Posted on: May 10, 2011 2:11 pm
Over the next two weeks I will be highlighting a different position each day in an attempt to Find the Fit -- identifying 2011 prospects who are a particularly good schematic fits for the club that selected him. I'll also highlight one player per position who I believe could struggle in his new NFL role. Too often in the past rookies who have struggled in the NFL have done so because they were simply drafted into schemes that didn't fit their individual strengths.
Defensive end was one of the strengths of the 2011 draft class, but a disproportionate number of them were five technique defenders best suited to holding the point in a 3-4 scheme. There were few classic 4-3 RDEs to be had in 2011, with former North Carolina standout Robert Quinn being the most explosive of the bunch. In many cases, top collegiate defensive ends -- such as Texas A&M's Von Miller, Missouri's Aldon Smith and Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan will be moved to outside linebacker. As such, much of the focus below is on DEs capable of playing immediately in the scheme in which they were drafted, though they may not be used as defensive ends with their NFL teams.
Like my picks on the offensive side of the ball (the quarterbacks , running backs , wide receivers , tight end and offensive line fits), I highlight players taken in the middle and later rounds, as well as 1st and 2nd rounders.
Players are listed alphabetically.
Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints: New Orleans' defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is one of the creative minds in the business, making the versatile Jordan an ideal fit in the Saints' defensive line rotation. Jordan, who emerged as a star at defensive end in the 3-4 while at Cal, proved the ability to be just as disruptive as a 4-3 pass rusher while at the Senior Bowl. At 6-4, 287 pounds, Jordan also has the size and strength to slip inside at defensive tackle in nickel situations.
Ryan Kerrigan, Washington Redskins: The Big Defensive Player of the Year as a defensive end, Kerrigan will be asked to drop to outside linebacker in the Redskins' odd-man front. Kerrigan was widely characterized as strictly a 4-3 defensive end, but some of the clubs I'm closest to who work for 3-4 teams absolutely loved the former Boilermaker's burst and passion as a stand-up OLB. The biggest knock on Kerrigan coming out of Purdue was that he didn't use his hands well enough to keep NFL offensive tackles from latching on to him. The theory went that by moving him further away, he could use his speed to blow past tackles. Playing opposite an established rusher in Brian Orakpo, Kerrigan could prove an immediate impact player from this draft and ultimately quite a steal at No. 16, overall.
Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams: Like the Saints, the Rams simply got lucky when a top defensive end that fit their system simply fell in their lap. Quinn was rated by many as a top 10 prospect, but with four quarterbacks surprisingly making the Top 12, Auburn's Nick Fairley and Quinn fell to the Detroit Lions and Rams, respectively. With the exception of the Broncos' Miller (who will be asked to move to OLB), Quinn was the most explosive pass rusher in this draft. Playing opposite a strong, stout defender like former No. 2 overall pick Chris Long, Quinn's speed should give the Rams' otherwise aging defensive line some real playmaking potential. Quinn is already being viewed by some as a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate.
Jabaal Sheard, Cleveland Browns: Knowing that the Browns desperately needed to get bigger and more productive up front in their transition back to a 4-3 defense, I had Cleveland pegged to take Quinn at No. 6, overall. That may or may not have been the direction they were going to with that pick, but when Atlanta offered them five selections (including their 1st and 4th round picks in 2012) to move down, the rebuilding Browns jumped at the opportunity. In Sheard (taken No. 37 overall), Cleveland got a high-effort pass rusher with an underrated combination of power and burst off the snap. He isn't as explosive as Quinn, but might be a safer pick and could surprise with his immediate production in this scheme.
Aldon Smith, San Francisco 49ers: While some pointed to quarterback or cornerback as the 49ers' biggest areas of concern, I've maintained that the team desperately needed to address their lack of a consistent pass rush. The 49ers clearly agreed, but I have real reservations about the player they chose to fix their concerns. It isn't that I dislike Smith. Actually, I'm quite high on the former Tiger's upside... I just liked him much more as a 4-3 defensive end rather than as a 3-4 rush linebacker. I didn't see the balance and change-of-direction from Smith that I believe translates into a high degree of success as a 3-4 OLB. Taking into consideration Smith's long, relatively lean frame (6-4, 263 pounds and exceptionally long arms, legs) and age (20), I see Smith getting naturally bigger as spends time in an NFL weight room. Quite frankly, I see Smith growing out of the position and struggling to put up the numbers expected of a player taken so high (No. 7) in the draft.
Posted on: April 24, 2011 3:00 pm
Minnesota Vikings 2010 record: 6-10, fourth place NFC West
2011 draft rundown - Nine total picks (round): 12 (1); 43 (2); 106 (4); 139 (5); 150 (5); 172 (6); 200 (6); 215 (7) 236 (7)
Quarterback: Favre had a miserable 2010 season after a spectacular 2009 and has called it quits for a third time. That's fine with the Vikings, who feel it's time for them to move on. Frazier's preference would be to draft a quarterback and have that player develop under new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.
Defensive line: Starting left end Ray Edwards is expected to be a free agent when a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is reached and that means the Vikings will be in search of a starter. Brian Robison signed an extension just before the lockout, but he might be best suited as a situational pass rusher. Everson Griffen, a fourth-round pick last year, has talent but has had off-the-field issues this offseason and is considered less than reliable.
Offensive line: Pro Bowl left guard Steve Hutchinson is 34 years old, center John Sullivan has yet to establish himself and right guard Anthony Herrera is coming off a knee injury. This unit needs to get younger and add depth. And that's not even getting into the fact that Bryant McKinnie is considered a chronic underachiever, despite the fact many teams probably would like to have the massive left tackle.
First-round focus 12th overall -- The Vikings had to be impressed by the level of play of rookie Joe Webb last year as the former wide receiver shocked the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football* (*actually played on Tuesday) with a solid all-around performance. Even with Webb's impressive performance, the Vikings are expected to look for another young quarterback to groom now that Brett Favre has retired (and will presumably remain so). The Vikings have been linked to Washington's Jake Locker, as his mobility, upside and intangibles are thought to be very highly valued by the Vikings. Minnesota is also thought to be high on the upside of Nevada's Colin Kaepernick and view Florida State's Christian Ponder and TCU's Andy Dalton as ideal fits in their offense, as well, but may not have a first round grade on these three passers. Should the Vikings elect to push off their needs at quarterback, addressing their concern at defensive end is also a strong possibility. Veteran Ray Edwards is scheduled for free agency and could be one of the more sought-after talents whenever the league and union make amends. The Vikings could look to take advantage of this year's rare talent and depth along the defensive line with the No. 12 pick, overall. The team is thought to have Cal's Cameron Jordan, Wisconsin's JJ Watt and Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan closely rated and as such might be willing to trade down a few spots should all three be on the board. Jordan would be a particularly intriguing fit considering that his father, Steve Jordan, was a Pro Bowl tight end for the Vikings from 1982-1994. The Vikings are thought likely to consider an interior offensive lineman at some point in the draft. Florida's Mike Pouncey would be a bit of a reach at No. 12, but would solidify the unit due to his size, strength and versatility.
Five names on Vikings' board:
QB Jake Locker, Washington
DE Cameron Jordan, California
DE JJ Watt, Wisconsin
DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
OL Mike Pouncey, Florida
Posted on: March 31, 2011 8:37 pm
Outside linebacker Von Miller told ESPN he will attend the NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 22 days after he's scheduled to be in court as a plantiff in the antritrust lawsuit the NFL players have filed against the league.
The former Texas A&M star is one of 20 players that have been invited to the draft, according to the NFL Network.
Other names reportedly on the invite list include defensive tackle Marcel Dareus, wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Mark Ingram from Alabama, Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert and teammate defensive end Aldon Smith, Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn, Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green, Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara, USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith and Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt.
Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and Cal defensive end Cameron Jordan have also been invited, according to ProFootballTalk.com.
All are among NFLDraftScout.com's top 20 overall rated prospects.
Jones told Sirius NFL Radio that he will attend the draft, while Clayborn announced on his Twitter page that he'll be there and Smith told the NFL Network at his pro day that he'll be at Radio City Music Hall. Washington quarterback Jake Locker said at his pro day that he received an invitation, but will watch the event at home with his family.
"I appreciate the invite, but for me, I want to be with the people that have been with me my whole life and helped me get to this point, and I want to share that experience for them," Locker told NFL Network. "Not all of them would be able to come to New York with me."
The NFL Players Trade Association said it will have an event over draft weekend, but that it won't interfere with the draft itself, after weeks of rumors that prospects were being asked not to attend.
--Derek Harper, NFLDraftScout.com Executive Editor
Posted on: March 10, 2011 12:47 pm
Edited on: March 10, 2011 12:47 pm
Each year at least one top ten selection surprises even those who follow the draft process very closely. Last year's draft included two such picks, with Buffalo picking running back C.J. Spiller and Jacksonville selecting California defensive lineman Tyson Alualu. The Chiefs took DE Tyson Jackson with the third pick in 2009, the Patriots ILB Jerod Mayo at #10 in 2008.
OT Tyron Smith to Arizona at #5:
RB Mark Ingram to San Francisco at #7, Dallas at #9
LB Martez Wilson to San Francisco at #7
DL Cameron Jordan to Dallas at #9
--Contributed by NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Chad Reuter
Posted on: January 28, 2011 3:51 pm
The Senior Bowl is like any other all-star game in sports - it is designed to acknowledge celebrated athletes with the fan in mind.
Coaches' first priority is to get every player on the field, not necessarily win the game.
For this reason, the highly competitive practices serve as a greater opportunity to scout prospects than the Senior Bowl, itself. As such, some NFL teams send their entire coaching staffs, as well as their scouting departments, to Mobile, Alabama to gauge the talent. By Saturday's game, 90% of them will have already left the city limits.
With Thursday and Friday's practices essentially glorified walk-throughs, Wednesday is the last time most NFL personnel will see these prospects under a helmet until the draft, itself.
Scouts will have you believe that players can't hurt their stock by participating in an all-star game. That, of course, is untrue. More players, however, improved their grade than harmed it this week.
These are the 15 players whose performance in Mobile altered their stock the most. Ten helped themselves. Five are hoping that scouts will trust the tape and not allow three disappointing days at the Senior Bowl to harm their stock too much.
Vincent Brown, WR, San Diego State: Possessing a burst off the line, explosiveness out of his cuts and sticky hands to catch everything in sight, Brown may have made the biggest jump of any prospect this week in Mobile.
James Brewer, OT, Indiana: Overshadowed by this year's crop of high profile offensive tackles, Brewer's massive frame (6-6, 323) and athleticism might ultimately help him enjoy a comparable NFL career as any of his Senior Bowl teammates.
Kendall Hunter, RB, Oklahoma State: Explosive, elusive and showing the strength and aggression in pass protection uncommon of backs of his 5-07, 199 pound frame, Hunter this week looked like the back that led the Big 12 with 1,555 rushing yards in 2008.
Cameron Jordan, DE, Cal: Simply dominant at right defensive end and when moved inside at defensive tackle, Jordan would have racked up the sacks and tackles for loss numbers this week had he been able to take ball-carriers to the ground. His position and scheme-versatility could see his stock skyrocket just as it did with former Cal teammate Tyson Alualu after a similarly strong effort in Mobile.
Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada: Displaying the arm strength, accuracy and touch to be an early round pick, Kaepernick played side by side with Washington's Jake Locker... and was the more impressive thrower.
Jeremy Kerley, WR, TCU: Coming from TCU's spread offense, there were questions about Kerley's route-running. His quick feet, however, separated him from the rest of the South's receiving corps just as fast as he did the South's defensive backs.
Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M: NFLDraftScout.com's highest rated prospect in this game, Miller not only demonstrated his spectacular pass rushing skills, but his ability to blanket running backs in coverage, as well. The Butkus Award winner could wind up the first senior prospect drafted.
Luke Stocker, TE, Tennessee: Despite absorbing some hellacious hits, Stocker didn't drop a pass all week long. At 6-5, 255 pounds he has the bulk to contribute as an-line blocker. He may accomplish what former Vol tight end Jason Witten did not - hear his name called in the second round.
Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor: A left tackle for the Bears, Watkins made a seamless transition inside to guard, belying the fact that he has only four years of experience in organized football.
Shareece Wright, CB, USC: With his senior season Wright's only one as a starter, the Trojan needed a strong performance in Mobile to emerge as a Top 100 pick. He provided exactly that, showing the agility and speed for coverage while measuring in at a respectable 5-11, 182 pounds.
Jeremy Beal, DE, Oklahoma: Lacking explosiveness off the snap and the strength to push tackles into the pocket, this Sooner superstar may have been exposed as a high-motor player with limited athleticism and upside.
Mark Herzlich, OLB, Boston College: Everyone respects Herzlich's successful recovery from bone-cancer, but the reality is the Eagle linebacker was the No. 1 rated senior prospect just two years ago and now is no guarantee to be selected in the draft's first two rounds - and that is before teams worry themselves about the possibility of his disease's recurrence. Herzlich was routinely beaten in coverage and proved surprisingly ineffective rushing the passer this week.
DeMarcus Love, OT, Arkansas: A First-Team All-SEC selection at offensive tackle, Love's poor posture forced him to lunge at pass rushers at the Senior Bowl, turning him into a virtual turn-stile. To rectify the situation Love may have to be moved inside to guard.
Pernell McPhee, DE, Mississippi State: Having signed with Mississippi State as one of the nation's highest touted JUCO prospects, McPhee struggled to make an impact as a pass rusher in the SEC. His inability to do the same at the Senior Bowl - or even keep his feet - could see his stock slide into the middle rounds.
Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State: Demonstrating the burst and power during Monday's practice that earned him back to back Morris Trophies as the Pac-10's most dominant defensive lineman, Paea appeared well on his way to an impressive week at the Senior Bowl. Instead, the discovery of a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee ended Paea's week early and put any chance at being Oregon State's first defensive lineman selected in the draft's opening frame in doubt.
NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Chad Reuter contributed to this article.
Posted on: January 27, 2011 4:12 pm
Today and tomorrow's practices at the Senior Bowl are essentially walk-throughs, making Monday-Wednesday's practices far and away the most important ones for evaluating prospects.
Prospects at every position stood out. Fellow Senior Analyst Chad Reuter and I put together an expanded Risers-Fallers article soon to be released on NFLDraftScout.com based on these practices. In the mean time, here is my All-Practice team.
QB: Colin Kaepernick, Nevada
RB: Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State
FB: Owen Marecic, Stanford
WR: Vincent Brown, San Diego State
WR: Jeremy Kerley, TCU
TE: Luke Stocker, Tennessee
OT: Nate Solder, Colorado
OG: Danny Watkins, Baylor
C: Kris O'Dowd, USC
OG: John Moffitt, Wisconsin
OT: Anthony Castonzo, Boston College
DE: Cameron Jordan, California
DT: Phil Taylor, Baylor
DT: Ian Williams, Notre Dame
DE: Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
OLB: Von Miller, Texas A&M
ILB: Casey Matthews, Oregon
OLB: Lawrence Wilson, Connecticut
CB: Johnny Patrick, Louisville
CB: Shareece Wright, USC
S: Da'Norris Searcy, North Carolina
S: Ahmad Black, Florida
Category: NFL Draft
Tags: Ahmad Black, Anthony Castonzo, Cameron Jordan, Casey Mattews, Colin Kaepernick, Da'Norris Searcy, Danny Watkins, Ian Williams, Jeremy Kerley, John Moffitt, Johnny Patrick, Kendall Hunter, Kris O'Dowd, Lawerence Wilson, Luke Stocker, Nate Solder, NFLDraftScout.com, Owen Marecic, Phil Taylor, Ryan Kerrigan, Senior Bowl, Shareece Wright, Vincent Brown, Von Miller
Posted on: January 24, 2011 2:28 pm
Before we can get to the field in Mobile, Alabama for the first Senior Bowl practices we had the weigh-in this morning. Rather than simply copy and paste the results, I thought it best to list the ten biggest surprises of the session.
Posted on: January 18, 2011 2:58 pm
California defensive end Cameron Jordan is the latest prospect I'd like to feature as I continue my theme of the week on players I believe could significantly alter their stock with a strong performance in the upcoming all-star games.
Unlike North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin (who is coming off a year-long suspension) or The Citadel cornerback Cortez Allen (who is making a huge jump in competition), Jordan is, by comparison, one of the safer prospects in the draft. He's a four-year starter who played in 50 of 51 games in his career. He's improved each year, culminating this season by making the First Team All Pac-10 squad with eye-popping numbers (61 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks) despite playing defensive end in the 3-4 alignment -- a scheme that does not typically translate into big numbers for their defensive ends.
Jordan is also different from Austin and Allen in another way. He'll be playing in the Senior Bowl rather than the East-West Shrine game.
I've spoken to half a dozen teams about Jordan. All believe he's a first round prospect.
And yet, I'd still argue that despite Jordan's production, he ranks among the draft's most under-appreciated prospects.
I expect to see this change next week in Mobile.
The beauty of all-star games is that is allows scouts to compare apples to apples. Jordan will be lining up next to some of the other, more highly touted senior defensive linemen in the country. I'm a fan of Adrian Clayborn's technique, Cameron Heyward's power, and of Ryan Kerrigan's effort.
I'm a bigger fan of Jordan's versatility and feel that he ranks second behind the three senior defensive linemen I just listed in each of the catergories mentioned.
While at Cal, I've seen Jordan line up at both end positions and even on the nose in their 3-4 alignment. I've seen Cal switch to a four man front and watched Jordan moved inside to the three-technique defensive tackle position. I don't believe he can make a living playing on the nose, but I do envision success in the NFL at any other position. There isn't another defensive lineman in this draft who can boast that type of versatility.
In the days before last year's draft I posted a note on the blog highlighting five "mock-busters." These were players I thought could surprise and be first round picks. Amng them was two former Cal Golden Bears in Tyson Alualu and Jahvid Best, who, of course, did make the first round.
Unlike his former Cal teammates, Jordan wouldn't be a surprise to go in the first round. His versatility, consistency and bloodlines (father was a six-time Pro Bowl tight end with the Vikings) stand out too much in a draft blessed with talented defensive linemen -- but many of them being essentially one-year wonders.