Posted on: April 29, 2011 1:40 pm
Edited on: April 29, 2011 2:17 pm

Friday morning hangover

A few thoughts from last night's proceedings from Radio City Music Hall:

1. Atlanta's trade up with Cleveland to select WR Julio Jones cost them five picks in addition to the one they traded out of (27). I like Jones' potential as a playmaker for QB Matt Ryan across from Roddy White, but it's tough for me to see one player (especially a non-quarterback) worth that sort of value. Giving up 2011 and 2012 fourth-round picks isn't a king's ransom in and of itself, and Atlanta's late second-round pick this year is not as valuable as some believe. Adding the 2012 first-round selection, however, could come back to bite the Falcons--especially if injuries or other unexpected occurences cause the team to become mediocre (or worse) in 2011.

2. Jacksonville found out the hard way about giving up a lot of picks in the 2008 to get Derrick Harvey (some of which helped Baltimore find starting quarterback Joe Flacco), but they made a shrewd move giving up just a second to get their own potential signal-caller in Blaine Gabbert. Though there's no guarantees about Gabbert, just like any other pick, the Jaguars could not assume David Garrard or Trent Edwards is the future of the franchise.

3. Alabama running back Mark Ingram may have had knee issues, but he's one of my favorite players in the draft due to his vision and toughness. But again, the Saints' trade to give up their current second-round selection as well as a 2012 first-round selection to New England (like they need more talent) appears short-sighted-- especially considering the success the team had with undrafted running backs Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory in the recent past and the relative depth at the position this year.

4. I'm guessing New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan saw a lot of former Baltimore Ravens nose tackle Sam Adams in Muhammad Wilkerson. Ryan had a star defender in Adams during the team's Super Bowl run in the early 2000's, and Wilkerson's athleticism, size, and upside give him a chance to be very good in that role.

5. In radio interviews leading up to the draft, I thought the rumors of New England moving up to Cleveland's number six selection made a lot of sense. It was easy to see them coveting pass rusher Aldon Smith in that spot, and they had plenty of extra picks to work with. As it turns out, Bill Belichick would have needed to make that move to get Smith, as the 49ers picked Smith with the next selection. Smith's upside is undeniable, and he had violent hands like few others in this class, and there's no doubt some in the league view him as the next Demarcus Ware. He seems a little stiff-hipped and straight-line to me, and he needed to move inside to get a fair number of his sacks, which is always a flag to me. 

6. Tennessee found their anti-Vince Young in Jake Locker in terms of perceived character and leadership, but it is tough to find any game tape that says he deserved to be a top ten pick. His mobility, toughness, and accuracy on the run are easy to see but NFL quarterbacks make their living in the pocket--something he hasn't proven able to do. I've made the argument all year that his surrounding cast is less than ideal, and the Titans may believe a strong offensive line and better receiving corps will give him a chance to succeed.

7. I thought Phil Taylor's past issues may keep him out of the first round, but Cleveland's willingness to give away one of the picks they received in the Julio Jones deal showed teams were willing to overlook his dismissal from Penn State and average film prior to the 2010 season. Marvin Austin, however, wasn't so lucky. The fact the North Carolina defensive tackle was suspended independently of Robert Quinn (who went 14th to St. Louis despite his suspension and the brain/spinal tumor) and others involved in the NCAA investigation was a major red flag. And his 2009 tape simply wasn't good enough to mitigate the risk. A team could get a good value in Austin in the second round, however, because he has potential to be an explosive 4-3 defensive tackle.

8. TCU Andy Dalton was a winner at TCU, is an outstanding young man, and may turn into a starting NFL quarterback in time. But the rumors going out about his landing in the first round make little sense when evaluating his game tape. His arm strength is simply not enough to earn that sort of consideration, and his decision-making and accuracy are not top-shelf, either. As a second-round pick, though, a coach like Jim Harbaugh may believe he could be worth a shot--though the success rate of top 64 passers John Beck, Kellen Clemens, etc, does not portend great success as a starter. A solid back-up and spot starter worth looking at in the top 75? Absolutely.

9. I think it's fairly clear that Philadelphia/head coach Andy Reid would not have taken Baylor OL Danny Watkins without new offensive line coach Howard Mudd (who came over from the Colts) whispering in his ear. Watkins is simply not the sort of lineman Reid coveted in the past. Although Watkins is 26 years old, it's been clear to me for quite some time he's worth a first-round pick. Whether playing inside or at tackle, the Eagles should be able to count on his presence on the field until he's 34 or 35 years old--and eight or nine seasons is more than acceptable from a late first-round pick.

10. Most of the first round picks went in the general area in which they were expected to fall. The closest thing to a "steal" would have to be Detroit getting Nick Fairley at 13. I think Fairley's "dominant" play has been overblown a bit, especially in the BCS Championship Game, but to get that sort of player in the mid-first could be a fine investment. He has the potential to be a Kevin Williams-like disruptor inside because of his length and quick first step. Minnesota's new quarterback, Christian Ponder, as well as Chicago's mercurial Jay Cutler, may have a hard time staying healthy when facing Fairley and Suh twice a year.

11. James Carpenter proved to be the Duane Brown of this draft, as the Alabama left tackle went to Seattle at the 25th overall pick partially because of the lack of depth at tackle in the middle-rounds. Brown was picked 26th by Houston as the eighth offensive tackle selected in the first round in 2008. Carpenter's toughness and versatility are difficult not to like, however, and his work ethic is unquestioned. There will undoubtedly be comparisons between Carpenter and Derek Sherrod, who went 32 to the Packers and was generally considered a better prospect. Coaches will tell you that "it all starts up front", so getting a technically-sound, aggressive, and surprisingly athletic player like Carpenter (whose overall intensity probably put him above Sherrod on Seattle's board) is preferrable to me than reaching for a quarterback or taking a player at another position with some upside but also headaches. That's why the pick is not the "reach" some will paint it as--in fact, I'm fairly sure Green Bay would have looked strongly at Carpenter if he were available to them at the end of the round.

12. New Baltimore cornerback Jimmy Smith should change his name to Chris McAlister, Jr. Look for Smith to be a valuable playmaker with size that makes that defense even stronger than it already was--but don't be surprised if Smith's character concerns flare up during his career with the Ravens. Baltimore's "passing" on their pick brought up memories of their botched first-round trade with Minnesota in 2003, which caused the Vikings to be late on their pick. Kansas City, who jumped up to get WR Jonathan Baldwin when the Ravens stalled Thursday night, ended up winning a battle for DT Ryan Sims the previous year as the Vikings tried to submit their pick of Sims ahead of the Chiefs when it appeared their time had run out. The NFL ruled the Chiefs maintained their selections (though Sims' lack of success meant the Vikings got the better end of that deal). Although the administrations in place in those two teams were different then, it was just ironic how they were involved yet again in these sort of strange circumstances.

--Contributed by NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Chad Reuter
Posted on: March 7, 2011 10:49 am
Edited on: March 7, 2011 11:10 am

When to pick a QB?

Quarterbacks are usually the main topic of conversation in any draft, but many around the league are talking up this year's class is one of the deepest we've seen in quite a while.

The debate between whether Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert should be the number one pick is just beginning--and is only likely to get stronger as we approach the draft. Note Rob Rang's earlier blog post on how split teams are regarding which of the two big, strong-armed passers are on the top of their board.

Many fans and media members believe that "bargains" will be found in the late first or second round (Washington's Jake Locker, FLorida State's Christian Ponder, Arkansas' Ryan Mallett) or later in the draft (Nevada's Colin Kaepernick, TCU's Andy Dalton, or Alabama's Greg McElroy).

History tells us, however, that it's unlikely you'll find an elite starter, or even a reliable one, once you've passed the top two quarterbacks in any draft.

Over the past twenty drafts, the top two quarterbacks have started 10 or more games an average of four years during their career. That might seem like a low number, but for every elite passer like Peyton Manning and likely long-term starters with a chance to be elite in Matt Ryan and Sam Bradford, there are the less successful stories of Tim Couch, JaMarcus Russell and Alex Smith.

The second QB picked in the last twenty draft isnt' far behind, averaging nearly four years of starting (3.8 vs. 4.1 for #1 passers) and accumulated 18 Pro Bowl appearances against 20 for the top-rated thrower. Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, and possibly even Mark Sanchez help this group overcome the disappointing careers of Joey Harrington, Byron Leftwich, and Ryan Leaf.

There is a fair drop-off after the top two quarterbacks, however, with the third-selected player averaging just 2.2 years starting and the group gaining 13 Pro Bowl appearances. Brett Favre is the major contributor to this group, as the numbers drop to 1.3 and two, respectively, without his long-time NFL run. Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler, and Josh Freeman are trying to boost those figures, but Bady Quinn and Matt Leinart probably won't help their cause.

For the rest of the top nine quarterbacks over the past twenty drafts (#10 and above have very few starters or Pro Bowlers):
#4: 1.45 average yrs starting, 7 Pro Bowl appearances (Mark Brunell, Daunte Culpepper the main names among the 20 picks)
#5: 1.25, 5 (Marc Bulger, Matt Schaub, David Garrard, Brian Griese)
#6: 0.45, 1 (Gus Frerotte)
#7: 1.35, 10 (Tom Brady, Matt Hasselbeck)
#8: 0.30, 2 (All starts, Pro Bowls by Trent Green)
#9: 0.6, 1 (Jeff Blake)

The odds, therefore, of finding a quarterback to lead a team for four or more years outside the top two passers taken in any draft are simply not on teams' side. The Tom Brady outlier gives people ancedotal evidence to hold out hope, but the fact is that 20 percent of #3 quarterbacks turn out to be regular starters (with quality ranging from Ben Roethlisberger to Jason Campbell) and that number drops to 10 percent or less of all other quarterbacks selected.

Even in years where the third-sixth-rated passers end up first round picks, as some believe Locker, Mallett and Ponder will be this year, the success of passers outside the top two is not great.

You can hope to find the next Big Ben with the third passer taken in the mid-first, but Akili Smith (at #3), Kyle Boller (19) and Patrick Ramsey (31) are others dragging down the percentages. The 1999 draft including Smith did provide the Vikings Daunte Culpepper, but Rex Grossman, J.P. Losman, Browning Nagle and others show the athletic or strong-armed quarterback usually won't panned out as expected.

Another opinion trending among NFL draft followers is that eight quarterbacks will be selected in the top three rounds, which hasn't happened in recent draft history. In 1999 and 2006, seven quarterbacks were selected in rounds one-through-three. The underwhelming careers of 1999 class alums for talented college QBs Shaun King and Brock Huard, as well as 2006 picks Tarvaris Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst, and Brodie Croyle still trying to prove themselves five year later, show that second and third round picks seen as having "upside" often just can't become regular starters.

NFL coaches are given quick three-year tenures in today's win-now NFL, so they push for a potential starting linebacker, cornerback, or receiver in the second and third rounds instead of a quarterback that needs a year or two of seasoning (which they probably won't have the luxury to get).

And remember how a lot of people expected Jimmy Clausen to be a first round pick last year, Colt McCoy put on a late push for a top 40 spot, while Dan LeFevour and Tony Pike were probable second or third round selections? Clausen's off-field issues pushed him into the second round, McCoy went in the third, and LeFevour and Pike both fell to the sixth.

It is possible that the 2011 quarterback draft class approaches the 1999 group, which had five passers taken in the top 12 overall selections, but the erratic play of Locker, off-field questions about Mallett, and Ponder's arm issues--along with strong defensive talent in his draft and teams' knowledge of the lack of success of quarterbacks outside of the top two--makes it more likely three signal callers hear their name called in the first round, two more may go in the second, while Kaepernick, Dalton and others will have to wait until the third or fourth rounds.

--Contributed by NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Chad Reuter
Category: NFL Draft
Posted on: February 15, 2011 3:05 pm

Locker wise to go all-in at Combine

Jake Locker has made a wise decision to participate in all the drills at the Scouting Combine next week. He's coming off a disappointing senior season and a very uneven week at the Senior Bowl.

Locker has built a reputation as a fierce competitor who won't back down from any opportunity to show off his skills. Everyone expects Locker to impress during his team interviews in Indy - his personality has always been his strongsuit. Remember, this is a kid who turned down a likely Top 10 selection last year to return to the Huskies.

And with Cam Newton unlikely to participate in the positional drills, it's an opportunity for Locker to stand out among the few top-level quarterbacks who will throw in Indy. It has become too commonplace for quarterbacks to bow out of the positional drills - even Dan LeFevour opted not to throw last year - and it turns off personnel men who are all huddled at the end of February in ice cold Indianapolis to see all the prospects under one roof.

Locker continues to provide a fresh alternative to the typical NFL Draft prospect. He's not risking a lot by throwing in Indy - most teams are already wary of his innaccuracy and will look at potentially using a first-round pick on him based mostly on potential. And a good showing at the Combine could vault Locker ahead of some of the other QBs he's fighting with for a spot in the top 32.

--Derek Harper

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