Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mock Draft 2.0

1. Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB Auburn
I’ve been hearing a lot of hype lately that the Panthers are going to pull the trigger on Newton. Like him or not Newton is the only quarterback in this draft class with elite potential, Gabbert is at best a better version of Mark Sanchez, Locker is inaccurate and Mallet in addition to character concerns has issues outside the pocket that don’t make him a fantastical candidate behind a poor offensive line in Charlotte. Newton will in all probability sit behind Jimmy Clausen until such time as Clausen has proven his inferiority to Newton.

2. Denver Broncos: Marcell Dareus, DT Alabama
Denver boasted one of the poorest run defenses in the league last year. While their multiple defensive holes may be distracted from by the imminent return of 2009 sack king, Elvis Dumervil, a massive presence like Bama’s Dareus would go a long way toward stopping the run. With new coach John Fox at the helm this is sure to be a defensive pick. I’d also like to take this moment to say that Elway is not nor should he take a quarterback with this pick or any other. Tebow has not been given a decent chance at an NFL career, and there’s no point ignoring obvious defensive issues because Tebow is a bit unorthodox.

3. Buffalo Bills: Blaine Gabbert, QB Mizzou
Were it up to me I would not pull the trigger on this pick, granted, Gabbert is not the unknown factor that is Cam Newton, as inaccurate as Jake Locker or have the character concerns that accompany Ryan Mallet. In fact Gabbert’s crime is that he is too much of a known factor, he’s going to be a middle of the road QB in the mold of Kyle Orton, Carson Palmer or debatably Mark Sanchez. There’s no point in using a #3 overall pick on a guy who’s going to lead you to 8-8 more often than not.

4. Cincinnati Bengals: AJ Green, WR Georgia
Last night Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco made it very clear on his twitter account that he was on his way out in Cincy. With a talented group of up and comers left over from the “Carson just needs more weapons” phase of the Bengals there’s going to be a nice hole opening up for a playmaker. That playmaker is AJ Green, an absolutely bust proof #1 wide out. Green is the next in a line of elite receivers in the NFL, Green could find himself paired with the strong armed Ryan Mallet or whoever the Bengals bring in at quarterback.

5. Arizona Cardinals: Von Miller, OLB Texas A&M
Arizona fell hard last year due in no small part to the loss of franchise quarterback Kurt Warner. Unfortunately for the Arizona faithful their franchise QB is not waiting for them here. In fact if I know Whisenhunt their franchise QB is on somebody else’s team right now. So the Cardinals receive Von Miller a top ranked pass rusher who could immediately become a terror off the edge similar to Clay Matthews.

6. Cleveland Browns: Robert Quinn, DE North Carolina
Cleveland would love to snag a playmaker for up and coming quarterback Colt McCoy but I don’t think Holmgren and Browns GM Tom Heckert feel comfortable snagging Julio Jones this high. Since I don’t do trade projections, I mocked them Robert Quinn. A clutch playmaker at North Carolina, Quinn would have been a lock for a top 5 pick had he not been suspended this season. After losing Shaun Rogers the defense will be happy of the assistance.

7. San Francisco 49ers: Patrick Peterson, CB LSU
A bit of a tumble here for Peterson who is one of the best cornerback prospects to come along in a while. At over 6 feet tall Peterson is a cover corner who has the potential to be the next Darelle Revis. Jim Harbaugh will gladly snag him at #7.

8. Tennessee Titans: Nick Fairley, DT Auburn
Fairley was once in contention for the #1 spot, after weighing in at the combine below 300 pounds though he takes a bit of a fall here to the Titans who are desperately searching for pass rushers as they try to reinvigorate their defense. The Titans are also desperately searching for a quarterback after Bud Adams cut Vince Young loose, but it’d be a stretch to take Jake Locker anywhere above #20.

9. Dallas Cowboys: Tyron Smith, OT USC
The Cowboys have needs along their offensive line, with no free agency to tackle this issue I have the Cowboys picking the best tackle in the draft in Tyron Smith. Starting at right tackle for USC Smith shows solid footwork and all the physical attributes that one looks for in a top flight tackle. After seeing Alex Barron single handedly throw away the season opener for the Cowboys Jason Garret will be happy to welcome in some new talent.

10. Washington Redskins: JJ Watt, DE Wisconsin
The Redskins have a lot of needs including but not limited to Quarterback, Running back, O line, linebacker and wide out. With no quarterbacks worth taking this high the Shanahan regime takes DE JJ Watt to pair along side freak of nature Brian Orakpo.

11. Houston Texans: Prince Amukamara, CB Nebraska
Last time I was mocking this round I sent Da’Quan Bowers to Houston. This time through I knocked him down one spot after considering how truly abysmal Houston’s pass defense is. I know the rule of the AFC South is to apply as much pressure to Manning as possible but this draft is deep at defensive end and the Texans can probably snag somebody to Wade Phillips liking in the second while getting him a top flight cornerback.

12. Minnesota Vikings: Da’Quan Bowers, DE Clemson
Bowers slips to Minnesota here as the rebuilding Vikings look to rebuild the dominant front four that they had last season with Ray Edwards as a free agent. Bowers is an athletic freak with great pass rushing ability who falls to #12 over concerns over surgery on his knee.

13. Detroit Lions: Anthony Castonzo, OT Boston College
The Lions make a decision here that they have put off getting a new left tackle for entirely too long. The Lions have been drafting well over the past couple of years and have a good set of skill players in Calvin Johnson, Jahvid Best and real potential in former #1 overall draft pick Matthew Stafford. That’s not even mentioning the behemoth one of a kind talent that is Ndamukong Suh. That being said Jeff Backus cannot last forever and Stafford is in danger so long as there is not a top flight tackle guarding him from Julius Peppers, Jared Allen and Clay Matthews.

14. St. Louis Rams: Julio Jones, WR Alabama
A year ago the Rams drafted Sam Bradford out of Oklahoma with the hopes of getting a franchise quarterback. Wish granted. Bradford has shown that he is most definitely the guy that the Rams are going to want under center for the next 10 years displaying uncanny accuracy and playmaking ability. The only draw back is that Bradford’s top target is Danny Amendola. Those of you who are not Ram’s fans or nerds like me probably just fought down the urge to Google who exactly is Danny Amendola. The point is that Jones is the big target that Bradford needs to make plays downfield as the Rams appear to be ready to dominate the NFC West this season.

15. Miami Dolphins: Mark Ingram, RB Alabama
Like just about everyone else in the drafting world I have Ingram mocked to the Phins as they try to readjust from a disappointing season.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Muhammad Wilkerson, DE Temple
GM Gene Smith takes a solid pass rusher to add to this young Jaguars team as they seek to put still more pressure on Peyton Manning.

17. New England Patriots (Oakland Raiders): Gabe Carimi, OT Wisconsin
Nobody knows better than Bill Belichick and Tom Brady the importance of protecting your quarterback. I mocked them Solder last time but after some film review I’ve come to the conclusion that Solder needs some technique work and Belichick may need someone to step in next season if Matt Light is a free agent.

18. San Diego Chargers: Aldon Smith, DE Missouri
As I stated much more sarcastically last time, the Chargers need pass rushers as they try to claw their way back into the playoffs. Aldon Smith serves that purpose just fine.

19. New York Giants: Corey Liuget, DT Illinois
I’ll admit that this pick had me flummoxed for a while as I tried to think what the Giants needed. The Giants’ defense got absolutely wrecked last season by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Knowing the Giants’ strength comes from their line I drafted them mid first round prospect Corey Liuget of Illinois.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ryan Kerrigan, DE Purdue
The Buccaneers shocked the world last year after they finished 10-6 but missed the playoffs due to the absolutely bogus rule that Seattle who didn’t even win half their games was guaranteed a playoff spot based solely on the merit of winning the worst division in the history of football. Picking at #20 the Bucs will look for an end to pair with last year’s top pick Gerald McCoy and 2nd round pick Brian Price.

21. Kansas City Chiefs: Akeem Ayers, OLB UCLA
The Chiefs also shocked the world last year after having a very solid 2010 draft and improved play from quarterback Matt Cassel. This pick could go a couple different ways. On defense it’s pass rush, though the Chiefs could also grab a #2 wide out to put opposite Dwayne Bowe who I’m still not entirely sold on. I chose pass rush this time around though it really could go either way.

22. Indianapolis Colts: Derek Sherrod, OT Mississippi State
There’s one rule if you play in the AFC South and you don’t play for the Colts. Pressure. Every team is going to come after Manning so Polian takes a great lineman prospect to protect Manning from the oncoming pass rush.

23. Philadelphia Eagles: Nate Solder, OT Colorado
The Eagles’ line play was average at best last year and more often than not resurgent QB/human highlight reel Michael Vick was the one bailing out his line. It’s supposed to be the other way around… Following Vick’s injuries last year Andy Reid makes the logical choice to protect his quarterback as opposed to not doing so.

24. New Orleans Saints: Cameron Jordan, DE Cal
Not many needs for this Saints team, Cameron Jordan is a fairly versatile player and the Saints could use a boost along their defensive line.

25. Seattle Seahawks: Jake Locker, QB Washington
Jake Locker sneaks into the first round here for a Seahawks team in the worst division for quarterbacks. It’s obvious after a couple of minutes watching Charlie Whitehurst that he’s better as “Clipboard Jesus” than “Starting Quarterback Jesus”. Locker is a QB with wheels and a lot of popularity in Seattle as the hometown hero.

26. Baltimore Ravens: Jimmy Smith, CB Colorado
The Ravens are thin at cornerback, really thin. Jimmy Smith is a mid first round prospect who’s thin on character recommendations, really thin. Smith prevents himself falling into the second round here by going to a team desperate to fill it’s need at cornerback.

27. Atlanta Falcons: Randall Cobb, WR Kentucky
Randall Cobb’s stock is on the rise, and the Falcons are looking for a #2 wideout to make defenses have to back off top flight play maker Roddy White. The Falcons also are looking for a pass rusher but there’s more than enough of them that the Falcons can afford to wait and see what’s available when they pick next.

28. New England Patriots: Cameron Heyward, DE Ohio State
The Patriots look for some additional pass rush here to continue the transformation of a young defense. It’s quite possible the Pats could trade out of this spot but I’m not going to risk it here and mock Belichick the pass rusher he was missing last season.

29. Chicago Bears: Mike Pouncey, C/G Florida
The undisputed best center in the draft and twin brother of Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, Mike Pouncey provides an immediate boost to a truly pathetic Bears interior line. There’ll be much more work to do but the idea of Jay Cutler not taking 60 sacks a season has to carry at least a little appeal to Bears coach Lovie Smith.

30. New York Jets: Adrian Clayborn, DE Iowa
Clayborn falls a long way here to the Pass rush needy Jets. Clayborn is a dogged pass rusher who has shown off some plays that defy the abilities of mere mortals. However teams could also be concerned that Clayborn due to medical issues is incapable of fully extending his right arm and has some below average upper body strength as a result. But I’m betting Rex Ryan will love Clayborn’s heart and pass rushing abilities and take him at #30.

31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Aaron Williams, CB Texas
The Steeler defense was completely and totally lights out to start this season without Ben Roethlisberger. However the Steelers will meet their match in offenses like the Saints and Packers with a vast collection of talented receivers and an elite quarterback if they don’t pick up more cornerbacks. You know what they say, they can never be too deep at cornerback.

32. Green Bay Packers: Ryan Williams, RB Virginia Tech
The Packers rushing attack was al but non existent this season. There were times where QB Aaron Rodgers had more rushing yards than either of the running backs. The Packers are a dangerous team with the return of tight end Jermichael Finley and a talented corp of receivers. With the offensive line soon to be anchored by Brian “I could not look any more like a Packer if I tried” Bulaga, GM Ted Thompson takes a running back as insurance on Ryan Grant and James Starks.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Quick Update

Hello people who read my blog and the two people who follow it,

I'm sorry I haven't come out with my new 4 questions series or a new mock draft. There's good reasons for both of these things, I decided to postpone my offseason questions segment until after the draft. It just seemed like a multitude of new questions and answers will spring up after the draft that would invalidate me putting up the series now. Secondly I'm going to put up themock draft the day before the draft, 1. because I've been a little swamped of late and I want to make sure it's a high quality mock draft. 2. Because it will be better to have that copy to base my post draft analysis off of. I'm only going to do the first round because I do have other obligations.

Also put questions in the mailbag, no such thing as a stupid question.
Alright till next time

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Why This Could be the Year of the Bears

So a little intro is necessary here. I was involved in a back and forth with friend and reader Eric Laorr (that's your shout out, you don't get another one) and wrote him this novel about how I can see Jay Cutler and Lovie Smith hoisting the Lombardi trophy next season. Without further ado here it is.

This is our year if we do three things
1. Protect Cutler
2. Grab a #1 wideout
3. Improve Cutler's throwing technique
There's a lot of pretty good guys on the open market and some guys the Bears can reach in the draft. Much as I love the idea of Titus Young on the Bears I have to  retract my idea that he would be a great fit. The Bears need a tall wideout at the one spot so they can have Knox running streaks at the two and rotate Hester and Bennett in the slot with Olsen mving out in certain sets and attacking the middle of the field. This should also maximize Hester's punt return abilities while also giving Cutler a good target to work with. The only reason I'm taking back my hope that the Bears snag Kellen Moore's best buddy is because he has a similar skill set to Knox and I'm just not down for another Chester Taylor.

It's kind of a domino effect if you think about it, but first a small anecdote...
A football coach has one open spot on his roster and the choice is between two players, he has them run a 40 to make his decision. One player has perfect technique and runs a 4.3, the other has awful form and runs a 4.3.

Which should he choose?

If you've heard this anecdote before then your reaction is to say that he should pick the second kid because that kid has more potential and upside if you teach him perfect form. The first kid has hit his ceiling.

Incidentally the same thing applies to Jake Locker but that's something that I already discussed in my mock draft a couple of posts down. The real reason I told that story is that in this case the Bears are the second kid. The Bears made it all the way to the NFC championship game while not exactly playing the kind of football conducive to championship opportunities. The line play was about as sloppy as you will ever see (See New York Giants game), their wideout corp was unimpressive at time but lacked a dynamic go to playmaker a la Brandon Marshall that made Cutler so good in Denver, the defense was solid but also had its share of failures. So why do I think this is the Bears year? Because they made it to the gateway of the Super bowl and almost won that game with not their first string, not their second string (seriously? Todd Collins?), but their third string QB who almost beat the soon to be Super Bowl champions.

That's about as poor technique as it gets and yet they still made it. With a few tweaks and improvements along the offensive line (Pouncey, Solder, Carimi or Sherrod would be good starting points for a truly awful unit) Cutler will have the time that is so critical to his success and development in a Mike Martz offense that values time above all else. With the big #1 target we  talked about earlier Cutler can finally "just lay it up there" (Jonathan Baldwin I'm looking at you) Cutler has his go to guy and conversely this receiving core has a player who can distract a defense from the woefully under rated Johnny Knox and solid playmaker within the offense like Forte, Olsen, Hester or Bennett.

Finally it's time for the second year of the Cutler-Martz marriage to take on an important part of marriage, making the person you're bound to into a better person. Martz has to spend time hammering Cutler on the details of his footwork, stance and overall decision making. Cutler is a gun slinger, nothing is going to change that but somebody has to teach him to take an extra second (which he'll have thanks to his new linemen) to evaluate how fast he would have to sling the ball to fit it through that impossibly tight hole.

Cutler's formative years as a QB have been spent in the midst of two cardinal sins of QB development: Poor O-line play and inconsistent play calling. Cutler went to Vandy and while it is damned impressive in anybody to make it through SEC football Cutler is a special case. Trapped behind a line that couldn't hope to compare with the size and speed of most SEC D-lines Cutler had to count on fleet feet and a rocket arm to keep the season alive. The upside is Cutler can throw on the run just as well as Rodgers, but but he is prone to thinking he can make any play at any time and struggles at times to just give up on the play. Which is sometimes the smartest decision. He throws in all sorts of strange angles anc ontrotions of his body out of habit, some technique work would really improve his accuracy. Cutler must stay in Martz's system if he is to grow into an elite QB instead of just an elite talent. Otherwise the Bears run the risk of turning him into a MUCH more talented version of Alex Smith, who never realized any of his potential and will go down as a massive bust. WHile Smith will go down many other reasons, the constantly revolving doorat OC will be the dagger that nobody remembers.

So those are my three tips to a succesful Bear season. From the other side of the endzone this is Veintidos.


Insert your important questions regarding the fate of football in the comments section below.

Solo Artist

Hey Sports fans,

So first off I'm sorry about the delay, there's been a lot going on back in Minnesota and I was out of town for two days but that's no excuse. So yes, very sorry for the delay on this new article. With that being said I hope you all enjoy the (hopefully) three articles I'm coming out with today.

So about the runningback position, we all know where it is and how it looks. Unless you had a very specific skill set like quarterback or lineman chances are that you've played runningback in a game of touch football. All around the position is a pretty simple concept: Ball is snapped, QB hands ball off, run through hole into daylight. See? Simple concept, difficult in real life. But unfortunately due to a couple of different factors this traditional view of the ground game is fading into the rear view. I put it down to this:

1. More teams have quarterbacks playing at a franchise (Important distinction, franchise does not mean elite) level
2. The rise of the spread offense in college
3. Most teams want a collection of guys with different skill sets as opposed to one man who is really good at downhill running.

So let's talk about #1 for a sec, think quickly whose the best quarterback in the game (Brett Favre is retired right now so does not count)? Tick, tock, tick, tock and done. Now here's the likely list you came up with, top 5 or so

1. Peyton Manning, Colts
2. Tom Brady, Patriots
3. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
4. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
5. Phillip Rivers, Chargers

Ok now for another quick quiz, because I like quizzes, how many of those quarterbacks have a tailback that you can name qithout having to give it a serious amount of thought?

Ok now that that's over chances are you could only name one without spending a fair amount of time searching your memories. The answers were:

1. Joseph Addai/ Mike Hart/ Donald Brown
2. Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis/Danny Woodhead
3. James Starks/ Ryan Grant/ John Kuhn
4. Rashard Mendenhall (This is the one you most likely got)
5. Ryan Matthews/ Mike Tolbert

So as you may have noticed all but one of these quarterbacks has more than one running back and only one of them has a running back that someone outside the fan base of that franchise can think of off the top of his/her head. So why?

Because good running teams almost always lose to good passing teams, more and more often there is team with a quarter back who can make the miracle throw on fourth and 2 with time running out to keep the drive alive. Most teams can't match that even with incredible talents like the Vikings' Peterson or the Rams' Jackson. So the common knowledge around the NFL is to do RB by committee and have many guys with many different skill sets. Except on occasion this can go very wrong for almost all involved. Let me turn your attention to the Chicago Bears offseason last year. Right out of the gates of free agency there was reason to believe that this could be a good season. Two big free agents and one guy who was important but nobody had ever heard of were standing in front of the camera holding Bears jerseys with massive smiles on their faces. Who could it be? Why it was Julius Peppers: the freakishly athletic DE from Charlotte, Chester Taylor: Brett Favre's go to guy on third down, and Brandon Manumaleuna: A Tight End from San Diego who blocks well.

Now at the time this seemed like the super friends were coming to town, Cutler had very little blocking so there was Brandon, The Bears needed help on defense and there was Julius, Cutler needed somebody to throw to so there was...Wait a second where was Chester Taylor?

That question plagued Chicagoans throughout most of the season as Matt Forte blazed the field taking full advantage of the Mike Martz system. The more Chicago rediscovered the Forte of his 2008, the more Chicago realized that Jerry Angelo had panicked and thrown away millions on a third down back who wasn't even in on third down. Taylor averaged 2.4 yds, Forte 4.5. So why was Taylor on the team, well he was supposed to compliment Forte with his utter mastery of...the exact same skill set of Matt Forte. Forte catches the ball well and is a pretty good runner, Taylor (important distinction) WAS able to catch the ball well and was a pretty good runner. So when Forte rocketed upward and Taylor collected dust on the sidelines millions of dollars that could've been spent upgrading the line or getting Cutler a top flight receiver were literally sitting in a jersey marked #29.

And so on to point #2 the rise of the spread. Well for those of you not acquainted with the spread offense the quarterback takes most of his snaps out of the shotgun and his wideouts spread out across the whole field with the running back (if he's even in) to his right or left. The thing is that this form of system isn't conducive to finding the down hill running talent of a Peterson or Jackson. And even the spread utilizes a loaded backfield. So coming out of college you have bunch of running backs who are good possibly even great at one thing, but only that ONE thing. That's why for the first time since 1962 there's a very real chance that the first round may only take one RB (Mark Ingram). There's just too much choice that can be used in the later rounds to find an above average player and harmonize him with the quartet in your backfield. Ironically this has also answered point #3.

So what did we learn? teams that only focus on their running back (Titans, Browns, Vikings sorta, The Rams before Sam Bradford) pretty much hit their glass ceiling at 9-7. Teams with franchise QB's and a solid running back (Bucs, Bears, Falcons, Ravens) Produce decent records and can go deep in the playoffs and have real shots at Super Bowl rings. (Actually that's the whole point of my next article about the Bears hopefully out later today). Then there are teams like the Patriots, Colts, and Chargers who have quarterbacks who can handle the entire team if they need to and are almost as good with no running game as they are with it. Though this applies less to Rivers because he missed the playoffs last season but that's a post for my new segment which I have yet to name. The basic concept behind it is that I will be doing 4 offseason questions and a prediction about whether that team will make the playoffs. I'm taking a stand on not naming it "4 Downs with Veintidos" so if anyone has ideas for what to call it please feel free to drop them in the comments section. I think I'll be doing them by division and I'll probably start with the NFC East. this post might come tonight or sometime this week depending on my homework schedule.

Also if you have a burning question about football such as Where do you see the Browns ending up in the hierarchy in the AFC North, Who should the Giants draft, How does Christian Ponder stack up, who is going to draft Andrew Luck, And just what is Randy Moss gonna be doing next season then drop it in the comments section of the mailbag I'll be setting up in 5 minutes. Till then from the other side of the end zone this is Veintidos signing off.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Tale of Two Quarterbacks

As I sit here at the end of the day I got struck with inspiration, right from the goatee framed mouth of Mark Schlereth. You see with the recent lock out (No, I have no commentary on the forced mediation) we've had to endure what seems like more QB speculation than normal as teams start thinking that they MUST draft a QB as the NFL slowly forgets that runningback used to be a solo not a barbershop quartet. But I'm getting off track, teams need QB's it's the most important position bar none. Good running teams in the NFL used to make the playoffs even if their QB was only playing mediocre to average. Perfect example of how that's changed, two seasons ago the Titans had only the 6th 2000 yard runner ever in CHris Johnson they were getting iffy to acceptable play from QB Vince Young. So what happened to this speed driven offense with their quarterback who so often bailed Texas out by just taking over games? Surely when combined with an incredible talent like Johnson this dynamic duo shook up the world raising a Lombardi trophy bathed in the bright lights and blue-silver confetti of victory.
Nope! Not even close, actually they missed the playoffs. You see what I'm talking about the game is all about the quarterback position and what you;ve done there lately (just ask the NFC West). So in that spirit we have to talk about free agent QB's and I don't mean Bulger I'm talking about the only two QB's who I think have a chance at making a big difference in the team they go to next season. I'm speaking of course about Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb.
This time last year there was no lock out, people could've cared less about preseason, all people were worried about is that anticipation that one feels when the snow finally melts away from the football field and people might look in their stadiums or their living rooms for the unmistakable arc of a perfect spiral against a blue autumn sky. Hope springs eternal in the offseason and these two are a much needed booster shot if you put them in the right system.
I'm gonna start with McNabb, McNabb has recently come up in the conversation for the Minnesota Vikings. I'm being really flexible with how i use recently because really these rumors have been going on since last offseason while the whole of Viking nation sat with baited breath waiting for Brett Favre to come back to the dome. In reality it would have been a good choice to take Donovan but hindsight is 20/20. McNabb would fit well with the Vikings for a couple of the very same reasons that things didn't work out with the Redskins. The Vikings' window to claim the Lombardi trophy, and provide some vindication for robbing my friend Eli Leonard of all hope every year, is rapidly closing. Some think a young gun at QB is the answer and I can definitely see where fans of the Vikings would get that feeling. However there is a very solid argument that it would be best to put a band aid on it and make one last run.
McNabb could be that band aid. In Washington McNabb had one true receiver a tight end and a half and a running game that was spotty at best especially after Clinton Portis suffered a very painful sounding groin injury. In addition to all of that the Shanahans contributed next to nothing but a circus atmosphere and treated the future hall of famer like he was something they found at the bottom of their shoe. Does this sound like a formula for victory? Didn't think so. With the Vikings McNabb would find some younger more explosive weapons to take the weight off him (Harvin, Rice, Peterson) a better offensive line unit than where he was living previously. And I just get the feeling that Frazier will not abuse McNabb in the same inexcusable fashion that the Shanahans did.
Then of course there's Kolb, this time last year there was NO WAY, none, zilch, zero way that anyone could have predicted such an unfortunate change in fortune for Kolb. Last offseason McNabb was on the trade block with Mike Vick as the Eagles waited in vain for a QB market to open up for Vick. Rumors swirled, McNabb to Arizona, no Oakland, no Minnesota, Carolina? Washington? Nope that could never happen. Regardless the message was abundantly clear, Donovan was the past, Kevin the future. The storyline was perfect, a young smart QB with a very specific yet impressive stat to his name (first QB to ever throw back to back 300 yd games in his first two starts). A young core of skill players from human highlight reel DeSean Jackson to underestimated running back LeSean McCoy. Reid the Veteran coach hitting the reset button after being swept by the Cowboys. And then...Clay Matthews happened. A year later Kolb is the hottest commodity on the fictional free agent market (which is like being worth 20 million theoretical dollars on South Park). Kolb's young, reportedly commands respect and has a decent arm that could flourish given the chance in a west coast system predicated on short passes.
But obviously these two carry some problems, other wise they'd have contracts where they are now (unless of course you are McNabb in which case I'd just not come to Redskins camp just to see how many times Shanahan made me do the conditioning test before he realizes that he's lost the rest of the locker room). Well McNabb is getting along in years and closer by far to the end of his career than the beginning. He wasn't effective last year, missing easy throws and struggled throughout the season. Though in fairness there's really no reason to ever think that Rex Grossman was better than where you were. Kolb's record as a starter isn't all that impressive (I think it's 1-5) and there isn't a ton of film on him as a result. Also I do have my suspicions that Kolb may have his stats inflated thanks to DeSean and co.
Regardless those are my two impact free agent QB's. To those of you wondering where Palmer was on this list there's some reasons for this.
1. I do not do Palmer speculation, both the quarterback's I mentioned are for sure leaving their current teams. Palmer hasn't been traded and might retire just to escape the Bengals
2. Carson's not going to make a huge impact due to his injuries. He's not the same since 2005 when he suffered a truly awful knee injury.
Tomorrow: A look at the decline of the running back position and the rise of overly crowded backfields.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Way too early feature of the week: Preseason Heisman watchlist

So today I decided that it was a good day for a Heisman watchlist (why not it's a rainy day and it's assassins season at Breck). SO without further ado here is my first Way Too Early Feature of the Week.

1. Andrew Luck QB, Stanford
Luck had a truly heisman worthy season last year throwing for over 3000 yards and putting together a highlight reel that had him as a lock for the #1 spot in the draft. However something happened right as Panthers fan began projecting Luck draped in black and blue Luck decided he wasn't quite finished with the world of college football and is back this year with a new coach and dreams of a national championship. Make no mistake, Stanford has a strong shot at the glass football and after a runner up finish in the balloting this year Andrew Luck has a chance to have "His name forever followed by the words Heisman Trophy Winner"

2. LaMichael James RB, Oregon
An absolute burner James is an absolute home run hitter and a threat every time he comes near a football. That being said James may not have it so easy this time around with three Oregon offensive linemen graduating. That being said Oregon has transformed itself into a national powerhouse that demands respect even if it has to rip it from Lane Kiffin's fingers. Which segways perfectly into...

3. Matt Barkley QB, USC
Barkley is good...really good. Barkley after a rough staret as the first freshman ever to start at QB for the Trojans may really hit his stride this year after two years. I know it's not a actual stat but you gotta admire Barkley sticking it out at USC despite all the turnover as first his coach then several scholarships left campus and he was given Runaway Lane as a consolation prize. On top of all of that he was told that for the next two years he would never win a bowl game. Through it all Barkley has played and played well. I'm excited to see him do battle with Andrew Luck.

4. Kellen Moore QB, Boise State
I feel kind of guilty putting Moore at the bottom of my rankings but I also think that his chances are slim. Moore is an absolute phenom with pinpoint accuracy and nerves of steel both of which he showed in a game against Nevada. Moore is a proven winner who could go head to head with any QB on this list and come out with a chance of winning. But the qulaity of Moore's competition is going to count against him and in the end I can't see him coming away with the Heisman despite what I'm sure will be a season for the ages.

Dark horses: This year I'm putting two sophomores as my dark horses. They're not really dark horses so much as they are people who I believe will get their first real crack at the award next season. For those I've picked lightning fast Nebtraska QB Taylor Martinez. Martinez is a human highlight reel who exhibits a good arm and houdini feet. There are reports that there is no qurterback in the college game who runs the zone read option system as well as "T-Magic" and after seeing his play, I'm forced to agree. The other is South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore who has drawn comparisons in style to Vikings RB Adrian Peterson. Lattimore started at running back for a very good South Carolina team last year that almost won the SEC. With his quarterback Stephen Garcia suspended indefinitely we might be seeing a lot more of Lattimore busting through the secondary and into the end complaints here.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mock Draft 1.0

We're about 21 days out from the draft so I figured there is no better time for me to start in on my mock draft, I'll be doing a new one of these precisely whenever I feel like it...just kidding probably on a weekly basis. So with that out of the way let's get started

1. Carolina Panthers: Blaine Gabbert, QB Mizzou
For the Panthers I have Gabbert going #1 for a couple of reasons, the #1 reason is because I genuinely believe that Jimmy Clausen does not have what it takes to be an NFL QB and at this point the Panthers have very little to lose by just starting over. That being said I also believe that Gabbert is one of the most over rated prospects in the draft, his stat line isn't all that impressive especially when you consider that his competition isn't exactly amazing in the Big 12. None the less I still have him going as #1 for right now.

2. Denver Broncos: Marcell Dareus, DT Alabama
I made this pick because, as the good folks at ESPN will tell you, the Broncos are in a great position at the moment. Now I know what some of you are thinking, anything involving a record of 4-12 doesn't necessarily conjour up those warm, fuzzy feelings huh? Well be that as it may the Broncos have their pick of defensive talent which they will sorely need and that John Fox will almost certainly want with his first draft pick as the new head coach in the Mile high city. I was tempted briefly to put in Patrick Peterson who I'm really high on at the moment but I also believe that Denver's struggles against the run started up front so I chose the top rated DT prospect in this draft.

3. Buffalo Bills: Cam Newton, QB Auburn
A really big hit or miss target here for the Bills, Newton is probably the most controversial figure in this draft with many contending that he has a Roethlisberger like skill set with even better scrambling skills, others think that he's a shady kid who came out of nowhere and is destined to be a bust. I chose Newton for this spot because I think Chan Gailey wants Newton's mobility and realizes that Fitzpatrick is not the type to take the Bills to a deep playoff run. Newton offers a chance for the Bills to find a true franchise guy with the mobility that Gailey likes in a QB

4. Cinncinati Bengals: AJ Green. WR Georgia
Here I decided that the Bengals are going to be pressing the reset button here as they get younger at wideout it would be nice to have a dynamic young leader for a young corp of possibly talented pass catchers (Gresham and Shipley) to open up the middle of the field for Shipley and Gresham to cry havoc and let slip the hogs dogs of war (I'm a fan of Archer). Of course this pick could really go a lot of different ways especially the elephant in the room, Carson Palmer. Note: what follows is the only Carson Palmer related speculation I will be doing until a new CBA is in place and he is either traded or leaves Mike Brown for the wonderful life of retirement. Also I DO NOT DO LABOR TALKS. I figure you deserve to know that. But yeah I'm not going to mock the Bengals a qb here because there's nobody worth taking this high.

5. Arizona Cardinals: Von Miller, LB Texas A&M
Arizona could use a QB but I have my doubts (and by doubts I mean I think there is no chance) that the Cardinals organization goes draft to fill this need. Whisenhunt is on the hot seat and the team is in no position to be breaking in a rookie QB. The best course of action therefore considering the sturdiness of Arizona's wide out corp (Larry Fitz heals all wounds) I figured the Cardinals defense would like a blue chip pass rusher and could make a run at Kolb when/if there is free agency.

6. Cleveland Browns: Patrick Peterson, CB LSU
Here I went with a top flight cornerback for Mike Holmgren's new regime. This pick could also easily be Julio Jones but I decided that I really like the idea of Peterson being paired up with Joe Haden in the back 7 of Cleveland's defense. It would be a step in the right direction aka out of the AFC north basement.

7. San Francisco 49ers: Prince Amukamara, CB Nebraska
Again there are no QB's worth taking this high (2nd round?) but either way Jim Harbaugh's defense could benefit from one of the best cover corners I've seen in some time. Amukamara is a blazing fast prospect second only to Peterson in this draft in terms of corners.

8. Tennessee Titans: Robert Quinn, DE/OLB North carolina
The Titans are also in desperate need of a QB, their offensive coordinator is designing a system with no idea who his QB is. But I'll say this for the last time I promise, there are no QB's worth taking this high. So I gave them a truly fantastic pass rushing prospect in Robert Quinn an absolute nightmare operating off the edge who would no doubt be going in the top 5 if he had not been suspended this season. If the Titans are planning on trying to claw their way past Peyton Manning and the Colts they will need to pressure Manning early and often and hit the Colts where it hurts, their O-line but more on that later

9. Dallas Cowboys: Tyron Smith, OT USC
If there's a pick in my top 10 that I'm not sure about there is no doubt that it is this guy. Tyron Smith in my opinon projects well as the OL with the most upside. That being said the 'Boys could use some defensive help, and I made this pick based on an interesting tidbit that surfaced this morning. Mike Pouncey, twin brother of Steelers center Maurkice, tweeted that he is almost certain he is going to Dallas. I'm skeptical about this at best because I really can't see Pouncey going in the top 10 as a center based off my assesment of him. Then again Jake Long went #1 and I couldn't have called that one either so I'll keep a finger on the pulse of this one.

10. Washington Redskins: JJ Watt, DE Wisconsin
This one is also kind of a toss up when you assess all the needs that Washington has, Quarterback, Running back, Wide Receiver, anything involving line play, coach (yeah I said it). So where to begin? I chose Watt in the process giving the Redskins a pass rusher to pair with the juggernaut that is Brian 'Holy Crap He's Strong' Orakpo.

11. Houston Texans: Da'Quan Bowers, DE Clemson
Once a candidate for #1 overall Bowers takes a bit of a tumble here after reports surfaced that he failed a team physical on his left knee. In addition to that I have my concerns about Bowers' production over the first two years of his career compared with his junior campaign. Here he falls out of the top 10 ending up with the End needy Texans as they look to change defensive systems to suit new coordinator Wade Phillips. Though I could also see the Texans going for a DB if both of the top flight defensive backs weren't already off the board. I'd explain why I think the Texans need this...but this speaks for itself

12. Minnesota Vikings: Nick Fairley, DT Auburn
Also once a candidate for #1 Fairley is considered a bit on the light side (291 lbs) for a defensive tackle but I know that the Vikes are in need of D-Line help as what was once a truly epic conglomerate of quarterback eaters (Allen, Williams, Williams and Edwards) is on the verge of what could be a massive decline as the Vikes haven't got a real backup plan for Williams' inevitable retirement (38 years old) besides Jimmy Kennedy. So I gave the Vikings a player who basically lived in the SEC backfield through the second half of this past season despite my concerns that he's a possible one year wonder.

13. Detroit Lions: Akeem Ayers, OLB UCLA
Lost in the midst of Von Miller's stellar combine performance is a great pass rushing option by the name of Akeem from the magical land of California. Ayers is a solid OLB which will strengthen a maturing Lions defense in year two of the Suh era. Of course the better choice here is to take an offensive tackle considering that Stafford is in danger of losing the early stages of his career to injuries and an aging Jeff Backus must face the likes of Peppers, Allen and Matthews 6 times collectively throughout the year. So yeah investing in some protection where your multi million dollar star player can't see...might want to get on that. But the Lions seem to not be in crisis mode about it so I mocked them Ayers.

14. St. Louis Rams: Julio Jones, WR 'Bama
If Jones somehow slips this far there should literally be a exactly 2 seconds off the clock between Goodell saying who the Lions pick and who the Rams pick. That's one second to stamp Jones' name on the envelope and one second to deliver it. Jones may have lost some very catchable balls in his time at Bama but Jones is the only wide out in this draft who comes close to AJ Green's skill set. A dynamic playmaker with blazing speed and rock solid toughness (he played hurt through out his junior season at Bama), Sam Bradford and Josh McDaniels may become the next youtube phenom if there is a camera phone present as they do a choreogrpahed jig of glee with the kind of awe inspiring pizz zazz not seen since the Jackson 5.

15. Miami Dolphins: Mark Ingram, RB 'Bama
Surprised? Yeah I didn't think so. Everybody has Ingram charted for the Dolphins as he is definitely the best running back prospect in this draft with a keen sense of balance and determination that remind me of a young Emmit Smith.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Muhammad Wilkerson, DE Temple
I went with a pass rusher here for Jacksonville for the same reason I chose Bowers for Houston. To beat the Big P (Peyton Mannning) you need to focus on the three P's. Pressure, pressure and pressure. Jacksonville's pass rush is lacking and Aaron Kampman tore his ACL again. So I mocked them a defensive end. Made sense to me.

17. New England Patriots (Oakland Raiders): Nate Solder, OT Colorado
Here I decided that Belichick is painfully aware that his #1 priority must be to protect Brady even if it means putting some pads on over that hoody and doing it himself. Belichick has a ton of momentum for this draft with 6 picks in the first three rounds. So I mocked the Patriots the most established tackle on the grounds that Matt Light's contract is coming up soon and it could pay to have an insurance policy on Brady blind side (and by could I mean anyone who hasn't grasped this concept needs to review any game of football...ever)

18. San Diego Chargers: Aldon Smith, DE Mizzou
Pop quiz! Name the starting defensive lineman for the Chargers, name their biggest pass rushing threat, how about anybody on their defense who is not Quentin Jammer? If you had no response to any of these questions congratulations!! You have a life and are not just some nerd who spends his nights writing mock drafts...oh wait. Anyway my point is that there is nothing to fear from the San Diego pass rush since Shawn Merriman injured his knee and lost his burst. So the Chargers get to add a pass rushing threat as they desperately try to thread the needle while QB Phillip Rivers is still in his side slinging prime.

19. New York Giants: Corey Liuget, DT Illinois
I decided on Liuget because I feel that the Giants will continue to try and build around their defense and when they build around their defense they start with the guys up front. A nice presence in the middle might add a new dimension to this unit. Which is good because their line backing corp is unremarkable and the team plays best when its line plays best.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Cameron Jordan, DE Cal
This pick is tentative as both me and the guy who runs Walter Football (Huge fan of his work) are determined that the Bucs' best bet is to take an edge player (lot of that going around) to pair with last year's #3 overall pick DT Gerald McCoy. I say tentative because NFC South blog editor Pat Yasinkas contended a few days ago that Aqib Talib a rising star on the field at the corner position has run afoul of the law and might be heading to prison. Talib brings a lot to the table as a cover corner who dominates an entire half of the feeling and who QB's were just beginning to fear. This really made the whole defense concept start clicking. Coach Rahim Morris will need to look into back up plans in case Talib is suspended or worse.

21. Kansas City Chiefs: Jonathan Baldwin, WR Pitt
Baldwin presents an intriguing prospect to the Kansas City Chiefs building off of last year's surprise run and early exit from the playoffs. While dealing with the loss of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, Kansas City must right the ship with quarterback Matt Cassel. The best way to do this that I can think of at the moment is to find him a compliment to #1 receiver and go to guy Dwayne Bowe. Options are always better than no options and I'm still not completely sold on Bowe's sudden resurgence after years of flirting with the bust label. We'll see in the coming year if he's all hype or all real.

22. Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Castonzo, OT Boston College
The logic behind this is pretty simple, Peyton Manning (like most people) is better equipped to accurately throw a football while standing still than while lying on his back. If the Colts are serious about making more run like the ones of yester year and not being labeled as chokers who got lucky once they must strengthen the unit up front. Maybe a running back in the later rounds, but not here.

23. Philadelphia Eagles: Derek Sherrod, OT Miss. St.
The same thing I just said for Manning applies here, Vick was an absolute nightmare for a defense last year suddenly showing a new found ability to make more than one read, running only when he needed to and surrounded by one of the best corps of skill playersin the NFL. That being said it's easier to throw with his ribs intact and his quad not bruised. Head Coach Andy Reid will make this call to keep Vick in the pocket more. Something he'll need if he pulls the trigger on a Kolb trade.

24. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Kerrigan, DE Purdue
It's hard to mock for the Saints because they have so few needs, I'd mock them a guard if we had any idea as to whether or not blue chip guard Carl Nicks was leaving...but we don't so I gave them a defensive end because I had too many. Oh yeah and because of this

25. Seattle Seahawks: Jake Locker, QB Washington
Locker falls here to the hometown Seattle Seahawks and their 2nd year coach Pete Carrol. Locker presents an interesting figure to say the least. A quarterback who was in the running to go #1 overall last year drops to 25 here after scouts noticed some difficulties with his accuracy. That being said Locker was apparently deadly accurate on his pro day. But that has to be taken with the grain of slat that there was no defense at his pro day. I have Locker going here because Carrol doesn't know what will happen with Matt Hasselbeck, new regimes mean new QB's, Locker is a hometown hero and the fact that in spite of his awesome beard Charlie Whitehurst (aka Clipboard Jesus) was an epic waste of money by Carrol and is clearly not the answer for the team's long term issues.

26. Baltimore Ravens: Brandon Harris, CB Miami
"It's in Dallas this year" there was at time last summer where you couldn't turn on ESPN without seeing Anquan Boldin, newly minted Ravens wideout talking about Ray Lewis' call to him essentially declaring that with him on the roster that Baltimore was now unstoppable and would be charging full speed to the playoffs. About a week later basically the entire defensive backs section of the Raven's defense was injured in some way. Both starting corners were injured (one in a non contact drill tore his ACL of all the rotten luck) Ed Reed feared ball hawk of the Ravens defense was sidelined in the meantime whilst he recovered from hip surgery. My point is this the Ravens have two massive needs in this draft: Cornerback and wide out. I had Titus Young mocked here but I figure the Ravens' needs at corner are far greater than their need of a speed receiver to stretch the field.

27. Atlanta Falcons: Torrey Smith, WR Maryland
I also considered mocking Mike Smith and his team a pass rusher here but I decided that Matt Ryan needed another receiver more than John Abraham needed someone else to put on the belt with. Torrey Smith presents a nice option for Ryan to go to that should ease the coverage off of Rowdy Roddy White

28. New England Patriots: Gabe Carimi, OT Wisconsin
Carimi is here for the exact same reason as my last Patriots pick.

29. Chicago Bears: Mike Pouncey, C/G Florida
The twin brother of Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey Mike Pouncey isn't quite as talented as his brother but will still provide a massive upgrade at left guard that will make Jay Cutler feel a little better dropping back and delivering the ball.

30. New York Jets: Justin Houston, OLB Georgia
Consider this as a QB would, you have the most feared cornerback in the game blanketing your favorite wideout to the point you're not quite sure where Revis Island begins. Ok So you look to the other side and one of the best finesse corners in the league (Antonio Cromartie) is blanketing the other. What would you do? If your answer was check the slot then you've found the weakness...unless of course there's a massive pass rushing linebacker by the name of Justin Houston already in the midst of sacking you. Ryan's defense could really benefit from a pass rusher who is not named Jason Taylor.

31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Aaron Williams, CB Texas
Pittsburgh's front office has really been gooving on the first round sleection over the past few years (Polamalu, Pouncey, Hampton and Roethlisberger to name a few) so surely the front office noticed that the Steelers' iron curtain defense has a hole a hole that can be exploited by teams built like the Saints or even worse the Packers, teams with a clearly defined #1 but that have such talented receivers that you need an extra CB just to cover them all. The Steelers got beat in the Super Bowl on that, Mike Tomlin is gonna have a fire in his mind about how to claim another super bowl ring and will want to address this issue since there are no more first round linmen on the board at this point and he just missed out on the chance to draft the brother of his star center.

32. Green Bay Packers: Ryan Williams, RB VT
The Packers realized through this year that while it can be done if you have a tremendously talented QB no NFL offensive attack should be almost completely air based. Green Bay had next to no ground game throughout most of the year before alighting on the James Starks option. That being said Green Bay could stand to bring on another running back or a rush linebacker to compliment  Clay Matthews.

Whew! All done and with a newfound respect for Mel Kiper and anybody else who does draft analysis. Hope you enjoy this sports fans, and be on the look out for some new articles either today or tomorrow!

Well I guess this is hello

Sup football fans,

So it is getting near draft season and I thought to myself "You know what I've always wanted? A football blog". So being bored and whatnot I decided I'd go for it. Probably not going to get many people interested in my "expert" opinion but for those of you who do find this kinda cool or interesting let me just say thanks. So with that out of the way...LET'S GET READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL