Posted on: March 24, 2011 12:41 pm
Many in the media have lauded this year's defensive end class as one of the best in recent years.
While that may be true, I'd argue that the defensive tackle group is not only more talented at the top, it is deeper as well.
Like last year, when attention on the defensive tackles centered around the top two players Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy, this crop of run-stuffers is largely described elsewhere as Marcell Dareus, Nick Fairley and a bunch of other guys.
Those other guys may not wind up as top ten picks like Dareus and Fairley, but draft fans may wind up surprised by how high the next three defensive tackles could go.
I've spoken to representatives of teams operating out of the 4-3 and 3-4 that see the next three defensive tackles -- Illinois' Corey Liuget , Baylor's Phil Taylo r and Temple's Muhammad Wilkerson -- as all potential Top 20 picks.
To put that in perspective, the last time there were five defensive tackles drafted within the Top 20 was ten years. Teams can only hope this year's crop winds up as good as 2001, when Richard Seymour (No. 6, Marcus Stroud (No. 13) and Casey Hampton (No. 19) began their standout careers. Unfortunately, the first defensive tackle in 2001 -- Gerard Warren -- was the most disappointing of the group, especially considering his high draft selection. Damione Lewis (No. 12) never panned out for the Rams, either.
I've written before about the raving reviews I've heard of Liuget . As a classic penetrating three-technique defensive tackle, he could hear his name called as early as No. 14 to the St. Louis Rams. I'd be surprised to see him get past the trio of Philadelphia, New Orleans and Seattle with picks No. 23-25.
Unlike Liuget, who could play in the 3-4, but projects best inside in a four-man front, Taylor is more scheme versatile. He's the unquestioned top nose guard prospect in this draft at 6-4, 337 pounds, but has the rare athleticism at that size to also split gaps and remain at defensive tackle. Most teams operating out of the 3-4 alignment will tell you that the toughest part of fielding a 3-4 defense is finding a nose guard. That fact could boost Taylor's stock much higher than most believe. The Washington Redskins at No. 10 and Houston Texans at No. 11 could be intrigued by Taylor's ability to immediately improve their interior run defense. I'd be surprised to see Taylor fall out of the first round with the Jets at No. 30 in need of reinforcements behind oft-injured NG Kris Jenkins.
Like Taylor, Wilkerson is scheme-versatile. He's also position-versatile, having starred at defensive tackle at Temple and having the long frame (6-5, 305) and strength (27 reps) to handle the conversion outside as a five-technique defensive end. Wilkerson had the widest wingspan (85 1/4") of all the defensive tackles measured at the Combine and second among all defensive linemen (Oklahoma State DE Ugo Chinasa measured 86 1/8").
That position and scheme versatility, coupled with his impressive production at Temple (70 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks) could see Wilkerson drafted as high as the Patriots' No. 17 overall pick. The fact that Wilkerson's production came against questionable competition in the MAC could be enough to push him into the mid or late 20s, but I'd be surprised if the Steelers or Packers with the final two picks of the first round, respectively, didn't pounce on his upside should he fall into their laps, respectively.
Category: NFL Draft
Posted on: February 21, 2011 9:21 pm
In the race to be the first quarterback selected in the 2011 NFL Draft, Auburn's Cam Newton is getting a head start over Missouri' Blaine Gabbert.
Newton, according to the NFL Network , has decided he will be throwing passes at this week's Combine. Gabbert, according to USA Today's Jim Corbett , is not expected to throw in Indianapolis and will instead wait until his Pro Day.
Both quarterbacks have questions to answer after starring in spread offenses in college. The schemes were shotgun-heavy and simplified the reads with which each passer had to make. Scouts want to see how well Newton and Gabbert drop back from center and how accurately they throw on the move.
Newton and Gabbert's decisions, though opposite, weren't entirely unexpected.
Newton successfully created a buzz for himself in holding a media-only throwing session February 11 outside of San Diego, California. If he'd elected to not throw at the Combine, Newton would have risked killing whatever momentum he'd built for himself and potentially angering NFL teams.
Gabbert, on the other hand, is considered by most to be this year's top quarterback. As the leader, the pressure isn't quite as great on him to perform. While NFL scouts certainly would love to see Gabbert show some competitive spirit and throw in Indianapolis, it is pretty tough to argue with his decision. After all, the agency that represents Gabbert -- Creative Artists Agency -- has represented several quarterbacks in recent years who elected not to work out at the Combine and successfully boosted their stock with strong Pro Day performances. Recent CAA quarterbacks include Sam Bradford, Matt Stafford and Matt Ryan. Each elected not to throw in Indianapolis. Bradford and Stafford were the No. 1 overall picks of the 2010 and 2009 drafts, respectively. Ryan was the first quarterback selected and the third overall pick in 2008.
Posted on: December 28, 2010 11:31 am
Edited on: December 28, 2010 11:36 am
As a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, I was recently asked to fill out my ballot for the All-Rookie Team.
While I reserve the right to change players over the final week of the season (and welcome your review) , this is how I have things now.
Offensive Rookie of the Year : Mike Williams, WR, Tampa Bay
Defensive Rookie of the Year : Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit
Overall Rookie of the Year : Suh
Quarterback: Sam Bradford, Rams: If he can go on the road and beat Seattle to win the NFC West, Bradford may overtake Williams as my Offensive ROY, but I'm not giving it to him just because he's a QB, went No. 1 and played well early. Bradford has faded late this year.
Running back: LaGarrette Blount, Bucs: Free agent leads all NFL rookies with 941 rushing yards while splitting duty.
Running back: Chris Ivory, Saints: Can't overstate how vital of a role the free agent played with injuries to Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas.
Wide receiver: Mike Williams, Bucs: Has been dynamic all year long. Leads rookie WRs in grabs (61), yards (924) and TDs (10).
Wide receiver: Dez Bryant, Cowboys: Only started twice and injury sidelined him early but Dez was dazzling.
Tight end: Rob Gronkowski, Patriots: Second to Williams in receiving TDs as a rookie with nine; which leads the Patriots.
Center: Mike Pouncey, Steelers: Deserves some Offensive Rookie of the Year consideration. A standout here since Day One.
Offensive guard: Mike Iupati, 49ers: A bit inconsistent, but has improved throughout the year and been one of SF's few bright spots.
Offensive guard: Ted Larsen, Bucs: Cut by Pats, signed by Bucs and has started the past 10 consecutive at LG for contending Bucs, giving him the edge over Zane Beadles in Denver.
Offensive tackle: Rodger Saffold, Rams: Overshadowed by Bradford, but has been quietly spectacular at LT this season.
Offensive tackle: Bryan Bulaga, Packers: Has been beaten at times, but versatility is key. Backup at LT, OG early. Has started last 10 at RT.
Defensive lineman: Carlos Dunlap, Bengals: Situational pass rusher (zero starts) for Bengals, but quietly is 2nd amongst rookies with 8 sacks.
Defensive lineman: Ndamukong Suh, Lions: Leads all NFL defensive tackles -- not just rookies -- in tackles (60) and sacks (nine).
Defensive lineman: Tyson Alualu, Jaguars: A surprise at No. 10? Yes. A reach? No, considering he's 3rd amongst rookie DTs in tackles, 2nd in sacks.
Defensive lineman: Lamarr Houston, Raiders: Similar #s, greater consistency, less help around him than Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul.
Linebacker: Pat Angerer, Colts: Quietly leads all rookie linebackers in tackles this season (80).
Linebacker: Daryl Washington, Cardinals: Doesn't have Ro McClain's big name or even quite his stats, but has been more impressive this year.
Linebacker: Koa Misi, Dolphins: Overshadowed by Cameron Wake, but versatility standing out (36 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 TD)
Cornerback: Devin McCourty, Patriots: In a typical year, he'd likely win the Defensive ROY. 81 tackles, 21 PBUs, 6 INTs, 2 FF for AFC's No. 1 seed.
Cornerback: Joe Haden, Browns: Similar numbers as McCourty - 58 tackles, 23 PBUs, 6 INTs, 1 FF.
Safety: Eric Berry, Chiefs: Gets nod over Earl Thomas as he's played better late for contending team. 84 tackles, 13 PBUs, 4 INTs, 1 FF, 1 TD.
Safety: TJ Ward, Browns: Leads all rookies in tackles (116) and is second only to Suh in intimidation. Big hitter over the middle.
Placekicker: Clint Stitser, Bengals: 7 for 7 in FGs (though he's missed two PATs) since signing as UFA. Weak year for rookie kickers.
Punter: Zolton Mesko, Patriots: Unheralded component of Pats' success. Averaging 43 yards per and has zero blocked, returned for TDs against him.
Kickoff returner: Jacoby Ford, Raiders: Tied with Leon Washington for most kickoff return TDs this season (3).
Punt returner: Marc Mariani, Titans: Better avg. on KOR than Ford; also dynamic as a punt returner. Has returned TDs both ways.
You can always expect the best coverage of the draft at NFLDraftScout.com.
Posted on: December 28, 2010 11:25 am
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Posted on: March 31, 2009 11:48 pm
Edited on: March 31, 2009 11:55 pm
On the day the young quarterback I've often compared to Jay Cutler did his best to earn the first selection of the 2009 draft, Jay Cutler, himself, threw his own hat into the fray.
Denver Bronco team owner Pat Bowlen released a statement to the media today indicating that conversations with Cutler's agent, James "Bus" Cook has left the Broncos' brass with the understanding "that Jay no longer has any desire to play for the Denver Broncos."
Rather than continue to try and appease the angry quarterback, however, Bowlen went on to state, "We will begin discussions with other teams in an effort to accommodate his request to be traded."
Each of the teams rumored to be interested in drafting a quarterback in the first round -- namely the Lions, Rams, Seahawks, Browns, Jaguars, 49ers, Redskins, Jets, Bears, and Bucs -- are thought to be potentially interested. Of this group, St. Louis, Seattle, Jacksonville, Washington and Chicago have all made the playoffs under their current starting quarterback, and thus, while potentially interested in a young passer to groom, won't necessarily be as interested in adding a veteran -- even one as talented as Cutler -- therefore, leaving the Lions, Browns, 49ers, Jets, and Bucs as the most obvious candidates for the Pro Bowl quarterback.
The going rate for a quarterback of Cutler's age and skills would be at least a first round pick; likely with extra compensation to be had based on Cutler or his new team's performance in 2009.
The Bucs, with only one first day pick -- the 19th overall -- would appear to be in the worst position to bargain of these four teams, as each of the others have their 1st and 2nd round picks in which to barter...
Posted on: March 30, 2009 2:35 pm
Edited on: March 30, 2009 2:36 pm
Each year there are relative unknown players whose eye-popping workouts in February and March force scouts back into the film room. Many times scouts are quick to acknowledge the impressive athleticism of prospects to local media covering the event, but once they review the players on film, realize that the speed, agility and strength shown on the track or weight room doesn't translate onto the field.
And then, sometimes, there are players whose workouts go well and scouts return to the film room to discover that perhaps they had simply overlooked or undervalued the prospects. Two such players moving up the charts this year are Furman offensive tackle Joel Bell and Utah cornerback Brian McCain.
Bell, a three-time all-conference selection at left tackle, was invited to the Combine and put forth one of the more impressive all-around workouts, earning top-ten marks in the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical, broad, 3-cone, and 20-yard shuttle at a shade under 6-7, 315 pounds. His workout was good enough that he didn't need to workout at Furman's Pro Day, though an eye-popping 25 teams still showed up to see him go through positional drills.
Indianapolis Colts' scout Bob Guarini put Bell through a 20 minute workout while the other team scouts' watched. Besides the Colts, the teams represented were the Eagles, Titans, Saints, Jaguars, Browns, Steelers, Seahawks, Dolphins, Texans, Patriots, Lions, Chiefs, Falcons, Cowboys, Bears, 49ers, Rams, Raiders, Vikings, Bills, Giants, Panthers, Chargers, and the Packers.
Like Bell, Utah's McCain is hardly just a workout wonder, though the workout he put forth at the Ute's Pro Day could technically classify him as one. McCain was clocked in the low 4.3s and the buzz around scouting circles is that he's been timed even faster before. McCain's 20-yard shuttle (3.99) and 3-cone (6.74) drill times would have ranked among the best among the cornerbacks tested in Indianapolis. McCain, however, was not invited to the Combine, despite earning All-Mountain West accolades each of the past three seasons. While fellow defensive Sean Smith has the size scouts covet, McCain is the more athletic of the duo and has the rare speed and agility for man to man coverage. Among the estimated two dozen teams represented at McCain's workout were the Panthers, Lions, Dolphins and Seahawks. Considering the lack of speed shown by this year's cornerback class, some believe McCain could continue to rise as the draft approaches -- perhaps all the way to the 5th round.
Posted on: March 28, 2009 9:12 pm
Washington State wide receiver Brandon Gibson, unable to work out at the Combine due to a right hamstring pull, worked out for scouts from at least 10 NFL teams in Seattle Saturday.
Gibson, who measured in at 6-0, 206 pounds (down four pounds from the Combine), was timed by scouts Saturday in the 4.55-4.63 seconds. He also posted a 34" vertical jump and a 9'5" broad jump. Gibson impressed me at the Senior Bowl with his precise footwork in route-running, but struggled with drops as the week went on. On Saturday, however, Gibson caught every pass thrown, despite windy conditions.
Gibson lacks the elite speed to warrant a first day selection, but his route-running, soft hands and experience make him an intriguing second day prospect -- especially for teams operating out of the West Coast Offense.
Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune recorded portions of Gibson's workout. It can be seen by copying and pasting the URL below.