2010 NFL Draft Order is set

The draft order for the 2010 NFL Draft is all set and right now Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh seems the logical choice for the first overall pick

Today at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis all coin flips to break ties for draft position were completed.  So now the draft order for the 2010 NFL Draft is set….of course that is until all of the wheeling and dealing starts before April 22nd

Currently the St. Louis Rams (1-15) own the first overall pick for the 2010 NFL Draft and I am fairly certain their prize will be dominating Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.  However as is the norm this time of year, there are many rumors circulating that the Rams could trade the first overall pick and move down in the draft to select a quarterback like Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford or Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen.  But if the Rams have done their homework, this one is a no-brainer.

Suh had one of the best years of any college defensive tackle in NCAA history as he produced 85 tackles, a NCAA leading 24 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. The decorated award-winner (Lombardi, Bednarik, Willis, and first team All American) also had 10 passes defensed, 28 QB hurries, 1 INT and three blocked kicks.  The cat-quick and strong defensive lineman possibly played his best game in Nebraska’s near upset of the Texas in the Big 12 Championship game, finishing with 4.5 sacks.

Other Top 10 prospects for the 2010 NFL Draft include: Tennessee safety Eric Berry, Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy, Florida CB Joe Haden, Oklahoma State OT Russell Okung, Bradford, and Clausen.

2010 NFL Draft Order as of February 26

1) St. Louis Rams (1-15)

2) Detroit Lions (2-14)

3) Tampa Bay Bucs (3-13)

4) Washington Redskins (4-12)

5) Kansas City Chiefs (4-12)

6) Seattle Seahawks (5-11)

7)  Cleveland Browns (5-11)

8) Oakland Raiders (5-11)

9) Buffalo Bills (6-10)

10) Jacksonville Jaguars (7-9)

11) Denver Broncos (from Chicago -their record was 7-9)

12) Miami Dolphins (7-9)

13) San Francisco 49ers (8-8)

14) Seattle Seahawks (from Denver – their record was 8-8)

15) New York Giants (8-8)

16) Tennessee Titans (8-8)

17) San Francisco 49ers (from Carolina – their record was 8-8)

18) Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7)

19) Atlanta Falcons (9-7)

20) Houston Texans (9-7)

21) Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)

22) New England Patriots (10-6)

23) Green Bay Packers (11-5)

24) Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)

25) Baltimore Ravens (9-7)

26) Arizona Cardinals (10-6)

27) Dallas Cowboys (11-5)

28) San Diego Chargers (13-3)

29) New York Jets (9-7)

30) Minnesota Vikings (12-4)

31) Indianapolis Colts (14-2)

32) New Orleans Saints (13-3)

  • Teams currently without a first round selection:  Carolina Panthers and Chicago Bears
  • Teams currently having two first round picks: Seattle Seahawks (6, 14) and San Francisco 49ers (13, 17)

 

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)

2010 Franchise Deadline Passes in the NFL

New England Patriots mammoth NT Vince Wilfork was one of six NFL players  tagged as a “franchise” player at the 2010 franchise player deadline

Thursday February 25th at 4 PM was the last chance for NFL teams to “franchise” tag their potential free agents for the 2010 NFL season.  The franchise tag allows for a team to limit a potential free agent’s movements under the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). This year teams were allowed to use one franchise tag and two transition tags (average of Top 10 position salaries and first refusal for a player’s designating team) before the start of the Free Agency signing period (March 5th).

The salary level offered by the designating team determines whether the player is an Exclusive or Non-Exclusive franchise player.  Franchised players are paid at the highest level of their position (average of the top-five salaries at their position).  An “exclusive” franchise player is not free to sign with another team, while a “non-exclusive” franchise player can negotiate with the other teams, but the franchising club has a right to match or receive compensation.

Last year there was an NFL-high 14 free agents that were designated as “franchise” players, which eclipsed the former high of eleven from 2005 and 2008. But with CBA negotiations on-going and potential labor unrest lurking in the form of a 2011 lockout, teams seemed very cautious at placing franchise or transition tags on players this offseason.

Usually most teams use the franchise tag as a way to initiate talks for a long-term contract.  But sometimes “franchise” players and their agents are extremely unhappy and can cause distractions due to the loss of “upfront” signing bonus money (guaranteed $$$).  Though franchised players will be paid at the average of the top-five salaries at their position, players typically want the big payday that comes with being a marquee free agent.  In the past, we have seen franchised players miss off season training activities (OTA’s) and report late or holdout of training camp (ex. Seattle Seahawks Offensive Tackle Walter Jones in 2004 & 2005). 

The player most likely to follow in the disgruntled “I am not reporting” pattern is New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.  The former Pro Bowl fire hydrant nose tackle either wanted a long term deal or an opportunity to shop around his much sought after skills.  Unfortunately for the former University of Miami star, the Patriots understood his value and were more than willing to pay Wilfork’s franchise amount of a $7.003 million salary for 2010.

The next big milestone for franchised players is in July 2010 since that is the last chance for franchising teams to sign them to a long term deal.  If no long term deal is struck by July, the franchised player can only play under their one-year franchise contract for the 2010 season.

Here are the anticipated salaries for players tagged with either a franchise or transition tag.  Quarterbacks: $16.405 million (franchise), $14.546 million (transition); Defensive Ends: $12.398m, $10.193m; Offensive Lineman: $10.731m, $9.142m; Linebackers: $9.680m, $8.373m; Cornerbacks: $9.566m, $8.056m; Wide Receivers: $9.521m, $8.651m; Running Backs: $8.156m, $7.151m; Defensive Tackles: $7.003m, $6.353m; Safeties: $6.455m, $6.011m; Tight Ends: $5.908m, $5.248m; and Kickers/Punters: $2.814m, $2.629m

 2010 Franchise Designated Players

San Francisco 49ers NT Aubrayo Franklin

Seattle Seahawks kicker Olindo Mare

Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Jeff Reed

Green Bay Packers DT Ryan Pickett

Oakland Raiders DE Richard Seymour (exclusive – not free to sign w/ another team)

New England Patriots NT Vince Wilfork

Now the real fun will start on March 5th as free agents like safety Darren Sharper, DE Julius Peppers, LB Karlos Dansby, CB Dunta Robinson and others hit the open market.

 

 

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)

Everything you need to know for the 2010 NFL Combine

Prospects for the 2010 NFL Draft will have to endure the NFL’s version of a job fair including interviews, drills, and other tests at this year’s NFL Combine in Indianapolis (Chicago Bears WR Johnny Knox pictured from 2009)

The NFL’s biggest “workout session” called the NFL Combine takes center stage at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis from Wednesday February 24th to Tuesday March 2nd as potential draftees dreams can be made in 4.29 seconds (a very good forty-time in case you didn’t know).  It is hard to believe that the zany idea of former Dallas Cowboys draft guru Gil Brandt from over 30 years ago to gather all of the draft’s prospects in one place so every team could get an “equal” look together has come so far that it is now a major part of the yearly sports calendar. 

You can thank former University of Kansas option quarterback Nolan Cromwell for the madness as he was traveling from team to team in 1977 with the same information, giving the forward thinking Brandt the idea for the combine. How “huge” is this one-time anomaly event, well the NFL Network will broadcast over 26 live hours of coverage plus the NFL Combine even has its own website. There will also be a Super Bowl like “Radio Row” atmosphere at the Indianapolis Convention Center so media can provide fans with instant results.  No more “urban legend” results like Deion “Prime Time” Sanders running a “slow”, as he pontificated about it, 4.19 forty-yard dash in secrecy at the 1989 event.

The NFL Combine is part of the annual arduous four-month long “NFL job interview” process for college players to get to their dream destination of being drafted.  The job interview process has four distinctive parts – College Bowl Games, All-Star Games especially the Senior Bowl, the NFL Combine, and Pro Days (private workouts) — that are all extremely important for building a powerful resume for potential players and a successful draft board for NFL personnel departments. 

The NFL Combine is such a big deal that approximately 600 NFL Draft evaluators including head coaches, general managers and scouts plus their “favorite” tag-a-longs, the media – almost 400 credentialed members of the media – will pack into the Lucas Oil Stadium to watch 327 college players do whatever is asked of them in shorts and tee shirts.   These poor kids will be stamped with their cattle number like “QB03″ and then they will be poked and prodded every which way to Sunday as they will be interviewed, examined, x-rayed, measured, run all over, made to jump, twisted, bent, interrogated on their past… you name it, all to enhance their spot in the upcoming 2010 NFL Draft in April.

With this year’s success of rookie difference-makers like Houston Texans LB Brian Cushing, Philadelphia Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin, Minnesota Vikings receiver Percy Harvin, Washington Redskins pass rusher Brian Orakpo and others, the importance of building a competitive team through the draft is ever present throughout the NFL. Teams now have very high expectations for players selected in the first two rounds of the draft and want to get earlier returns on their large investments (i.e. No more redshirting in the NFL).  However the hoopla over the NFL Combine to me is borderline insanity as most scouts I talk to put more credence in regular season game tape, All-Star game performances, talking with college staffs, bowl games, and almost anything else over seeing guys tested at the combine in t-shirts and shorts. 

The biggest word of caution to fans and teams is to guard against the “love” factor at the NFL Combine as every year some team gets an “I gotta have him” attitude usually leading to draft day moves based solely on a player’s work at the NFL Combine (see Eagles 1995 first round draft pick and 7th overall pick DE Mike Mamula – moved up the board from a 2nd or 3rd round pick to a top ten pick mostly based on his high marks at the combine).    Agents representing these prized NFL recruits definitely know what is at stake at the NFL Combine as in recent years they are pulling their player clients off of college campuses to prep at pre-combine workout facilities. 

The reason for the intense preparation for the NFL Combine is plain and simple…MONEY in the form of rookie contracts — 2009 NFL Draft first overall selection Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford signed a rookie contract with the terms 6-years, $72 million of which $41.7 million was guaranteed.  This is high stakes poker at its best, so at pre-combine training camps in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and Southern California, players are learning everything from interviewing skills, how to take the Wonderlic Test, explosive running techniques and pumping iron.

All that being said, statistics do show players need to at least attend the NFL Combine, especially early entrants in the draft since they don’t have the advantage of going to College All-Star games — in the 2006 Draft of the 330 players invited to the NFL Combine, 222 were drafted.  The NFL Combine is also a setting where the entire NFL’s traveling show (Head Coaches, Scouts, GM’s, media, etc) comes together in Indy allowing for “shop talk”.  As the scene is a continuation of the NFL’s convention like atmosphere that was started at the Senior Bowl and Super Bowl.   In the stands  are sure to hear veteran NFL personnel evaluators, like Miami Dolphins football czar Bill Parcels, talking about the impending Free Agency period (March 5th), franchised players (deadline of February 28th), the soon to be expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement (March 2011), an uncapped year in 2010, possible trades of disgruntled players or draft picks, and much more.

 The Players

There will be over 300 players throughout the four-day event with every position represented from Quarterback to Defensive End to Long Snapper.  Not all invitees will participate in all events and some may pick and choose or wait for their Pro Day to show their stuff — Thanks Agents!!  Unfortunately two of the bigger names in the 2010 NFL Draft, quarterbacks Tim Tebow (Florida) and Sam Bradford (Oklahoma) have chosen to only come to Indy to participate in interviews, the Wonderlic, and measurements, but not the on the field drills.

But some players who I will be interested in seeing their efforts are Central Michigan quarter back Dan LeFevour – QB11 (Needs to show better arm strength than at the Senior Bowl), USC RB Joe McKnight – RB18 (Will he workout, is he the top player in the 2010 running back class, and how is his character), Florida LB Brandon Spikes – LB30 (How is his character (off the field past), is he ready for the NFL) and Florida State safety Myron Rolle – DB42 (How much rust does the aspiring doctor have after being in Oxford, England for a year on a Rhodes Scholarship) .  Also it will great to see who is faster in the forty Clemson RB CJ Spiller (RB24), LSU returnman Trindon Holliday (ST02), Clemson WR Jacoby Ford (WO10) or some other speedster. 

Find the complete list of the players invited to the 2010 NFL Combine.

NFL Combine Events

 On the Field Drills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Off the Field Events

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

NFL Team Interviews – Like any young person going from college to a job, players need to ace their interviews.  Teams know exactly what they want to ask when going after a player’s past in order to try and predict their future.  In the early years of the NFL Combine, the interview process used to be a mad scramble where teams would hoard players that they liked.  But now teams get about fifteen minutes to get to know a player with a limit of 60 players for each team. This usually occurs at the convention center or player hotel with every team looking to see what makes each player tick.  Remember “character” is the number one item on most teams list along with toughness, interests on and off the field, and intelligence (the Giants and Patriots are notorious for measuring a player’s understanding of the “game of football”).  At the 2009 NFL Combine, former Florida receiver Percy Harvin impressed the Minnesota Vikings by firmly answering some tough questions about his past.  The Vikings by doing their homework on Harvin at the Combine, went on to draft him with the 22nd pick of the first round and the former Gator went on to be named the 2009 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year

NFLPA Meeting – This is a pre-cursor meeting to the NFL Rookie Symposium later in the summer.  The meeting serves as a welcome to the business of football for the crop of potential rookies and their agents.  The future of the NFL will learn all about their union including team reps, dues, health coverage, the collective bargaining agreement, and much more.  With potential labor strife hovering over the NFL in 2010, this year’s Combine invitees better be listening extra specially in these meetings.

The Wonderlic Test – The NFL is now calling this portion of the NFL Combine, psychological testing.  But I am not sure if there are any other brain tests other than the dreaded Wonderlic test.  The test is designed to measure a player’s I.Q. through a 50-question test administered in 23 minutes.  Most players are tired/uninterested when taking the test, which leads to a majority of guys not completing the test.  Some agents have started to have their clients cram for the test like the SAT coming out of high school, but at least you can take that test multiple times.  This is a one shot deal that many people put way too much emphasis on.  I can still hear all of the preposterous Vince Young test score reporting from 2006 — did you know that Hall of Fame quarterbacks Dan Marino and Terry Bradshaw both scored a 15 while forgettable former Rams quarterback Hugh Millen scored a 41.  Here is a sample question: “Paper clips sell for 23 cents per box. What will 4 boxes cost” — take all the time you need, because the only intelligence score that scouts should worried about is a player’s Football Intelligence (FBI). 

Injury Evaluations – Every player at the NFL Combine has to walk around with their x-rays and injury history.  Teams and their doctors will poke and check any little thing that doesn’t sound or look right.  This part of the combine has to be difficult, because players may even be scrutinized about a small injury from high school.  Back at the 2007 NFL Combine, former Louisville and current Raiders running back Michael Bush – severely broken leg his Senior season — had to put on a happy face even though he was subjected to answering question after question about the condition of his surgically repaired leg.

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

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

2010 NFL Combine Group Schedules

Wednesday February 24 to Saturday February 27

Group 1 (Kickers, Punters, Long Snappers and O-line), Group 2 (O-line), and Group 3 (Tight Ends)

  • Wednesday February 24, 2010 — Travel to Indianapolis* ~ Registration ~ Hospital Pre-Exam & X-rays ~ Orientation ~ Interviews
  • Thursday February 25, 2010 — Measurements ~ Medical Examinations ~ Media ~ Psychological Testing ~ Interviews
  • Friday February 26, 2010 — NFLPA Meeting ~ Psychological Testing ~ *PK/ST Workout* ~ Interviews
  • Saturday February 27, 2010 — Workout (timing, stations, skill drills) ~ Departure from Indianapolis 

Thursday Feb 25 to Sunday February 28

Group 4 (Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers), Group 5 (Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers), and Group 6 (Running Backs)

  • Thursday February 25, 2010 — Travel to Indianapolis* ~ Registration ~ Hospital Pre-Exam & X-rays ~ Orientation ~ Interviews
  • Friday February 26, 2010 — Measurements ~ Medical Examinations ~ Media ~ Psychological Testing ~ Interviews
  • Saturday February 27, 2010 — NFLPA Meeting ~ Psychological Testing ~ Interviews
  • Sunday February 28, 2010 — Workout (timing, stations, skill drills) ~ Departure from Indianapolis

Friday February 26 to Monday March 1

Group 7 (Defensive Linemen), Group 8 (Defensive Linemen), and Group 9 (Linebackers)

  • Friday February 26, 2010 — Travel to Indianapolis* ~ Registration ~ Hospital Pre-Exam & X-rays ~ Orientation ~ Interviews
  • Saturday February 27, 2010 — Measurements ~ Medical Examinations ~ Media ~ Psychological Testing ~ Interviews
  • Sunday February 28, 2010 — NFLPA Meeting ~ Psychological Testing ~ Interviews
  • Monday March 1, 2010 — Workout (timing, stations, skill drills) ~ Departure from Indianapolis

Saturday February 27 to Tuesday March 2

Group 10 and Group 11 (Defensive Backs)

  • Saturday February 27, 2010 — Travel to Indianapolis* ~ Registration ~ Hospital Pre-Exam & X-rays ~ Orientation ~ Interviews
  • Sunday February 28, 2010 — Measurements ~ Medical Examinations ~ Media ~ Psychological Testing ~ Interviews
  • Monday March 1, 2010 — NFLPA Meeting ~ Psychological Testing ~ Interviews
  • Tuesday March 2, 2010 — Workout (timing, stations, skill drills) ~ Departure from Indianapolis

Top NFL Combine Event Records

Fastest NFL Combine 40-Yard Times  

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

4.24 – Chris Johnson (RB), East Carolina – 2008

4.24 – Rondel Melendez (WR), Eastern Kentucky – 1999

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

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

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

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

4.30 – Darius Heyward-Bey (WR), Maryland – 2009

Most 225-Pound Bench Press Reps 

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

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

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

43 – Scott Young, (OG), BYU – 2005

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

Best Vertical Jump

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fastest 10-Yard Times

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

1.43 – Eric Weddle, (SS), Utah – 2007

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

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

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

Fastest 20-Yard Shuttle Times  

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

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

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

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

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

Fastest Three Cone Drill Times

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

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

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

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

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

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 release running back Brian Westbrook

The Eagles are in the market for a new running back after making the tough decision to release Brian Westbrook

On Monday, the San Diego Chargers released former Pro Bowl running back LaDainian Tomlinson and for the second day in a row another high profile runner is looking for work.   The end of era happened in Philly as the Philadelphia Eagles decided to cut running back Brian Westbrook.  Though the mercurial running back still had years remaining on the contract that he signed before the 2008 NFL Season, it was apparent that the Birds felt injuries (concussion, ankle, and knee problems all during the 2009 season) and age had caught up with their offense’s center piece since 2004.

Though Westbrook’s career numbers of 5995 rushing yards (71st All-time in the NFL), 3790 receiving yards on 426 receptions and 68 combined touchdowns probably will not get him a “sniff” from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  His legacy within the Eagles’ lockerroom and with fans will be everlasting.  Since arriving with the Eagles as a 3rd round draft pick in 2002, B-West showed that he was more than his listed size of 5’8, 200 pounds.  The former Villanova dual-threat running back, who many projected as “just” a kick returner and 3rd down back when he entered the NFL, showed that his quickness and “Want To” that made him the franchise’s 2nd all-time rusher behind Wilbert Montgomery.

Two-time Pro Bowl player and 1-time All Pro did indeed prove that his skills from 1-AA football did equate to the NFL as he was the main cog in Andy Reid’s West Coast offense.  Westbrook was the lynchpin of Eagles’ squads that made NFC Championship Games (five altogether under Reid, four with B-West) and one Super Bowl in 2004.  During his time in Philly, others around the NFL talked about backs like Tomlinson, Larry Johnson, Shaun Alexander, Marshall Faulk, and Willie Parker but to Eagles’ fans Westbrook was had to be placed in any conversation with the NFL’s elite.  You name it; B-West did for the Eagles.  Blocking, catching, running inside and outside, picking up the blitz, returning punts when needed, running out of the Wildcat formation and even throwing a pass or two. 

“You know what, he had no weaknesses,” Reid said at yesterday’s press conference announcing Westbrook’s release.  “There wasn’t any one thing that you could pick out that he was not good at. He was brilliant. There are just certain guys that are just football smart and he was one of those guys. You never had to tell him anything more than one time and it was done, and you had confidence that it was going to be done.”

Despite never playing in all 16 games during his 8-year career –- due to a myriad of injuries —  which some used to make a case for saying he was injury-prone… make no bones about it Westbrook was as “tough” as a $4.00 steak at the Vegas buffet.  I often marveled when standing next to B-West how his play belied his size.  B-West despite having to play probably the most demanding position in the NFL, was the Eagles’ best blitz protector, cat-quick in space and also went over the middle on passes making him one of the NFL’s best slot receivers.  .  To underscore his toughness, despite being Reid’s main engine, which entailed 1796 touches in his career, Westbrook only lost 9 fumbles in his career.

Westbrook’s incredible value to the team was probably shown most in his incredible ‘07 season where he set an Eagles’ record for combine receiving and rushing yards with 2104 yards including over 1,200 yards rushing, and 90 catches. Also in that magical season, Westbrook showed his unselfishness against the hated Dallas Cowboys as he laid down right before crossing the goal line thus forgoing a touchdown in order to cement a road win for the Birds. For his efforts Westbrook finally was paid amongst the league’s best backs signing a deal with the terms three years, $21 Million with $13 Million guaranteed in ‘08 and ’09.  Westbrook maybe done as an Eagle, but his fans will always have his highlight reel moments including his miraculous game-winning 84-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Giants in 2003. And his incredible 71-yard darting catch and run touchdown to break open the Eagles 2008 wildcard playoff win over the Minnesota Vikings in the Metrodome. 

The 2009 NFL Season was another tough one on Westbrook as he missed 8 games and only ran for only 274 yards and 1 TD.  After a solid performance against the Panthers in Week 1 – produced numbers of 13 rushes for 64 yards and 3 receptions for 8 yards, 1 TD — Westbrook hurt his ankle against the Saints in Week 2, and then he suffered a debilitating concussion against the Washington Redskins in Week 7.  So at age 30, the Birds made the tough decision to let him go.  The move was not a shocker given Westbrook’s 7 Million Dollar price tag for the 2010 season and the emergence of 2009 rookie LeSean McCoy.  Though the Eagles took a cap hit of $1.5 million by not waiting for the start of free agency on March 5th (start of the 2010 NFL Calendar and Free Agency), the move will allow both sides to move-on.

With the growing NFL trend of having at least two quality running backs splitting carries to keep defensive coordinators guessing and backs fresher.  Westbrook will be battling it out with other veteran running backs Tomlinson, Parker, Edgerrin James and others to find a home in a league that likes their backs age 27 and under.  Expect all of these veteran running backs to play the waiting game for injuries in training camp or during the season – just ask career 10,000-yard running back Shaun Alexander, who briefly was with the Redskins in 2008 and is still looking for a job. 

Some teams rumored to be looking for a running back are the Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings, Houston Texans, Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots.  Unfortunately the NFL is a cruel, “What have you done lately” league.  However Westbrook and the other veterans can hope to duplicate the end of career success of veteran running backs Joe Washington, Otis Anderson, and John Riggins – all backs who found homes late in their careers and thrived.

As for the Eagles, I don’t expect them to go after free agents Chester Taylor, Ronnie Brown, L.T. or Parker. Expect them to draft a running back in the 2nd or 3rd round, who can catch the ball out to the backfield. McCoy badly needs a partner other than Eldra Buckley and fullback Leonard Weaver, but  Birds’ fans better not be hoping for a between the tackles runner as that is not their scheme.  Some backs the Eagles may have interest in this April’s NFL Draft are Dexter McCluster (Ole Miss), Jonathan Dwyer (GA Tech), and Joe McKnight (USC).

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)

2010 NFL Draft Prospects by Position

Florida State’s Myron Rolle is one of the Top 5 safeties listed in Taking It to the House’s 2010 NFL Draft Prospects List 

With all the All-Star games completed, this NFL junkie is starting to think about the upcoming draft in April. The St. Louis Rams by virtue of their 1-win 2009 season are on the clock. 

Here are my 2010 NFL Draft top pro prospects by position as of February 2010.

Offense

Quarterbacks

1) Sam Bradford, Oklahoma , Jr

2) Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame  , Jr

3) Colt McCoy, Texas , Sr

4) Jarrett Brown, West Virginia , Sr

5a) Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan , Sr

5b) Bryant Lee, Southern , Sr

Running backs

1) C. J. Spiller, Clemson , Sr

2) Jahvid Best, Cal , Jr

3) Dexter McCluster, Ole Miss , Sr

4a) Ryan Matthews, Fresno State, Sr

4b)  Joe McKnight, USC , Jr

5a)  Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech , Jr

5b) LeGarrett Blount, Oregon , Sr

Wide Receivers

1) Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State , Jr

2) Golden Tate, Notre Dame , Jr

3) Arrelious Benn , Illinois

4a) Demaryious Thomas , Georgia Tech

4b) Mardy Gilyard , Cincinnati , Sr

5a) Jordan Shipley, Texas , Sr

5b) Freddie Barnes, Bowling Green, Sr

Tight Ends

1) Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma , Jr

2) Rob Gronkowski, Arizona, Jr

3) Dennis Pitta, BYU, Sr

4) Aaron Hernandez, Florida, Jr

5a)  Anthony McCoy, USC, Sr

5b) Jimmy Graham, Miami (FL), Sr

Centers

1) Maurkice Pouncey, Florida , Jr

2) J.D. Walton, Baylor,  Sr

3) Matt Tennant, Boston College , Sr

4a) John Estes, Hawaii , Sr

4b) Erik Cook, New Mexico , Sr

5a) Eric Olsen, Notre Dame , Sr

5b) Steve Brazzle, Florida A&M , Sr

Guards

1) Mike Lupati, Idaho , Sr

2) Mike Johnson, Alabama, Sr

3) Mike Petrus, Arkansas, Sr

4a) Jon Asamoah, Illinois, Sr

4b) Rodger Saffold, Indiana, Sr

5a) Vladimir Ducasse, Uconn , Sr

5b) Ciron Black , LSU, Sr

Offensive Tackles

1) Russell Okung, Oklahoma State , Sr

2) Bryan Bulaga, Iowa , Jr

3) Anthony Davis , Rutgers , Jr

4) Trent Williams , Oklahoma , Sr

5a) Charles Brown , USC, Sr

5b) Jason Fox , Miami ( FL), Sr

 

Defense

Defensive Ends

1) Carlos Dunlap, Florida , Jr

2) Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech , Jr

3) Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida , Jr

4a) Jerry Hughes , TCU, Sr

4b) Everson Griffin , USC , Jr

5a) Brandon Graham , Michigan , Sr

5b) Christian Anthony, Grambling State, Sr

Defensive Tackles

1) Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska , Sr

2) Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma , Jr

3) Terrance Cody, Alabama , Sr

4) Jared Odrick, Penn State , Sr

4b) Dan Williams , Tennessee , Sr

5a) Geno Atkins, Georgia, Sr

5b) Lamarr Houston, Texas, Sr

Inside Linebackers

1) Rolando McClain, Alabama, Jr

2) Brandon Spikes, Florida, Sr

3) Sean Lee, Penn State, Sr

4) Pat Angerer, Iowa , Sr

5a) Darryl Sharpton, Miami (FL), Sr

5b) Mike McLaughlin, Boston College, Sr

Outside Linebackers

1) Sergio Kindle , Texas, Sr

2) Sean Weatherspoon , Missouri, Sr

3) Daryl Washington, TCU, Sr

4a) George Selvie, South Florida , Sr

4b) Eric Norwood , South Carolina , Sr

5a) Koa Misi ,Utah, Sr

5b) Junior Galette, Stillman , Sr

Cornerbacks

1) Joe Haden, Florida , Jr

2) Kyle Wilson, Boise State , Sr

3) Perrish Cox , Oklahoma State, Sr

4a) Patrick Robinson , Florida State, Sr

4b) Devin McCourty, Rutgers, Sr

5a) Syd’Quan Thompson, Cal, Sr

5b) Chris Cook, Virginia, Sr

Safeties

1) Eric Berry, Tennessee, Jr

2) Taylor Mays, USC, Sr

3) Earl Thomas, Texas, Sr

4) Myron Rolle, FSU, Sr

5a) Larry Asante, Nebraska, Sr

5b) Chad Jones, LSU, Jr

 

Specialists

Kickers

1)  Aaron Pettrey, Ohio State, Sr

2) Leigh Tiffin, Alabama, Sr

3)  Hunter Lawrence, Texas , Sr

4) Dustin Keys, Virginia Tech, Sr

5a) Josh Aruco, Arkansas State , Sr

5b) Brett Swenson, Michigan State , Sr

Punters

1) Matt Dodge, East Carolina, Sr

2) Brent Bowden, Virginia Tech, Sr

3) Robert Malone, Fresno State, Sr

4) Zoltan Mesko, Michigan, Sr

5a) Jahmal Blanchard, Hampton, Sr

5b) Scott Ravanesi, Southern Illinois, Sr

Returners

1)  Trindon Holliday, LSU, Sr

2) Brandon James, Florida, Sr

3)  Jacoby Ford, Clemson, Sr

4) Javier Arenas, Alabama, Sr

5) Leroy Vann, Florida A&M, Sr

 

 

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)

Let the Flip Flopping Begin: The NFL is waiting for Brett Favre’s Decision Again

Brett Favre’s “Thank You” note to fans on his website has started speculation once again whether he will or will not retire

Immediately after the Minnesota Vikings’ disappointing Championship Round loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion, New Orleans Saints, everyone wanted to know what was Vikings quarterback Brett Favre’s decision on the 2010 NFL Season. 

Even after throwing another heartbreaking interception to end another season –  Favre the last 3 seasons while playing for the Packers, NY Jets, and Vikings has ended his year by throwing an interception  – the graybeard wanted to focus more on the fun that he had competing against the Saints with the youngster Vikings.  However it now looks like another offseason and another flip-flopping affair for the “John Wayne” of quarterbacks. 

As only he could do, Favre left a thank-you note to his fans on his official Web site, acknowledging their support during his 19th season. Of course there was no exact indication of his future plans.  There were only vague statements like, “Regardless of what the future holds, I want everyone to know that I will cherish the memories of the past year for the rest of my life”.  You could tell from Favre’s message that retirement may have been on his mind again.  But like the last three offseasons, it will be see you in the spring or summer for any decision. 

The Vikings have said, via GM Rick Spielman, that they will allow Favre to take his time to decide.  “I think you go ahead and let Brett decide what he wants to do,” Spielman said. “I know the organization, from our ownership, from our coaches and I think from our fans out there, we’d love to have Brett Favre back for another year and see if we can make another run at this.” And who could blame the Vikings for leaving the ball in Favre’s court. 

The 2009 NFL Season truly was a bounce-back season for Favre.  There wasn’t even a hint of the worn-down gunslinger from the 2008 season that the New York Jets threw on the scrap heap after Favre threw an NFL-high 22 interceptions with the J-E-T-S losing down the stretch to miss the playoffs. 

The 3-time NFL MVP looked like a legitimate candidate for a fourth honor as he led the Vikings to a 12-4 regular season record (second seed in the NFC) and Minnesota won the NFC North title plus came within a 31-28 overtime loss of making the Super Bowl. 

Individually, Favre arguably had his best season statistically in his 19-year NFL career.  He completed 68.4% of his passes for 4202 yards, 33 touchdowns, a career-low 7 interceptions, and a 107.2 passer rating.  Those numbers were good enough for Favre to make his 11th Pro Bowl, though he took a pass on the actual game as he recovered from the battering that the Saints delivered to him in the playoffs. 

Even though I made a pact a couple of offseasons ago that I would not try to predict what Brett Favre would do.  In this “one” circumstance, I will try to read the tea leaves surrounding this surefire Hall of Famer.  Despite Favre taking a vicious beating at the hands of the Saints in the NFC Championship Game, I still believe that he still has the competitive fire to play. 

The Vikings were a drastically improved team last season and should be considered Super Bowl contenders again in 2010.  Plus the team rallied around Favre all season as he made players around him like receiver Greg Lewis better — remember his game-winning catch against the Niners in Week 3.  There also is the little matter of the 40-year old having one-year remaining on his two-year contract with a base 2010 salary of $13 million dollars.

The key to me will be how long the Vikings are willing to wait for an answer.  You have to wonder if they will want to know by the 2010 NFL Draft — scheduled from April 22-24 – because that’s when teams map out their future direction.  The real fun will be, if Favre does indeed finally retire and sticks to it (doubt it).  The Vikings would then have to look to either make a trade (current Eagles QB’s Donovan McNabb or Michael Vick prime targets) or turn over the reins to one of their inconsistent backups, Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels.

Anyway stay tuned for the next installment of “As the Favre Turns”, because this melodrama is not going away anytime soon. 

 

 

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)

Super Bowl XLIV Review: The Cinderella Saints win their first championship by Lloyd Vance

The 2009 NFL Season culminated with the formerly hard luck New Orleans hoisting their first Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl XLIV

From beginning to end the NFL’s 90th season titled “Own the Moment” seemed destined to have a climatic ending and Super Bowl XLIV followed that same pattern.  Somewhere pigs have got to be flying as the New Orleans Saints (16-3), formerly known as the “Aints”, put a big bow on the 2009 NFL Season with a remarkable 31-17 win over the heavily favored Indianapolis Colts (16-3) to bring home New Orleans’ first Super Bowl title..

In the “Year of the Quarterback”, Saints quarterback Drew Brees (32-39, 288 yards, 2  TDs, 0 Ints, and a 114.5 passer rating) willed his team to football’s ultimate prize by being cool and calm in the pocket.  Brees tied a Super Bowl record with 32 completions, the last a 2-yard slant to TE Jeremy Shockey for the winning points with 5:42 remaining. New Orleans became the just the second team to overcome a 10-point deficit to win the Super Bowl and in true storybook fashion, Brees was named the MVP of the game. 

Yes, the glass slipper fit Cinderella’s foot as Saints’ fans, who once wore paper bags over their heads in the early ‘90s, congregated in the French Quarter to celebrate.  The win brought overwhelming pride to a region that is still pulling itself together from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  But before the final brush strokes are finished on the 2009 NFL Season and New Orleans miraculous tale is told over and over again, Super Bowl XLIV must be rehashed.

In the most watched television show ever — 105.97 million viewers (most since the MASH finale in 1983 — young head coach Sean Payton’s team reached the mountain top by displaying “guts”.  After a slow first quarter in which the Colts powered by quarterback Peyton Manning (31-45, 333 yards, 1 TD, and one costly interception) appeared ready to run away with the game including a 96-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter tied the 1985 Bears (Super Bowl XX) for the longest in Super Bowl history. 

However the Saints showed gumption late in the second half and never looked back.  The Saints could have folded after failing to score deep in Colts territory on a 4th and goal play.  But Payton and Brees put their disappoint aside by leading the Saints on a long half ending drive that ended with Garrett Hartley’s 44-yard field goal.

Hartley’s field goal left the score at halftime at 10-6 in favor of the Colts and everyone anticipated that once “The Who” finished their halftime set, that Manning and the Colts would close the door on the Cinderella Saints.  But a play that will forever live in Super Bowl lore changed the course of this game.  With the Colts offense that quickly piled up 10 points in a dominant 1st quarter ready to get back on the field, Payton thumbed his nose at conventional wisdom. 

Payton gambled with an onside kick to open the second half. After Colts backup receiver Hank Baskett bobbled the ball and the biggest scrum to end all scrums, the Saints changed destiny by recovering the onside kick.  With that one play, momentum forever swung in the Saints favor.  Just six plays later, Saints RB Pierre Thomas slammed into the endzone to give the Saints a 13-10 lead.

During the span from the end of the 2nd quarter to Thomas’ score, the Saints held the ball for 26 straight plays and kept the Colts’ high-powered offense off the field for over 70 minutes including halftime.  During this timeframe, the Colts offense got cold and their defense became tired.  The biggest loss was that the miraculous return of feared Colts DE Dwight Freeney from a much-reported about ankle injury was basically over after halftime.  But the Colts, who have won an NFL record 12 games for 7 consecutive seasons, did not gently go into the night as Manning still had some fight left in him.

The 4-time NFL MVP responded by leading his team on a 10-play, 76 yard drive that ended with Colts RB Joseph Addai scoring on a tough 4-yard run as the Colts looked be back in control 17-13.  But the Colts’ fortunes after Addai’s score were all downhill from there.  First, NFC Championship game hero Hartley connected on his Super Bowl record 3rd field goal of 40 yards of more from a distance of 47 yards to cut the score to 17-16. 

Then the Colts thought that their ancient kicker Matt Stover could equal the youngster, but the 42-year old veteran wasn’t even close as he missed a 51-yard field goal attempt.  With Brees finding his rhythm, the Saints took advantage of the short field that Colts head  coach Jim Caldwell had handed them.  New Orleans marched 59 yards to regain a 23-17 lead on Shockey’s catch in traffic.

But Payton, who was hot all night, had one last gamble in his pocket.  The former Bill Parcels disciple seized the day by going for a two-point conversion to give the Saints a 7-point lead.  Another play, that many would point to later as one of the biggest plays of the game, Brees found receiver Lance Moore near the front corner of the endzone.  Initially, the play was ruled incomplete, but upon review it emerged that Moore had possession of the ball and extended it over the goal-line before a Colts’ player knocked it out of his hands.

But before the Gulf Region could celebrate their improbable victory, Manning wasn’t not finished with the team he grew-up rooting for.  Manning mixing the pass and the run led the Colts to New Orleans’ 31-yard line and it looked like overtime was soon in the offing.  But destiny as shown by some earlier successful plays was on the Saints side this night. 

New Orleans Saints cornerback Tracey Porter, who had picked off Vikings QB Brett Favre to end the NFC Championship Game, perfectly timed and read a Manning pass intended from receiver Reggie Wayne.  The former University of Indiana star stepped in front of Manning’s pass and raced 74 yards for a touchdown with 3:12 remaining in the game that basically ended 43 years of frustration for the formerly downtrodden Saints.  Not even a desperation drive by Manning in the game’s closing minutes that ended on a 4th down stop in the endzone could spoil the Saints party as Super Bowl Champions.

It was a storybook ending that no one saw coming when the 2009 NFL Season started.  But the New Orleans Saints –only 10 winning seasons since 1967 – could finally call themselves a Super Bowl champion by hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.  “There’s a lot of grit, a lot of determination in this team,” Payton said. “We fought so hard, and this is what makes us uniquely different.”

In true unbelievable fashion, the Saints, who lost their final three regular-season games, are the first team to take a three-game losing streak into the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. Enjoy your championship “Who Dat” nation, your classy organization deserves it as your team was rewarded for 43 years of fighting to establish themselves from a one-time expansion team. 

Definitely congratulations are in order to the entire Saints’ organization including  their players, coaches, front office, and staff.  Special kudos must also go to the architects of this team, head coach Sean Payton, GM Mickey Loomis and owner Tom Benson.  Your team did the NFL proud by winning with persistence, grit, determination and a little magic.

“You don’t take it for granted, these moments,” Payton said. “You want to slow it down and for our players, everyone else, our coaches, you just want to put it on rewind a little bit. It’s special, obviously.” 

Lloyd’s Leftovers

  • I thought the pre-game performances by Queen Latifah (sang America the Beautiful) and Carrie Underwood (national anthem) were solid.  The only disappoint may have been that Underwood had trouble with the last note.
  • Everyone always wants to know the commercials that I liked and didn’t like. I just found it amazing that in our tough economy, about 28 advertisers paid over $3 million per 30-second spot. My number one has to be the “Doritos: Put it Back” ad (I like that a kid is willing to protect his Mom and his snacks) followed closely by the Snickers “Betty White” spot. Some stinkers I thought were the Super Bowl shuffle commercial reprise with the ancient 1985 Chicago Bears and the unneeded Tim Tebow and his Mom political spot.
  • The 14 minutes of 1960’s icons “The Who” at halftime was more than enough and can they please get some next year that is not ready for social security – my vote is for the Foo Fighters. If anything, I would have rather watched more of Bill Cowher’s  informative interview with jailed former New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress.

Now that Super Bowl XLIV is over, I can take a quick break.  Like most people, my NFL season ends with the Super Bowl.  But the NFL Combine (later in February into March) and the NFL Draft (in April, with the St. Louis Rams currently on the clock) will be he before we know it.

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).