Hill should have signed his franchise deal or the $36 million offer (rejected last year) when they were offered to him.

Disgruntled Veterans Stay Put – For all the talk that veteran players, especially disgruntled pass catchers Bengals Chad Johnson, Browns Braylon Edwards, and Cardinals Anquan Boldin would be moved this weekend there were only two minor deals involving veterans.  Quarterback Brett Raitliff was part of the deal that netted the Jets first round pick Mark Sanchez and the New England Patriots traded DB Ellis Hobbs to the Philadelphia Eagles for two fifth-rounder (No. 137 and No. 141).  So I guess Panthers DE Julius Peppers, Eagles CB Sheldon Brown, and the aforementioned pass catchers better report to post draft mini-camps… My guess is more than a few of them will continue to draw lines in the sand and not be in attendance.

What No Quarterback?? – Incredibly quarterback strapped teams the Panthers, Bills, Vikings, and Redskins did not select a quarterback of the future.  Overall there were 10 quarterbacks taken with three in the first round.  Maybe a team looking for a quarterback can call the Buccaneers who traded up to select Kansas State’s Josh Freeman in the 1st Rd to go with quarterbacks Byron Leftwich, Brian Griese, Luke McCown, and Josh Johnson who were already on their roster.

LSU Pipeline — For the third consecutive draft, the Kansas City Chiefs chose a Louisiana State player with their first-round pick.  Defensive end Tyson Jackson (No. 3 overall) joins defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey (No. 5 overall, 2007) and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (No. 23, 2006) as LSU first-rounders chosen by the Chiefs in the past three drafts.  Jackson’s selection marked the sixth year in a row that LSU had a player taken in the first round – tied for the longest such active streak by any school (Texas, since 2004).

Stay in School – The NFL is making a concerted effort to draft seniors in the draft and it shows.  There were only 41 underclassmen drafted compared to 215 seniors.  Some say older players need less coaching, but yet 15 underclassmen went in the first round including first overall pick Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford.

Two pivots taken in the first — Alex Mack of California (No. 21 overall by Cleveland) and Eric Wood of Louisville (No. 28 overall by Buffalo) were selected in Round 1.  Their selection tied the record for most first-round centers in one draft.  This is the only fourth time two centers have been picked in the first round and first time since 1968.   There were eight centers selected unfortunately one of them was not Tennessee State center Cecil Newton.

A Brief Look at the ’10 Draft – It is never to early for some research for the 2010 NFL Draft including:  Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford, USC Safety Taylor Mays, Tennessee Safety Eric Berry, Florida QB Tim Tebow, Florida DE Carlos Dunlap and many others.  But we have 11+ months to bring you information and draft news about these guys.

That is it for 2009 Draft and may all the teams be enriched going into the 2009 season.

   

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

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2009 NFL Draft Day 1 Review

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Players like 17th overall pick QB Josh Freeman (Tampa Bay Bucs) were all smiles as Day 1 of the NFL Draft took center stage

(New York, NY) — The 74th rendition of the NFL Draft, titled “Own the Moment” took center stage of the sports world on April 25th.  Hope sprung eternal from Oakland to New England as the NFL’s annual “Christmas in April” event arrived.  The crowd made up of fans from every team imaginable with a large group of Jets fans packed venerable Radio City Music Hall to cheer or second-guess their teams.  As in years past the anticipation of the moment was not totally as everyone already knew that Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford was the inevitable first overall pick.  Stafford, the NFL’s newest million dollar quarterback, was all smiles as he and his family strolled to center stage greeted by Commissioner Goodell.  Who could blame the Stafford contingent for not letting the derisive chants of “Over-rated” rain on their moment.  The Lions wanted to make a big splash and they sure did as Stafford took home a 6-year, $72 Million dollar contract with $41 Million guaranteed.  In case you were checking, that is more than Peyton Manning and practically every other passer in the NFL.

The pace of the first round of the NFL Draft was brisk taking 3 hours, 23 Minutes which was 7 minutes faster than last year’s almost record 3 hours, 30 minutes mark.

Some tidbits from Day 1 included:

Receiver crazy in the first round – After zero receivers were selected in the first round in 2008, this year’s draft class was full of pass catchers with talent.  The first round had six receivers taken, which was the most of any position.  Here were how the receivers were selected: Oakland (7th) Darrius Heyward-Bey, San Francisco 49ers (10th) Michael Crabtree, Eagles (19th) Jeremy Maclin, Vikings (21) Percy Harvin, Giants (28th) Hakeem Nicks, and Titans (29) Kenny Britt.  Here is the positional breakdown: 6 WR’s, 5 LB’s, 4 OT’s, 3 RB’s, 3 QB’s, 3 DT’s, 3 DE’s, 2 CB’s, 2 Centers, 1 TE, no Safeties and no Guards.

USC in the House – Led by New Jersey native Brian Cushing, the Trojans garnered two first round picks.  Cushing went to the Texans at the 15th pick and Clay Matthew went 26th to the Packers.  Missouri also had two players selected in the first round with Maclin and DT Evander Hood (#32 to Pittsburgh). 

Huskies have a first rounder – After only moving to 1-A football in the last decade, UConn finally had their first round pick.  The Colts grabbed RB Donald Brown with the 27th Pick.

First Surprise – Kansas City Chiefs passing on LB Aaron Curry and others to take LSU DE Tyson Jackson.  The former Tiger is a little inconsistent, so I thought it was a little early for him.  At least Jackson can play next to his old pal Glenn Dorsey

Biggest Reach – It had to be the Oakland Raiders at the 7th pick going for speedster Darrius Heyward-Bey over Crabtree and Maclin.  Heyward-Bey was the fastest player at the combine running a 4.31, but the other two receivers were more polished.  Second place has to go to the Bills for trading up to take center Eric Wood at the 28th pick.

Best Value Pick – Texas DE Brian Orakpo sat patiently in the Green Room until Redskins grabbed him at the 13th spot.  Orakpo will bring a much needed speed rusher to a defense whose best pass rusher, Phillip Daniels, is a little long in the tooth.

Panic Move – This has to go to the Titans, who missed out on Hakeem Nicks one pick earlier and decided to “reach” for Rutgers WR Kenny Britt  in the first round

Picks Ready to Play Day 1 – St. Louis Rams OT Jason Smith and Seattle Seahawks LB Aaron Curry

Last in the Green Room – QB Josh Freeman, who was rescued by the Bucs at the 17th pick.  The Bucs had to trade up with the Browns to get in position for the former Kansas State star.  Freeman joins a crowded passing group of Byron Leftwich, Brian Griese, Luke McCown, and Josh Johnson.

Largest contingent – Originally this award was going to Jason Smith, who had 15+ peeps in the house. But Brian Cushing from nearby Bergen, NJ had at least 30 people on stage with him including family, friends, former teammates and coaches.

Plenty of Trades – Teams were aggressive as they moved quickly to grab their guy.  There were nine trades in the first round including the Browns (traded back twice) pulling the big one at #5 with the Jets.  The best trade was a tie between the Jets (traded up to grab Sanchez) and the Eagles (traded up a few spots with the Browns to surprisingly grab Maclin).

Potential 1st round Boom Player – Green Bay taking NT B.J Raji at the 9th spot

Potential 1st round Bust Player – Bengals taking OT Andre Smith at the 6th spot

Best 2nd round pick – The Dolphins, the originator of the Wildcat formation in NFL, taking WVU multi-purpose quarterback Pat White with the 44th pick.

Worst 2nd round pick – The Panthers taking Troy State S Sherrod Martin at the 59thth pick.  This is a down year for safeties overall, so you have to think the Panthers wanted Missouri’s William Moore (Falcons – 55) or Oregon’s Patrick Chung (Patriots – 34)

Best Players still available after the first two rounds

QB Rhett Bomar, Sam Houston State

QB Nate Davis, Ball State

RB Shonn Greene, Iowa

RB Ian Johnson, Boise State

TE Cornelius Ingram, Florida

TE James Casey, Rice

OG Duke Robinson, Oklahoma

OG Herman Johnson, LSU

C Antoine Caldwell, Alabama

DE Michael Johnson, Georgia Tech

DT Vance Walker, Georgia Tech

LB Darry Beckwith, LSU

LB Marcus Freeman, Ohio State

S Rashad Johnson, Alabama

S Michael Hamlin, Clemson

CB  D.J. Moore, Vanderbilt

CB Mike Mickens, Cincinnati

CB Victor “Macho” Harris, Virginia Tech

CB Domonique Johnson, Jackson State 

Day 1 Winners — Eagles, Niners, Dolphins, and Seahawks

Day 1 Head Scratchers – Bills, Bears (no picks), Panthers, and Cowboys (passed on their 2nd round selection then traded it away, leaving no picks for the day)

That’s a Wrap, see you tomorrow at Radio City for rounds 3 -7

 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

The 2009 NFL Draft Preview

By Lloyd Vance, Taking It to the House, Sr. NFL Writer

(New York, NY) – It will be Christmas in April as optimism and hope abound for all 32 NFL franchises as the 74th NFL Draft takes center stage on the sports calendar.  Sure the NBA playoffs, NHL playoffs, first month of baseball, and any number of sporting events are also occurring, but fans around the globe are most interested in the NFL Draft.  The event is so grandiose that it will take place in the largest city in the United States and at the venerable showbiz palace Radio City Music Hall.  The NFL Draft is now a primetime event that will start at 4 PM, so NFL fans everywhere better get their chores done early enough on Saturday to plop themselves in front of the television for a minimum of 4 hours – I am not even going to mention the die-hards that stick around intensely watching the second day on Sunday too.

With all the hoopla around the NFL Draft, one has to wonder was there this much fanfare on February 8th, 1936.  That was the date the brainchild of league legend Bert Bell took flight as the first NFL Draft was held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia – A much quieter event where players like Tuffy Leemans were selected and didn’t know about it until receiving correspondence from the league.  The 1936 NFL draft was only been a tiny ripple compared to the ocean’s worth of hype and expectation surrounding the 2009 NFL Draft.  The whole thing is a “can’t miss event” causing jersey-clad fans to line the streets of Manhattan in the middle of the night with millions more watching on television.   There is no need to worry about the NFL Draft television viewers as their extended couch time will include quality time with their favorite “draft guy” (NFL Network’s Mike Mayock or ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr).   As the seconds tick down on the clock, households in every NFL city will ponder questions like “Is my team trading up”, “Will they go for a need pick or the proverbial best player on the board”, “What are the stats on my team’s first round pick”, “Is that linebacker from my alma mater still available”, and many others.

For the most part all of the hoopla is just part of the show and 256 players will have new addresses after Saturday and Sunday.  One word of caution for all fans and media, please take it easy on your rants and raves for a particular player or team, because as I always say, “It takes 2 to 3 years to evaluate a draft”.  I know fans everywhere can remember the names of former “can’t miss players” that turned into just plain “missed picks” (Audbrey Bruce, Tim Couch, Courtney Brown, Andre Wadsworth, Kijana Carter, Ryan Leaf and many others). 

Remember the only thing that is certain on draft day is that Jets fans in attendance will “boo” their first pick.

2009 NFL Draft Facts

Where: Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Avenue of the Americas, New York City (Between 50th and 51st Streets).

When:   4:00 PM ET, Saturday, April 25 (Rounds 1-2) 

              10:00 AM ET, Sunday, April 26 (Rounds 3-7)

Television:   NFL Network (4th year) and ESPN / ESPN2 (30th consecutive year)

The number of players attending the draft: The number of players attending the draft has increased this year to nine players, which is the largest number since the late 1980’s.  The potential stars include: Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree, Wake Forest LB Aaron Curry, USC LB Brian Cushing, Kansas State QB Josh Freeman, Virginia OT Eugene Monroe, Mississippi OT Michael Oher, Texas DE Brian Orakpo, Baylor OT Jason Smith, and Georgia QB Matthew Stafford

On the Clock: 

NFL trying for speed again – Last year the NFL’s new time format netted an almost record time of 3 hours, 30 minutes for the first round.  We will see if this year’s event can be just as speedy.

Hurry up with your picks – Clubs will be allowed 10 minutes to make their selection in Round 1.  Each pick in Round 2 will be allocated 7 minutes, rather than 10.  On Sunday, Rounds 3-7 will be conducted, with each selection allocated 5 minutes.

Number of Picks:  There will be 256 selections with the Detroit Lions holding the first selection and the Kansas City Chiefs holding the pick that is “Mr. Irrelevant” (Rd 7, 256)

Compensatory Picks – There will be a total of 32 compensatory choices in the 2009 NFL Draft from 16 teams. Cincinnati and Tennessee received the most compensatory picks with four apiece. Here is how the 32 compensatory picks are broken down by team: Cincinnati 4, Tennessee 4, Chicago 3, New England 3, Seattle 3, Dallas 2, Jacksonville 2, San Diego 2, San Francisco 2, Arizona 1, Detroit 1, Indianapolis 1, Kansas City 1, New York Giants 1, Pittsburgh 1, Washington 1.

Teams with multiple selections in first round: Detroit Lions (Picks 1 and 20); Denver Broncos (Picks 12 and 18); Buffalo Bills (Picks 11 and 28).

Teams without a pick a first rounder: Dallas (Traded it to Detroit for WR Roy Williams, Chicago (Traded it to Denver for QB Jay Cutler), and Carolina (Traded it to Philadelphia at the ’08 Draft to select OT Jeff Otah – Philly has since sent the pick to the Bills).

Teams rumored trying to trade up: Washington Redskins (want a shot at USC QB Mark Sanchez), Philadelphia Eagles (might have to move-up to get a shot at Knowshon Moreno), New England Patriots (want a front-line LB), Denver Broncos (with 2 picks in the 1st may try to build a package to get Mark Sanchez)

Players Moving Up Draft Boards: USC QB Mark Sanchez, Kansas State QB Josh Freeman, LSU DE Tyson Jackson, Ohio State WR Terry Robiske, West Virginia QB/WR Pat White, Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee, Cincinnati DE/TE Connor Barwin, and UConn DB Darius Butler.

Veteran Players rumored to be on the trading block:

Anquan Boldin, Cardinals WR: Boldin and his agent Drew Rosenhaus have never stopped complaining about his contract since Larry Fitzgerald got his deal.  The Cardinals seem on the fence on whether to move on from a player they have under contract for two more years.  But that could all change if a team comes up with the Cardinals asking price (1st and 3rd round selections.  The teams that are considered to be in the Boldin sweepstakes are the Ravens, Titans, Eagles, Giants and Jets. 

Braylon Edwards, Browns WR: Edwards is due to be a free agent after next season and so the rebuilding Browns are looking to move him. This is another case where his current team may want too much in return.  The Giants seem very interest in having the inconsistent Edwards replace Plaxico Burress.  But they are asking for a package including Mathias Kiwanuka and the Giants are balking.  It will be interesting if the Browns will settle for just the Giants’ first round pick (29) in return for Edwards.  Another team to watch is the New York Jets.

Chad “Ocho Cinco” Johnson, Bengals WR: Ocho Cinco hasn’t reported to any of the Bengals’ off-season workouts, so you know he and his agent Drew Rosenhaus want out of Cincy.  However Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has made it clear that Johnson is not going anywhere.  Johnson’s production dropped last year to 53 receptions for 540 yards and 4 TDs, so his trade value is not as high as in the past.  . The Eagles and Cowboys have been brought up in conversations regarding Johnson, but the Bengals are not willing to let him go for less than a 2nd rounder.

Julius Peppers, Panthers DE: After Carolina placed the franchise tag on Peppers, he fumed.  Peppers has yet to sign the franchise deal that will pay him over $16 million in salary next year.  The Pro Bowl defensive end, who had 14.5 sacks in 2008 wants to be treated like Vikings DE Jarred Allen.  Allen worked out a trade from the Chiefs and received a nice lucrative deal from the Vikes.  If Peppers really wants to go to the Patriots or any other team, he will first have to sign his franchise deal.  I think the Panthers will continue to hold on to the four-time Pro Bowler until training camp to see if Peppers finally wants to play ball.

Brady Quinn, Browns QB: Maybe the odd man out of Cleveland, if the team drafts a quarterback to develop.  The Broncos and Vikings are said to be high on Quinn, so maybe a trade can be worked out.  My feeling is Quinn and Derek Anderson will fight it out and before the 2010 Draft one of them will have a new address.

Jason Campbell, Redskins QB: The Redskins already tried to unsuccessfully to trade for Jay Cutler, so Campbell is on notice.  The efficient passer is said to be miffed at his current treatment and if Daniel Snyder can somehow trade up for Mark Sanchez look for Campbell to be elsewhere.  I believe the Redskins with their small number of draft picks (five) will go defense in the draft and keep Campbell another year.

Michael Vick, Falcons QB: Atlanta just like earlier this season will see it is impossible to trade the suspended and imprisoned quarterback.  Vick first must be reinstated after his expected release in May or July and then there is the matter of his huge contract.  Expect the Falcons to quietly release him after the draft allowing the former Pro Bowler to find a team will to take a PR hit by signing him (SF 49ers, Cowboys, Raiders???)

Lloyd’s Leftovers

Georgia on my mind – If the Lions select Matthew Stafford with the first overall pick, he will be the first University of Georgia player selected first in the draft since 1957 when it was WR Harry Babcock from San Francisco.

Players being selected with the ‘Wildcat’ solely in mind – We all know the NFL is a copycat league so a lot teams will be trying to find versatile players who could run the “Wildcat” formation.  Teams on Saturday and Sunday will be looking to draft mobile throwers like WVU’s Pat White and Texas A&M’s Stephen McGee plus former high school quarterbacks (ex. Penn State WR Derrick Williams and TCU’s TE James Casey) with the Wildcat in mind. 

Smart College Graduate Players Wanted – With teams like the Colts, Patriots, and Giants placing an emphasis on getting older high football IQ players, draftees are making a point to graduate before leaving school.  This year there should be a high number of graduates entering the league with their degrees including Penn State WR Deon Butler (BS Criminal Justice).

The “U” will lose it’s first round streak this year – The University of Miami (Fla.) has a had a first round selection for the past 14 years, but recently their program has fallen on hard times.  Without a player graded higher than the second or third round, the “U’s” miraculous streak that started with All-American defensive tackle Warren Sapp being selected No. 12 overall by Tampa Bay in 1995 will be over.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Eagles 2009 Draft Needs

2008 Record: 9-6-1

 10 Total Picks: 1st Rd (2); 2nd Rd (53); 3rd Rd (85); 5th Rd (141 from Cleveland, 153 from Jets, 157, and 159 from Patriots); 6th Rd (194, 195 from Minnesota); 7th Rd (230) 

  1. RB – After two solid years of Pro Bowl production, RB Brian Westbrook slowed down due to injuries (936 yards in 14 games). Despite an anticipated strong return to the line-up by B-West, at age 30 and the only backup being Lorenzo Booker more is needed.  With the new trend in the NFL being the use of a tandem in the backfield (Giants, Panthers, and Titans), the Eagles need to find a partner for Westbrook.  Correll Buckhalter is now in Denver and the team finally gave up on Ryan Moats and Tony Hunt.  There are several high producing running backs coming out including several that have kick return experience.  Watch for Knowshown Moreno (Georgia) in the 1st round, Donald Brown (UConn) in the 2nd round or late round options Ian Johnson (Boise St) and Devin Moore (Wyoming).
  2. TE – It was evident by the Eagles continued woes in the redzone that McNabb’s favorite targets needed some assistance going into the ’09 season. The tight ends as a whole only caught 66 passes for 626 yards (9.5 ypc) and only 4 TDs.  The Eagles finally let LJ Smith (Ravens) go after “franchising” him and getting only 298 yards and 3 TDs.  The improved play of Brent Celek is exciting (career-high 10 catches, gaining 83 yards and two touchdowns against the Cardinals in the NFC Championship), but a better blocker needs to be added in the draft.  I know some in the Eagles front office are saying that Backup Matt Schobel is “serviceable”, but an impact player is needed.  The preference is for a blocking type that can also contribute on special teams.  Watch for Brandon Pettigrew (Oklahoma State) in the 1st round if Moreno is gone, Chase Coffman (Missouri) or Shawn Nelson (So. Miss) in the 2nd/3rd  round or late round options Cornelius Ingram (Florida), Travis Beckum (Wisconsin), and Jared Bronson (Central Washington).
  3. WR – So you want a receiver Philly fans…I can already hear Andy Reid’s 10-year common retort –uh, uh, [Throat Clear], “We are okay with our receivers”.  But even Big Red knows that 11 receiving touchdowns from your entire receiving corps is not good enough.  This unit needs to add another player to go with Kevin Curtis and emerging receiver DeSean Jackson (62 receptions for 912 yards and 2 TDs). Backups Hank Baskett and Jason Avant are good possession types, but they are not front-line guys.   And to say the least 5th year receiver Reggie Brown has to have a good training camp or he is gone.  The Eagles need to find a receiver in the second round or third round. This area could also be improved by trading for Anquan Boldin (Cardinals asking for a lot) or Chad Johnson (could be had from the Bengals for a 2nd or 3rd, but he will be another T.O). Watch for Brian Robiskie (Ohio State) in the 2nd/3rd  round or late round options Derrick Williams (Ohio State), Juaquin Inglesias (Oklahoma) and Patrick Turner (USC).
  4. CB – Just when you thought the Eagles Top 3 corners were set…veteran Sheldon Brown put it out there that he wants to be traded.  This group led by All-Pro Asante Samuel (4 INTs in the regular) and emerging nickelback Joselio Hanson were solid in ’08.  Samuel you know is going to better in his second year in Jim Johnson’s scheme, but the Birds need insurance with the Brown situation.  The way Sheldon is talking he could holdout or become a distraction like his friend Lito Sheppard, who talked his way off the field and out the door.  With so many teams going to four and five receiver sets (see NFC Championship Game), the Birds need another quality corner on the depth chart.  This draft is pretty deep at cornerback and there is some good value after the second round.  Expect the Eagles to add someone to help in the nickel, dime, and on special teams.  They also should consider someone with return skills as receiver DeSean Jackson may soon be too valuable to play that role. Watch for Victor “Macho” Harris, (Virginia Tech) in the 2nd/3rd  round or late round options Captain Munnerlyn (South Carolina), Darius Butler (UConn) and Don Carey (Norfolk State).
  5. LB – The Eagles NFC top-ranked defense’s linebacking crew is almost complete with youngsters MLB Stewart Bradley and SLB Chris Gocong coming of age.  But their weakside linebacker position needs to be addressed in the draft.  The Eagles linebackers still don’t make enough game-changing plays — entire unit only had 5.5 sacks and 1 interceptions.  The NFL is now built on hybrid players and schemes at the LB area, so another player should be added.  The good news is this draft is full of playmaking linebacker with many that should be available on Day 2.  Any player added should be able to help out on special teams. Watch for Anthony Heygood (Purdue and Cardinal O’Hara), Clint Sintim (Virginia) and Tyrone McKenzie (South Florida) in the middle rounds.  

2009 NFL Draft – Final Mock Draft

(Philadelphia, Pa) – Draft Day is right around the corner and it is time for my final Mock Draft, so we can see how close I to the actual selections

1. Detroit Lions – QB Matt Stafford, Georgia (Jr)

Record: 0-16 | Needs: QB, OT, CB, S, DE

Stafford will be standing next to the Commissioner Roger Goodell on April 25th.  The Lions are said to be negotiating with Stafford’s Agent Tom Condon, so expect the first overall pick to sign a deal for around $40 guaranteed.  Stafford (6-3, 236) has shown natural ability (arm and footwork) since his high school days, but now he will be playing against the big boys each week. Stafford put up good numbers of 235-383 passes for 3,459 yards and 25 touchdowns with 10 interceptions in 2009, but his team was inconsistent.  Particularly looked terrible against eventual National Champion Florida in ’09, losing 49-10 while throwing for pedestrian numbers of 18-33, 265 yards, 0 TDs, and 3 INTs (one returned for a touchdown).  The former Texas high school gunslinger has all the quarterback measurables of instincts, vision, footwork, arm and a tough attitude, but you have to wonder if he is the next Jeff George – disappointing first overall selection in 1990. Stafford finished his career with numbers 564-for-987 for 7,731 yards, 51 touchdowns, and 33 interceptions in 39 games at Georgia.

2. St. Louis Rams – OT Jason Smith, Baylor (Sr)

Record: 2-14 | Needs: OT, QB, CB, OLB, WR

The Rams must replace former first rounder left tackle Orlando Pace and get someone to clear the way for running back Steven Jackson.  The Rams select Baylor cat-quick offensive tackle Jason Smith (6-5, 305).  After converting from tight end to tackle in 2006, Smith showed that he was a natural tackle.  Though he missed 2007 with a knee injury, Smith finished his college career with 39 starts including twenty-four at left tackle and seven at right tackle. J-Smooth, as Smith is nicknamed, had a great combine doing well in interviews running 5.22 seconds in the forty, banging out a tackle-high 33 reps on the bench, and showing the best agility of all O-linemen in bag drills. Smith only gave up 4 ½ sacks in his career as a left tackle and the Chiefs will love his attitude.  Smith said of competition, “I take a lot of pride in physically assaulting somebody when I’m on the field.”

3. Kansas City Chiefs – OT Eugene Monroe, Virginia (Sr)

Record: 2-14 | Needs: OT, G, CB, LB, WR

The Chiefs have struggled with finding a tackle since Willie Roaf retired, so they will select big athletic Virginia offensive tackle Eugene Monroe (6-5, 315) to solidify their front five.  Monroe will team with former teammate and ’08 first rounder Branden Albert to form a nice nucleus on the O-line.  Monroe battled back from a 2007 knee injury and showed impressive durability, footwork, strength, and “punch” in 2008. The former All-ACC pick, who many say was better than Albert at UVA, is a prototypical left tackle with good height, long arms and a strong anchor. Look for the surprisingly nimble big man to lead the way on running plays and get after linebackers and defensive backs downfield.  There are some concerns about an old knee injury, but the Chiefs will still grab him.

4. Seattle Seahawks – QB Mark Sanchez, USC (Jr)

Record: 4-12 | Needs: OT, LB, QB, RB, G

With NFL-ready linebacker Aaron Curry on the board, the Seahawks pull the first surprise of the draft by grabbing Matt Hasselbeck’s future replacement in Sanchez (6’3, 225). The All-PAC 10 junior eligible led his team to a dominating win over Penn State in the Rose Bowl last year.  In his only full season as a starter in 2008, Sanchez led the Trojans to a 12-1 record displaying a good arm, excellent footwork, and mental toughness.  The former USC star comes from Pete Carroll’s Pro Style offense displaying great anticipation, accuracy and throws a good ball. In 2008 after coming back from a knee injury, Sanchez completed 214 of 366 passes for 3,207 yards and 41 touchdowns with 16 interceptions.  Will need to see how “NFL-ready” he is after only 16 starts in college.

5. Cleveland Browns – DE Brian Orakpo, Texas (Sr)

Record: 4-12 | Needs: RB, CB, LB, S

The Browns will think about Curry for a few minutes after Seattle pulls the surprise.  But given the choice between Orakpo and Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree, the Browns will select Orakpo.  Apparently Crabtree had a bad visit earlier this week thus making the trade easier.  The Browns find a partner for OLB Kamerion Wimbley with Orakpo (6-4, 260, 4.73).  The former Longhorns defensive end won the Lombardi, Hendricks and Nagurski awards in 2008 making him the most honored defensive lineman in college. Orakpo (11 sacks in ’08) is solid against the run and the pass plus demonstrated a tough play in college. Mangini will need to ensure that Orakpo is properly motivated, as sometimes he does not display the intensity needed. 

6. Cincinnati Bengals – OT Andre Smith, Alabama (Jr)

Record: 4-11-1 | Needs: OL, DE, RB, S

With Aaron Curry still sliding, the Bengals grab insurance for Levi Jones continuing to underachieve by selecting huge offensive tackle Andre Smith from Alabama.  Though red flags have been plentiful with Smith (6-4, 340) including recently having an average Pro Day (ran with no shirt…bad decision given his physique), leaving the combine early, his weight fluctuating, and being suspended for the 2009 Sugar Bowl there is no doubt he is a talented player.  The Bengals, who are known to take chances on question mark players will give Smith a shot to live up to his huge potential.  The 2008 Outland Trophy as the country’s top lineman, Smith played since his freshman year and was dominant.  The first-team All-SEC pick is a dominant run blocker who has surprising agility as a pass blocker.

7. Oakland Raiders – WR Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech (Redshirt Soph)

Record: 5-11 | Needs: WR, OT, DE, S

Though many are saying speedster Jeremy Maclin is the pick here, I still believe the Raiders will not pass on the game-breaking skills of Michael Crabtree (6-3, 214, 4.54).  The former  two-time Biletnikoff award-winner will be strong-armed quarterback JaMarcus Russell’s new best friend as the Raiders find their new combination.  Though he is recovering from a foot injury, Crabtree is considered to be the next Larry Fitzgerald. In his two years at Texas Tech, Crabtree was a man amongst boys producing 231 receptions for 3,127 yards, and 41 touchdowns. Crabtree has great ability to start-and-stop in routes, superior hand-eye coordination, good body control and is an aggressive run-after-catch guy.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars – OLB Aaron Curry, Wake Forest (Sr)

Record: 5-11 | Needs: WR, OT, CB, QB

Former NFL linebacker and Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio knows how important a game-changer at linebacker is, so he will select Curry (6-3, 247).  A four-year standout who is an aggressive enforcer on the field, Curry is probably the most NFL ready player in the 2009 Draft.  The 2008 Butkus award-winner is prepared for the NFL both mentally and physically, with an exceptional knack for diagnosing plays.  A very fluid player with great change of direction, Curry had a great combine and has the stats (105 tackles, including 16 for lost yardage and 2½ sacks, and three fumble recoveries in 2008) to back-up comparisons to Titans LB Keith Bullock.

9. Green Bay Packers – DE Tyson Jackson, LSU (Sr)

Record: 6-10 | Needs: LB, DE, S, CB

The Packers try to finally get it right on the D-line by picking a player, who is a natural fit as a 3-4 defensive end.  With starter Aaron Kampman not well suited for the 3-4, the Packers select Jackson (6’4, 295).  The former All-SEC player is a stout two-way defensive end who can also slide inside if needed.  Jackson has excellent size and strength at the point of attack plus has good enough quickness to shed blocks.  However there have been questions regarding Jackson peaking earlier in his career and whether he is an underachiever.  After exploding on the scene in 2006, producing a team-high 8.5 sacks for the Tigers, Jackson sack totals fell to 3.5 in ’07 and 4.5 in ’08.  It will be interesting to see if Packers defensive Dom Capers can turn Jackson’s size and potential into being a solid pro.

10. S.F. 49ers – DT B.J. Raji, Boston College (Sr)

Record: 7-9 | Needs: QB, DT, OLB, DE

For their new 3-4 scheme, the Niners select the best nosequard type defensive tackle in the draft with the selection of Raji (6-2, 337).  The Niners will get their two-gap protector who they will be able to funnel their defense through and open up tackling lanes for Patrick Willis.  After sitting out in 2007 for failing to fulfill academic obligations, the big All-ACC fire hydrant performed with a vengeance in 2008 and seemed unblockable at times. Raji was the most dominant interior defensive lineman in the country with 16 tackles for loss and eight sacks. The Senior Bowl practices are where he really shined by dominating in trench drills.  The 337-pounder followed up his strong Senior Bowl performance by next standing out at the combine producing 33 reps at 225 and running a solid 5.2 forty time. 

11. Buffalo Bills – OLB/DE Aaron Maybin, Penn State (Redshirt Soph)

Record: 7-9 | Needs: DT, RB, DE, TE

With the Bills first of two selections in the first round, head coach Dick Jauron grabs an outside pass rusher to go along with stay-at-home linebacker Paul Pozluzny.  Maybin (6-4, 248, 4.67) brings the requisite off the edge skills that the Bills need to cause turnovers.  He displays tenacity and great closing speed, which allowed him to lead the Big Ten with 12 sacks plus an additional 20 tackles for a loss in ’08. Though Maybin is smallish for a true NFL defensive end, look for him to get bigger and stronger as he matures into his NFL body.

12. Denver Broncos – DE Everette Brown, Florida State (Jr)

Record: 8-8 | Needs: RB, OT, LB, CB

Armed with two first round picks, I believe new Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels will attempt to build up one of the NFL’s worst defenses in 2008. McDaniels’ first pick will be Brown (6-4, 252, 4.65).  The former FSU star will help to strengthen a weak defense that didn’t get enough pressure last year.  The explosive former Seminole pass rusher knows how to get after the quarterback, as shown by his 21½ tackles for loss and 13½ sacks in 2008. Brown has speed, uses his hands well and has excellent balance in taking on larger offensive tackles. Look for him to bulk up in the pros.

13. Washington Redskins – DE Robert Ayers, Tennessee (Sr)

Record: 8-8 | Needs: DE, OT, LB, CB

Who knows what “Mr. Fantasy Football” Daniel Snyder will do next in his quest to “Buy a Championship”.  After failing to land quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Mark Sanchez, the Redskins will continue remaking their defense by adding Ayers (6’5, 270) to free agent big fish Albert Haynesworth.  The former Volunteers defensive end has had a meteoric rise this draft season after an impressive Senior Bowl and NFL Combine. Ayers is a classic 4-3 end, who plays strong at the point of attack against the run and has some dropback skills.  Known more for being an all-around defensive lineman and not a pure pass rusher, Ayers in 12 games during the 2008 season only recorded three sacks. However he did produce 49 tackles, 15.5 tackles-for-loss and intercepted one pass.  Is a quicker player than “explosive” fast, but playing next to Haynesworth should help.  Needs to get stronger and there is a red flag for a college fight incident.

14. New Orleans Saints – CB Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State (Sr)

Record: 8-8 | Needs: LB, DE, S, OL, WR

The Saints secondary has had some difficulty with big plays for some time, so secondary help in the draft is a must.  New defensive coordinator Greg Williams will get his man as the Saints grab top defensive back, Jenkins (6-1, 201). As a senior, Jenkins won the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back and he definitely has a nose for the ball. The former All Big Ten selection has great quickness and explosion to the ball plus he will provide the versatility to the Saints beleaguered secondary. Jenkins was the leader of the Buckeye secondary that ranked #1 against the pass in ’07 and he had 11 career interceptions at OSU.

15. Houston Texans – CB Vontae Davis, Illinois (Jr)

Record: 8-8 | Needs: OL, RB, TE, LB, S

The Texans have a dilemma in that they have a borderline Pro Bowl corner in Dunta Robinson, but the former first rounder was recently franchised and he is very unhappy.  The Texans select Davis (6-0, 204, 4.42), who is an athletic, aggressive, and sticky cover-corner. Like his older brother, San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, Vontae will need to be pushed in the NFL to live-up to his immense talent.  Davis is a heavy hitting corner with big play ability, who plays like a shut down corner on the outside yet he is a dangerous weapon in the return game and likes to come up to lay a blow in the running game. A Day 1 starter in college, look for this early entry to have an immediate impact in the NFL.

16. San Diego Chargers – ILB Rey Maualuga, USC (Sr)

Record: 8-8 | Needs: DT, WR, CB, DE

Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera and head coach Norv Turner The Chargers continue to rebuild their defense by adding a big physical inside linebacker Maualuga (6-2, 254, 4.7) to help superstar LB Shawne Merriman (knee).  NFL’s next great run stuffing inside linebacker can play all three downs and has a nose for the ball plus his “stay at home” mentality will allow Merriman and Shawn Phillips to make plays on the outside.  Maualuga plays with a nasty disposition and wants to make every tackle.  He had a tremendous week at the Senior Bowl producing 3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and forcing a fumble in the game. Though he pulled his hamstring at the combine, Maualuga should bounce back to be a great downhill NFL linebacker.  The one negative on the USC star is he over-pursues and will need to get better at learning to read play-action.

17. New York Jets – QB Josh Freeman, Kansas State (Jr)

Record: 9-7 | Needs: DE, WR, QB, G, RB

After missing out on the Jay Cutler and Mark Sanchez sweepstakes, the J-E-T-S select quarterback Josh Freeman (6-5 3/4, 252 pounds).  The former Kansas State super recruit was thought to be a second round pick, but recently I have heard the Jets want a quarterback to build around and with Stafford and Sanchez gone, Freeman is their man.  The draft riser does have some negative marks on his resume like having eligibility remaining (learning curve), 34 career interceptions, and a 14-18 record as a starter at Kansas State.  But he could very well be this year’s Joe Flacco as he is tall with a very strong arm.  Last season he became K-State’s all-time leader in completions, attempts, yards, touchdowns (44) and total offense, while throwing 20 touchdowns versus eight interceptions. Freeman reminds me of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in that he also adds that extra dimension of mobility.  Had a very good NFL Combine where he wowed scouts with his size, throwing well in drills, and broad jumping 9-11 inches to lead all quarterbacks.

18. Denver Broncos (Traded from Bears for Cutler) – OLB Brian Cushing, USC (Sr)

Record: 8-8 | Needs: RB, OT, LB, CB

With picks at spots #12 and #18, the Broncos continue to rebuild their terrible defense with the selection of playmaking outside linebacker Brian Cushing (6-3, 243, 4.7). The former USC stalwart is an explosive player, who moves forward well especially when blitzing. At this year’s Senior Bowl, Cushing showed that he was the best of USC’s outstanding trio of linebackers at the event. Cushing had only one tackle in the game, but all week everyone was impressed with his size, recognition skills, and downhill playing style.  This versatile athlete should fit-in well in the Broncos new attacking defensive scheme, but any team taking Cushing will need to watch against injuries (high ankle, knee and shoulder problems during his career). Recently ran a 4.68 forty at USC’s Pro Day.  If available the Broncos may take a look at Josh Freeman at this spot.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – WR Jeremy Maclin, Missouri (Jr)

Record: 9-7 | Needs: CB, RB, QB, LB

Buccaneers new head coach Raheem Morris grabs a downfield receiver to help new quarterback Byron Leftwich and replace departed speedster Joey Galloway.  Maclin (6-1, 200, 4.38) is a straight burner, who is a homerun threat whenever he touches the ball.  Though he has some work to do in terms of route running, the former All Big 12 player will be able to contribute right away in the return game, on trick plays (reverses/Wildcat/receiver passes), in the slot and on the outside. Maclin returned from a serious knee injury in 2006 to become one of the Big 12’s most explosive players over he past two seasons.  In a spectacular 2008 campaign, Maclin had 102 catches for 1,260 yards and 13 touchdowns as a receiver and 306 rushing yards with 2 TDs.  Had an additional 270 yards on punt returns including one touchdown with an 11.7 average and a 24-yard average and one touchdown on kickoffs.

20. Detroit Lions (from Dallas) – OT Michael Oher, Mississippi (Sr)

Record: 0-16 | Needs: QB, OT, CB, S, DE

The Lions grab a protector for quarterback Matthew Stafford with their second first rounder.  By selecting Oher (6-5, 309) the Lions can move veteran right tackle Jeff Backus to guard and further fortify an iffy O-line.  The Lions will now have their bookends of the future with the All-SEC pick and last year’s number one Gosder Cherilus.  A reserved guy off the field, Oher (pronounced “Oar”) carries a nasty streak on the field.  The Ole’ Miss standout can either out-quick or  manhandle opponents as he has a great punch and decent footwork.   The former Ole Miss star will need to continue to work hard in the pre-draft period as some scouts have worried about his technique and demeanor.  At the Senior Bowl, Oher showed an ability to be a dominant run blocker.  However he also showed that work is needed on his pass-blocking skills, particularly not reaching for an opponent and playing with leverage.  The big natural right tackle was the subject of a book called the “Blind Side” in high school.

21. Philadelphia Eagles – RB Knowshon Moreno, Georgia (Soph)

Record: 9-6-1 | Needs: OT, TE, RB, S, WR

After trading the 28th overall pick to the Bills for Pro Bowl LT Jason Peters, you knew it was not going to be another humdrum “Take a Lineman” Eagles draft.  The Birds will decide it is time to find RB Brian Westbrook’s eventual replacement by selecting Moreno.  The former All-SEC running back is an explosive player, who can both move the chains and take it the house on long runs.  Moreno (5-11, 208, 4.6) is quick, has great hands catching the ball, and has cutback moves similar to Chargers super back LaDainian Tomlinson. With Moreno, Westbrook, 2nd year receiver DeSean Jackson, and new starting TE Brent Celek, quarterback Donovan McNabb will have more weapons around him.  Moreno had career numbers of 498 rushes for 2,859 yards and 30 touchdowns plus he also caught 53 passes for 645 yards.  Possibly watch for former Oklahoma State TE Brandon Pettigrew at this spot if Moreno is unavailable.

22. Minnesota Vikings – OT Eben Britton, Arizona (Jr)

Record: 10-6 | Needs: QB, S, CB, WR

Expect Vikings offensive-minded head coach Brad Childress to bring in more help for new quarterback Sage Rosenfelds and old quarterback Tarvaris Jackson through the draft.  Britton (6-6, 310) has the skills to become an excellent NFL tackle, though some thought that he could have used another year in college to hone his skills. The Wildcats junior-eligible road grader uses his size, strength and athleticism to be a force on the edge.  Britton started 37 straight games since entering the lineup as a freshman, lining up at right tackle for the first 24 contests before shifting to left tackle in 2008. Britton is a high-character and hard worker type of player who was a team captain.  But he was will need watch playing too upright and maintaining an aggressive attitude in the pros.

23. N.E. Patriots  – OLB Clay Matthews, Southern California (Sr)

Record: 11-5 | Needs: LB, CB, TE, OL, RB

The Patriots continue the overhaul of their linebackers with the selection of Clay Matthews III (6-3, 246, 4.76).  The USC standout is a high-energy linebacker who is an NFL legacy player  — father, Clay Jr, was a linebacker with the Cleveland Browns under Belichick; his uncle Bruce was a Hall of Fame offensive lineman; and his grandfather Clay Sr. was with the 49ers in the 1950s.  Matthews went from a walk-on to a top PAC 10 defender after four years of work.  As full-time starter for the first time last year, Matthews delivered with 56 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss (3rd on team), and 4.5 sacks (2nd on team). Should be very effective playing behind Haloti Ngata and next to Ray Lewis.  Should be an immediate hit on special teams as he ran a 4.57 forty at USC’s Pro Day.

24. Atlanta Falcons – S William Moore, Missouri (Sr)

Record: 11-5 | Needs: OT, LB, S, WR

The Falcons secondary needs a makeover with CB Domonique Foxworth leaving for the Ravens and veteran safety Lawyer Milloy being released.  Though lately not too many safeties have gone in the first round, the Falcons can’t pass on hard hitter William Moore (6′, 221) from Missouri.  The big David Fulcher sized hitter recently rebounded from an injury-plagued senior year and inconsistent Senior Bowl to have a monster Pro Day (4.49 in the 40, a 37 ½ inch vertical and a 10-foot-6-inch broad jump). The most complete safety in college football, Moore led the NCAA in picks in 2007 with eight. Always has a knack for the big play in run support and in pass coverage.  Had his best game in the 2008 Cotton Bowl against Arkansas recording 13 tackles, causing a fumble, and returning an interception 26 yards for a touchdown.  As mentioned before injuries (torn labrum in ’07 and a bum ankle in ’08) maybe a factor in where Moore is selected.

25. Miami Dolphins – OLB Larry English, Northern Illinois (Sr)

Record: 11-5 | Needs: DE, WR, OL, LB

With veteran Joey Porter getting along in age, the Dolphins will add the versatile English (6-2, 254, 4.76) to help out their pass rush.  The MAC defensive player of the year the past two years is a high-motor player with an explosive first step that should help him make the transition from college football defensive end to NFL 3-4 outside linebacker. English with his superior straight-line speed totaled 23 sacks the past two years and he has been working hard on his agility to help him in pass coverage.  At the Senior Bowl amongst bigger names, English overshadowed higher profile guys in practices and in the game.  The main areas where the former All-MAC player will need to improve are getting stronger at the point of attack and cutting down on his head faking when rushing the passer.

26. Baltimore Ravens – WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland (Jr)

Record: 11-5 | Needs: CB, OL, LB, TE

The Ravens badly need a receiver and it appears they are unwilling to meet the Cardinals price for Anquan Boldin.  John Harbaugh’s team stays in their backyard by selecting Heyward-Bey (6-2, 206, 4.37) from Maryland.  The junior-eligible has the rare combination of size, athleticism and speed to make an instant impact in the NFL. Because there were not many defenders in college that could stay with Heyward-Bey, he will have to learn the nuisances of the receiver position including route running to excel at the next level. Heyward-Bey ended his career ranked second on Maryland’s all-time list in receiving yards (2,089). The former Terrapin wowed everyone at the NFL Combine running the forty in a combine-low 4.30 seconds and looking fluid while showing consistent hands in receiver drills. 

27. Indianapolis Colts – WR Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina (Jr)

Record: 12-4 | Needs: WR, OL, RB, LB, CB

I believe Colts new head coach Jim Caldwell will grab Nicks (6-1, 210), because he needs a receiver to team with Reggie Wayne.  Because other receiver Anthony Gonzalez is better suited for the slot.  The former All ACC first teamer is a physical receiver with sticky hands and an over-the-middle the middle mentality.  Nicks had 68 receptions for an ACC leading 1,222 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2008. He only needed three seasons to set 14 school records and he is a YouTube legend for his incredible catches in the 2008 Meinke Care Bowl against West Virginia.  May have the best pure football skills (route running, size, smarts, and hands) of any receiver in the draft. 

28. Buffalo Bills (from Eagles) – RB Chris “Beanie” Wells, Ohio State (Jr)

Record: 7-9 | Needs: DT, RB, DE, OT 

With multiple questions abounding about troubled running back Marshawn Lynch and not many backup options select  a running back with their second first rounder.  Bills head coach Dick Jauron continues to rebuild his offense by selecting bruising Ohio State running back Chris “Beanie” Wells.  Wells (6-1, 237, 4.53) is the tough between the tackles runner to push the troublesome Lynch out the door.  He is a north-south runner who hits the hole quickly and can either run passed or through a defender.  The junior eligible likes the to use the stiff-arm, but he will need to watch injuries after three injury-filled seasons at OSU – injured ankle nagged him in 2008 and forced him to miss the Buckeyes huge game against USC.  Even with injuries, Wells is a franchise back and should make an immediate impact as a rookie.  In his college career, the former Buckeye put up numbers 585 rushes for 3,496 yards and 30 touchdowns.

29. New York Giants – CB D.J. Moore, Vanderbilt (Jr)

Record: 12-4 | Needs: WR, CB, S, OT

Though I think this pick will eventually land with the Cleveland Browns via a trade (WR Braylon Edwards for 1st round pick), I will act like the Giants still hold it.  There will be a temptation to “reach” for a second tier receiver like Kenny Britt, but I think the G-Men will try to bolster their secondary.  Big Blue will select playmaking corner DJ Moore (5-10, 184, 4.45).  The versatile corner from Vandy has the athleticism and instincts to be a top-tier cornerback in any draft. Moore exploded onto the scene as a playmaker in ’07 with six interceptions and an average of 25.7 yards on kickoff returns (had 100 yards in kickoff returns three times). In 2008, the tough junior-eligible had 5 INT’s and made plays on the offensive side of the ball too. Moore has great man-to-man coverage skills and will also help out in run support.  But he is still a young player who may need to mature as a player in the NFL, but he should help out in nickel/dime coverage and on special teams.

30. Tennessee Titans – WR Percy Harvin, Florida (Jr)

Record: 13-3 | Needs: WR, DT, CB, C

The Titans think long and hard before deciding they are willing to take a chance on the draft’s biggest falling prospect.  The Titans select college football’s version of Reggie Bush in mercurial Florida speedster Harvin (5-11, 195, 4.36).  The junior eligible from this year’s National Champs has dazzling talent where he can be used on the outside, in the slot, in the backfield, in the “Wildcat” and help out on special teams.  Most dangerous in the open field, Harvin in three years with the Gators had 133 receptions for 1,929 yards and 13 touchdowns and 194 carries for 1,852 yards and 19 scores. Amazingly Harvin scored at least once in 15 consecutive games, which was the longest streak in the nation. There are two huge question marks about the diminutive receiver/running back is whether he going to be able to handle off the field issues after an alledged failed drug test at the NFL Combine and his durability.

31. Arizona Cardinals – CB Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest (Sr)

Record: 9-7 | Needs: OL, FS, RB, CB, DT

The NFC Champs get Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie some help with the selection of Smith (5-9, 193, 4.45).  Though not the biggest corner in the draft, this All-ACC pick stands out due to his great instincts, quickness and agility. Smith is the NCAA’s all-time leader in interceptions with 21 career picks and he also returned a NCAA record four interceptions for touchdowns.  Senior Bowl week was a special one for Smith as he clearly was the best corner in practices providing blanket coverage and fighting for every pass.  Also can contribute on special teams by returning and covering kicks plus he even had 3 receptions on offense in the bowl win versus UConn in 2007.

32. Pittsburgh Steelers – OT William Beatty, Connecticut (Sr)

Record: 12-4 | Needs: OT, G, CB, LB, DE

The Steelers with the 32nd slot will try to fortify an offensive line that allowed quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to be sacked an NFL high 51 times in ’08.  With an eye toward keeping Big Ben upright, the world champion Steelers will take Beatty (6-6, 307).  The former All-Big East offensive tackle has the feet, agility and strength required to be a very good left or right tackle in the NFL. Beatty was the Huskies most consistent O-lineman only allowing 6½ sacks  over the past two years. The NFL Combine was Beatty’s finest hour as he joined Jason Smith, Monroe, Oher, and Davis in top tackle conversations.  At the combine, Beatty came in at 307 lbs (weighed only 291 pounds at the Senior Bowl due to the flu), ran an exceptional 5.12 forty, had a very good 33.5 vertical jump, and showed good  athleticism in the o-lineman drills.  The only area where the Steelers will need improvement from Beatty is his strength as he failed to put up 30 reps of 225 pounds.

Teams not owning a first round pick

Carolina Panthers – Record: 12-4 | Needs: DT, LB, QB, WR

The Panthers traded their 2009 first round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2008 NFL Draft to select offensive tackle Jeff Otah (19th overall).  Even though they do not have a top pick in 2009, you have to say the trade worked for the Panthers.  Otah and Jordan Gross have formed one of the NFL’s best young bookend tandems plus the Panthers running game was one of the NFL’s best (152.3 yards per game – Ranking of 3rd overall).  However the NFC South Champions should think about finding a young quarterback of the future and improving their play at the defensive tackle position in the 2009 draft.  The defensive line was not as stout after the trading of DT Kris Jenkins to the Jets in ’08 and quarterback Jake Delhomme was too inconsistent (5 INTs in playoffs to the Cardinals).  Also watch for the Panthers to possibly move disgruntled “franchised” defensive lineman Julius Peppers for a first round pick before or during the draft.

Dallas Cowboys – Record: 9-7 | Needs: CB, WR, OT, S, Backup QB

In an October 2008 trade deadline deal, the Cowboys traded away their 2009 first round pick along with a third and a sixth-round pick to the Detroit Lions in exchange for a seventh-round pick and WR Roy Williams.  For their efforts the Cowboys received 19 receptions for 198 yards (10.4 ypc) and 1 TD from Williams and missed the playoffs.  By not having a first rounder, The Cowboys and owner Jerry Jones will be counting on Williams to be the man in ’09.  The former University of Texas start will not only have to produce because of his high price trade, but also there will be the added pressure of replacing volatile Number #1 receiver Terrell Owens who was cut and now resides in Buffalo.  The Cowboys will also probably be looking for secondary help as they have openings for a cornerback and strong safety due to additional off-season cuts.

Chicago Bears – Record: 9-7 | Needs: WR, OL, DT, S, Backup QB

The Bears got their man by grabbing Broncos malcontent quarterback Jay Cutler and 5th rounder in ’09 for the steep price of two first round picks (’09 and ’10), a 3rd rounder in ’09.  Now that the Bears have the passer that they wanted, firepower at the receiver position is desperately needed.  Currently returner turned receiver Devin Hester is Lovie Smith’s best option so they need more.  Also watch the linebacker position as MLB Brian Urlacher is entering his 10th season.  This is a make or break season for head coach Lovie Smith, so he better hope Cutler is ready and that there is some help on the way at receiver and safety in the draft.

Others First RD Potentials

WR Kenny Britt*, 6’4″ 205 Rutgers

RB Donald Brown*, 5’11” 214, Connecticut

DT Peria Jerry, 6’2, 300, Ole Miss

DE Michael Johnson, 6’7″ 247 Georgia Tech

 LB James Laurinaitis, 6’2, 240 Ohio State

RB LeSean McCoy*, 5’11” 205 Pittsburgh

CB Mike Mickens, 6’0″ 165 Cincinnati

TE Brandon Pettigrew, 6’6″ 260, Oklahoma State

OG Duke Robinson, 6’5″ 330 Oklahoma

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Taking It to the House Final 2009 NFL Draft Prospect List

Quarterbacks

1. Matthew Stafford, Georgia (Jr.)

2. Mark Sanchez, USC (Jr.)

3. Josh Freeman, Kansas State (Jr.)

4. Pat White, West Virginia

5. Rhett Bomar, Sam Houston State

6a. Nate Davis, Ball State (Jr.)

6b. Jacary Atkinson, Tuskegee

Running Backs

1. Chris “Beanie” Wells, OSU (Jr.)

2. Knowshon Moreno, Georgia (Jr.)

3. Donald Brown, UConn

4. LeSean McCoy, PITT (Jr)

5a. Shonn Greene, Iowa (Jr.)

5b. Ian Johnson, Boise State

Wide Receivers

1. Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech (Soph- RS)

2. Jeremy Maclin, Missouri (Soph – RS)

3. Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland (Jr)

4. Hakeem Nicks, NC State (Jr.)

5. Percy Harvin, Florida (Jr.)

6a. Kenny Britt, Rutgers (Jr.)

6b. Brian Robiskie, OSU

Tight Ends

1. Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma State

2. Darius Hill, Ball State

3. Cornelius Ingram, Florida

4. James Casey, Rice (Soph – RS)

5a. Travis Beckum, Wisconsin

5b. Andrew Davie, Arkansas (Jr.)

Offensive Tackles

1. Jason Smith, Baylor

2. Eugene Monroe, Virginia

3. Andre Smith, Alabama (Jr.)

4. Michael Oher, Ole Miss

5a. Eben Britton, Arizona  (Jr.)

5b. William Beatty, UConn

Offensive Guards

1. Duke Robinson, Oklahoma

2. Herman Johnson, LSU

3. Anthony Parker, Tennessee

4. Kraig Urbik, Wisconsin

5a. Cornelius Lewis, Tennessee State

5b. Greg Isdaner, West Virginia (Jr.)

Centers

1. Alex Mack, California

2. Max Unger, Oregon

3. Eric Wood, Louisville

4. Antoine Caldwell, Alabama

5a. A.Q. Shipley, Penn St

5b. Cecil Newton, Tennessee State

Defensive Ends

1. Brian Orakpo, Texas

2. Everette Brown, Florida State

3. Tyson Jackson, LSU

4. Robert Ayers, Tennessee

5a. Michael Johnson, Georgia Tech

5b. Chris Baker, Hampton

6. Connor Barwin, Cincinnati 

Defensive Tackles

1. B.J. Raji, Boston College

2. Peria Jerry, Mississippi

3. Vance Walker, Georgia Tech

4. Sammie Lee Hill, Stillman

5. Terrance Taylor, Michigan

6a. Evander Hood, Missouri

6b. Fili Moala, USC

Inside Linebackers

1. Rey Maualuga, USC

2. James Laurinaitis, Ohio State

3. Darry Beckwith, LSU

4. Jason Phillips, TCU

5a. Gerald McRath, Southern Miss

5b. Dannell Ellerbe, Georgia

Outside Linebackers

1. Aaron Curry, Wake Forest

2. Aaron Maybin, Penn St (Soph – RS)

3. Brian Cushing, USC

4. Larry English, Northern Illinois

5a. Clay Matthews, USC

5b. Marcus Freeman, Ohio State

6a. Clint Sintim, Virginia

6b. Tyrone McKenzie, South Florida

Free Safeties

1. William Moore, Missouri

2. Rashad Johnson, Alabama

3. Louis Delmas, Western Michigan

4. Courtney Greene, Rutgers

5a. Derek Pegues, Mississippi State 

5b. David Bruton, Notre Dame

Strong Safeties

1. Patrick Chung, Oregon

2. Michael Hamlin, Clemson

3. Nic Harris, Oklahoma (WLB)

4. Emanuel Cook, South Carolina (Jr)

5a. Kevin Ellison, Southern Cal

5b. Curtis Taylor, LSU

Cornerbacks

1. Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State

2. Vontae Davis, Illinois (Jr.)

3. Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest

4. D.J. Moore, Vanderbilt (Jr)

5. Mike Mickens, Cincinnati

6a. Victor “Macho” Harris, Virginia Tech

6b. Domonique Johnson, Jackson State

Kickers

1. Graham Gano, Florida St.

2. Jose Martinez, UTEP

3. Louie Sakoda, Utah

4. Kevin Kelley, Penn State

5. Ryan Succop, South Carolina

Punters

1. Chris Miller, Ball St.

2. Kevin Huber, Cincinnati

3. Thomas Morstead, SMU

4. Aaron Perez UCLA

5. Britton Colquitt Tennessee

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Little Known 2009 NFL Draft Hopefuls: But Don’t Call Them Sleepers

(Philadelphia, Pa) – Though the majority of players taken in the NFL Draft usually come from BCS schools – in the 2008 NFL Draft over 70% of the players selected were from the 6 BCS Conferences — everyone is enamored with finding a “sleeper”.  Every year around draft time, whether it is friends or on the radio, everyone wants me to identify a “Superstar in waiting” from a smaller school.

Well everyone…I am here to tell you that there are no longer true “sleepers” in the NFL Draft process.  Trust me — if you have talent, NFL teams with their gaggle of scouts, assistant coaches, GM’s, and others scouring football fields everywhere will find you.  Now smaller school players are even making it easier for NFL teams to scout them by creating recruiting type videos on YouTube.

Some “Diamonds in the Rough” prospects for the 2009 NFL Draft are:

QB Rhett Bomar, Sam Houston State – This transfer from the University of Oklahoma is regarded as probably the 4th rated quarterback in the 2009 NFL Draft.  Bomar came to Oklahoma as a highly touted high school quarterback, but he got in some trouble with a “summer job” and transferred after earning the starting job. Bomar (6’23, 220) became the team starter at Sam Houston in 2007 throwing for numbers 172-291, 59.1%, 2209 yards, 10 TDs and 6 INTs.  Unfortunately the strong-armed passer suffered a left ACL injury causing him to miss the last two games of the ’07 season. Came back in his senior year throwing for respectable numbers 245-436, 3405 yards, 27 TDs and 13 INTs.  Bomar moves well in the pocket, has a solid throwing motion and is pretty athletic running a 4.7 in the forty.  Had a strong week at the Senior Bowl.

QB Chris Pizzotti, Harvard – A tall strong quarterback who battled through injuries to become a two-time All-Ivy League passer.  Pizzotti (6’6, 225) came off the bench in the 2007 season to post outstanding numbers 164-260, 63%, 2134 yards, 14 TDs and 4 INTs. Received a fifth year of eligibility in 2008, producing a career-high 2,490 yards on 193 of 308 attempts, 62.7%, 17 touchdowns and just four interceptions.  Was named as a finalist for the Walter Payton Award given to the top 1AA player.  Pizzotti is an intriguing prospect in that he is big and very smart, but you have to wonder about the competition he has faced in college.  Will be compared to former Havard and current Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, but he is a better prospect in my opinion.  Posted a 4.83 in the forty and 32.5-inch vertical at his Pro Day.

RB Rashad Jennings, Liberty – Originally playing for Pitt, this small school back is being compared to Chicago Bears breakout rookie running back Matt Forte.  The 2009 Senior Bowl was where Jennings (6-1, 232, 4.64) really proved that he was NFL caliber.  A big power back, who has pretty good speed for his size.  Jennings is a downhill runner that can move the pile, a willing blocker and has decent hands catching the football out of the backfield. A Big South Conference First Team player, who produced 1,526 yards (5.8-yard average) on 263 rushes and 17 touchdowns in 2008. Had a great NFL Combine producing 29 reps of 225 pounds, running a 4.58 in the forty, and 34-inch vertical jump. Followed-up his impressive NFL Combine by running a 4.52 in the forty on his Pro Day.

RB Devin Moore, Wyoming – An All-WAC runner, who is being compared to 2008 rookie sensation Titans running back Chris Johnson.  Moore (5’10, 195) is a burner that likes to make one cut and go.  In 2008, even though Moore ran for respectable numbers (249 rushes for 1,301 yards and 7 TDs), he wasn’t invited to the NFL Scouting Combine.  However the Indianapolis native and Wyoming all-time leading rusher held his own private “Pro Day” at a sports-training facility in front of 14 teams.  Moore didn’t disappoint running the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds (would have been the 5th best at the combine), jumping 35-inches in the vertical jump and doing 27 repetitions on the bench press.

RB/FB Jovorski Lane, Texas A&M – College Football’s version of Charles Barkley with nicknames like Joporky Lane, Round Mound of Touchdown, and Fat Back.  Lane (6′, 295) is a huge man with immense ability that makes you think of the late Craig “Iron Head” Heyward in his prime.  If Lane controls his weight, he has the size, strength, and speed to be a powerback in the mold of LenDale White.  A former Texas high school legend, Lane scored 49 career rushing touchdowns including a school record of 19 TD’s as a sophomore.  After a stellar junior year (780 yards on 168 carries (4.6 ypc), and 16 touchdowns), Lane’s old foe — his weight — resurfaced in his senior year.  New Texas A&M head coach Mike Sherman moved him to fullback with the big back having pedestrian numbers 93 rushing yards and five touchdowns. The half brother of Green Bay Packers TE Jermichael Finley, Lane finished his college career with 2090 yards, 4.5 ypr, and 49 TDs.

FB Marcus Mailei, Weber State — Mailei (6′, 256, 4.80) is a bruising blocking back, who is good in short yardage situations and plays with intensity.  Though he didn’t touch the ball all that often in college, Mailei hits the hole hard and has good hands (40 career catches). This two-time first-team All-Big Sky fullback is a weight-room warrior who produced 22 reps of 225 pounds at the NFL Combine.

WR Ramses Barden, Cal Poly – When you first see Ramses Barden, you immediately think… There’s no way this guy isn’t a defensive end.  But Barden (6’6, 227) is a receiver who is getting noticed in the 2009 draft process.  Coming from smaller school Cal Poly, Barden is a big fast (4.55) player for his size.  He may not project as a pro burner on the outside, but I could see him as the next Shannon Sharpe or Dallas Clark at the hybrid H-back/TE/WR position.  His size makes an immediate mismatch for defensive backs and his speed will hurt linebackers in coverage.  Barden had a breakout season in ’07, catching 57 passes for 1,467 yards (25.7 ypr) and 18 TDs to earn All- Great West Football Conference honors.  Then followed it up with a 67 reception, 1257 yards (18.8 ypc) and 18 TDs senior year, where he was a finalist for the Payton award.  With his imposing size and reliable hands, look for Barden to be a solid Day 2 pick. 

WR Justin Brown, Hampton — A junior college transfer with good size, long arms, and quickness.  Brown (6-2, 200) is a tall move-the-chains receiver with solid hands.  Though the former Hampton star does not have top-level speed (timed at 4.56 in the forty), Brown led the MEAC in receiving yards (887), averaging 80.6 per game.  The first team All MEAC player finished second in the conference in catches per game with a 5.1 average.

WR Dominque Edison, Stephen F. Austin — A former Texas state sprint champion with reported sub-4.4 speed, who is rising up draft boards. Edison (6-2, 200) has the size/speed ratio that NFL scouts are looking for and has been compared to Denver Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall.  Had a very production senior year producing 67 catches for over 1,000 yards (15 ypc), and 18 TDs.

WR Quinten Lawrence, McNeese State – A speedster with sub-4.4 speed, who is being compared to 2008 first receiver selected, St. Louis Rams burner Donnie Avery.  Lawrence (5’11, 177) is a raw, but extremely explosive.  Has a great burst with the ball in his hands and should contribute right away in the return game.  Had his best year in 2007, starting all 12 games for McNeese catching 31 passes for 645 yards (20.8) and 6 TDs plus he 15.1 average on returns. The NFL will need to watch out for knee problems as he only played in 5 games in 2008

WR Raytron Mayfield, Langston — A Division II jack-of-all-trades, who reminds me of Hines Ward coming out of college.  This former high school running back had 799 yards receiving on 59 catches with nine touchdowns and 165 yards rushing with three touchdowns plus he threw for 77 yards and one touchdown. Mayfield (6-1, 205) runs hard after the catch and has reliable hands.  Led his team in scoring with 76 points and was selected First-Team All-CSFL (Central States Football League Conference). Guided the Lions to the NAIA National Playoffs second round and an 11-2 record.

WR Taurus Johnson, University of South Florida – Johnson (6’0, 206) is a fast receiver, who is getting attention after shining in a private workout for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Last season, Johnson led USF with six touchdowns while producing 38 catches for 499 yards. He played tough in the East-West Shrine Game and was impressive at the NFL Combine running a 4.49 in the forty, jumping 35 1/2 inch vertically and producing 18 reps of 225 pounds.

TE Jared Bronson, Central Washington — Bronson (6’4, 254) is a former high school quarterback and track and field star. He originally attended junior college then walked on at the University of Washington before finally landing at Central Washington. Bronson has great size/speed combination, blocks well and is fast for a tight end.  Bronson after a good 2008 season where he was AP Little All-American (28 receptions for 502 yards and 6 TDs), he wowed scouts at the NFL Combine (4.76 in the forty, 28 reps, and 9’8 in the broad jump).

TE John Nalbone, Monmouth (NJ) — A four-year starter, Nalbone was selected first-team All-Northeast Conference and (FCS) All-American in 2008. Holds school tight end records for career receptions (101), receiving yards (1,079) and touchdowns (nine). Nalbone has the right size (6’4, 258) and speed (4.68) to succeed as a blocker and pass catcher in the NFL. Surprisingly was not invited to any of the postseason All-Star games or the NFL Combine, so his Pro Day was his showcase producing a 4.63 forty, a 30-inch vertical jump, and 22 reps of 225.

OL Cornelius Lewis, Tennessee State — This former transfer from Florida State was selected second team for the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC). Has a great size, a strong initial punch, arm extension, and footwork, which will allow him to succeed as a guard or tackle in the NFL. Lewis is an exceptional run blocker and is a true road grader. Though a mauler in the trenches, Lewis (6-5, 310) is fast enough to do well on pulling plays (5.19 in the forty).  Played in Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Game and he also participated in the 2009 NFL Combine.  Could be a rookie starter in the mold of small-school prospect turned solid pro New Orleans Saints guard Jahri Evans.

OL Cecil Newton, Tennessee State – This All Ohio Valley Conference first teamer partnered with Cornelius Lewis to lead the way for running back Javarris Williams.  Newton (6’1, 300) is a strong center who plays with a solid anchor, explosion, and balance.  A very smart player that will be able to pick-up any offensive system and might fit well in a zone blocking scheme in the NFL.  Was not invited to the NFL Combine, but Newton is right up there with bigger school pivots and should get a look on the second day of the NFL Draft.  Reminds me of Colts veteran center Jeff Saturday.

OT Joel Bell, Furman – A true right tackle prospect with long arms, good quickness, and agility for a big man (6-7, 310).  Bell had a very good Senior Bowl week where he competed with the “big boys” without any problem.   This three-time all-conference selection tore it up at the NFL Combine producing top-ten O-line numbers in the forty, bench press, vertical, broad, 3-cone, and 20-yard shuttle. Had such great His workout was good enough that he didn’t need to workout at Furman’s Pro Day, though an eye-popping 25 teams still showed up to see him go through positional drills. He’s a competitive lineman that blocks with a nasty attitude and is a prospect who should just get better as he physically matures and adds bulk to his frame.

OT Kyle Link McNeese State – A converted tight end, who grew into an offensive tackle (6’5, 300).  Playing at left tackle, Link was a two-time All-Southland Conference pick.  Has good feet and plays with leverage, but was not as dominant at the small college level as expected so he will need to hit the weights. May need time to develop on a team’s practice squad, but he may find a roster spot as he is an accomplished long-snapper.

DE/OLB Larry Sidbury, Richmond – The NFL is always looking for finishers on the defensive line and smaller schools have produced some of the NFL’s best (Richard Dent, Hugh Douglas, Robert Mathis and others).  The small school speed rusher to watch in the 2009 NFL Draft is Larry Sidbury (6’2, 265).  A FCS All-American, Sidbury was a dominant pass rusher at FCS level and was practically unstoppable the past two seasons (7 1/2 sacks in 2008 despite constant double teams). A high-motor speedy player, who reminds me of Eagles sackman Trent Cole.  In the Spiders’ national championship victory over Montana, Sidbury was everywhere producing 4 sacks. 31 NFL teams attended Richmond’s Pro Day in person just to see this pass rushing specialist (bench pressed 225 pounds 28 times and jump 35 inches vertically).  Sidbury produced a 4.57 in the forty at the NFL Scouting Combine.

DE/OLB Greg Miller, Villanova — A Philly suburbs native, who I have been following since high school.  Miller (6’3, 250) was a FCS second-team All-American and was a co-captain of the 2008 Wildcat squad that went 10-3 overall and advanced to the quarterfinal round of the FCS playoffs. An intense outside linebacker/pass rusher, who can run plus hold up at the point of attack.  In 13 games, Miller tallied 49 total tackles, a team-high 15 tackles for loss, six sacks and two forced fumbles. Has a great burst off the edge and has a nose for the quarterback.  Had his best game versus Richmond recording eight tackles, 2.5 quarterback sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble.

DE David Veikune, Hawaii  — A high-motor defensive end, who knows how to finish once he gets to the quarterback.  Veikune (6’2, 257) will not quit against bigger players and will hustle until the whistle (25 tackles for loss and 16 sacks over the last two years).  Had a solid Senior Bowl week, where he shined against bigger name competition in drills and in practice.  Was solid at the NFL Combine showing good speed (4.79 in the forty) and strength (35 reps) while looking like a future pass-rushing specialist.  Veikune is a versatile (lined-up at DE, DT, and OLB in college) and hard-worker type player, so some team will find a spot for him on special teams and on 3rd downs rushing the passer.

DB Domonique Johnson, Jackson State — An extremely fast corner, who has the size and instincts to play safety in the NFL too.  Johnson (6-2, 200, Sr.) maybe this year’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Arizona Cardinals) as he has been clocked at 4.40 in the forty.  The All-SWAC performer originally played for Missouri, leaving for undisclosed reasons after the 2006 season. One of the best defensive backs in the upcoming NFL draft, Johnson finished his senior year with a team high four interceptions (returned one for a touchdown) and a league high 13 pass break-ups. Played in the 2009 Senior Bowl and also participated in the 2009 NFL Combine.

DB Gregory Toler, Saint Paul’s  — Another candidate competing to be this year’s Rodgers-Cromartie.  Toler is a big, fast, and physical corner who was a 2008 All-CIAA selection. Participated in the East Coast All Star game, Cactus Bowl, and NFL Combine after leading the CIAA with 6 INTs (ranked third in NCAA DII) and 19 passes defended. Toler (6-0, 191, Sr.) has 4.37 speed in the 40-yard dash and had 14 career interceptions in college. At Richmond’s Pro Day, Toler ran a 4.45 in the 40, jumped 33½-inch vertically, ran a 6.95 three-cone drill and did 13 bench press reps of 225 pounds.

DB Jabir Perkins, Texas A&M Kingsville – Perkins (6’0, 200)  is a combination safety, who is getting looks at SS and FS at the next level.  Solidly built with an ability to excel in coverage and in run support.  Though not invited to the bigger All Star-games or the NFL Combine, Perkins made the most of the Division IIA standout from the 2009 Cactus Bowl. At that games practices, Perkins flashed as he showed incredible speed (4.3 range) running downhill into plays. The LSC conference Defensive Back of the Year after recording 5 INTs, 61 TKLs, 2 FFs and a sack.  Also will be able to help a team on special teams in the return game as he returned two kicks for touchdowns in 2008.

DB D.J. Clark, Idaho State — A second-team All-Big Sky Conference performer, who finished with 15 career interceptions (3rd in school history). Clark (6’1, 200) had five interceptions in 2008 and was impressive at his school’s Pro Day running 4.52 in the forty, jumping 36 inches and 10-7 broad jumping. 

DB E.J. Biggers, Western Michigan — Another surprising player who wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine.  However scouts have started taking notice of Biggers (6’0, 180) during visits with teams like the Chargers and Texans.  A bigger cover corner, who reminds me some of Carolina Panthers DB Richard Marshall.  Very good at jamming a receiver, turning, and running with them.  Ran a 4.35 in the forty at his Pro Day Workout.

Utility player Dan Skuta, Grand Valley State – A player who does not have a “true” position, but he definitely is a very intriguing prospect to NFL evaluators.  Skuta has been auditioning as a linebacker, fullback and tailback for teams around the NFL.  With his size (6’3, 252) and speed (4.72), I will project him as a pro outside linebacker.  A tenacious player, who has a “Can Do” attitude and will really excel on special teams.  At his Pro Day, registered a 4.72 in the forty, jumped 35 inches in the vertical, and produced 20 reps of 225 pounds. 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)