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Tag:Rolando McClain
Posted on: February 23, 2011 12:57 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2011 12:58 pm
 

Combine Countdown -- Illinois ILB Martez Wilson

Continuing my week-long feature on prospects at each position that have more on the line at the Indianapolis Scouting Combine than most, I present Illinois junior inside linebacker Martez Wilson.

Wilson is NFLDraftScout.com's top rated inside linebacker for the 2011 draft. A highly touted prep star, he signed with Illinois with much fanfare, but until the 2010 season had been considered a bit of a disappointment. Wilson's production shot up in his junior season, however. He went from recording 73 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in his first starting season to 112 stops, 11.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. He also contributed three forced fumbles, an interception and a blocked kick, earning First-Team All-Big Ten accolades.

At an estimated 6-4, 250 pounds, Wilson certainly possesses the prototypical size to man the inside linebacker position in the NFL. Athletic enough to beat the back to the sideline as a true 4-3 Mike and physical enough to take on blockers as a 3-4 ILB, Wilson is one of a scant few in this year's relatively weak class capable of starring in either scheme.  Some teams even feel that Wilson has the natural pass rush skills and agility in coverage to warrant developing as an outside linebacker in either scheme.

For all of his obvious assets, however, Wilson has a lot riding on his Combine performance. Certainly scouts want to see if the burst and agility seen on tape is replicated in workouts.

More importantly, teams need to investigate the neck injury which sidelined Wilson for all but the opener of the 2009 season. Wilson registered nine tackles against Missouri, but suffered a herniated disk and was granted a medical redshirt. Considering the collisions he'll face as an NFL linebacker, pro teams' medical staffs aren't going to necessarily give Wilson medical clearance just because Illinois' did.

Teams are also going to want to talk to Wilson regarding his sudden jump in production. Is he a player coming into his own or is he motivated by the big NFL contract? Teams will attempt to find the answer to all of these questions this week in Indianapolis.

Should Wilson pass the medical, interview and athletic questions this week, he has a chance to slip into the late first round. Wilson's value could be enhanced simply because he is viewed by many clubs as the clear-cut top rated ILB. The drop to Michigan State's Greg Jones and North Carolina's Quan Sturdivant (NFLDraftScout.com's next two highest rated ILBs) is significant. Also significant is the fact that Wilson has the experience to play inside or out. He played outside for the Illini in 2008 before making the switch to the middle for his abbreviated 2009 campaign, as well as this past season.

Though inside linbebackers have traditionally dropped a bit on draft day, the Oakland Raiders made former Alabama star Rolando McClain the No. 8 overall pick last year. There have been eight inside linebackers drafted in the first round since the 2000 draft.
Posted on: August 30, 2010 11:25 am
 

2010 class looks worth the hype so far

We told you prior to the draft the 2010 crop of talent looked like one of the best in a long time . Once the underclassmen came on board, the class was being compared by some to the famous 1983 group that included Hall of Famers John Elway, Eric Dickerson, Bruce Mathews, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino and Darrell Green.

Comparing this class to the 1983 crew is, of course, vastly premature.
 
At least throughout the weeks of preseason, however, the class looks every bit as good as advertised.

Most years, by this time, we've already identified a half dozen or so highly drafted rookies who are struggling to acclimate to the pros. Sure, Colt McCoy isn't setting the world on fire, but we should have known to expect that a bit considering that he slipped into the 3rd round. Most of the players drafted in the first round are already establishing themselves as either immediate starters or quality backups... exactly what first-round picks are supposed to do.
Think of the top ten this year. Sam Bradford, Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, Trent Williams, Eric Berry, Russell Okung, Joe Haden, Rolando McClain, C.J. Spiller and even surprise top ten choice Tyson Alualu have shown flashes of brilliance for their respective teams, already.

The first round picks that have struggled have mostly been due to injuries. Tim Tebow, Demaryius Thomas, Derrick Morgan, etc. have reportedly looked good when practicing, but various injuries have, thus far, slowed their advancement.

Exciting middle, late round and even undrafted free agents have emerged already .

But don't just take my word for it. Check out the stats.

Rookie Anthony Dixon, San Francisco's 6th round pick and the No. 173 player taken overall leads the NFL with 220 rushing yards. 

Rookie Victor Cruz, an undrafted free agent for the Giants, leads the league with 251 receiving yards, as well as receiving touchdowns (4). The only player in the league with as many as three TDs? Another rookie. Patriots' tight end Rob Gronkowski, a second round pick taken No. 42 overall.

So, offensively the rookies are doing well. What about the defense, you ask?

Thanks for asking.

Rookie Pat Angerer, the Colts' second round pick and the No. 63 player taken overall leads the NFL with 24 tackles.

Defensive tackle Geno Atkins, a fourth round pick taken at No. 120, leads the league with 4.5 sacks.

I can hear the dispute already. Yeah, rookies see a lot of playing time, and therefore more opportunities to post numbers in the preseason.

True. But the facts remain the same.

This 2010 class of rookies has a chance to be special.

Posted on: July 29, 2010 9:52 pm
 

Tebow signs the headline; LBs the real story

July 29, 2010 may someday be recognized in pro football annals as the day that Tim Tebow officially entered the NFL by signing his first-round contract with the Denver Broncos, but several other rookies who signed today will almost certainly make a bigger impact as a rookie -- though few, nationally, will recognize the importance of their deals.

Fellow first round picks Rolando McClain (Oakland) and Sean Weatherspoon (Atlanta) each signed their contracts today. Despite the fact that McClain (No. 8 overall) and Weatherspoon (No. 19 overall) were each selected higher than Tebow and will almost certainly see the field in a more substantive role sooner than the former Florida superstar, only fans of the Raiders and Falcons, respectively, are likely to be giving the signings much thought.

And that is a mistake.

McClain's signing continues a surprisingly effective off-season for the Raiders. His selection with the No. 8 overall pick was lauded on draft day as a coup for the shabby run-defending team. Now, by signing McClain on the day the team's training camp workouts officially begin, they are giving the reigning Butkus Award winner a chance to help immediately.

Weatherspoon's deal is just as important given that the Falcons, like the Raiders, enjoyed a strong off-season and appear to be on the verge of breaking into the upper echelon of the NFL. The addition of free agent cornerback Dunta Robinson gives the team the shut-down cornerback they've been missing to pair with pass rusher John Abraham and young star linebacker Curtis Lofton. With Weatherspoon's speed and playmaking ability, the combination of he and Lofton should give the Falcons as athletic a duo of young linebackers as there is in the league -- a critical advantage considering the team has to contend with Drew Brees and the explosive New Orleans' offense in the NFC South division.
 
One could even make the argument that Miami signing outside linebacker Koa Misi, Houston signing running back Ben Tate or even the Kansas City Chiefs signing offensive guard Jon Asamoah will end up being at least equally as important to their club's 2010 success as Tebow.

But then again, Tebow is the headline. Everyone else makes up just the details.

So, what else is new?
Posted on: July 27, 2010 10:19 am
Edited on: July 27, 2010 6:35 pm
 

As promised, my SEC notes after film review

After a short hiatus to the coast of Washington State to chase the elusive chinook salmon, here are the SEC film room notes I had promised.

Again, I fully recognize that there have been many off-field stories that have broken recently -- the ongoing NCAA investigations , important rookie signings and, unfortunately, the terrible accident that fractured the skull of Baltimore pass rusher Sergio Kindle, thereby endangering his rookie season and perhaps even his NFL career. 
There are so many off-field news stories right now that I am trying to focus on the action that takes places between the white lines. I posted my thoughts on what surprised/disappointed/impressed me after my initial review of ACC prospects a few days ago.

Here are my thoughts after scouting the top senior prospects in the SEC.

  • In the opinion of many NFL scouts, the essential difference between the SEC and the rest of college football is the different talent and depth the Southeastern Conference boasts along the defensive line. Though a few teams have narrowed the gap (North Carolina and Pittsburgh chief among them), the SEC again is loaded up front with run-stuffers and pass-rushers. Mississippi nose guard Jerrell Powe is currently our top-ranked prospect from the conference. He is quickly followed by pass rushers Pernell McPhee (Mississippi State) and Cliff Saunders (South Carolina). Powe has been often compared to former Boston College standout (and current Green Bay Packer) B.J. Raji for his stout presence in the middle. Like Raji, who missed the 2007 season due to academic suspension, Powe has struggled to keep his grades in check. In fact, he was deemed ineligible three consecutive years from 2005-2007. NFL teams will no doubt take Powe's academic struggles in mind when determining his final grade. What is obvious on film, however, is that he is a talented player who could physically compete immediately in the NFL.
  • The defensive line is typically what the SEC is known for, but this year the unique talent in the conference comes along the offensive line and at tight end. My fellow Senior Analyst Chad Reuter broke down the conference's depth up front in a feature article here . No fewer than eight senior SEC offensive linemen are currently viewed as potential draft-worhty prospects. The conference also boasts NFLDraftScout.com's top three rated senior tight ends in South Carolina's Weslye Saunders, Tennessee's Luke Stocker and Arkansas' D.J. Williams. I was a bit underwhelmed with each of them, quite frankly. Saunders (6-5, 272) has incredible size and surprising overall athleticism, but isn't the speed threat most of today's NFL teams are looking for. Williams, at 6-2, 244 pounds, has some speed and is a tenacious blocker considering his size, but simply lacks the bulk for most clubs. The most well-rounded of the bunch is the 6-5, 252 pound Stocker, though he doesn't possess any skills on film that left me wowed, either.
  • Considering that they're the defending National Champions, it might surprise you to learn how few of the SEC's highly rated prospects play for Alabama. In defense of the Crimson Tide, many of their top-rated prospects who would be seniors this year elected to leave early (ILB Rolando McClain, CB Kareem Jackson, etc.). Furthermore, their depth and coaching is so good that some seniors seeing the field extensively for the first time in 2010 will no doubt emerge as legitimate prospects. However, at this point, NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated senior Crimson Tide prospect is left tackle James Carpenter, currently viewed as a 3rd-4th round prospect -- and one likely to have make the transition inside to guard. Quarterback Greg McElroy, rated as a 6th-7th round prospect is next. Of course, considering the draft-eligible underclassmen on this team (Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, Marcel Dareus, etc.), the Tide rolls on.
  • Speaking of Alabama, with all due respect to Heisman winner Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson is a fabulous NFL prospect in his own right. One that I feel could have been similarly productive in Alabama's offense had been given Ingram's attempts. Luckily for Nick Saban and Tide fans, as a true sophomore, Richardson has at least two more seasons in Tuscaloosa. He flashed first round talent as a true freshman...
  • Though I wouldn't rank them among the elite prospects in the conference just yet, a few players did flash on film that haven't generated a lot national attention just yet. I mentioned Alabama's Carpenter earlier. Auburn running back Mario Fannin is a terrific receiver who has popped off the tape throughout his career, but has never been able to string together the dominant season his skill-set seems capable of producing. Fannin has struggled with fumbles and injuries early in his career, but, if over both, could enjoy a breakout campaign in 2010. Kentucky wide receiver Chris Matthews, at 6-5, 222 pounds, surprised me with good body control and enough acceleration to think he could surprise, as well.
  • One final note on the SEC prospects... I typically reserve comments for senior prospects, but Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett is an obvious NFL prospect regardless of when he leaves the Razorbacks. However, I wasn't as wowed by Mallett as some apparently are. His 6-6, 238 pound frame is considered a positive by most, though his long legs and only moderate foot speed/balance concern me. Mallett has a gun and can make some dazzling throws, but at least some of his success has to be attributed to Bobby Petrino's wide-open offense. Remember, this is the same offense that convinced many of us that former Louisville standout Brian Brohm was one day going to be an NFL star. With two years of remaining eligibility, Mallett has plenty of time to iron out some wrinkles to his game, but I, for one, feel he's being a bit overrated right now... 

Posted on: April 22, 2010 8:45 pm
 

What happened? McClain to Raiders makes sense...

The Oakland Raiders have made some odd picks in the first round in recent years and, as such, may have made an even odder pick considering how much Alabama inside linebacker made sense.

The Raiders have struggled against the run, giving up more rushing touchdowns over the past seven years than any other team in the league and ranking 30th in the NFL in rush defense last year.

Middle linebacker Kirk Morrison had developed into a fan favorite and steady producer, but his marginal straight-line speed made him a liability in the eyes of the Raiders.

Al Davis rarely takes linebackers in the first round. His club hadn't taken once since 1994, but in the physical McClain, Al Davis added to his collection of former trophy winners. McClain, of course, won the Butkus Award last year.
Posted on: April 22, 2010 6:48 pm
 

Debunking McClain to Chiefs, Wilson to Cleveland

The hours before the NFL Draft is always full of hot rumors. With the draft moved to prime time, teams have had all day, rather than just the early hours Saturday morning to explore all of the options.

Some of the hottest rumors making their way around the league over the past few hours just don't make a great deal of sense.

I'm not buying inside linebacker Rolando McClain to the Chiefs at No. 5, for example.

Inside linebacker is clearly a significant need for Kansas City, but Scott Pioli believes as much in value as anyone. An inside linebacker in the 3-4 defense is rarely a value in the top ten and almost never in the top five -- especially in a draft as talented as this one.

I'm also not buying that the Cleveland Browns will take Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson with the seventh overall pick. Again, on the surface, the selection makes some sense. The team could move the recently acquired Sheldon Brown to safety, alleviating that concern and pair Wilson and Eric Wright together to form a very athletic cover corner duo. Wilson simply isn't such a dominant player as to warrant this pick, however. Furthermore, one of the better attributes he'll bring to a team is his return ability. The Browns don't need that with Josh Cribbs already starring in this role.

The smoke is getting thick...



Posted on: April 17, 2010 10:38 am
Edited on: April 17, 2010 10:40 am
 

Multiple teams talking trade

Many have speculated that the alteration in the the NFL draft schedule is going to lead to more trades than before.

According to sources throughout the league, the St. Louis Rams (owners of the first pick), Seattle Seahawks (6, 14) Cleveland Browns (7), Denver Broncos (11), Miami Dolphins (12), New England Patriots (22), Philadelphia Eagles (24) and Dallas Cowboys (27) are all actively exploring trade opportunities.

The Cleveland Browns have been one of the more aggressive teams, speaking with the Rams about moving up to get Sam Bradford with the first overall pick, but also exploring dropping down, as well.

The Seahawks would like to add a pick between their second first (14) and their only second rounder (60th overall). Their recent mini camp proved they have significant holes to fill on both sides of the ball.

Denver has wide receiver Dez Bryant and center Maurkice Pouncey high on their board. They will consider Bryant at 11, but if he's off the board, they'd like to drop down a few spots and still get Pouncey.

Miami would like to recoup the second round pick they lost in the trade for Brandon Marshall and feel that the player they're likely to get at No. 12 won't be significantly better than one they might get in the lower teens or twenties. With their need for a playmaking wide receiver filled, look for the Dolphins to add a front seven defender.

The Patriots already own three second round picks, but Bill Belichick believes the second round is where the values lies in this draft.

It has been reported (originally by Sports Illustrated's Peter King) that the Eagles were aggressively looking to move up. I have been able to confirm this, but counter to King's story, which has Philadelphia looking to move up for either Eric Berry or Earl Thomas at safety, I'm told a different player is the Eagles' real target. Middle linebacker Rolando McClain, given the team's need for a thumper inside and the significant drop-off at the position after McClain, would seem a likely candidate.

Dallas is also exploring aggressive trade-up options. Owner Jerry Jones loves Dez Bryant and will consider moving into the late teens should the Oklahoma State receiver fall to that point.

The first round of the 2010 draft is shaping up to be every bit the drama-filled event the NFL had hoped in moving it to primetime Thursday night. 

Posted on: March 10, 2010 5:50 pm
 

Scouts: Crohn's a "non-factor" for McClain grade

Alabama inside linebacker Rolando McClain had appeared to solidify his stock as a likely first round pick with a pair of solid times in the 40-yard dash early during his Pro Day, but labored through the rest of his drills before getting sick. He later told scouts and media assembled at the Alabama Pro Day that he was suffering from Chron's Disease -- and has suffered from it since he was a freshman in high school.

Chron's Disease, according to WebMD.com is "a chronic inflammatory disease of the intestines. It primarily causes ulcerations (breaks in the lining) of the small and large intestines..."

Common symptoms of Crohn's include abdominal pain, loss of appetite, fever, and weight loss, among others. The disease affects an estimated two million Americans. Those inflicted have varying levels of severity, ranging from mild to quite severe.  

The news of McClain's admission spread like wildfire over the internet creating panic. Would this drop McClain out of the first round? Is he still even a draftable prospect?

According to two veteran scouts I texted, the admission is much ado about nothing.

"Non-factor" one scout replied after I asked him how much McClain's Crohn's disease would impact his team's grading of the Butkus Award-winner.

The other scout was more specific.

"Jax QB has it. He's not had problems."

The Jax QB the second source was referring to is Jacksonville Jaguars starter David Garrard, whose testimony about his life with the disease isn't nearly as rosy as the one scouts laid out.  Garrard, in fact, after trying various different prescriptions and losing 35 pounds, was ultimately forced to undergo surgery that removed "about a foot" of his intestines.

It would appear that wise teams will make sure to speak with their team doctors before making any final judgement on how Crohn's could impact McClain in the long run.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com