Posted on: August 31, 2010 10:49 pm
Edited on: August 31, 2010 11:50 pm
On draft day each year, amid the excitement and bustle, I always find one aspect of scouting to be, well, bittersweet.
Follow along with me a moment.
It is impossible in this business to not develop favorite prospects through the course of a year. Often, I've characterized some of these favorites in an article that we, NFLDraftScout.com, affectionately refer to as Rang's Gang .
The players featured in Rang's Gang aren't supposed to be the best. In fact, the only real rule is that they aren't supposed to be first round prospects. Considering I write each year's article a month or so before the draft, sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised that a club feels as highly about the player as I do and my "rule" is broken.
Typically, however, these are mid-round players who have legitimate NFL talent and have demonstrated some intangible (e.g., instincts, determination, physicality, technique, etc.) that caused them to stand out (at least to me) from their peers.
Now the bittersweet part.
Unfortunately, on draft day, I sometimes see these "favorites" placed into tough situations. There are prospects, for example, who I feel are best suited to one scheme but are drafted into another. Or, talented players drafted behind starters in their primes, potentially meaning limited playing time. Or, players, who after interviewing them, I've felt might do best working for a "player-friendly" coach -- and then are drafted into a team with a strict disciplinarian.
Some players are so talented all they need is an opportunity.
Others, toll in relative anonymity until a change in scenery, scheme, coaching staff or a veteran moving on give them a freer lane to NFL success.
Here are 5 players I think find that lane this year.
CB Josh Wilson, Ravens: A second round pick by the Seahawks in 2007, Wilson has started 23 games the past two seasons, demonstrating true playmaking ability on a struggling defense. His lack of height (5-09) made him an immediate tough fit in Pete Carroll's scheme that prefers taller corners, so his trade to the Ravens, however, wasn't shocking. Wilson has returned three of his six INTs the past two years for touchdowns and is the Seahawks' all-time leader in kickoff return average (25.76) with a TD scored his rookie year. His height is obviously an issue -- especially considering the big receivers of the AFC North. Wilson plays bigger than his height due to physicality and pure speed. He was "officially" clocked at 4.39 seconds at the 2007 Combine. Here's the thing. If Wilson was able to make this many plays for the Seahawks' anemic pass rush (more on this later), imagine how much more effective he could be with the Ravens' defense around him.
RB Peyton Hillis, Browns: Characterized by some as little more than a throw-in for the Browns in the trade that made Brady Quinn a Denver Bronco, Hillis, I believe, will emerge as one of the league's best young fullbacks this year. Hillis' overall athleticism and versatility intrigued me back when he played at Arkansas. This guy played fullback, tailback, H-back, tight end and wide receiver in the SEC. Not only that, the 6-2, 250 pounder was the Razorbacks' punt returner at a time when Darren McFadden and Felix Jones were the supposed future NFL stars. In fact, Hillis already has seven touchdowns in only two NFL seasons. Seven not so impressive, you say? Jones has scored six touchdowns for the Dallas Cowboys, thus far. McFadden, for the Raiders, has only five.
DE Chris Clemons, Seahawks: Clemons, entering his seventh NFL season, is older than the others on this list. He is an example of a player whose new environment is going to help him tremendously. Clemons, originally an undrafted free agent out of Georgia who signed with the Redskins, has flashed as an outside pass rusher with the Raiders and Eagles. Those two defenses featured other talented pass rushers during Clemons' tenure, limiting his opportunities for production. He was fast off the edge; just not fast enough on teams featuring Derrick Burgess, Warren Sapp and Trent Cole. Clemons has had success before. He, opposite Burgess in 2007 with the Raiders, collected 8 sacks. He's never topped four any other year of his career. Unless injured, he should have no problem rejuvenating his career this season with Seattle. Clemons is quicker upfield than anyone else on Seattle's front four. With the noise generated at Qwest Field, Clemons could push his career numbers simply because someone, sometime has to register a pass rush for the Seahawks.
WR Jacoby Jones, Texans: Some of you will claim I'm jumping on the bandwagon with Jones, as it is no secret he's been a preseason star this year for the Texans. In reality, I've been driving the bandwagon (as well as changing the oil and fixing the brakes ) with Jones long before he ever teamed up with Matt Schaub. Jones has been making big plays as the Texans' third wideout, but his production this year could rival most team's No. 2.
QB Kevin Kolb, Eagles: This is what it comes down to for me in regards to Kolb. Sure, it was a risk by Andy Reid to trade Donovan McNabb, but consider this. Mike Holmgren, who was Bill Walsh's QB coach from 1986-1988, knew Matt Hasselbeck could run his offense when he left Brett Favre and Green Bay for Seattle. Andy Reid, Holmgren's QB coach in Green Bay in 1997-1998, obviously feels that it is Kolb's time. That's good enough for me -- (especially when I scouted Kolb in the preseason ). Kolb's poise, accuracy and quick release could make him a quick star in this offense.
Posted on: April 13, 2010 1:51 pm
As much as it would seem a lock for the Rams to just keep the first pick and fulfill their need for a young quarterback with Sam Bradford, league sources tell me that the Cleveland Browns are internally discussing making a significant offer in an attempt to get the first pick and take Bradford, themselves.
Trading out of the No. 1 pick is rarely feasible. The financial constraints that come with having the first pick are so much that teams are usually hesitant to even consider the possibility.
The 2010 draft, however, is unique in several ways.
The talent in this class means that the Rams could truly rebuild their roster quickly if they were to get an offer of 3-4 high draft selections in exchange for the No. 1 pick.
Next, you have a team president in Mike Holmgren who is looking to make a splash... and with five picks among this year's first 100 (7, 38, 71, 85 and 92) he has plenty of flexibility.
Perhaps most importantly, while almost all talent evaluators believe that Bradford is the clear cut top QB and that there is a significant gap between he and the other QBs in this class there is talk that the Rams don't feel this way. They are thought to be quite high on a few of the other quarterbacks of this class, especially Texas' Colt McCoy.
Mike Holmgren and his hand-picked general manager Tom Heckert, however, are thought to be exceptionally high on Bradford.
The most realistic scenario remains the Rams staying put and taking Bradford.
They're remaining at No. 1 is not the mortal lock, I'm told, that having this pick typically is...
Posted on: March 29, 2010 1:17 pm
NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Rob Rang attended the much-anticipated pro day for QB Sam Bradford this morning. 21 teams were officially in attendance, including the main players in the Bradford sweepstakes: St. Louis Rams General Manager Billy Devaney and head coach Steve Spagnuolo, and Washington Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen.
Posted on: March 23, 2010 5:53 pm
I've gone on the record on multiple occasions with my feelings on Jimmy Clausen. I feel that he's a potential first round quarterback more due to the value of the position than his ability. I do believe he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL, but, like Brady Quinn before him, I believe his good talent has been greatly enhanced by extraordinary coaching, giving him limited upside for the NFL.
Besides my occasional rants about him, Clausen has taken the brunt of negative comments from a host of others lately, not the least of which was Cleveland Browns' president Mike Holmgren, who seemed to throw a wet blanket on the idea that the Browns might take the former Irish star with the comment, "I wish I liked him more."
For all of the negativity that has been coming down on Clausen recently, I believe the guy deserves some credit for attending Notre Dame's Pro Day today.
Scouts knew he wasn't working out. He'd long ago scheduled his own personal Pro Day April 9 after undergoing surgery on his toe. As he surprisingly admitted to Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune, he only began running in preparation for his April 9 workout yesterday .
Whether Clausen will be in proper shape for his upcoming workout is fodder for another blog post.
Deserved or not, among the concerns scouts have expressed to me about Clausen is his leadership ability, or rather his perceived lack thereof. Some in the league believe that Clausen wasn't the greatest of teammates while at Notre Dame.
Perhaps offering some proof that this was not the case, Clausen showed up to root on his former Irish teammates Tuesday. Considering that he feels his toe is "not as strong as I want it" it would have been easy to understand why he'd have remained in training room rather than the cheering section Tuesday.
Sometimes leadership is all about the actions rather than the words. In this case, Clausen's actions showed some of the leadership scouts want to see from a first round quarterback.
Posted on: March 21, 2010 9:49 pm
Edited on: March 21, 2010 9:58 pm
The Seahawks' decision to flip second round picks and give their third round pick of the 2011 draft to the San Diego Chargers for third-string quarterback Charlie Whitehurst has been characterized by some as the most aggressive move of the off-season.
Perhaps head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider made the move based in part because they felt the same about Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen, as former Seahawk head coach and current Cleveland Browns' president, Mike Holmgren does.
Holmgren admitted in a conversation about Clausen that he "wished I liked him more."
The Seahawks, like the Browns, needed a young quarterback. Citing this need, I projected them to take Clausen with the sixth overall pick in my mock draft.
If one is to presume for a moment that it is true that Seattle shared the same feeling about Clausen, the decision to ship the two picks to the Chargers and reward the unproven Whitehurst with a two-year, eight million dollar deal makes more sense. Whitehurst, a former third round pick, has never attempted a regular season pass in four years in San Diego. He's hardly been more impressive during the preseason either, completing 52.8% of his passes for 1,031 yards and five touchdowns. He's also thrown 7 interceptions.
Of course, it could be true that the Seahawks like Clausen -- and would be willing to take him with the sixth overall pick -- but simply weren't confident he'll be there. The Washington Redskins, after all, own the fourth overall pick and Mike Shanahan is thought likely to be considering taking a young quarterback in the draft.
However, if the Seahawks liked Clausen that much, they could have offered Washington the same picks they used in acquiring Whitehurst to go get the Notre Dame star. Pete Carroll certainly knows Clausen. He recruited him and has noted that he's "watched Jimmy throw since he was a 9th grader."
Doing a deal to move up for Clausen shouldn't have been difficult.
As Mike Sando of ESPN.com notes in this blog post , the value of the Seahawks' picks used for Whitehurst comes to 270 points.
Seattle's first pick, the sixth overall, is worth 1600 points according to a draft trade chart given to me by an NFL team. Washington's pick, the fourth overall, is worth only 200 points more.
The Seahawks could have traded the sixth pick and their second round selection (40th overall) to the Redskins in exchange for the fourth overall and the Redskins third round pick (approx. 68). The deal would have made the Redskins a net profit of 50 points.
It could be that Seattle was worried that the Redskins would refuse to do a deal.
Or, the simpler explanation, was the new Seattle staff felt the same about Jimmy Clausen as the leader of the old regime and elected to get their quarterback of the future by trade.
Posted on: March 21, 2010 8:15 pm
Cleveland president Mike Holmgren, the man who coached and is at least partially credited with developing Joe Montana, Steve Young, Brett Favre and Matt Hasselbeck, among others, is apparently not interested in working with Jimmy Clausen.
Tony Grossi of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer quotes Holmgren as saying "I wish I liked him more. You know that you have a type of player that you like? It's not scientific. People like him a lot. He'll go high. But it would be hard for me [to take him]."
This isn't because Holmgren isn't interested in adding a rookie quarterback. Holmgren freely admits that the Browns will use a pick on a quarterback in the draft, but it appears it won't be Clausen, or, as Grossi points out later in the article, one in the second round either.
Said Holmgren, "I'd have to have another second-round pick [to take a quarterback in the second round].
The Browns have to add a young quarterback because Holmgren has hitched his wagon to veterans Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace. Holmgren signed Delhomme to a free agent contract after he was released by Carolina. The Browns traded for Wallace, who was drafted by Holmgren and played under him in Seattle.
Holmgren's history indicates that he'll draft a quarterback in the mid to later rounds. As I mentioned in a previous blog post , Holmgren, in 23 years of NFL work, has never been apart of a team that has invested anything higher than a third round pick on a rookie quarterback.
Holmgren had previously announced that he liked Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford "a lot," but isn't likely to be willing to part with enough of his ten picks in the 2010 draft to be able to pry away the first pick from the St. Louis Rams. Should the Rams pass on Bradford, Detroit and Tampa, who, of course, took their own first round quarterbacks last year with Matt Stafford and Josh Freeman, respectively, would likely be very interested to hear what the Browns might offer.
Holmgren's honesty is not surprising to those who have worked with him in the past. Holmgren's candor was appreciated by local beat writers and national media, as well. Few head coaches were as willing to explain the what's and how's of the game with the kindness Holmgren did -- which is why his comments on Clausen are likely heart-felt.
It would be a surprise to those who know him if by saying these things Holmgren was attempting to create smoke screen.
"That's just not his style," texted a scout who used to work under Holmgren.
Posted on: March 15, 2010 9:13 am
Edited on: March 15, 2010 1:00 pm
Some will characterize Mike Holmgren's house cleaning with the Cleveland Browns' roster as a necessary purge. The Browns, after all, were one of the league's worst teams last year, needing to go 4-1 down the stretch to finish the year 5-11 -- one more victory than they had in 2008.
I see the moves as a significant risk.
Quarterback Brady Quinn was essentially given away to the Broncos for fullback Peyton Hillis and a pair of late round picks in the 2011 draft.
Sure, the argument could be made that if Quinn was not viewed as a fit in Cleveland's future by Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert, that they might as well let him go. Receiving so little in return for a young quarterback, who has completed 52% of his passes and a has a 10-9 TD to INT ratio, however, appears to be a miscalculation in value.
It is difficult to gauge exactly what Quinn's value was. Certainly Cleveland would have entertained other, better offers if they'd had them.
However, in signing Jake Delhomme only a day earlier, the Browns gave away all of their leverage to negotiate with other teams.
The Browns received better, but arguably still not enough value for pass rusher Kamerion Wimbley in their second trade Sunday.
The Raiders won't be giving up their own 3rd round pick, but the one they picked up last year from the Patriots in exchange for pass rusher Derrick Burgess. This pick is projected to be the 83rd, 84th or 85th pick of the 2010 draft.
Essentially, the Raiders traded away the 32 year-old Burgess for the 26 year-old Wimbley, who is expected to fill a similar role in Oakland as a weakside defensive end and strongside linebacker as Burgess had.
Wimbley, who was scheduled to make a base salary of only 1.065 million was a relatively cheap expense and had either led or finished second in sacks for the Browns in each of his four seasons since being their first round pick in 2006.
Mike Holmgren has established himself as one of the great coaches of all-time. He is, in my opinion at least, a Hall of Famer. However, his questionable decisions while serving as general manager of the Seahawks from 1999-2002 led to his being replaced in this capacity.
When the Seahawks were looking for a new general manager and head coach following the 2009 season there was a public cry for Holmgren to come back to Seattle.
Considering his unproven track record to gauge personnel, however, there was great hesitancy inside the franchise to bring him back.
Sunday's two trades will be seen by some as evidence why.
Posted on: February 13, 2010 5:31 pm
Cleveland Browns fans may want the team to consider Sam Bradford, Jimmy Clausen or one of the other top quarterbacks in the 2010 draft, but if history is an indication, Mike Holmgren will instead either stand pat or make a trade for a veteran.
Should Holmgren elect to go with his current quarterbacks, Brady Quinn is the clear favorite to win the job. His mobility and short to intermediate accuracy makes him a much better fit in the West Coast Offense than the slow-footed, long passing prowess exhibited by Derek Anderson. Ratliff has flashed potential and was traded for at the request of Eric Mangini, but has yet to appear in a regular season NFL game despite Cleveland's struggles at the quarterback position last year.
According to league sources, the expectation, however, is that the Browns won't be relying on Quinn, Anderson and Ratliff.
Holmgren's success in Green Bay and Seattle, of course, came with Brett Favre and Matt Hasselbeck - neither of whom his team drafted. Over Holmgren's 23 years in the NFL, he has never been apart of a team that has invested anything higher than a 3rd round pick in a rookie quarterback.
Holmgren and his handpicked general manager, Tom Heckert, will look over the Seattle and Philadelphia rosters closely. With the Seahawks expected to undergo significant roster turnover, Matt Hasselbeck might be available. The Eagles have vehemently denied that Donovan McNabb or Kevin Kolb are on the block, but the reality is, both are for the right price. Holmgren, despite being team president, has publicly stated that Heckert will have final say on personnel matters.
That makes a deal for one of the two Eagle passers all the more likely.