Tag:A.J. Green
Posted on: December 28, 2011 1:22 pm
 

Three of top five 2011 picks voted to Pro Bowl

If there was any questions about the talent and immediate impact ability of the 2011 draft class they may have been answered yesterday when it was announced that three rookies were voted Pro Bowl starters.

The rookies, who incidentally were selected with the second, fourth and fifth picks overall were Denver pass rusher Von Miller, Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green and Arizona cornerback/returner Patrick Peterson.

Miller, NFLDraftScout.com's highest rated senior prospect last year, currently has 64 tackles and 11.5 sacks for the Broncos. While Tim Tebow and the Broncos' dominant run game has garnered most of the hype this year, it has been Miller and the Denver defense that has been just as critical in turning the Broncos from one of the league's worst teams into the possible AFC West champions. Miller's success comes as no surprise as his speed off the edge, when coupled with that of Elvis Dumervil's, gave me reason to predict in August that the former Texas A&M Aggie would win this year's Defensive Rookie of the Year.

As impressive as Miller was making plays on the defensive side of the ball, it isn't difficult to understand why NFLDraftScout.com rated A.J. Green as the best offensive pro prospect in the draft. Green leads the Bengals with 63 catches, 1,031 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Though Calvin Johnson might beg to differ, statistically speaking Green has been the best big play wideout in the NFL this season, havihttp://rob-rang.blogs.cbssports
.com/mcc/blogs/edit-entry/13682485n
g caught 11 passes for 35  yards or more, thus far.

Peterson, who I ranked as the top overall prospect in the 2011 draft, proved to be every bit the playmaker on special teams that his fellow rookies were on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Peterson tied an NFL record with four punt returns for touchdowns this season. He's struggled at times in coverage for the Cardinals, but has gotten better as the season has gone on, recording 60 tackles, 13 passes defensed and two interceptions. Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic asked star wideout Larry Fitzgerald about Peterson and his selection to the Pro Bowl. Fitzgerald's response is sure to make Cardinals' fans excited about Peterson's future.

"I remember in the draft everybody was talking about Von Miller this, Von Miller that -- and he's a fantastic player, a Pro Bowler as well -- but what Patrick has done us for this year, I think, has been the best in the league of anybody, except for maybe Cam Newton."

Fitzgerald was asked if he thought Peterson would make the Pro Bowl as a cornerback one day:

"I think he's right there. He's tremendously talented. I don't he even knows how talented he is. Talking to (Bengals receiver) A.J. Green after the game a little bit, and he's telling me Patrick was by far the best cornerback he's gone against. I feel the same way. When I compete against him, there are not many guys around the league that I play on Sundays who can match up with his physical tools. And then you talk about his ball skills, the way he's able to go attack the football at its highest point, tackle. I mean, the only thing he needs is experience, and I think playing every single game this year gave him that. His confidence you see is just continuing to rise week in and week out."


It should be noted that as good as these three were, one could make the argument that several other top ten picks from the 2011 draft could have been honored with a trip to Hawaii. Quarterback Cam Newton, who of course was drafted No. 1 overall by Carolina, defensive lineman Marcell Dareus (Buffalo, No. 3 overall), wide receiver Julio Jones (Atlanta, No. 6 overall) and pass rusher Aldon Smith (San Francisco, No. 7 overall) each made huge impacts for their respective clubs as rookies.


Posted on: April 28, 2011 7:30 pm
 

Falcons moving up for a WR?

Jay Glazer of FoxSports.com (and working today for The NFL Network) is reporting that the Atlanta Falcons are talking trade with the Cleveland Browns in an attempt to get Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones.

The deal would make a great deal of sense for the Falcons. They have one of the league's best wideouts in Roddy White, of course, but, didn't get enough production from their secondary targets. Other than future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez (arguably the best 35 year-old player in history), the Falcons' next most productive "receiver" was running back Jason Snelling -- who caught 44 passes for 303 yards.

Jones is the big, physical and fast wideout the Falcons were hoping to get when the previous regime invested a late first round pick in Michael Jenkins. Jones, of course, was viewed as a clear second option behind Georgia's A.J. Green -- until he beat Jones in virtually every measurable category at the Combine.

On tape, however, Green is a significantly more reliable route-runner and pass-catcher than Jones -- which is why I have the Georgia receiver as one of the four elite players of this year's draft and Jones as a very (but not elite) prospect as the ninth best prospect. There is no doubt, however, that Jones would be perfectly suited as the "secondary target" for the Falcons, rather than expected to come in and be an immediate No. 1 target as Green will no doubt be. 

The potential to move down also makes a great deal of sense for the Browns. Cleveland's biggest need is in transitioning from a 3-4 defense to the 4-3. With few defensive linemen currently on the roster that fit the scheme -- and run on such linemen expected to occur in the late first round -- the move makes sense. It also, of course, would give a young Browns' team more picks with which to grow.
Posted on: April 28, 2011 12:46 pm
Edited on: April 28, 2011 12:47 pm
 

Late rumblings: Fairley in play for Broncos?

While there is plenty of attention in Denver to the fact the Broncos will transition back to a 4-3 alignment under new coach John Fox, the club is perhaps even more concerned with identifying a defender who can make what one club executive termed "a really big difference" on third down.

As reported late Wednesday by ESPN, the Broncos still have four players under consideration for the No. 2 overall choice - defensive linemen Marcell Dareus and Nick Fairley, linebacker Von Miller and cornerback Patrick Peterson - and not surprisingly all four are guys who can influence a game on third down. The Broncos remain somewhat puzzled by how they could best utilize Miller, the best pass-rusher in the draft, but Fox has said he will not hesitate use former 3-4 linebackers Elvis Dumervil and Robert Ayers at end in his 4-3, so perhaps size doesn't matter as much as upfield burst to him.

Don't discount Fairley, who some Denver scouts feel is a better third-down defender than is Dareus.

Hot-lanta: It's not in the intrinsic DNA of Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff to make a huge jump in the first round - although his New England background has prepared him well for wheeling and dealing - but there definitely is something to the rumor instigated by Peter King of S.I. that the Falcons are thinking about a major deal for a shot at wide receivers A.J. Green or Julio Jones.

While the rationale of some who saw the Falcons dismantled by Green Bay in the playoffs is that Atlanta must address its defense - either with a left end, linebacker or a cornerback - the game equally demonstrated to team officials the need for a more explosive receiver than Michael Jenkins to pair with Roddy White. Despite a faster 40-yard time, the feeling around the NFL is that Jones isn't quite the playmaker that Green is.

Not that this has any bearing on the Atlanta draft, but locals have been very vocal that the Falcons need to make an effort to somehow land Green, whose exploits at Georgia are well known to Falcons patrons.

No deal: Old buddy Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wasted little time on Wednesday dismissing a rumor that the Steelers were trying hard to trade up in the first round for Florida guard Mike Pouncey, and reunite him with twin brother Maurkice Pouncey, the club's Pro Bowl center. Bouchette termed the rumor, "a fantasy," and after talking with a couple team officials, we couldn't agree more. The draft stock of "the other" Pouncey is ascending, and while it's true the Steelers love him, they can't deal high enough to land him without undermining a lottery in which the club has to address several needs. Given the draft value points chart that many franchises use, Pittsburgh would probably have to surrender first-, second-, and third-round choices for a shot at Pouncey, who could go off the board right around the middle of the first round, and that historically isn't how the Steelers do business.

Trade mart
: We're still uncertain if all the smoke about trading up or down in the first round will amount to much fire, but expect a lot of later deals, team officials and player agents have suggested. If the league still has a moratorium against signing undrafted free agents, teams will be looking to land additional sixth- and seventh-round choices, and select players that might otherwise have been considered as priority free agents instead of gambling they'll be able to sign them.

Punts
: If Miller is not available at the fifth overall pick, it will still be a bit of an upset if Arizona chooses a quarterback with the choice. Some people feel that, in such a scenario, the Cardinals will try hard to bail out of the pick, while others have suggested the club will opt for a wide receiver to complement Larry Fitzgerald. ... The No. 5 and No. 6 picks (Cleveland) definitely are in play if the prospects the two teams have targeted are off the board. ... A lot of people in the league feel the Cardinals already have an understanding with pending free agent quarterback Marc Bulger. The Cardinals would have liked to sign Bulger last year, and coach Ken Whisenhunt lobbied for a deal, but Arizona had already agreed with Derek Anderson and management didn't see a way to bring in two veterans. ... Statistical oddity I: Dimitroff, who along with coach Mike Smith has resurrected the Falcons in three years, has exercised 26 draft choices, but has never taken a Big 10 player. In fact, the last Big 10 player chosen by Atlanta was Ohio State center Doug Datish, a sixth-rounder in 2007, when current team president Rich McKay was still running the Falcons' drafts. ... Statistical oddity II: Dallas has now gone 29 straight drafts without choosing an offensive lineman in the first round. The Cowboys selected Missouri tackle Howard Richards with their top pick in 1981. ... There aren't likely to be many players who "jump" a round - who move up from, say, the second to the first stanza, but there are a few guys who seem to have picked up some steam in the last day or two, and could go perhaps a half-round sooner than expected. Two such players, among others, are wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan (Troy) and corner Marcus Gilchrist (Clemson). 

--Len Pasquarelli, The Sports Xchange 

 

Posted on: April 26, 2011 10:28 pm
 

Arizona Cardinals Draft Preview

Arizona Cardinals 2010 record: 5-11, fourth place NFC West

2011 draft rundown - Eight total picks (round): 5 (1); 38 (2); 69 (3); 103 (4); 136 (5); 171 (6); 184 (7); 249 (7)

Top needs:   

Outside linebacker: Last year's starters, Clark Haggans and Joey Porter, will be 34 by the time the season is scheduled to start. Haggans could return, but Porter, whose salary is due to increase to $5.75 million probably is gone. Von Miller would be a nice replacement. With Daryl Washington and O'Brien Schofield, the Cardinals would have three young, promising linebackers. Brooks Reed from the University of Arizona would make sense in the second round. He's bigger and would be a good fit on the left side.

Quarterback: It's the top priority this offseason, but the Cardinals would prefer to address it through free agency or trade. Those options obviously aren't available to them, but they will be at some point, if the 2011 season is to be played. In John Skelton, the Cardinals already have a young quarterback. But there are some intriguing quarterbacks in this draft. Whisenhunt likes smart, tough gym-rat type of guys. Andy Dalton of Texas Christian falls into that category, as does Washington's Jake Locker. Both likely will be gone by the second round, however.

Inside linebacker: Gerald Hayes, the starter for the past five seasons, probably will be released at some point. The Cardinals don't have a big, inside linebacker on the roster, and could use a physical presence. Illinois' Martez Wilson would make sense in the second round. The starting two inside linebackers, Paris Lenon and Daryl Washington, weigh between 230 pounds and 240 pounds.

Guard: The starting guards, Alan Faneca and Deuce Lutui, are not under contract, and there are no young players behind them. Cannon is huge, 6-5, 358, and the Cardinals love to have large, road-grader type guys inside. Cannon has the size to play tackle, too, which is attractive.


First-round focus  5th overall -- The general consensus among league insiders is that the Cardinals would much rather land their next starting quarterback via free agency or trade, rather than invest in a rookie. Despite this notion, Arizona could have a hard time passing up Missouri's Blaine Gabbert -- rated by many as the top quarterback of this class -- if he were available to them at No. 5. With several attractive would-be free agents potentially available, the Cardinals could elect to look at other positions of need, however. Chief among them is pass rusher. The Cardinals feature two aging outside linebackers in Clark Haggans and Joey Porter and could be in prime position to nab the top pass rusher of the draft in Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller. The Cardinals kept close eye on the former Aggie throughout the week of practice at the Senior Bowl and could certainly use his speed off the edge. Arizona is so needy at the position that some theorize the club would "reach" for North Carolina's Robert Quinn should Miller already be gone. Perhaps a safer move would be to stick to the best player available strategy. LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson wouldn't fill as big of a need, but could present a big play threat opposite Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Similarly, if Georgia wideout A.J. Green were to still be available, he would provide the Cardinals with a vertical threat to help Larry Fitzgerald. With two receivers of that quality, veteran quarterbacks would likely be lining up at the door to play in Arizona, especially considering that the Cardinals play in the very winnable NFC West division.

Five names on Cardinals' board:   
OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M
QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
WR A.J. Green, Georgia
CB Patrick Peterson, LSU
OLB Robert Quinn, North Carolina
Posted on: April 26, 2011 10:14 pm
 

Cincinnati Bengals Draft Preview

Cincinnati Bengals 2010 record: 4-12, fourth place AFC North

2011 draft rundown - Eight total picks (round): 4 (1); 35 (2); 66 (3); 101 (4); 134 (5); 167 (6); 207 (7); 246 (7)

Top needs:   

Quarterback: With Carson Palmer stating that he is done playing in Cincinnati, the Bengals have to address the position early. Jordan Palmer and Dan LeFevour are on the roster but they have thrown a combined 15 passes in regular-season games and are not the long-term answer. Whoever they draft, it won't be a situation like 2003 where Carson Palmer got to sit for a year and learn the offense. He will be expected to play immediately.

Wide receiver: Cincinnati needs to draft a young playmaker who can stretch the field because Chad Ochocinco, Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell are all entering the final year of their contracts. With Ochocinco's production declining the past three years and scheduled to make $6 million this year, the odds of him being on the opening-day roster are slim. The Bengals haven't drafted a receiver in the first round since 2000 but they have squandered nearly $25 million in free agency the last two years in trying to find someone to line up opposite Ochocinco.

Safety: The Bengals could go into the season with Chris Crocker and Reggie Nelson as the starters (Roy Williams is an unrestricted free agent), but could get caught short for the third straight year due to injuries. They could find a safety or two in the middle rounds but Lewis has already said that the quality in this year's class is not good.

Offensive line: Guard is an immediate need with Bobbie Williams entering the final year of his contract and Nate Livings inconsistent. Depending on if Andre Smith can come back from his third foot surgery since being drafted two years ago, there could also be a need at right tackle. Offensive line coach Paul Alexander has done a solid job developing linemen, but those have been mostly undrafted players.


First-round focus  4th overall -- Like the Buffalo Bills picking immediately before them, the Bengals are in the unenviable position of reading the tea-leaves with their current quarterback. Should the Bengals take Carson Palmer at his word and believe that he will never play for them again, they'll feel the pressure to select either Blaine Gabbert or Cam Newton, should either be available to them at No. 4. If neither is, the Bengals are expected to select Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green with the fourth pick. Not only would he help the Bengals' passing game (and potentially help convince Palmer to come back), he also would provide Cincinnati with some flexibility at the receiver position -- something they need desperately considering the precarious status of their current receiving corps. Alabama's Julio Jones is a more physical blocker and ran faster at the Combine. He is viewed by some as a better in the West Coast Offense due to his size and strength, but isn't nearly as consistent as Jones in the all-important categories of route-running and catching passes with his hands. Though the Bengals have rarely moved on draft day (they've been apart of only three first round trades since 1992), this could be the year to do it. There will be plenty of interest in Green and LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, as well as Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller should he still be on the board. The Bengals may be forced to trade back into the late portion of the first round if they're unable to trade back from No. 4 as they desperately need a quarterback -- and potentially one who could contribute immediately. Most view Florida State's Christian Ponder and TCU's Andy Dalton as the most pro-ready quarterbacks of this year's draft. There is no guarantee that either will be available when the Bengals select in the second round (No. 35 overall).

Five names on Bengals' board:   
QB Cam Newton, Auburn
QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
WR A.J. Green, Georgia
WR Julio Jones, Alabama
CB Patrick Peterson, LSU

Posted on: April 25, 2011 8:00 pm
 

Carolina Panthers Draft Preview

Carolina Panthers 2010 record: 2-14, fourth place NFC South

2011 draft rundown - Eight total picks (round): 1 (1); 65 (3); 97 (3); 98 (4); 132 (5); 166 (6); 203 (7); 244 (7)

Top needs:   

Quarterback: The Panthers finished last passing in 2010, so it doesn't take much to figure out their biggest need this offseason. In fact, even new coach Ron Rivera has come out and said his team's biggest goal is finding a franchise quarterback.

Defensive tackle: The Panthers have an equally pressing need on the other side of the ball at defensive tackle entering this year's NFL draft. Last year, the Panthers rotated Derek Landri, Nick Hayden and Ed Johnson in at the defensive tackle spots. All three might be considered decent role players, but none are exceptional and might not start for many other teams around the league.

Wide receiver: Yes, the Panthers drafted three wide receivers last year, including two in the third round in Brandon LaFell and Armanti Edwards and one in the sixth in David Gettis. But if the team decides to trade unhappy veteran Steve Smith, which is a possibility, they will need to replenish this position with a top-end talent.

Cornerback: Richard Marshall has said he doesn't think he'll be back and fellow starter Chris Gamble (who is owed $6 million) is coming off a poor season in which he was benched.


First-round focus   1st overall -- The Carolina Panthers are widely expected to select quarterback Cam Newton with the top overall pick, but some believe the team is struggling to come to grips with the thought of investing the first pick on a player with only one season of starting experience at the BCS level. It is easy to understand why the Panthers might be tempted by some of the other players in this draft class. Alabama defensive Marcell Dareus, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson and Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green also play positions of need and are widely viewed as considerably safer prospects. North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn could prove a Pro Bowl caliber pass rusher -- something the Panthers could use considering their loss last year of free agent Julius Peppers -- and would be a popular selection given his close regional ties, as well. Ultimately, however, the way to improve in the NFL is to improve at the quarterback position. Considering the relative talent of the other quarterbacks in the NFC South division (Atlanta, New Orleans, Tampa Bay), the only way for the Carolina Panthers to realistically get back into contention for the divisional crown, they need improved play at quarterback. Newton is a gamble, but his 51 touchdowns against SEC competition and poise both on and off the field in driving Auburn to the BCS Championship, is the stuff of legend. At this point, it would be an upset if Carolina selected anyone other than Newton with the first pick -- though with no second round selection and holes throughout the roster, they'll be working the phones to the last second in an effort to trade down.

Five names on Panthers' board:   
QB Cam Newton, Auburn
QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama
CB Patrick Peterson, LSU
DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina

Posted on: March 22, 2011 1:18 pm
Edited on: March 22, 2011 1:53 pm
 

Bulldogs have some bite

Georgia defensive end Justin Houston ran about as expected at the team's pro day Tuesday, slightly improving on his 4.62 40 at the Combine by timing in the high 4.5's on some watches. He also looked solid in position drills, showing good foot quickness and balance when changing directions.

Houston's versatility as a pass-rushing 3-4 OLB or 4-3 defensive end (in systems where being a shade under 6-3 is not a concern) makes him a coveted prospect. Unlike many college defensive ends transitioning into the 3-4, Houston does have some experience rushing from a stand-up position. But his "linebacker" work comprised mostly of chasing the quarterback, so he would have to work on other aspects of his game to be more than a specialist at the next level.

Former Ohio State star Vernon Gholston, recently released by the Jets after taking him with the sixth overall selection in 2006, tested simiarly to Houston coming out of school but struggled to make the transition to the 3-4 outside linebacker position. That's one reason Houston may, instead, be a mid-to-late first round pick to Tampa Bay or New Orleans as a weak-side defensive end.

Georgia's other first-round prospect, receiver A.J. Green, did not participate in agility tests today because he preferred to stand on his Combine results. He did catch throws from former Oregon and Montana quarterback Justin Roper, however, showing his ability to get off the line quickly, stem his route, plant his foot and cut outside in a hurry. 

The 6'6", long-legged Roper had some issues hitting Green in stride (partially because they had only a couple of days to work together), so Green got the chance to display his ability to snag high or wide throws with his hands well out in front of his body. He also exhibited the body control to extend above his head (remember the TD vs. Colorado this fall?), find the sideline on out routes, and continue downfield on his route. Few 6-3 5/8" receivers own his explosiveness and quickness, which is why he is considered a certain top ten pick.

To nitpick the workout, as scouts will, Green did double-catch multiple passes, however, with the ball bouncing off his hands slightly before grabbing it the second time. He also allowed a couple of throws too far into his body, which would allow NFL defenders to more easily jostle it from his possession.

He did not face press coverage today, though quarterback coach George Whitfield (who is working with Roper), did stand in front of Green off the snap to show the receiver's ability to escape against press-bail. That is something the lean Green will have to show he can do before going up against physical NFL cornerbacks and is one factor that might cost him the number one spot on teams' receiver rankings to Alabama stud receiver Julio Jones, who is much thicker and put up superior Combine numbers in February.

But anyone watching Green Tuesday saw the elite fluidity, length, and hands that will put him as the top receiver on at least some teams' boards -- and ensure his coming off the board very early come April 28th.

On a side note, NFL scouts got the same view of the pro day as anyone watching the workout on ESPN3.com because Roper did not play in the state of Georgia and his hometown of Buford, Georgia is not within 40 miles of the Athens campus (46.2 miles according to Google Maps). It's an arcane rule that makes little sense--maybe this incident will cause it to be changed.

--Contributed by NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Chad Reuter
Posted on: March 21, 2011 11:31 am
 

Big surprise - Panthers focusing on QBs for No. 1

Just as he did during the Combine, Panthers' head coach Ron Rivera has highlighted a group of eight prospects for the No. 1 overall pick.

He cited three quarterbacks among those prospects -- Auburn's Cam Newton, Missouri's Blaine Gabbert and, perhaps surprisingly, Arkansas' Ryan Mallett.

Though there are another five players potentially in play for the top pick -- presumably defensive linemen Marcell Dareus, Da'Quan Bowers and Nick Fairley, cornerback Patrick Peterson and wide receiver A.J. Green -- the Panthers' focus seems pretty intent on finding another quarterback to compete with (and potentially replace) incumbent starter Jimmy Clausen, at least according to a report from Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer.

Person notes that the Panthers "could go after" one of the five "other" picks in the draft, but only if "If the Panthers decide to bring in a veteran quarterback through a trade or free agency, assuming the lockout is resolved early enough."

Clearly, Person believes that the Panthers are acknowleding that quarterback is the number one priority and will be addressed. 

Person quotes Rivera as saying, “We have a number of positions that we've identified as needs. We're trying to get to that point where we can start filling those needs as the time is appropriate,” Rivera said. “If you can fill a need through free agency, we're going to do it. If we have to go through the draft, we'll do it. If we've got to make a trade, we'll do it.”

Should Carolina find a way to add a veteran quarterback, which is, of course, impossible until a new CBA is agreed to, the Panthers have options with the first pick.

If not, they'll be choosing between Newton and Gabbert with their first pick.

Regardless of what Rivera is saying publicly, Mallett is very much fighting just to stay in the first round, according to multiple sources inside the league,  much less contend for No. 1 overall honors.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com