Posted on: May 3, 2011 8:35 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.
Considering their importance to the game and the number of high profile passers who went early in the 2011 Draft, I'm starting off with the quarterbacks.
Players are listed alphabetically, not in the order in which I see their fit with their respective teams.
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers: I will be the first to admit that I have not been as high on Kaepernick as many others are, but there is no denying that he was drafted into an ideal scenario with the 49ers and head coach Jim Harbaugh. Kaepernick has rare physical tools, as well as the intelligence and work ethic to be successful. Kaepernick's elongated throwing motion, however, is a concern of mine. I had reservations about it and know that some teams did too. I believe that when a club asks a quarterback to significantly alter their throwing motion it lessens the likelihood of the quarterback ever having success, which is one of the reasons why Kaepernick's fit with an NFL team was so important. The 49ers and Harbaugh, however, don't appear concerned with the hitch in his delivery . Harbaugh is widely credited with developing Andrew Luck's natural talents and preaches an offense that spreads the field and occassionally allows the quarterback the freedom to run -- all of which bode well for the former Nevada passer. Perhaps best of all, as a 2nd round pick, Kaepernick might be afforded the luxury of time to develop.
Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans: Assuming the Titans re-sign veteran Kerry Collins or add another veteran quarterback, Locker is in a position to succeed. Though a four-year starter at UW, he is not yet ready to make the jump into the NFL, as only his final two seasons were in a pro-style offense. His time spent at Washington under then-head coach Tyrone Willingham, was essentially spent as a running back taking snaps from center -- just as it was for him in high school. However, Locker has shown improvement in his technique since the season, leading many to believe that he is just scratching the surface of his potential. Furthermore, he is a nice fit in this scheme. Think about what the Titans do well... They feature the ultra-athletic Chris Johnson on the stretch play. A quarterback capable of bootlegs and play-action off of Johnson's runs will be successful.
Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings: While many jumped on the Christian Ponder bandwagon following the Senior Bowl or the Combine, I've been touting the FSU passer for quite some time and believe that he was the most pro-ready passer in this draft. It doesn't surprise me, quite frankly, that Minnesota head coach Leslie Frazier believes Ponder could be his opening day starter. Ponder has the intelligence to pick up Bill Musgrave's offense quickly, especially since many of Musgrave's West Coast Offensive principles tie in with what Ponder played with at FSU. Though Ponder doesn't have a big arm, his short to intermediate level accuracy, touch down the seam, and confidence in play-action make him a good schematic fit for the Vikings' run-heavy attack and focus on quick screens to take advantage of Percy Harvin's unique talent.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers: Okay, you may have seen this coming, considering the fact that many have concerns about how well the No. 1 overall pick will be able to transition from a spread-option offense that was so perfectly suited to his wonderful athletic tools to Rob Chudzinski's multiple-formation, vertical-passing attack. I have no doubt that the Panthers already have a plan in place to cater their offense around Newton's unique skill-set, but this is a complicated scheme for any quarterback to master, much less a rookie. I do not have the concerns about intelligence or leadership that some others seem to have about Newton. I understand the physical comparisonst to Vince Young, but believe the mental toughness Newton demonstrated in fighting through all of the off-field distractions this season more than prove his ability to focus on game-day. I also like the talent around Newton in Carolina -- along the offensive line, running back and at receiver. I just have real reservations about any passer with only one year of starting experience at the D-I level making the jump to the NFL... and unlike the other players mentioned in this post, Newton won't have the luxury of time. The high price and attention of the No. 1 overall pick will almost certainly force the Panthers to play him immediately.
Posted on: July 14, 2010 6:57 pm
With less than 24 hours before the NFL's annual Supplemental draft I polled various league sources to find all of the latest buzz surrounding its four applicants and the NFL teams likely to get involved.
Though BYU running back Harvey Unga has generated most of the pre-draft hype, I'm told it could be Illinois defensive tackle Joshua Price-Brent who is drafted first.
There are a few clubs thought to be quite high on the former Illinois standout. There is talk that Price-Brent is earning 4th round grades from some scouts -- though I'd be surprised, quite frankly, if any player was picked this high. Detroit, New Orleans, San Francisco, St. Louis and Green Bay are all thought to be interested. The value of the defensive tackle position, Price-Brent's size (6-2, 321) and his 20 career starts under respected coach Ron Zook were all given as reasons why the big run-stuffer is generating some late buzz.
Unga's stock, on the other hand, was characterized as "settling" by one league source.
Unga's production and strong running speak for themselves, but his 4.63-4.73 second times in the 40-yard dash at his July 8 Pro Day and lingering right ankle sprain only added to the perception that he was too slow and injury-prone to ever be a full-time back in the NFL. Few teams are willing to invest anything more than a very late pick in a running back specialist this close to training camp -- and a specialist is exactly how some scouts are characterizing the three-time Mountain West Conference honoree.
I'm hearing 6th-7th round for Unga with Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Seattle, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Miami having all expressed some interest. There is some talk Unga could slip out of the draft, entirely. If he did so, I was assured he'd have several teams offering him a free agent contract.
The forecast doesn't appear to be as warm for the two other players eligible to be selected in Thursday's draft.
There doesn't seem to be a great deal of interest brewing for running backs Vanness Emokpae (Truman State) and Quentin Castille.
Posted on: April 25, 2009 5:32 pm
The 49ers got the player I've had countless scouts tell me may be the best player in the draft 3 years from now at the #10 spot, so the value of the pick is spectacular. Crabtree's size, hands and physicality is a perfect compliment to the power running they have with Frank Gore.
The Bills are now on the clock and took Penn State DE/OLB Aaron Maybin. I had hoped to mention Maybin, as well as Michael Oher and Brian Orakpo for this pick but the Bills jumped up to make their pick surprisingly fast.
The Broncos are now on the clock.
They could be looking at Orakpo, the QB Josh Freeman, OLB Brian Cushing or some have even suggested one of the running backs - Beanie Wells or Knowshon Moreno.
Ultimately, I think the pick will be one of the pass rushers (Orakpo or Cushing) or a trade down. Orakpo is a bit stiff for my taste as a 3-4 rush linebacker and I have concerns about Cushing's durability.
Still, ultimately, I'd take Cushing, considering the Broncos' needs on defense.
Posted on: March 12, 2009 10:44 pm
An estimated 15-20 teams attended Kansas State's Pro Day Thursday, mostly to see junior quarterback Josh Freeman. Detroit, St. Louis, Kansas City, Seattle, Oakland, Jacksonville, San Francisco, New York (Jets), Tampa Bay, and Minnesota were among the clubs there. Quarterback coaches for the Lions, Seahawks, Bucs, and Vikings were all present.
Scouts who viewed Freeman's Pro Day workout today described it in much the same words as I described Freeman's Combine workout.
First, the two scouts' take on today's workout:
AFC Scout "He certainly can throw the ball. He's a little wild, but you knew that going in on film. He's got tools, though. Someone's gonna take him in the first and may end up with the best one of the bunch in a few years."
NFC Scout "Ok, not great workout. Big arm, but erratic. Great tools, but needs some refining."
My comments after scouting Freeman at the Combine:
Freeman has good arm strength, but his accuracy was inconsistent. On many of his shorter and intermediate routes, he often was a bit high or wide with his throws. All in all, it was a solid performance, but not the jaw-dropping one some had projected.