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)

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)

2008 NFL Draft Review

photo by David Kindervater

(Photo by David Kindervater)

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

(Philadelphia, Pa) — Now that the biggest “non on the field” NFL event is done for this year and 252 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 2008 NFL Draft definitely had a ton of buzz, hype, and excitement as Radio City Music Hall was electric when the event kicked off at 3 PM on Saturday – BTW: Loved the later start time.  The later start time and new format seemed to invigorate the teams to move swifter as on Day 1 the first round took only 3 hours, 30 minutes, which was almost half the time of last year’s draft (6 hours, 8 minutes) and almost equaled the record of the 1990 draft (3 hours, 24 minutes).

This year’s event seemed to be the NFL’s biggest production outside of the Super Bowl as over 450 media members — not including the gaggle of ESPN and NFL Network personnel — covered the event including an impressive 13 of the top 20 newspapers were represented along with television outlets (ABC News, CBS News and CNN), international media (England and Japan), and non-sports media (Forbes, the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal).

Overall, the event was timely on both days and teams seemed willing to listen to all offers before making their selection(s) easily within the allotted time (1st Rd – 10 Minutes, 2nd Rd – 7 Minutes, and Round 3 – 7 was 5 Minutes).   The NFL got the invited list of players right as no one went fishing rather than attending and all six invited players (Jake Long – Dolphins, Chris Long – Rams, Matt Ryan – Falcons, Glenn Dorsey – Chiefs, and Vernon Gholston – Jets) were able to leave the “Green Room” without enduring the Aaron Rodgers treatment.  The 2008 NFL Draft class may not have had the high-profile flash of the 2006 group (Matinee Superstars including Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, Vince Young, and many others), but this year’s class is definitely a solid group especially at Offensive Tackle (8 selected in first round) and Cornerback (30 players selected overall). 

Tidbits from this year’s draft included:

Big Conferences Reign Supreme – NFL teams are looking for successful players from big conferences in the draft, because players are being taught pro techniques at these college and universities. A little over 70% of the players selected were from the 6 BCS Conferences. The SEC and PAC 10 had the most players drafted overall with 34, followed by the ACC (33), Big 12 (29), Big Ten (28), Big East (19), Conference USA (11), Mid-American (9), Western Athletic (8), and Mountain West (7).

USC had too much talent not to win it all in ’07, right?? – For the entire 2007 college football season analysts talked of the enormous amount of talent on the USC Trojans’ squad, but the group underachieved settling for an 11-2 record and a dominating Rose Bowl win.  Well the Trojans did bring home the title of most players selected with 10 players including first rounders DT Sedrick Ellis (selected by Saints), LB Keith Rivers (selected by Bengals), OT Sam Baker (selected by Falcons), and DE Lawrence Jackson (selected by Seahawks) .  The talent laden Virginia Tech Hokies had eight players selected and 2007 BCS Champion LSU had six players selected.  Surprisingly FCS level Champion Appalachian State had two players selected, which was more than traditional college football powers Maryland (1); Syracuse, Stanford, Washington, and Alabama (all had no selections).

The “Slash” Effect – It is hard to believe, but it has been over 13 years since Steelers 2nd Round Draftee QB Kordell Stewart became “Slash” in 1995 as a multiple threat – multi position player in Chan Gailey’s Super Bowl Bound Pittsburgh offense. Teams have since tried to find the next “Slash” with Developmental quarterback types.  This year not surprisingly the Steelers, who drafted college quarterbacks Stewart, Antwaan Randle El, and Hines Ward in the past, may have found their next Slash with the selection of Oregon Dual-Threat quarterback Dennis Dixon in the 5th round.

Rookies Better Watch Their Pockets – With rookie guaranteed money reaching $30 Million dollars (Jake Long got from the Dolphins a 5-year, 57.75 Million Deal w/ 30 Million guaranteed), a rookie salary cap is in Commissioner Roger Goodell’s vocabulary.  The Commish said in a recent interview, “I’m a big fan of the rookie salary cap also. 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.”

No Receivers Taken in First Round, but They Made a Comeback – After not having a receiver selected in the first round, this group proved it had good depth with 35 receivers taken in the draft, proving that the NFL is a “passing” league.  Surprisingly speedy, unheralded Donnie Avery of Houston was selected by the Rams before Devin Thomas (Redskins – 2nd Rd), James Hardy (Bills – 2nd Rd), DeSean Jackson (Eagles – 2nd Rd, Malcolm Kelly (Redskins – 4th Rd) and others.  The rest of the positional breakdown goes as follows:  CB (30), RB (27), DE (24), OT (23), LB (22), DT (18), and QB (13).

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 in the 2008 Draft. The teams that did well seemed to follow a blueprint that I believe has worked in the past for teams like recent Super Champs New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, and the New York Giants:

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

Remember no “blueprint” is bulletproof, so regardless of how much homework is done before the draft, most talent evaluator’s will have just as many Charles Rogers, Freddie Mitchell, Mike Mamula, Akilli Smith, and Tim Couch (All High 1st Round Busts) type picks on their resume as Tom Brady, Terrell Davis, and Seth Joyner (All late round finds) type picks. The draft process is a roll of the dice, but the aforementioned group always seems to do just a little bit better than others.

WINNERS

Dallas Cowboys – Many people have called GM/Owner Jerry Jones a “meddler” in the past, but the deep-pocketed owner and his staff had a pretty good draft.  On Day 1 they grabbed homerun threat running back Felix Jones from Arkansas (1st Rd), South Florida cover corner Mike Jenkins (1st Rd) and athletic former basketball player TE Martellus Bennett in the second round.  Then the ‘Boys draft staff grabbed sleeper running back Georgia Tech Tashard Choice (4th) and Boise State heady cornerback Orlando Scandrick plus jettisoned Parcells’ players Anthony Fassano and Akin Ayodele.

Miami Dolphins – Made sure that No. 1 player Jake Long was signed, sealed, and delivered instead of being a training camp holding out. Got their quarterback of the future in Jake Long’s teammate quarterback Chad Henne and Clemson defensive end Phillip Merling in the 2nd Round. They also traded RB Lorenzo Booker to the Eagles for a fourth round pick, and grabbed Parcells favorites former Cowboys LB Akin Ayodele and TE Anthony Fassano (for only a 4th round pick) all in Day 1. They were also frugal in Day 2 grabbing Hampton DT Kendall Langford (3rd Rd) and Toledo RB Jalen Parmele (6th Rd).  Also look for a deal by training camp moving disgruntled DE Jason Taylor elsewhere — There were rumblings that the Jaguars were after him, but nothing happened…Maybe the Eagles will be interested.

Kansas CityAn unbelievable draft for a GM (Carl Peterson) and Head Coach (Herman Edwards) on the hot seat.  On Day 1 they selected three guys with first round grades in DT Glenn Dorsey, OT Branden Albert, and CB Brandon Flowers.  With nine picks on Day 2, they grabbed other big school blue chippers Texas RB Jamaal Charles (3rd Rd), Tennessee big TE Brad Cottam (3rd Rd), North Carolina State DB DaJuan Morgan (3rd Rd), Missouri WR Will Franklin (4th Rd) and small school top prospect from Grand Valley State CB Brandon Carr.

Pittsburgh Steelers – The “blue collar” tough team followed their philosophy by grabbing big school performers Illinois workhorse running back Rashard Mendenhall (1st Rd), Texas receiver Limas Sweed (2nd Rd), future 3-4 pass rusher UCLA’s Bruce Davis (3rd Rd), big Texas offensive tackle Tony Hill (4th Rd) and almost heisman winner Oregon QB Dennis Dixon (5th Rd).  Look for Mendenhall to make the Cowboys, Panthers, and Raiders think twice on passing him up for other backs.  I also cannot wait to see the trick plays they will use with Dixon.

Patriots – Everyone wanted to talk about their aging linebackers and leaky secondary going into the draft, so it was only natural that Belichick’s boys responded.  Led by draft phenom VP of Personnel Scott Pioli, the Patriots grabbed three linebackers (Tennessee’s Jerrod Mayo in the 1st Rd, Michigan’s Shawn Crable in the 3rd Rd, and Nebraska’s Bo Ruud in the 6th Rd) and two cornerbacks (Colorado’s Terrence Wheatley in the 2nd Rd and Auburn’s Jonathan Wilhite in the 4th Rd).  Plus they grabbed developmental quarterback type San Diego State’s Kevin O’Connell (3rd Rd) and their own “David Tyree” clone in UCLA special teamer Matthew Slater (5th Rd).

Colts – Their draft started at the 2007 NFL Draft when they moved up to grab rookie of the year candidate Offensive Tackle Tony Ugoh.  The move to grab Ugoh caused them not to have a first rounder, but GM Bill Polian and Head Coach Tony Dungy went to work.  They grabbed athletic versatile Arizona State O-lineman Mike Pollak (2nd Rd), Georgia Tech OLB Phillip Wheeler (3rd Rd), Georgia pass rushing OLB Marcus Howard (5th Rd), and I love the selection of tough football player all-time Michigan rusher RB Mike Hart in the 6th round.

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

Houston Texans – The Texans appeared to make the biggest reach of the first round as they grabbed Virginia Tech Offensive Tackle Duane Brown after all of the glamour tackles were gone – There were a record 8 offensive tackles taken in the first round.  I did like the long-armed athletic tackle a lot, but he clearly was a 2nd or 3rd round player at best. The Texans didn’t pick again until the third round when GM Rick Smith recovered by taking solid players West Virginia RB/KR Steve Slaton and Eastern Kentucky CB Antwaun Molden. They also added special teams linebacker Virginia Tech’s Xavier Adibi in the fourth round.

Seattle Seahawks – If I did give out letter grades, the Hawks would need a special note to their parents.  After taking over the draft reins from Head Coach Mike Holmgren, I expected more from GM Tim Ruskell.  The Seahawks reached badly for USC DE Lawrence Jackson in the first and then selected unathletic Notre Dame TE John Carlson in the second round.  Both players are projects in my opinion and they will need time to develop.  Also wasted picks on potential undrafted free agent specialists long snapper Tyler Schmitt from San Diego State (6th Rd) and kicker Brandon Coutu from Georgia (7th Rd).  However I will give the Seahawks props for taking Mohawk wearing bad-ass fullback Owen Schmitt from West Virginia (5th Rd).

Atlanta Falcons – Sure they got the new face of their franchise in golden boy quarterback Boston College Matt Ryan (3rd Overall).  But they reached badly for bad senior year USC offensive tackle Sam Baker (21st Overall) and smallish Oklahoma MLB Curtis Lofton (2nd). On Day 2 even Mel Kiper couldn’t’ even tell you a little about most of their group. However the one player in the second half of their draft I did like Louisville receiver Harry Douglas, who is good in the redzone.

Detroit Lions – The “Millen” Man March to fire beleaguered GM Matt Millen just got bigger as the Lions seemed to have nary a plan in the draft.  After passing on the chance to move up to draft Virginia OG/OT Branden Albert, the Lions reached for right tackle candidate Gosder Cherilus.  I don’t see Cherilus being ready to play anytime soon.  They also reached for Colorado MLB Jordan Dizon too soon in the second and got too catch up in Central Florida running back Kevin Smith’s numbers from college by selecting him with the first pick of Day 2.  Smith should be a good contributor, but I don’t think he is a future game-breaker nor was he the 64th best player in the draft.  Also what are you doing with disgruntled receiver Roy Williams. The Lions did do something right by exciting the crowd by selecting Army S Caleb Campbell in the 7th (see Lloyd’s Leftovers).

Baltimore Ravens – I thought they did a good overall job, but trading up to grab Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco with the 18th pick was too much — Ravens dealt the first-round choice they received from the Jags (26) along with the 89th overall selection and a sixth-rounder to Houston for the No. 18 pick.  GM Ozzie Newsome rebounded nicely taking Rutgers RB Ray Rice, (2nd Rd), LB Tavares Gooden (3rd Rd), Notre Dame Safety Tom Zbikowski (3rd Rd) and UTEP OG Oneil Cousins (3rd Rd).

Cleveland Browns – All of Phil Savage’s wheeling and dealing left the Browns with only five picks and none until the fourth round.  They do have DT Shawn Rogers (Lions) and DT Corey Williams (Packers) to show for it, but they needed more.  However I did like the pick of athletic Missouri tight end Martin Rucker (4th Rd).

Tennessee Only one receiver, c’mon doesn’t V.Y deserve more than Cal’s Lavelle Hawkins in the 5th Rd.  And did they really need speedy East Carolina running back Chris Johnson in the first round when they already had Chris Henry on their roster.

Players Not Selected

Every year thousands of players are left heartbroken as “Mr. Irrelevant” (2008’s version was Idaho LB David Vobora picked 252nd by the St. Louis Rams) 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 2008 undrafted players to keep an eye on in training camp are

  • My ultimate sleeper for the 2008 NFL Draft Georgia Southern jack-of-all-trades QB/KR/WR Jayson Foster (Signed w/ Dolphins)
  • Maryland junior eligible linebacker Erin Henderson (signed w/ Vikings and will play with his brother EJ)
  • Houston receiver Anthony Aldridge (signed w/ Broncos)
  • Chaldron State record-setting RB Danny Woodhead (signed w/ Jets)
  • Wes Welker clone Texas Tech receiver Danny Amendola (signed w/ Cowboys)
  • Speedy Stillman CB Brian Witherspoon (signed w/ Jaguars)

 

Lloyd’s Leftovers:

  • File Your Papers – In a move that signaled “Please turn in your retirement papers”, the Packers drafted second rated quarterback on my board Brian Brohm to be Aaron Rodgers backup.  I know Brett Favre, who surprisingly is on the ’09 Madden cover, wants to leave the door up, but Packers GM Ted Thompson slammed it shut.  The Packers also placed Favre on the “Retired” list this week and hopefully the old graybeard gets the hint.  However No. 4 better be careful in retirement as we all know about the Madden jinx.
  • Disgruntled Veterans Stay Put – For all the talk that veteran players, especially disgruntled pass catchers Bengals Chad Johnson (reportedly turned down a first and third round pick from the Redskins), Lions Roy Williams, Cardinals Anquan Boldin and Giants Jeremy Shockey would be moved this weekend there were only two minor deals that netted 4th round picks for the trading teams.  The Raiders gave up on former 2005 first round pick cornerback Fabian Washington sending him to the Ravens for a 4th Rd pick and the Dolphins with an already crowded backfield sent ’07 third round selection running back Lorenzo Booker to the Eagles for a fourth rounder too.  So I guess Dolphins DE Jason Taylor, Eagles CB Lito Sheppard, 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.
  • Hey Roger, Where was the Big Public Scolding of the Patriots for Spygate – With a deal in place for Patriots alleged former tape man Matt Walsh to tell all to the NFL on May 13th.  Where was the big announcement/scolding to the world about how the Patriots organization forfeited their first round pick at #31 for “spygate”.    I guess the NFL wants this whole situation to go away, but I don’t think some fans — many of them at Radio City yelled “Cheaters” when the Pats picked — or Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter will let them.
  • Look Out Dallas Gentleman’s Clubs – From the “Take Him, Because We Don’t Want Him” book, the NFL formally approved Tennessee’s trade of suspended cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. Dallas gave the Titans a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft and a sixth-rounder next year – To no one’s surprise the Cowboys have a clause that states they would get back a fourth-rounder in 2009 if Pacman isn’t reinstated or a fifth-rounder if he returns then gets punished again.  Now let’s see if heavy-handed Commissioner Roger Goodell lets him back before training camp or ever.  I won’t even discuss how Pacman and former Hampton “character” issue/recently signed undrafted free agent DE/OLB Marcus Dixon need to stay away from the 58 strip clubs in the Dallas/Forth Worth area.
  • Lions Get a Soldier – The biggest star of a rather quiet and uneventful second day of the draft was Army SS Caleb Campbell.  With the crowd chanting “Ca-leb Camp-bell!” and “U-S-A!” over and over as the humble Army cadet got a step closer to having his dream of playing in the NFL filled when he was selected by the Lions in the 7th Rd — He also will not have to go to Iraq as well. Campbell will be the first Army football player to benefit from a new policy allowing athletes with a chance to play professionally to complete their service by serving as recruiters and in the reserves. Campbell said “I’m very fortunate,” “Without the Army and the academy … I wouldn’t be able to do this. BTW: The last Army cadet to be drafted was quarterback Ronnie McAda drafted as Mr. Irrelevant by the Green Packers in 1997.
  • What No Quarterback?? – Incredibly quarterback strapped teams the Bears, Chiefs, Lions, and Panthers did not select one.  Maybe they can get one from the quarterback laden Buccaneers (selected San Diego University’s Josh Johnson in the 5th Rd despite having five other quarterbacks on their roster) or Packers (Selected Louisville’s Brian Brohm in the 4th Rd and LSU’s Matt Flynn in the 7th Rd to keep Brett Favre stand-in Aaron Rodgers company)
  • A Brief Look at the ’09 Draft – It is never to early for some research for the 2009 NFL Draft including: Ohio State quartet CB Malcolm Jenkins, RB Beanie Wells, LB Jim “the Animal” Laurinaitis, and offensive tackle Alex Boone; LSU pass rusher Tyson Jackson, Virginia Tech DB Victor Harris, West Virginia speedster quarterback QB Pat White, and my ultimate sleeper Virginia Union quarterback Lamar Little.  But we have 11+ months to bring you information and draft news about these guys.

That is it for 2008 Draft and may all the teams be enriched going into the 2008 season. You can check out my first round pick by pick analysis at http://www.emqb.com/nfl-draft-2008-first-round-recap/#more-1645.

2008 Philadelphia Eagles All Inclusive NFL Draft Preview (Part 2)

By Lloyd Vance, BIGPLAY Football, Senior NFL Writer and Draft Analyst

Offensive Roster Overview

 QB – It was an up and down season for Donovan McNabb much like the overall franchise.  Coming back from his third season ending injury was tough as McNabb attacked his rehab and was able to be on the field from the start of training camp.  But other than the Detroit game he was slow coming out of the gate.  After a justifiable rounding back into form period, McNabb returned from an ankle injury amidst fan calls for Kevin Kolb to finish strong going 3-1 in his last four games.  In those games his numbers (96-147, 995 yards, 65%, 6 TDs, 1 INT, 96.2 QB rating with an additional 101 yards rushing) were definitely close to his usual Pro Bowl form.   With McNabb entering his 10th season, which is hard to believe some may be ready to push him out the door, but I am not ready.  If McNabb gets the weapons he has so cherished, the he has a good chance of ending his career in Philadelphia.  However with the team selecting Kevin Kolb with their first selection in ’07, you know the veteran quarterback will be looking over his shoulder.  Right now I say let’s take it year to year until either the Eagles or McNabb say they don’t want the relationship.  As for the backup quarterback position the Eagles have a situation, which most teams like to have.  Veteran AJ Feely understands his role as the distinct number two guy and he is capable of moving the team as shown in the Patriots game.  I think after Feeley’s performance against the Patriots and Seahawks the legions of “AJ needs to be a starter” backers now understand that the former Oregon quarterback is best served being a backup.  In the 2007 draft the Eagles finally brought in the “quarterback of the future” with the selection Kevin Kolb.  The drafting of the promising quarterback didn’t come without waves as to the surprise of Eagles Nation they traded their first rounder to the rival Cowboys and grabbed the former University of Houston gunslinger with a high second round pick    Grabbing a developmental quarterback was needed, but the question is “Were there more pressing needs?”  As we know from drafting players like Bobbie Williams and Freddie Mitchell, there is no going back so now it is time to just see what the kid can do.  Kolb has a live arm, good mobility, and a swagger about him that I like (reminds me of a young Mark Brunnell).  It will be interesting to see how he takes to watching McNabb at the controls.  But he should come to camp ready to contribute, because you never know when injuries will happen.  Right only have three quarterbacks on the roster, but the team will probably add an undrafted free agent type to help out in mini-camp.

RB – Brian Westbrook showed that when given the opportunity, he is one of the best backs in the NFL.  The mercurial back broke the Eagles record for combine receiving and rushing yards with 2104 yards plus he had over 1,200 yards rushing and 90 catches (those are LT type numbers).  The season was truly one for the books as Westbrook was selected to the Pro Bowl for the time.  Plus let’s not forget B-West’s incredible season highlight play versus the hated Cowboys of laying down right before crossing the goal line thus forgoing a touchdown in order to cement a road win for the Birds.  However there are some questions around the Eagles number one offensive threat that will need to be worked out.  His contract situation is tenuous as Westbrook is not happy with his current contract (In 2007 made 2 Million from the contract extension that he signed in 2005 that included a 12 Million dollar signing bonus.  His ’07 salary ranked him 20th behind players like DeShaun Foster and LaMont Jordan) and there is talk that a holdout maybe in the works – I don’t see the classy back going that route.  With Westbrook at 28 years of age and nearing the magical age of 30, you have to wonder if the Eagles brass will entertain thoughts of paying him after seeing how the play of running backs like Shaun Alexander dropped off after signing extensions close age thirty.  Hopefully B-West, his agent Fletcher Smith and the Eagles can work out an extension to put the talented multi-purpose threat in the neighborhood of at least Houston Texans running back Ahmad Green (four-year, $23 million contract that includes between $6 million-$7 million). Behind Westbrook, veteran Correll Buckhalter has been steady and I think more carries (only had 62 in 2007) are needed for him.  Entering his eighth season with the Eagles, Buckhalter has overcome past knee troubles to provide a good compliment to Westbrook.  He ran for 313 yards and 4 TDs while averaging a hearty 5.0 ypc in ’07.  But same as Westbrook, Buck is close to thirty (will be 30 in October) so a backup plan is needed.  Last April after the draft I thought the Eagles had finally solved their need for a physical running back with the selection of Penn State star Tony Hunt in the 3rd round.  Unfortunately the former Big Ten prospect’s play was spotty leading to several Sundays on the inactive list.  Many have said Hunt landed in the doghouse due to missed blocking assignments, but after only 10 carries I am not ready to give up on him.  Hunt needs to come to camp ready to work and prove he was worth his selection.  Also in the mix is former 3rd round selection in 2005 Ryan Moats, who looked destined to be somewhere else before badly breaking his ankle in preseason.  As stated earlier with the great depth in this year’s draft class look for a running back to be selected by Eagles and hopefully he will have some kick return skills.  The FB starter in 2007 was Thomas Tapeh and he left via free agency leaving an opportunity for someone else.  I think the Eagles thinking in signing Dan Klecko to replace Tapeh was that they wanted a more physical blocker in the backfield.  The interesting thing about the whole situation is that no one knows how the former D-lineman will pick up the intricacies of playing fullback in the NFL.  Jason Davis, who has hung around in training camp and on the practice squad is also on the roster.  Look for another player to be added to push Davis and contribute on special teams.

WR – We have heard it time and time again, “We are okay with our receivers”.  Everyone please relax, because you and I both know this coach speak.  This is why this unit fills more sports talk radio show hours in Philadelphia than anything.  This is due to a need for a playmaking target that can come through in the clutch. I know the last few Super Bowl champions other than Marvin Harrison and Colts have not had that all-world receiver that everyone is clamoring to obtain, but this unit needs more playmakers as Donovan McNabb said earlier this off-season.  I am not saying that the Eagles have to have a prima donna player like the guy whose initials we dare not say — T.O.  But when you look at this group’s difficulty in scoring especially in the redzone, changes need to made.   A good building block is already in place with ’07 addition Kevin Curtis.  The former Rams receiver came to the Eagles ready to work and he produced (77 catches for 1110 yards, 14.4 yards per catch, and 6 TDs plus 2 fumble recovery touchdowns). But evaluators I have talked to seem to have come to a consensus that with his size (5’11, 190) that maybe his best work could be done in the slot.  Entering his fourth year receiver Reggie Brown had a “career year” in 2007 according to Andy Reid.  But I believe that many people don’t agree with that assessment.  Sure Brown’s number of catches rose to career high of sixty-one, but his yards fell from 816 to 780, his touchdowns also fell (8 to 4) and did you see the whopping almost five yard drop-off (17.7 to 12.8 ) in the former second rounder’s yards per catch.  In order for the Eagles to compete with scoring teams like the Cowboys more is needed.  After Curtis and Brown there is an array of players that are in the league, but could they make the Colts roster?  Baskett (Big target entering 3rd year with the team, but looks like specials player), Avant (former ’06 fourth round pick is strong in the slot, but does he have the speed), and Greg Lewis (Been on the team since 2003 and always shows up versus the Patriots, but where is he the rest of the time). The aforementioned Bam Childress and special teams ace Mike Gasperson will compete in camp to see who can make a contribution like the Giants Super Bowl hero David Tyree.  Other WR’s Jamal Jones, Bill Sampy are just guys on the team for training camp.  Look for two players in the draft to add depth to this group.  The biggest need is to find a receiver who can start out on special teams and returning kicks.  There is also talk that five-time Pro Bowl receiver Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Johnson is trying to talk his way out of Cincy and possibly into an Eagles uniform.  As for the legions of receiver starved Philadelphia Eagles fans that think Johnson is the answer, I can only say don’t let history repeat itself and this guy is not for Philly or Head Coach Andy Reid.

TE – The winds of change are definitely blowing around this group going into the ’08 draft.  Starter LJ Smith is back for possibly his last go around after receiving the franchise tag from the team and cashing it in to the tune of a 1-year, $4.5 Million dollar contract (average of Top 5 tight ends salaries in ‘07).  You can’t blame the Eagles for retaining the services of their former second-round pick in 2003, but many fans and media are asking is the often injured player worth it. The fact that Smith struggled through an injury-plagued 2007 campaign where he had 22 receptions for 236 yards and one touchdown in only 10 games (sports hernia) plus the signing of Kris Wilson and the emergence of Brent Celek definitely have put “make or break” expectations on the former Rutgers product.  With an emphasis on a field stretching tight end throughout the NFL especially in the NFC East division — Cowboys perennial Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten, Redskins emerging tight end Chris Cooley, and the Giants combo of Jeremy Shockey and Kevin Boss – all eyes will be on Smith.   A good barometer for Smith could be his 2005 numbers where he had a career-best 61 catches for 682 yards with three touchdowns.  No matter his catch total or yards, Smith needs to be McNabb’s man in the redzone catching touchdowns as the Eagles finished ranked 24th in redzone percentage with a mark of 45% (23 TDs in 51 chances).  Wilson will be a much-welcomed addition as the  twenty-six year-old H-Back type tight end has solid receiving skills and is a willing blocker.  The former University of Pittsburgh player has a second round draft pedigree and is coming off a career high of 24 catches in ’07.  Here’s hoping he learned a lot while working behind Tony Gonzalez (one the best pass catching tight ends ever) and former Eagle Jason Dunn (a devastating blocker).  When I attended training camp at Lehigh last July, everyone was buzzing about #87.  During camp and in preseason Brent Celek a 5th round find in ’07 out of Cincinnati not only looked the part of an NFL veteran, but excelled everyday in practice making one-handed and diving grabs.  In limited time (16 games played with 2 starts), Celek put up modest numbers of 16 catches for 178 yards and one touchdown.  But a pair of 29-yard bullish catch and runs versus the Cowboys and Saints at the end of the season were definitely encouraging.  People around the team expect him to come back stronger and ready to compete for the reps. The tight end that appears to be the odd man out is Matt Schobel.  Since coming over from the Bengals in ’06, Schobel has been solid (11 rec, 108 yards w/ 1 TD in ’07), but he needs to do more to take away reps from the other tight ends. I think the Birds should bring in a TE on Day 2 of the draft.  As shown by last year’s selection of Celek, you can always find a good tight end late in the draft to develop.  I particularly would love for them to bring in a former college basketball player.

OL – This group had a good year, but they were not as cohesive as ’06 when all five guys almost played the entire season together.  Of course when you talk about the Birds O-line it all starts with now two-time Pro Bowl right guard Shawn Andrews.  After getting off to a slow start due to a slow healing high ankle sprain, the “big kid” as he likes to call himself, returned to his dominating form.  Andrews was the only Pro Bowl starter on the Eagles and his leadership and talent is invaluable to this unit.   When you know a big short yardage situation is coming always look for the Birds to right behind Andrews and his tag-team partner RT Jon Runyan.  The tandem was definitely was one of the reasons you saw the Birds become more balanced in 2007 running for 1974 yards with a healthy average of 4.7 ypr (2nd in NFL).  RT Jon Runyan again played at a consistent level and continued his amazing consecutive game streak to 176 games.  Runyan, who continues to be a huge proponent of the run is a solid teammate on and off the field, where he is involved in too many community events to list. With Runyan’s stellar career seeming to be coming to the end (will be 35 in November) the Eagles need to start thinking about his replacement.   The interior of the Birds off-season line starts with big center Jamal Jackson.  In his second season, the former undfrafted free agent out of Delaware State was good, but not as dominant as in ’06.  I heard that there were some missed assignments that led to others having to compensate.  It will be interesting to see if the Eagles bring in another center via the draft or free agency to push the 27-year old pivot, but expect Jackson to comeback strong this year. The LG spot should be the main position of competition on the O-line in the ’08 season.  Todd Herremans is the current the starter, but the former small college offensive tackle sometimes struggled with penalties and inside pressure.  An evaluator that I talked to said the third year guard plays “too high” at times.  Ready to battle Herremans for the potentially open guard spot is former second round pick in 2006 Max Jean-Gilles.  The big former Georgia road grader is easily the Eagles nastiest O-lineman.  The day I was at camp, Jean-Gilles got in the best donnybrook of the Lehigh session battling even without his helmet.  The big lineman (6’4, 355) will need to work on his conditioning going into camp.  LT William Thomas had another solid season to follow-up a dominating performance in 2006.  The only question that surrounds the 33-year old veteran (34 in November) is whether he will continue to play after his contract runs out after 2008.  Thomas has battled through blood clots and a bum should to team with Runyan as a great bookend combination.  However the former 1998 first round pick and safety Brian Dawkins are last two player links to the bygone Ray Rhodes era.  The among the backups third-year player Winston Justice, who will be called upon to spell Runyan and Thomas if needed, but some evaluators are starting to question his high draft grade.  Unfortunately for the former USC Trojan, he was the main victim in a nationally televised demolition by Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora with the Pro Bowl pass-rusher setting a franchise record six sacks.  The personable young offensive tackle has all the skills and size to be a top-flight right tackle, but he will need to step it up in ’08 to silence his critics. The backups that will have fun with the veterans and O-line guru Juan Castille in the Lehigh hot sun include fourth year guard Scott  Young, Nick Cole (Center and sometimes short yardage blocker), and Stefan Rodgers (Developmental Tackle).  Competition and depth will be the key for this unit to cut down on the 49 sacks that they allowed and keeping Brian Westbrook over 1,200 yards rushing in 2008.  Look for the Birds to add at least two O-Linemen through the draft to prepare for a future without their bookend tackles and provide quality depth.

Defensive Roster Overview

DE – This unit definitely had a definitive leader in Pro Bowl player Trent Cole (12.5).  Cole came into his own at a time when the Eagles needed most due to former free agents Jevon Kearse and Darren Howard not showing much for their money (4.5 sacks between the two of  them for a salary cap figure of 12.3 Million).  Though undersized Cole was definitely the best defensive end while playing the run too.  Of the Eagles 37 sacks in 2007 only 22 came from the defensive ends and after Cole that number sinks less than 10 sacks.  The effort of Juqua Parker (formerly Thomas) is good and he produced 5 sacks in a limited role, but I am not sure he is a starter.   This year will be a real test for second-year player Victor Abiamiri as the 2nd round pick from 2007 needs to take a step up.  Abiamiri is expected to be a big two-way end that can play the run and get after the passer.  After watching his former college teammate Justin Tuck terrorize the NFL on the way to a Super Championship with the Giants that should light a fire under Abiamiri.   The team rightfully cutting ties with Kearse after another season where his knee didn’t allow him to perform.  Kearse went back to the Titans after his release leaving everyone to ponder what they thought of his time in Philly.  When you look back on Kearse’s time he never hit double-digits in sacks in his Eagles career and 2004 was definitely the high point for him as the Birds made the Super Bowl.  Training camp will be crucial for underachievers Darren Howard (huge free agent dollars and Jerome McDougle (first rounder that has only 3 sacks in 5 years on the team) as they fight for their spots on the team. I like the addition of Chris Clemons from the Raiders as the light defensive end has a nose for the quarterback and will be a fresh body into the rotation.  Even with the addition of Clemons, this unit will definitely add at least one player in the draft.  Also with the great effort shown by linebacker Chris Gocong while playing defensive end versus the Patriots (1 sack) expect him to be used more rushing the passer as a DE.  Other players that will go to camp are Xzavie Jackson and AJ Schable

DT – For years the Eagles Defensive Tackles have been a point of contention as this unit had problems stopping the run in the past.  However In 2007 this group was nasty as all the teams high draft picks came to play and contribute.  The defensive tackles were stout and were a major reason that the Eagles finished ranked 7th in rushing yards (1533) for the regular season. Mike Patterson a first round selection in 2005 finally showed the quick penetrating style that the Eagles expected from him when they signed him to a huge extension in the 2006 season.  Patterson had a solid season producing 67 tackles and 4 sacks.  The former USC lineman’s effort and value cannot just be shown in his numbers as he teamed with Broderick Bunkley to form one of the young rising defensive tackle tandems in the NFL.  Speaking of Bunkley, after a frustrating rookie year in  green, the muscular stout defensive tackle flashed his first round pedigree.  Bunkley got out of the Birds’ doghouse by coming to work in shape and ready to contribute finishing with 3 sacks plus occupying blockers.  Now that the young guys can be considered veterans, it is time to lead.  Despite a bad penalty against the Dallas Cowboys, Lajuan Ramsey continued to be a solid part of the rotation.  After signing as a free agent, Montae Reagor (2 TKLs, 1 sack) never really seemed to recover from his  health issues.  Reagor was injured from the start of camp in ’07 and the team will definitely be watching him as they have already parted ways with other ’07 free agent defensive tackle Ian Scott.  Jeremy Clark an undrafted free agent in ’07 will also be going to camp looking for a spot.  With veteran Kimo von Oelhoffen leaving, look for the Birds to continue to place an emphasis on stopping the run by bringing in another DT in the draft or as an undrafted free agent.

LB – This unit will have a new coach in Bill Shuhey and there is definitely an expectation for more game changing plays (only 3 sacks and 2 interceptions).  The Eagles believe that they have gotten off to a good by releasing veteran Takeo Spike and moving Omar Gaither to the outside allowing Stewart Bradley to move into the starting lineup at middle linebacker.  I like that the Eagles are getting younger and hopefully the younger legs will make Shuhey and Jim Johnson look good.  Bradley showed his Nebraska pedigree at the end of the season filling in, especially versus the Saints producing 6 TKLS, 1 Sack, and 1 INT.  Now the Eagles expect the tall (6’5) linebacker to use his smarts in leading this unit.  2006 5th round pick Omar Gaither filled in nicely as the Eagles middle linebacker and leading the team in tackles, but the team realized that he is best served playing on the outside.  Gaither will be counted on to fly around the ball and produce more than Spikes (only 1 sack, 0 INTs).  Former 2006 3rd Round pick Chris Gocong made it back to the field after a rookie season lost to injury and seemed to be getting more comfortable as the season went on.  The third year pro, who is still learning, will continue to work on his coverage of tight ends and hopefully the coaching staff will find more chances for the former small college sack leader to get after the passer.  The addition as Rocky Boiman as the extra coverage linebacker and special teams ace should definitely give a shot in the arm to this group.  The former Indianapolis Colt is smart and has a nose for the ball on coverage units. Pago Togafau (Backup MLB, who have to earn his way on special teams.) and Akeem Jordan (Birds like this young former undrafted free agent from 2007) close out this group.  With the NFL being built around hybrid linebackers look for a versatile linebacker to be added in the draft.

CB’s – The defensive secondary will get their old coach back in Sean McDermott after John Harbaugh left for the Ravens and the young coach should have a great time acclimating new free agent Asante Samuel into the Birds system.  Samuel is playmaking cover corner who comes with a winning attitude.  I expect at least 6 interceptions from this year’s number one free agent signing.  The signing of Samuel was welcomed news to everyone, but veteran Lito Sheppard.  The former number one draft choice is being paid much less than Samuel, which has left him unhappy and looking for the Birds to find him a new team.  After missing 14 games over the last two years you cannot blame the Eagles for looking for an upgrade.  Samuel’s new partner Sheldon Brown played in every game, but the Eagles maybe wary of his outspokenness and age (29).  I like Brown’s hard hitting style, but he will never be a high interception guy. The loss of Roderick Hood in 2007 didn’t seem like a big loss but the former Eagle produced 5 interceptions, which was more than any Eagle.  The Eagles tried to replace Hood with Will James, but the former Giant was not up to the task.   James’ struggles opened the door for Joselio Hanson, who after hanging around in the past came in to provide solid nickel coverage.  Nick Graham (training camp surprise), Tanard Davis (very fast player signed from the Panthers practice squad) and Therrian Fontenot round out the group.  The team will definitely be looking to add at least one corner to their Dime, Nickel, and training camp roster.  I would like the Birds to bring in a mid-level player from this year’s talent rich CB group that has return skills.

Safeties – After a season where veteran Brian Dawkins missed a lot of time due to injury (stinger), the Eagles struggled to find consistent play from this group.  Dawkins is predicting a return to his Pro Bowl form, but with the veteran entering his 13th season it maybe tough.  I believe many of Dawkins struggles are due to the fact his partner in the back two Sean Considine also missed time with injuries in ’07.  Considine is an effort player, but he often throws his body in the mix and pays for it.  Quintin Mikelle played well as a fill-in, but he is best a swing player and special teams demon.  Hard-hitting JR Reed was re-signed and hopefully the tough safety will continue playing well on special teams plus adding depth. Marcus Paschal is also on the roster, but he will have to battle any rookie the Birds bring in.  Overall the Eagles safety coverage needs to improve and they need to create more turnovers (only 3 interceptions by safeties).  Unfortunately for the Eagles, they will have to dig for a replacement in the draft as this position is not deep this year.

Specialists – For years this area was manned by John Harbaugh, but the young coach wanted to fulfill a dream of coaching a position and it led to his current position as the Ravens head coach.  Inexperienced Rory Segrest took over and this unit was definitely not as cohesive.  The Eagles struggled with field position, covering kicks, and making field goals.  The usually reliable David Akers was 24 for 32 overall, but you could see at times beyond the forty-yard line his confidence was not great (2 for 10 from beyond 40 including an alarming 1 for 6 between 40 to 49 yards).  With the former Pro Bowl at 34 years of age, it maybe time to look for his eventual replacement.   One of the best stories of the 2007 season was the improving play of former Australian Rules player Saverio Rocca.  The big Aussie produced a 42 yard average and the team seems to have confidence in his ability to improve in 2008.  With the Eagles valuing “ball security” over playmaking ability they have been at the lower end of the return game.  Finding a return specialist is paramount in the draft as continually the Eagles had one of the longest field in the NFL (29.08 yard line for a ranking of 25th) and they have not had a kickoff return (since 2001) or punt return (since 2003) for a touchdown in some time.  The Eagles can longer afford to throw just any player into this position as evidence by the Green Bay loss.  The long snapping is now in the hands of Jon “the Magician” Dorenbos, who filled in well for departed veteran Mike Bartrum.  Look for JR Reed, Sean Considine, Rocky Boiman, Kris Wilson, Dan Klecko, and Quintin Mikelle to be leaders on coverage units.

2008 Draft Notes

The teams that seem to always do well in the draft and in season — Giants, Colts, Steelers, and Patriots usually follow a blueprint that the Eagles should try to follow.

  • Go for Larger School Players (BCS Championship Level Players) in the 1st Two Rounds. In the first three rounds of the 2006 draft, 85% of the players selected were from the six BCS Conferences.
  • Judge the total player (Interview, Practice Habits, All Star Game, Combine, Pro Day, “Character”, and most importantly Game Film)
  • “Football Players” on Day 2 (Look for players that may not have all the measurables or the proverbial “pedigree”, but who have a high football IQ and can provide quality depth while helping on special teams and/or fill needs at multiple positions.
  • Always consider your team’s needs with picks (Use the draft to replenish and build to establish the cornerstone of your team). 

 I have broken down where the Eagles are picking and how I would use their draft picks considering the needs I listed earlier.  However I do not believe that they will not use all 11 of their picks on prospects so be shocked if they trade around especially with the aforementioned Lito Sheppard ready to be moved – hopefully for Birds fans the team’s trades will not be with the hated Cowboys again.  .

 (1st – 19, 2nd – 49, 3rd – 80, 4th – 115, 4th – 131, 5th – 152, 6th – 184, 6th – 191, 6th – 200, 6th – 203, 7th – 230)

1st Round (19) – Jeff Otah, Pittsburgh, OT, 6-6, 340, 5.1

At a spot where all of the top receivers should be on the board, I expect a frenzy like none ever seen in my hometown.  Unfortunately as I have been telling Birds fans on the radio for some time with Head Coach Andy Reid pulling the trigger expect a lineman.  As someone, who may have been a “tad” bit tough on former Eagles draft classes, I can honestly say that I would be okay with the selection of an offensive tackle.  Stalwart bookend tackles Jon Runyan and William Thomas have been stellar for years, but they aren’t getting any younger.  No it will not be popular, but the best value for the Eagles is to wait until the second round to grab a receiver – I also believe that there are very few receivers this year worth a number one pick.  Otah (6’6, 340) reminds me a lot of Colts ’07 rookie sensation Tony Ugoh coming out of college.  The New Castle, Delaware native was an All-Big East Conference first-team selection starting twelve games at left offensive tackle while helping the offense average 141.4 yards rushing. Produced 101 knockdowns and committed only two penalties.  He needs to work on his conditioning, but there is no doubt that he has the ability to be a solid pro.  With O-line guru Juan Castille pushing him look for this big athletic player to push disappointing ’06 pick Winston Justice and add depth to an area that Andy Reid always loves to build up.

2nd Round (49) – Early Doucet, LSU, WR, 6-0, 211, 4.54

By waiting until the second round or later to draft a wide receiver, the Eagles will get the expected value from this year’s receiver group.  The receiver that I like for the Eagles system is Doucet.  Whenever the National Champion LSU Tigers needed a big play this senior answered the call. Much like Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin, Doucet makes plays that move the chains as shown by his 29 first-down catches and 21 receptions for 10 yards or longer including seven for more than 20 yards.  Doucet has the size and strength while also having enough speed to get deep.  At this year’s Senior Bowl, Doucet was by far the best receiver in practices attacking passes with his hands.  Some teams may shy off Doucet due to an injury history including missing games in ’07 due to a groin injury.  But despite the groin injury the former high school quarterback was a second team All-Southeastern Conference pick producing a team-high 57 receptions for 525 yards (9.2 avg) and five touchdowns.  Another important characteristic that Doucet has is his ability to return kicks. We will have to wait and see if he can top his former teammate and last year’s Chiefs sensation Dwayne Bowe (15 starts, 70 receptions for 995 yards and 5 TDs as a rookie in ’06) in terms of production, but he is definite upgrade to the Birds receiving corps. 

3rd Round (80) – Duane Brown, Virginia Tech, OT, 6-5, 310, 4.9

The Eagles need more than one offensive lineman in the draft and I believe a nice Day 2 O-lineman will be Brown.  After coming to Virginia Tech as a tight end, this athletic player converted to left tackle and was dominate.  Some scouts I talked to love his long arms, good feet, and his ability to move (ran a very good sub-5.0 40).  Though he is still raw and learning this potential bookend tackle has everything a coach is looking for in a top-flight O-lineman. He has a good punch coming off the ball, good footwork, and large wingspan. Was All-ACC in ’07 as a left tackle and second team All-ACC in ’06 as a RT.

4th Round (115) – Craig Steltz, LSU, SS, 6-1, 210, 4.59                                

The safety position on the Eagles needs a shot in the arm with Brian Dawkins getting older.  Steltz is another leadership player from the National Champion LSU Tigers.  A tough in the box Strong Safety, who has a nose for the ball.  Took over for first round draft pick Laron Landry in 2007.  Not the athlete that Landry is in coverage, but Steltz is a smart tough football player.  As a senior in ’07, started all fourteen games for the Tigers producing a career-high 101 tackles (64 solos), 1 sack, 5 Tackles for loss, 3 forced fumbles, and 1 fumble recovery.  Led the Tigers and finished third in the SEC with a career-high six interceptions.

 

4th Round (131) – Jermichael Finley, Texas, TE, 6-5, 250, 4.62

The Eagles have been active in the off-season at this position bringing Kris Wilson, but Finley is an intriguing player.  The redshirt sophomore is raw, but he may be the best athlete among this year’s Tight Ends. The big athletic player had 45 receptions for 575 yards and two touchdowns in 2007.  At this point in his career the 21-year old maybe a pass catcher only due to his fluid hands, but he is also a willing blocker.  Since Finley probably needed another year, he is still learning the game but in a couple years from now he has the upside to be a field-stretching tight end in this class.  Did have a great combine running in the 4.8 range, but recently ran a 4.62 at Texas’ Pro Day and I have been told he has put on 14 pounds of muscle moving from 236 to 250. Finished his brief college career with 76 catches for 947 yards receiving and 5 TDs.

 

5th Round (152) – Curtis Johnson, Clark Atlanta, DE/OLB, 6-3, 242

With the Eagles looking for another pass rushing “fastball”, Johnson maybe the right player.  The small school phenom reminds me a lot of former Eagles pass rusher Hugh Douglas coming out of college — HBCU Pass Rusher with people wondering if he can bring the same kind of heat into the NFL.  The All – Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) defensive player of the year is a disruptive force with great up field closing speed.  An excellent athlete with quickness, strength, and power.  Likes to hit and delivers a blow in a forceful manner.  Though he may be a ‘tweener in some books look for Johnson to contribute first on special teams and in pass rushing situation. In 2007, Johnson in 11 games produced 112 tackles, 27 tackles for loss, and 13.5 sacks.   The Division II player held his own nicely against the big boys in the East-West Shrine game and in the All-Star game’s practices. Had 39.5 sacks in his college career.

 

6th Round (184)  – Jacob Hester, LSU, FB, 5-11, 230, 4.63                                                                                           

Hester is a versatile high character running back that played halfback and fullback for the National Champion LSU Tigers.  He led the Tigers in rushing with 1,103 yards on 225 carries (4.9 avg) with twelve touchdowns.  He is the tough leadership type of player that the Eagles need to bring in.  He can do it all out of the backfield (strong inside runner, go hands catching the ball, and a willing blocker).  At the Senior Bowl he showed off his “can do” attitude and ability to play on special teams. Eagles’ fans will love his ability at the goal line where he will not stop until hitting pay dirt.  During his impressive career at LSU the former captain had an impressive string of 310 consecutive rushing attempts without a fumble.  Reminds me of St. Louis Rams combo back Brian Leonard.

 

6th Round (191) – Brian Witherspoon, CB/KR, Stillman College, 5-10 3/8, 178, 4.33

 Everyone knows about Tennessee State’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie after the Senior Bowl, but there is another rising HBCU prospect in Witherspoon.  Would be a much-needed addition as a nickel corner and return man for the Eagles.  One of the fastest players in the ’07 draft is an accomplished sprinter (has run in the 10.3 range in the 100 meters), who was a preseason All-American by d2football.com.  The SIAC player from Stillman — Not Cosby’s Hillman — announced his presence at Alabama’s Pro Day stealing the show from his SEC counterparts. The cover corner is credited with a 4.33 seconds forty, 40-inch vertical, 4.36 seconds in the short shuttle, and a cone drill of 6.86 seconds at Alabama. Witherspoon is a fluid athlete with good change of direction, but it is his speed everyone wants to harness (said to have posted a 4.16 in a workout according to an internet report).  Should contribute right away on special teams and in the return game.

 

6th Round (200) – Joe Fields, FS, Syracuse, 6-0, 205, 4.49                  

Could be a great “find” for the Eagles as a combo safety and special teams contributor.  When Fields entered Syracuse he was supposed to be the next Donovan McNabb at quarterback, but he developed into an NFL worthy free safety playing the position in his final three seasons (25 consecutive starts) for the Orange. The 2007 All-BIG EAST Second Teamer finished the season tied for sixth in The BIG EAST Conference with 97 tackles (53 solo), he also had four interceptions and one fumble recovery.  Fields is a tough senior leadership type player, who will do anything the coach asks of him.  Was the first true freshman quarterback since Todd Norley in 1982 to start the season opener in ’04.  Reminds me of former Houston Texans player and former Nebraska quarterback Jammal Lord. 

 

6th Round (203) – Dennis Dixon, Oregon, QB, 6-2, 185, 4.79                

With the Eagles already having McNabb, Feeley, and Kolb on the roster, I thought this pick would be a good on to use on a developmental quarterback.  There has been talk that Colt Brennan is Andy Reid’s pick to be the developmental candidate, but I like the multi-faceted Dixon better.  Dixon is a tough dual threat leadership type quarterback who reminds me of McNabb coming out of college. Seemed on his way to playing the National Championship game, the Heisman and possibly a high round draft grade when he tore the ACL in his left knee this past December.   The Oregon Senior has attacked his rehab and in talking to his agent, he is ahead of schedule.  Great athlete who also played baseball for the Atlanta Braves organization.  In 2007, the All PAC 10 passer threw for 2,136 yards while completing 67.7% of his passes for 20 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He also ran for 583 yards and nine touchdowns as well. He will need to bulk up his thin frame in the NFL.

 

7th Round (230) – Jayson Foster, Georgia Southern RB/WR/KR, 5-7 1/4, 173, 4.45

Despite his smallish size this mighty mite is explosive, elusive, and speedy.  Foster had a rather eventual college career as three different coaches bounced him around playing quarterback, running back, wide receiver and kick returner.   In 2007, college football’s ultimate utility man stepped under center producing 1,844 yards and passing for 1,203 as a senior, joining the rare 1,000 yards passing and rushing in the same season club. Scored twenty-four total touchdowns plus passed for six more while winning the 2007 Walter Payton award in the FCS Division of college football. The first-team All-Southern Conference player is one of few players in the nation who has run, thrown and caught touchdown passes and taken back both punts and kickoffs for touchdowns. He definitely will get a long look in his rookie season as a “Slash” type return man due to his versatility and the success in 2007 of Joshua Cribbs (Cleveland Browns).  Had 50 catches for 661 yards and two touchdowns during his college career, which should help in his development as a receiver.  Also is the holder on field goals/extra points and is great on trick plays.  People I have talked to say he is a quick learner who should have no trouble digesting an NFL playbook. Was exceptional at his Pro Day lifting 225 pounds an amazing 11 times, running a reported 4.45 seconds in the 40-yard, producing a 37-inch vertical jump, and not dropping a pass or punt despite a tricky wind.

 

Sleepers

Every year around draft time I am asked whether it is by friends or on the radio to identify a “sleeper”.  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 the NFL will find you with their gaggle of scouts, assistant coaches, GM’s, and others scanning the country for players.  With the emergence of small school guys like Eagles RB Brian Westbrook (Villanova), Ravens DB David Pittman (Northwestern State), Colts DB Antoine Bethea (Howard), and many others the NFL finds players everywhere.

San Diego QB Josh Johnson – The Oakland, California native is from the University of San Diego and not the bigger San Diego State. But Johnson (6′3, 215) is extremely well known going into the draft after a senior season where he tossed a school record 43 touchdowns (only 1 INT) while ranking first in the nation in total offense (4,040 yards) and broke the NCAA record for passing efficiency (176.7).  His post season has been even more noteworthy as he was the MVP at the East-West Shrine game and ran an eye-popping 4.55 seconds in the forty at the Combine.  At the Combine after his blazing time he was hurt by back spasms that affected his throwing, but at his March Pro Day workout he got redemption.  In front of about 20 NFL team evaluators including head coaches Norv Turner of San Diego and Carolina’s John Fox, Johnson threw the ball much better than he did at the combine hitting almost all of his throws in stride.

Delaware RB/KR Omar Cuff – After a stellar senior season including rushing for an amazing 7 touchdowns versus William & Mary watch for this stick of dynamite in the NFL.  Cuff  (5-9 7/8, 195) amassed 4,363 rushing yards and a school-record 73 total touchdowns as Blue Hen and at his recent Pro Day he ran the forty in 4.55 seconds, had a 34-inch vertical jump, 10-foot, 1-inch long jump, 4.12 short shuttle, 6.86 cone drill, and 16 reps at 225.

HBCU players to watch include: Bethune Cookman DB Bobbie Williams (6-0, 214), Jackson State WR Jaymar Johnson (5-11, 180, 4.41), Delaware State WR Shaheer McBride (6-1, 199, 4.50), Hampton University DE Kendall Langford (6-5, 294, 5.03), South Carolina State OL James Lee (6-4, 303, 5.30), Bethune Cookman LB Ronnie McCollough (5-11, 225, 4.65), Tennessee State DE Shawn Richardson (6-4, 299, 5.12), Hampton OLB/DE Marcus Dixon (6’5, 260, 4.6) and Tuskegee University DB Johnathan Harris (5-10, 185, 4.44)

UTEP QB/WR Lorne Sam – Every year there are former quarterbacks making their mark in the NFL at other positions — Think Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl return man Joshua Cribbs, a former outstanding college quarterback at Kent State.  I always like these players since they have been leaders going back to peewee football. Sam (6′3, 215) is my number one conversion candidate in the ’08 NFL Draft. The jack-of-all-trades player transferred from Florida State looking to get noticed and he did producing numbers in 2007 of 12-19 for 144 yards w/ 2 TDs passing, 60 rushes for 339 yards w/ 3 TDs, and 42 catches for 589 yards (14.0 ypc) and 1 TD receiving. He followed his season up by shining at the combine catching the ball well in drills, posting 23 reps at 225 pounds (great for a receiver), and running a 4.55 in the forty.

Chadron State RB Danny Woodhead (5-7 ½. 197) – Two time (2006 and 2007) Harlon Hill Trophy winner as the Division II College Football Player of the Year.  Broke the NCAA all-division’s career rushing record with 7,962 yards and his 9,479 career all-purpose yards is second best in college football history. Among his numerous other NCAA all-division’s records are marks for most consecutive games to score in ( 38 ) and most career 200-yard rushing games (19). His 37 career 100-yard rushing games is a Division II record.   In 2007, rushed for 1,876 yards and averaged 6.0 yards per carry while scoring 24 touchdowns. He also caught 53 passes for 562 yards and three TDs. He helped lead Chadron State to a 12-1 record, a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championship and a spot in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division II playoffs. Showed the big boys that he is ready by ripping it up at the Nebraska Pro Day. The record-setting small-school player ran the forty in 4.38 seconds, had a 38-inch vertical jump, 10-foot, 1-inch long jump, 4.20 short shuttle, 7.03 cone drill, and 20 reps of 225.

Michigan State Tight End Antonio Smith – The big tight end prospect (6-7, 260) like former college basketball player and Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates is trying to make the leap from the hardwood to the NFL at the surprising age of 32. The brother of current Cleveland Browns defensive end Robaire Smith certainly looked the part of an NFL tight end posting good numbers at Michigan State’s Pro Day with times 5.19 and 5.14 in the 40, a 32½-inch vertical jump, 9-foot, 7-inch long jump, and 18 reps in the bench press.

Grand Valley State CB Brandon Carr (6-0, 207) –  Probably the best small school DB in the draft besides Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.  A start for the last three years that possess superior man to man skills.  Carr has the size/speed combo to excel in the NFL. Had 5 Ints and 14 Pass break-ups in 2007. At his Pro Day he ran the forty in 4.43, had a 35-inch vertical jump, 10-foot, 4-inch long jump, 4.19 short shuttle, 6.80 cone drill, and ran well in drills at his workout.

Midwestern State QB Daniel Polk – Was the only quarterback in college football to pass for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 more in 2007. Polk ( 6’1, 2002, 4.58 ) is a 3-time All-Lone Star selection and is Midwestern State’s all-time leader in rushing yards and total offense (8,276 yards). Maybe looked upon as a developmental type that will need to help on special teams first, but he is a tough athlete.

Bloomsburg RB Jamar Brittingham – I have watched this kid play since high school (Neshaminy in the Philadelphia Suburbs) and he is something special.  Brittingham (6’1, 208, 4.53) has the ideal size/power combo that NFL scouts are looking for in a back. Has a physical running style and likes to use the stiff arm. The tough senior does need to watch injuries, but the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Eastern Division Player of the Year is the PSAC’s all-time career leading rusher with 5,689 yards (14th all-time in D2). Played in the Cactus Bowl all-star game.

West Texas A&M TE Kolo Kapanui – The USC transfer Kapanui was a two-time all-Lone Star Conference selection and two-year starter.  Kapanui (6’3, 271, 4.9) catch 65 passes for 767 yards and nine touchdowns. Twice made game-winning catches, including one in a 2007 playoff game against Washburn that led to a 40-39 come-from-behind win. Has good size and is a tough blocker.  Was a participant in the Hula Bowl.

 

Other Sleepers

  • Eastern Kentucky OT Sean Dumford (6′5, 302) was impressive at Kentucky’s Pro Day outshining his SEC brethren by running a respectable 5.15 in the forty and posting 27 reps pressing 225 pounds.

 

  • Washburn tall corner Cary Williams (6-1, 187) made the radar at the University of Kansas Pro Day producing a 4.43 forty, 32½-inch vertical jump, 4.34 short shuttle, 6.94 cone drill, 8 reps in the bench press, and looking smooth in drills.

 

  • Weber State O-lineman David Hale (6-5 5/8, 310) followed up a solid combing by producing a 29-inch vertical jump, 4.63 short shuttle, 7.51 cone drill, and 25 reps at his Pro Day.

2008 NFL Draft – Mock Draft v1.0

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

(Philadelphia, Pa) — Unlike many draft prognosticators who seem to just make their picks out of thin air, I like to wait until after attending the Senior Bowl, NFL Combine, talking with key NFL talent evaluators and letting Free Agency play out before making my picks.  In my opinion you cannot do a true “mock” until after these events, because only then you can get a good sense of how NFL talent evaluators are viewing prospects and have accurate team needs. 

1. Miami Dolphins — Jake Long, OT, Michigan

Record: 1-15 | Needs: OL, QB, CB, DT, LB

No matter what anyone wants to sell you on, Parcels and his boys will make this pick — sure they will listen to offers but in the end they won’t get their asking price.  The last time we saw a move with the first overall pick it was four years ago as Eli Manning changed hands on draft day.  Luckily for the ‘Phins they have the solid triumphant of high character Senior leadership players to choose from in QB Matt Ryan, OT Jake Long, and DE Chris Long. I do believe that Dolphins like Ryan and Chris Long, but Parcels likes to have a franchise tackle to build around — in the past with the Giants the Tuna grabbed Jimbo Elliott from Michigan and now it will be Jake Long’s turn.  Long (6’7, 315) was a unanimous All-Big Ten Conference first-team pick while serving as team captain for the second consecutive season, starting all thirteen games at left offensive tackle, and producing 119 knockdowns. The Tuna and the Dolphins have been very active in free agency reshaping their unit, but there is still a big hole at the offensive tackle position.  With John Beck or Josh McCown filling the role of the veteran “Vinny” type quarterback, Jake Long will be their escort.  Remember this road-grader only allow two sacks his whole career at Michigan.

2. St. Louis Rams — Chris Long, DE, Virginia

Record: 3-13 | Needs: DE, OT, CB, OLB, WR

With the Rams trying to rebuild a defense that has had problems stopping other teams this pick makes sense.  Sure Glenn Dorsey, Sedrick Ellis, and Gholston could be tempting here, but the team has made too many mistakes in the past on the front four (See Jimmy Kennedy) not to go with a high-character player like Long. Howie’s son is an almost clone of last year’s pick Adam Carriker (smart, big, leadership ability).  In 2007, ranked 3rd in the nation with fourteen sacks for minus 122 yards in thirteen starts playing as his team’s captain at the right defensive end position.  By adding Chris Long (6’4, 275) to Carriker and speedy DE Leonard Little, the Rams defense will have the energy and versatility needed to help their secondary, especially 2006 first rounder Tye Hill make plays.

3. Atlanta Falcons — Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College

Record: 4-12 | Needs: QB, OT, LB, S, CB

This should be the biggest no-brainer of the first five picks as the Falcons have a glaring need at quarterback and Ryan is the obvious number one signal caller in this year’s class.  Though Ryan (6’5. 224) needs to cut down on his interceptions (19 in 2007), he is the leadership type player that new GM Tom Domitroff — former New England front office guy that saw many BC games — and new head coach Mike Smith need in the post Michael Vick era. The Philadelphia suburbs kid in ’07 at BC averaged 321.93 yards per game finishing with 4,507 yards passing while setting school season-records for completions 388-of-654 (59.3%) and touchdowns (31).  With Ryan’s high character and leadership abilities this is the safest pick for an organization that needs a new beginning.  In his private workout he completed 48 of 50 passes. 

4. Oakland Raiders — Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas

Record: 4-12 | Needs: OT, DT, TE, RB, WR

The affinity of the Raiders and Cowboys of McFadden (6’2, 210) has been this draft’s biggest non-secret.  Al Davis in looking for game-breaking skills will look to grab the former two-time heisman runner-up.  McFadden has all the makings of last year’s yard-churning Rookie of the Year Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.  The former Arkansas star ran a blazing 4.33 seconds in the forty at the combine after leading the SEC in rushing with a 140.77 yards per game average while setting a school season-record with 1,830 yards and sixteen touchdowns.  McFadden is a home run threat and should team with the recently signed Justin Fargas and ’07 pick Michael Bush to form a formidable one-two-three punch.  Look for the Raiders to try and move current backs Dominic Rhodes and LaMont Jordan because they no longer will be in their plans. The only thing to watch for his a blockbuster trade where Cowboys owner and Arkansas alum Jerry Jones makes a move to grab McFadden by dealing his 22nd and 28th picks to his old friend Al Davis. 

5. Kansas City Chiefs — Ryan Clady, OT, Boise State

Record: 4-12 | Needs: LT, G, CB, DE, S

With the retirements of perennial Pro Bowlers Guard Will Shields and Tackle Willie Roaf in recent years, the Chiefs’ number one priority is solidifying their offensive line. Unfortunately for them Jake Long will be long gone by the fifth pick, so Herman Edwards and Carl Peterson will go with the next O-lineman on the board in Clady (6’6, 316).  The former Boise State road-grader is a boom or bust prospect as there have been questions about his attitude and competition.  Was named Boise State’s second All-American while only being charged with six penalties, producing 122 knockdowns, and only allowing 3.5 sacks.  I believe he has the size and smarts to

learn the Chiefs new ground attack.  Look for Larry Johnson to get back on track running behind Clady and Pro Bowl Guard Brian Waters after an injury plagued ’07 season.

6. New York Jets — Vernon Gholston, OLB/DE, Ohio State

Record: 4-12 | Needs: NT, WR, LB, G, RB

With a glaring need for a running back, there is a chance that the Jets try and move up to grab McFadden or reach for any of the other talented junior RB’s.  I believe that Mangini will look to add another pass rusher for their attacking 3-4 system.  They already have new free agent Calvin Pace and Gholston (6’4, 258) should help in not allowing the big plays downfield that plagued the Jets in ’07.  The former Buckeye wowed the scouts at the combine with numbers of 4.67 in the forty and posting the top bench press  (37 reps at 225 pounds).  Obtained the only sack the Jake Long allowed this year while being named to the All-Big Ten Conference first-team finishing with a school season-record of fourteen sacks for minus 111 yards.

7. N.E. Patriots (from 5-11 San Francisco) — Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU

Record: 18-1 | Needs: LB, CB, DS, OL, RB

The Patriots probably would go for Gholston if he is on the board to rebuild their aging linebacking core, but they will have to settle for Dorsey (6’2, 316).  Much like Warren Sapp during his draft process, Dorsey has experienced going from being the consensus number one pick to move down boards due to red flags (injuries and didn’t workout at the combine).  However I believe that if the cat-quick DT is there, the Patriots will jump all over him.  He may not be the classic 3-4 defensive tackle, but look for Belichick to use him as an end and to move him around.  Despite double teams and illegal blocks that caused some leg problems, Dorsey managed to record 69 tackles (39 solos) with a career-high seven sacks for minus 45 yards and 12.5 stops for losses of 53 yards.  He should team with Rich Seymour and Vince Wilfork to form a great rotation upfront allowing for more plays from their linebackers and secondary. 

8. Baltimore Ravens — Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt

Record: 5-11 | Needs: QB, CB, LOT, ILB, DE/OLB

The ideal pick would be Matt Ryan, but they will need to move up to grab him.  Look for the Ravens to wait to find the quarterback of the future until later in the draft as they address the big hole left by the impending retirement of future Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden at left tackle.  Williams (6’6, 320) is known as a finesse much like Ravens ’06 pick Chris Chester and he will need to tap into his nasty streak plus get stronger at the point of attack.  But the All SEC lineman had impressive senior numbers of 12 starts at left tackle, 102 knockdowns, and allowing only one quarterback sack.

9. Cincinnati Bengals — Keith Rivers, LB, USC

Record: 7-9 | Needs: DT, TE, LB, OT, DE

With their choice between USC teammates Rivers and DT Sedrick Ellis, head coach Marvin Lewis will choose “the shark”.  Ever since troubled linebacker Odell Thurman has not been able to stay out of trouble, the Bengals linebacking crew has been in disarray.  Rivers — nicknamed “Shark” from the character played by Lawrence Taylor in the film “Any Given Sunday” — is the most athletic and playmaking linebacker in this draft and should provide a boost along with free agent signee DE Antwaan Odom to a defense that has lacked teeth recently. Rivers (6’2, 236) finished his All-American 2007 campaign with 13 games played, 78 tackles (44 solos), five stops for losses, three fumbles recoveries, and one forced fumble.

10. New Orleans Saints — Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC

Record: 6-9 | Needs: CB, LB, TE, DT, C

With the Saints putting a lot of dollars into the cornerback (Randall Gay), defensive end (Bobby McCray), and linebacker (traded for Jonathan Vilma) positions look for them to grab the best front seven defensive guy on the board.  With Hollis Thomas slowing down and DE Will Smith underachieving the D-Line needs an infusion of talent.  Ellis (6’1, 308) has risen up draft boards recently after solid showings at the Senior Bowl.  He has excellent strength and quickness, which should help in Sean Payton’s off-season overall of his defensive unit.  As a senior in 2007, started thirteen games at DT helping the Trojans rank fourth in the nation against the run (84.15 ypg).  Recorded a career-high 58 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 12.5 tackles for losses, and had two fumble recoveries.

11. Buffalo Bills — Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy

Record: 7-9 | Needs: CB, DT, LB, WR, TE

With Nate Clements leaving in ’07 for big free agency dollars there has been a strong need for a top flight cover corner in Buffalo.  With a choice between McKelvin, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Aquib Talib, I believe that McKelvin (5’11, 190) will be the pick.  The silky smooth cover corner will provide an immediate lift to the Bills back four helping in the nickel and dime.  The All-Sun Belt Conference first-team choice started twelve games at left cornerback producing 60 tackles w/ 2.5 stops for loss, causing three fumbles, and 2 interceptions.  Also his high marks as kick returner will not hurt (Ranked fourth in the nation with 436 yards and three touch-downs on 25 punt returns (17.44 avg) and had a 23 yard average on kick returns). 

12. Denver Broncos — Kentwan Balmer, DT, North Carolina

Record: 7-9 | Needs: DT, OT, MLB, S, WR

With Long and Ellis long gone, the Broncos reach a little to bring in a much needed defensive tackle.  The former Tar Heel is a fast-rising prospect with very good size, power, and quickness. Balmer (6’5, 310) in 2007, started twelve games, had 59 tackles including 3.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss.  He should help in taking heat off of sack man Elvis Dumervil and push troubled ’07 draftee Marcus Thomas.  I heard many evaluators at the combine comparing the All-ACC second teamer to Patriots versatile D-lineman Richard Seymour.

13. Carolina Panthers — Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida

Record: 7-9 | Needs: OT, DE, WR, DS, DT

With the Panthers’ career of Julius Peppers looking like it will end soon, look for an upgrade on the D-Line.  Harvey (6’5, 252) will provide some of the versatility and disruptive skills that Peppers brought early in his career.  The stout Florida Gators defensive end is a more complete player than Broncos ’07 first round selection Jarvis Moss and should quickly emerge as an impact every-down two-way end.  The junior eligible started thirteen games at left defensive end position recording 49 tackles (31 solos), 8.5 sacks (fifth in SEC), 17 tackles for loss, causing one fumble, and deflecting five passes.

14. Chicago Bears — Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois

Record: 7-9 | Needs: QB, RB, OL, DT, S

Don’t be surprised if GM Jerry Angelo takes advantage of this year’s talented crop of running backs by selecting Mendenhal (5’11, 210) with this pick. Mendenhall is a natural fit, because he plays in the Bears backyard and he can provide more explosiveness and versatility than current starter Cedric Benson.  The All-Big Ten Conference first-teamer ranked eighth in the nation in rushing (129.31 ypg).  Had amazing final numbers of 13 games started with 1,681 yards (6.4 avg) and 17 touchdowns rushing and 34 receptions for 318 yards (9.4 avg) and two touchdowns.

15. Detroit Lions — Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Tenn. St.

Record: 7-9 | Needs: OT, G, CB, S, DE

The Lions’ secondary was a major reason why the Lions limped home at the end of the ’07 season and Rodgers-Cromartie (6’2, 183) will be welcomed with open arms. The former TSU star is one of the fastest-rising prospects in the 2008 class. After an amazing week at the Senior Bowl where he displayed his speed, versatility, and athleticism, he went from a small-school product to a top 15 pick.  Started eleven games at left cornerback as a senior recording 37 tackles with two tackles for loss, recovering two fumbles, deflecting 11 passes, and 2 interceptions.  Also set the school season-record by blocking four kicks, ran back 33 kickoff for 806 yards, and played some offense. He experience at free safety and cornerback, which should definitely help one of the NFL’s weakest secondaries — remember the 56 points the Eagles hung on them in week 3.

16. Arizona Cardinals — Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas

Record: 8-8 | Needs: CB, OLB, TE, RB, DE

With making moves to retain all of their offensive fire power including receiver Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinals should concentrate on defense especially cornerback.  With some thought out there that Antrelle Rolle might be a better safety, the Cards will need a physical young corner like Talib (6’2, 202).  The junior eligible played in 10 games in 2007 finishing with numbers of 42 tackles with two tackles for a loss, six interceptions, and 22 passes defensed. The former Kansas Jayhawk is a big and fast (ran 4.4 at the combine) corner that should help provide better coverage in the Cardinals back four that allowed too many big plays in 2007.  A red flag to watch is that Talib was suspended 2 games for violating team rules in ’07.

17. Minnesota Vikings — Quentin Groves, DE, Auburn

Record: 8-8 | Needs: DE, S, WR, QB, TE

Believe it or not, Minnesota still is in the market for help at defensive end, despite investing first picks in the past on DE’s Kenechi Udeze (2004) and Erasmus James (2005).  After coming back to school after an All SEC junior season, Groves (6’3, 250) had some difficulty as a senior.   In ’07, he finished with 38 tackles, three sacks, seven tackles for a loss, and a SEC best 23 quarterback pressures.  After a good showing at his March 10th Pro Day, Groves seems to be back on track weighing in 10 pounds less than at the combine producing a 35-inch vertical jump, which was 5½-inches better than he did at the combine.

18. Houston Texans — Mike Jenkins, CB, South Florida

Record: 8-8 | Needs: CB, RB, S, LOT, DE

The Texans have been looking for a partner for former first round selection Dunta Robinson for some time and Jenkins (6’0, 200) looks like a good fit.  The South Florida star is a man to man corner with size, speed, and athleticism.  Started thirteen games at right cornerback producing a career-high 41 tackles with four tackles for loss, twelve passes break-ups, and three interceptions.  Jenkins can also help wideout Andre Davis on kickoffs as he averaged an amazing 30.4 yards per kickoff with one touchdown.

19. Philadelphia Eagles — Jeff Otah, OT, Pittsburgh

Record: 8-8 | Needs: WR, S, OT, G

I know you want a receiver here Birds fans, but given the Eagles track record and their need to get younger at Offensive Tackle, you will have to wait until the second round for a pass catcher.  Stalwart bookend tackles Jon Runyan and William Thomas have been stellar for years, but they aren’t getting any younger.  Otah (6’6, 340) reminds me a lot of Eagles Pro Bowl Guard Shawn Andrews and Colts ’07 rookie sensation Tony Ugoh coming out of college.  The New Castle, Delaware native was an All-Big East Conference first-team selection starting twelve games at left offensive tackle while helping the offense average 141.4 yards rushing. Produced 101 knockdowns and committed only two penalties.  He needs to work on his conditioning, but there is no doubt that he has the ability to be a solid pro.  With O-line guru Juan Castille pushing him look for this big athletic player to push disappointing ’06 pick Winston Justice and add depth to an area that Andy Reid always loves to build up.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Malcolm Kelly, WR, Oklahoma

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

With his stable of quarterbacks (Simms, Garcia, McCown, Griese, and Gradkowski) a difference making receiver is needed.  Kelly (6’4, 218) should fit in well in the Bucs west coast offense.  He is a true big play receiver with the size of T.O, but possessing better speed (4.35 in the forty at the Combine) and less attitude.  The All-Big Twelve second-teamer started fourteen games at split end producing numbers of 49 receptions for 821 yards (16.8 avg) and nine touchdowns.  Amazingly the junior eligible receiver on thirty-six of his catches produced first downs. With Joey Galloway getting older and Michael Clayton underachieving this is a natural pick. Kelly should thrive in Gruden’s system, which needs a  young receiver to emerge.

21. Washington Redskins — Kenny Phillips, S, Miami

Record: 9-7 | Needs: S, DE, OT, CB, WR

In 2007, the Redskins suffered a tragic blow with the death of Sean Taylor.  After making an improbable run into the playoffs, a replacement is needed in their back two and I think they go back to the “U” for the guy.  In Phillips (6’2, 208) the ‘Skins can select a player who may not be as physical as Taylor,  but does possess some of the same playmaking ball skills of past Hurricane safeties Ed Reed, Brandon Merriweather, and Taylor.  The junior eligible was an All-ACC first-teamer was a semi-finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award while starting twelve games at free safety, producing a career-high 82 tackles with six stops for loss, causing three fumbles, and intercepting two passes.

22. Dallas Cowboys (from 10-6 Cleveland) — Limas Sweed, WR, Texas

Record: 13-3 | Needs: CB, WR, OT, RB, FS

Assuming owner Jerry Jones doesn’t package picks to trade up, expect Dallas to use its two picks to address needs at corner and receiver in the first round. With Jones’ favorite Darren McFadden long gone off the board look for the Cowboys to settle for Texas product Sweed (6’4, 212).  Much like former Cowboys great Michael Irvin, Sweed is a big physical receiver that should help ease the transition from older players T.O and Terry Glenn.  After being picked on everyone’s preseason All-American team, Sweed struggled with a nagging wrist injury.  He played in the team’s first six games of the season before a October 16th surgery finishing with a career-low nineteen catches for 306 yards (16.1 avg) and three touchdowns.  Teams will try and lean on his ’06 numbers of 46 receptions for 801 yards and 12 touchdowns.  But is he this year’s Bobby Meachem — Saints ’07 first round draftee that never made it on the field due to injury.

23. Pittsburgh Steelers — Branden Albert, T/G, Virginia

Record: 10-6 | Needs: OT, G, DE, WR, RB

With Alan Faneca leaving for the Jets and other glaring needs along their front group, look for the Steelers to select at least three offensive linemen in the draft. Albert (6’7, 315) is a massive player that could play either guard or tackle in the Steelers power running system.  The junior eligible has good feet, rare quickness, and a good initial punch with a play to the whistle mentality. An All-ACC pick for the past three seasons, Albert started straight 36 games since his freshman year. 

24. Tennessee Titans — DeSean Jackson, WR/KR, California

Record: 10-6 | Needs: WR, DE, DT, CB, C

Though they made the playoffs, it was evident that the Titans need a weapon on offense.  Brandon Jones was their number one by default without much behind him.  A young receiver needs to be added to help in Vince Young’s development.  Jackson is not big (5’10, 180) however he is a big play guy who will open the field up for the Titans other receivers.  Also Jackson can help out in the return game, which has suffered since the suspension of the CB Adam Pacman Jones.  In 2007, the junior eligible was a semi-finalist for the Biletnikoff Award even though a sprained left thumb suffered in the season opener against Tennessee nagged him.  Catch a career-high 65 passes for 762 yards (11.7 avg) and six touchdowns plus in the return game had 132 yards with a touchdown on kickoffs and a 10.8 yard average on punts with one touchdown.

25. Seattle Seahawks — Sam Baker, OT, USC

Record: 10-6 | Needs: OT, DT, RB, TE, G

Mike Holmgren believes in having the horses upfront so that his runners have many holes to choose from.  Baker (6’5, 308) is a versatile player  that should be able to fit in at any of the positions on the O-line.  I can see him finally filling the void left by the ’06 departure of Guard Steve Hutchinson and he can also provide valuable insurance to Pro Bowl tackle Walter Jones slowing down.  The stout USC product helped his offense average 434.9 yards per game in 2007 while producing 88 knockdowns and allowing only two sacks on 460 pass plays.

26. Jacksonville Jaguars — Gosder Cherilus, ROT, Boston College

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

Finally after years of being picked to make some noise in the AFC, the Jags finally put a good “run”.  Behind upstart quarterback David Garrard and a power running game led by a rejuvenated Fred Taylor and Mighty Might Maurice Jones-Drew the Jags were a tough wild card team beating the Steelers on the road.  With several moves already made in free agency (Jerry Porter, Troy Williamson, trading Marcus Stroud, and other moves) they will now look to the draft to continue building. For years the Jags have tried to fill a void at the tackle position with players like Bills retread Mike Williams and Cherilus (6’6, 314) should be an upgrade.  The huge Boston College O-lineman should help in continuing the Jags ball control prowess.  At his recent Pro Day he ran the forty in just over 5.00 seconds and reportedly looked very good in position drills.

27. San Diego Chargers — Felix Jones, RB, Arkansas

Record: 11-5 | Needs: ROT, RB, S, CB, DT

After a year where everyone thought they would take a step back after the firing of Marty Schottenheimer along with the hiring of Norv Turner, the Chargers may have not lived up to their 14-2 in ’06 record.  But they did make it to the AFC Championship game and won the AFC West after a slow start. With Michael Turner taking his speed to Atlanta as a free agent, the Chargers should find their new homerun threat with Jones (6’0, 200).  Despite only starting three games in 2007, he ranked fifth in the SEC in 89.38 yards per game rushing.  Had an amazing 1,990 all purpose yards on only 171 touches while ranking 22nd in the nation in the category. Finished second to Darren McFadden on the team with 1,162 yards on only 133 carries (8.7 avg) and eleven touchdowns. The mercurial speedster should have an immediate impact in the kick return game and provide a complement to LT.

28. Dallas Cowboys — Reggie Smith, CB, Oklahoma

Record: 13-3 | Needs: CB, WR, OT, RB, FS

With a receiver in hand at #22 look for Jerry Jones to help out his beleaguered secondary with his second first rounder – barring of course the usual Dallas wheeling and dealing.  Sure the ‘Boys are hoping to land Pacman Jones, but that is not a done deal and Smith can definitely help situation immediately.  Smith (6’1, 198) is a smooth cover corner that will help Terrence Newman and the slower safety combination of Hamlin and Williams.  In 2007, the junior eligible had 78 tackles, one sack, seven tackles for loss, a fumble recovery, and three interceptions.  He also did not allow a touchdown against in ’07.

29. S.F. 49ers (from Indianapolis) — James Hardy, WR, Indiana

Record: 5-11 | Needs: WR, OT, OLB, DE, QB

Think they want to rethink their trade up to grab Offensive tackle Joe Staley last year??  Anyway armed with the Colts pick, the 49ers grab a much needed playmaker at the wide receiver position.  The junior eligible Hardy (6’6, 220) is a Plaxico Burress clone, who will provide size and speed to take attention away from TE Vernon Davis.  The All-Big Ten Conference first-teamer set school season-records with 79 catches for 1,125 yards (14.2 avg) and sixteen touchdowns.  Quickly look for Hardy to become QB Alex Smith’s security blanket.

30. Green Bay Packers — Antoine Cason, CB, Arizona

Record: 13-3 | Needs: CB, OT, S, TE, QB

With the retirement of Brett Favre looking at the offensive side is tempting, but aging corners Charles Woodson and Al Harris need a future replacement.  Cason (6’0, 190) is not a burner running in the 4.5 range in the forty, but he is a smart tough corner.  In 2007, he started twelve games producing a career-high 71 tackles (56 solos), one sack,  four tackles for a loss, causing two fumbles, intercepted five passes and a team-high fourteen deflected passes.

31. The NFL stripped the New England Patriots of their own first round pick (#31) for “spygate” activities this past September

32. New York Giants — Dan Connor, LB, Penn State

Record: 10-6 | Needs: LB, CB, S, Backup QB, OT

The Giants may also take a look at Connor’s PSU teammate CB Justin King at this spot.  But after the loss of linebacker Kawika Mitchell to the Bills, the instinctive and athletic Connor is the right pick for the Giants.  He should be able to contribute immediately on the inside or outside. A tough high character Giants type of player (2 time captain at Penn State).  Has good size (6’3, 233), great football instincts, and intelligence.  He always is around the ball as shown by his stats as PSU’s all-time leading tackler.  Has the ability to cover running backs and tight ends one-on-one.  Reminds me of former Lions LB Chris Spielman.

Teams not owning a first round pick

Cleveland Browns

Record: 10-6 | Needs: CB, G, LB, RB, S

Last year was a magical year for the Browns as they just missed the playoffs while posting a 10-6 record thus saving head coach Romeo Crennell’s job.  By not having a first round pick in ’08 — thanks to moving up in ’07 to pick Brady Quinn in the first round — the Dogs thought building through free agency and trades was the best way to go this off-season adding DT Shaun Rogers, DT Corey Williams, WR Donte Stallworth, and others.  They definitely need some help in the secondary with the trading of Leigh Bodden to Detroit.  However they now have painted themselves into a corner due to they will not be picking until the fourth round. 

Indianapolis Colts

Record: 13-3 | Needs: DT, LB, G, RB, CB

After a good season where the defending Super Bowl champs lost at home to the Chargers in playoffs, the Colts head into the draft looking to get back to the big game.  They seemed to have made a good move trading up in ’07 to grab promising offensive tackle Tony Ugoh, but not picking until the second round (#59) will hurt.  With head coach Tony Dungy coming back for one more season and the opening of Lucas Oil Stadium this season look for some key additions especially at defensive tackle where Booger McFarland left for Pittsburgh and Cory Simon was let go.

Senior Bowl Review

Every year the best place for Scouts and NFL Talent Evaluators to view players “in pads” is at the Senior Bowl (remember football is not played in t-shirts and shorts).  The week long event is the real first leg on the road to the NFL Draft for many prospects.  Many draft experts that I talk to put more credence in this All Star game, because usually top players choose to participate (sorry agents), there is “live” competitive one on one drills, and NFL coaching staffs are in charge of the teams.   You can have the lesser All star games (East-West Shrine, Hula Bowl, “Favor of the Year” All Star game) and the combine, because the Senior Bowl is the place “football” players get to show their skills off in front of scouts, coaches, and general managers.  

This year’s group like in years past has good overall talent.  Several scouts have indicated that this senior group is a little lower in talent than last year’s stellar group (D’Brickshaw Ferguson, Jay Cutler, and others). We will have to wait and see if they can match the 14 first-round picks from last year’s game.

As for the game, the early talk of a “revenge” rematch of BCS quarterbacks Ohio State’s Troy Smith and Florida’s Chris Leak never materialized.  In front of a sell out crowd of 40,646 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Troy Smith outplayed Florida’s Chris Leak leading the North to three scores and a 27-0 win over the South.  Smith’s numbers (5 of 15 passes for 52 yards w/ TD) weren’t spectacular, but considering that it was a cold, rainy day he performed well. Smith let Leak (5-of-9 passing for 23 yards) make the mistakes as he had a crucial fumble that led to a North touchdown after being blindsided by Nebraska DE Jay Moore at his own 26.  .  In my opinion neither of them did enough in practice or in the game to overtake non-attendees Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn (Injured Knee) or LSU’s JaMarcus Russell (Junior) on the draft leader board.

The real star of the game was Penn State RB Tony Hunt.  Typically All-star games are not good venues for RB’s, because of the sharing of carries and not being able to establish a rhythm.  However Hunt a 239-pounder with good speed defied the odds winning the MVP after rushing for 38 yards on eight carries with a 7 yard touchdown.  With the performance he solidified his place in the late 1st or early 2nd round part of draft behind Kenny Irons of Auburn, Adrian Peterson of Oklahoma, and Cal’s Marshawn Lynch.  Hunt will be fighting with Michael Bush of Louisville for a place in the NFL for a “big” back.

Now that the weighing, practicing, questioning, and playing is over for the Senior Bowl, we have some observations, news, and notes from the 2007 Event.

Event Risers – These were players that we believe increased their value in at the Senior Bowl.
 
o WR – Dwayne Bowe, LSU: Looked like the next “baby T.O” measuring in at 6’2 and a solid 200 plus pounds.  He was by far the best pass catcher in Mobile and he was very fluid in his downfield blocking. The big pass catcher separated himself from the rest of the WR group and distinguished himself as the top senior receiver in the country.

o DL – Amobi Okoye, Louisville: Okoye was the talk of the practices this week. He weighed in at a chiseled 287-pounds and displayed the quickness and athleticism needed at the next level. The truly great part about Okoye is that he a prospect that will grow even more, because he is only 19-years-old.  Came off as a bright and polished speaker when interviewed. 

o RB – Lorenzo Booker, Florida State:  Before the Senior Bowl he was considered a scat-back, who was often injured in college.  Booker never lived up to his recruiting hype at FSU and looked like a Day 2 – 4th Round Pick at best.  Booker in Mobile showed the explosiveness and hands that gets a player noticed.  He displayed the best hands of any of back.  He now looks like he could be a 2nd or 3rd Round player in the mold of Brian Westbrook.

o LB – Patrick Willis, Mississippi:  In practice looked like the next Jeremiah Trotter, a big physical MLB, who can take on Guards plus have a nose for the ball.  He lead all defenders with 11 tackles and was named the South’s defensive player of the game.  Does need to work on making plays out to the sidelines.

o Alabama FB Le’ron McClain, a bruising 264-pounder who was also very smooth catching the ball.

o Nebraska DL Adam Carriker: Another front four player who was tough to block, Carriker elevated his draft stock significantly. Displayed a combination of strength and intelligence, he also came across well during interviews.

o C- Ryan Kalil, USC: An extremely tough battler in the pivot.  Looked great in one on one drills while displaying a solid anchor in blocking. Held his own against bigger opponents, he showed a lot of unexpected skill blocking in motion.
Event Maintainers – These were players that we believe were solid and did not hurt their value at the Combine.

o S – Michael Griffin, Texas: Displayed an array of talent in deep coverage. Griffin made an impact every practice. His ball skills in coverage were outstanding as was his play defending the run.

o QB – Troy Smith, Ohio State: Displayed a strong arm to the sidelines and showed good leadership in the huddle.  Was accurate with his short and intermediate passes, but his long throws were off.

o FB/RB – Brian Leonard, Rutgers:  We are not sure if he is big and physical enough to be a full-time FB at the next level or fast enough to be an every-down RB. He did display though that he is one tough football player who can catch, block and isn’t afraid to go downfield on special teams.

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

o DE – Quentin Moses, Georgia: The Bulldogs pass rusher checked in much lighter than expected at 249 pounds and was handled all week by blockers. During interviews, Moses did not come off as a confident individual.

o OL – Ryan Harris, Notre Dame: Continuing what was a poor senior season, Harris was beaten regularly in Mobile. At one point he was chastised by Jon Gruden for allowing a sack on Thursday.

o DB – Marcus McCauley, Fresno State: Another who struggled in the 2006 regular season.  He is not as physical or fast as former teammate and high draftee last year Richard Marshall. McCauley was beaten with regularity all week. His performance during Thursday’s no pads practice was not good, with him being beaten over and over in drills.

o QB – Jordan Palmer, UTEP:  His brother Carson got all the “arm” in the family as Jordan was weak on out patterns. He also did not seem to take command of the huddle.
Miscellaneous Notes

o WR’s are Deep – The deepest position in the 2007 draft class seems to be the WRs.  The group is led by underclassmen Calvin Johnson, Dwayne Jarrett and others. In Mobile the aforementioned Bowe and other WR’s Aundrae Allison of East Carolina, Johnnie Lee Higgins of UTEP, Chris Davis of Florida State and Rhema McKnight of Notre Dame accounted well for themselves.

o DB’s were unimpressive – Pro scouts probably left Mobile scratching their heads just a bit about the CB play. Michigan CB Leon Hall, one of the top-rated players at any position coming into Mobile, was physical and aggressive, but gave up way too many completions for a player expected to go in the 1st round. Cal DB Daymeion Hughes also was only okay before being hurt and missing the last part of camp.  South Carolina DB Fred Bennett looked stiff before missing some time with a leg injury.

o The Senior Bowl is the place where the unemployed come looking for job interviews. Several coaches looking for work were chumming it up with coaches looking to fill out their staffs.  One of them was Larry Coker, the recently released coach from the Miami Hurricanes, was at practice all week hoping to catch on with an NFL team.

That is a wrap and BIGPLAY will definitely be there next year to cover the Senior Bowl, which is now a major happening.

2007 NFL Draft Gets a Boost as Underclassmen Deadline Passes

One of the bigger days on mine and other draft gurus calendar past this week as the 2007 NFL Draft underclassmen deadline was on Monday, January 15, 2007.  This deadline is important because every year the upper echelon of the draft is boosted by talented underclassmen. The deadline is for players 3 years out of high school, usually college redshirt sophomores and juniors. Remember there have been rare cases of players like former Cardinals defensive tackle Eric Swann (6th overall pick in the 1991 NFL Draft) who have no college experience, but who are just coming of draft age.  This year’s group features several high level underclassmen that surely will have an impact.  Some of the bigger players I have listed below.  A complete list can be found at our friend site Great Blue North at http://www.gbnreport.com/juniors.htm and we will have much more at BIGPLAY including draft podcasts and blogs.

o LSU QB JaMarcus Russell – With the Raiders owning the first overall pick and their affinity for big down the field passers, Russell may fit the bill.  He has the size (6’6, 250) and arm (can throw 80 yards) to bring the Raiders back.  Russell was the nation’s No. 3-ranked quarterback in passing efficiency this season while setting a school record for completion percentage at 67.8 percent and for completions with 232 out of 342 attempts and tying the record for touchdown passes at 28. Russell became only the second quarterback in LSU history to throw for 3,000 yards with 3,129 and finished his LSU career with 6,525 yards and 52 touchdowns in three seasons — two as a full-time starter. He clearly out played Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn throwing for a career-high 332 yards and two touchdowns in the Tigers’ 41-14 victory over Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl.  Reminds me of Redskins Super MVP QB Doug Williams.

o Georgia Tech WR Calvin Johnson – The 2007 Biletnikoff Award winner as the best receiver. This junior may be the most exciting and complete receiver to hit the NFL since Randy Moss in 1998. NFL personnel evaluators are drooling over his size (6-5, 200), speed, and athletic ability. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds and has a 45-inch vertical leap.   Impressed me throughout the 2006 college football season despite facing constant double-teams and playing with an erratic quarterback (Reggie Ball).  Johnson caught 76 passes for 1,202 yards and 15 touchdowns this past season and had his best game in the Gator Bowl versus West Virginia narrowly losing 38-35.  In the game he caught nine passes for a career-high 186 yards and two touchdowns.

o Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson: Considered a high first-round draft pick. Peterson a junior, missed seven games this season with a broken collarbone, but still finished with 1,012 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns. He ran for 77 yards and two touchdowns, including a 25-yarder on the first play of overtime, in Oklahoma’s 43-42 overtime loss to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1st.  Peterson ran for 4,045 yards in three seasons, ranking behind only 1978 Heisman winner Billy Sims (4,118) and Hall of Famer Joe Washington (4,071) on Oklahoma’s career rushing list. His 1,925 yards in 2004 were a school rushing record and the most by a freshman in NCAA history.

o Ohio State WR/DB/KR Ted Ginn Jr: A former nationally ranked track star, there isn’t a more explosive player in the draft. He could be this year’s Devon Hester (Raw, but Explosive Homerun Threat).  Look for the 6 foot, 190 lbs Junior to help out on special teams immediately while learning the WR position.  He is a threat to take it to the house combining quickness, speed, and acceleration. Began his Ohio St. career as a cornerback, but was switched to receiver just before his freshman season, because of his big play potential. This season he caught 59 passes for 781 yards and nine touchdowns and as a returner averaged 11.1 per punt return, with one touchdown.