Tag:Dallas Cowboys
Posted on: May 7, 2011 12:28 pm
 

Finding the Fits -- Wide Receivers


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.

The 2011 wide receiver class was a unique one. While all of the attention was understandably heaped upon A.J. Green and Julio Jones, the so-called second tier talent of this group intrigued me. There wasn't a great deal of pure speed available in this class, but the number of elusive returners, tough slot receivers and big, physical possession wideouts made it a underrated strength of the 2011 draft. It will be interesting to see how many of these college stars prove to emerge as true No. 1 targets in the NFL. While I have some reservations about how many will be able to do precisely that, I am confident that a number of them will make immediate and lasting impacts at the pro level.

Earlier this week I broken down the quarterbacks and running back fits.
Good Fits:

Dwayne Harris, Dallas Cowboys:
Quite frankly, I wasn't as high on the Cowboys' draft as many, but I did love the value of Harris in the sixth round. In Harris, I see the same type of toughness, wiggle and secure hands that I saw in Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby (now with the Cincinnati Bengals) and Davone Bess (Miami Dolphins) when they starred in college. Considering the talent outside in Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, Harris could slide right into the slot and prove a steal.

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons:
Let's be clear. I thought Atlanta paid too much to acquire Jones. With that said, it is easy to see why they made their aggressive trade, as Jones is the most physically-prepared receiver to make an immediate impact in this draft and is an ideal fit for Atlanta's offense due to his size, strength, and run-blocking. He is not as fast on the field as his 4.34 second time at the Combine might suggest, but at 6-3, 220 pounds, he is tough to bring down in the open field. Considering the other weapons the Falcons possess, he'll rarely see double coverage early in his career, meaning that Jones will often be only one broken tackle away from big plays.

Greg Little, Cleveland Browns:
Little and Jones will forever be linked due to the fact that Cleveland used one of the picks they received from the Falcons to select a similarly built (6-3, 231) and skilled wideout 52 picks later than Atlanta selected Jones. Like Jones, Little uses his extraordinary combination of size, strength, underrated speed (4.53) and body control to be effective. A former running back, Little's RAC skills could result in plenty of big plays in Cleveland. He is one of the few wideouts in this class who I believe could ultimately emerge as a true No. 1 target. It will be interesting to compare in a few years to take a look back and see what kind of value the Browns got with Little at No. 59 compared to what the Falcons got out of Jones at No. 7.

Greg Salas, St. Louis Rams:
I could have just as easily listed the first wide receiver the Rams selected in 2011 -- former Boise State star Austin Pettis (No. 78 overall) -- as an ideal schematic fit, but with Salas taken 34 spots later, he could ultimately prove the better value. Each are tall, well-built possession receivers whose game is built on precise route-running and soft, reliable hands -- precisely the type of wideouts Sam Bradford so desperately needed last year.

Titus Young, Detroit Lions:
Young was hyped by some draft analysts as the No. 3 receiver in this class, but inconsistent route-running, hands, toughness and slim build (5-11, 174) kept him as my No. 7 rated wideout (No. 6 by NFLDraftScout.com). There is no denying, however, that Young fits in well schematically with the Lions, who needed a big play threat opposite Calvin Johnson and to take advantage of Matt Stafford's amazing arm. 

Questionable Fit:

Jon Baldwin, Kansas City Chiefs:
Considering the success that Scott Pioli had in helping build the Patriots' dynasty as well as the successful renovation of the Chiefs, it might be seen as almost blasphemous to knock one of his first round picks. And yet, here I am doing it. I understand the Chiefs' need to add a secondary receiver to take pressure off of Dwayne Bowe and certainly acknowledge Baldwin's extraordinary combination of size (6-4, 228), speed (4.49), explosiveness (42" vertical jump led all Combine WRs), but quite frankly, on tape Baldwin isn't the sum of his parts. He isn't as physical as his size would suggest, nor as fast as he timed. Baldwin struggled against press coverage in college and will only face more of it in the NFL. He is blessed with a great deal of natural talent and Todd Haley has shown the ability to coax such talent from surly receivers throughout his career. There is no denying, however, that Baldwin was a significant gamble at No. 26 overall.
Posted on: May 4, 2011 8:24 pm
 

Finding the Fits -- Running Backs

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.

With quarterbacks the focus yesterday , I'll move to the next highest profile prospect on the offensive side of the football with the running backs.

Before I break down a few backs that I believe are great (or in the case of one, troubling) fits with their respective NFL franchises, I did want to point out the statistical anamoly that was last year's running back class. There were 24 running backs selected in 2011 -- exactly double the number of runners who were drafted a year ago. The 12 true running backs selected in 2010 was the lowest total in modern league history.

Anyway, back to the point. Here are a few backs whose fit in their NFL schemes I believe could result in surprising success.

Players are listed alphabetically, not in the order in which I see their fit with their respective teams.

Good Fits:

Jamie Harper, Tennessee Titans: The Titans boasted one of the more exciting 1-2 punches in football just a few short years ago with Chris Johnson and LenDale White. White's penchant for trouble, however, led to his trade to Seattle and ultimately his falling completely out of the NFL. Harper, at 5-11 and 233 pounds, has a similar powerful build as White and might possess the softest hands of any back in this draft.

Roy Helu, Washington Redskins: Mike Shanahan is well known for his ability to find late round diamonds in the rough at running back and in Helu, he may have scored yet another one. Helu is an upright runner who didn't always run with the toughness and physicality some teams would prefer. He does, however, possess the ability to stick his foot in the ground and get downhill quickly. With very good straight-line speed (4.40), he is an ideal fit in Shanahan's zone scheme.

Kendall Hunter, San Francisco 49ers:
The 49ers obviously boast one of the league's best all-around backs in Frank Gore, so Hunter isn't about to win the starting job here. However, the 49ers best back-up to Gore is another powerful runner in Anthony Dixon. Hunter's agility, speed and hands out of the backfield make him a nice fit for the 49ers, especially considering the fact that the sooner they play rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the more likely they are going to need secure outlet receivers.

Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta Falcons: Rodgers is in a similar position behind Michael Turner in Atlanta as Hunter is behind Gore in San Francisco. The former OSU standout, however, is actually a very different back than Hunter, though the two are similarly sized. Rodgers is a good fit in Atlanta's drive-blocking, power-base rushing attack. Rodgers, all 5-6, 196 pounds of him, is a surprisingly powerful runner who will score his first NFL touchdown by burrowing his head into the chest of an unsuspecting defensive back rather than dancing around him. How do I know? I've watched him win First Team All Pac-10 honors all three years of his career at OSU. He'll prove a steal at the No. 145 pick.

Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins: It is a shame that Thomas' name is last alphabetically, as I believe he could have the most immediate impact of this year's rookie runners and therefore should be more prominently featured. The Miami Dolphins are thought likely to consider adding a significant free agent runner like DeAngelo Williams since they're likely to lose Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, but considering how much emphasis Tony Sparano places on running the football, Thomas could still impress as a rookie. Thomas runs a bit too upright for my taste, but has good vision, is surprisingly agile and possesses good acceleration for a back of his size (6-0, 230). Depending on what the Dolphins do in free agency, you could be looking at a potential Offensive Rookie of the Year in Thomas, who led the Big 12 in rushing yards his only two seasons in the conference. 

Questionable Fit:

DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys drafted Murray to potentially fill-in or replace the big play potential lost whenever Felix Jones is sidelined. While they received better value in Murray in the third round than they did with Jones as the No. 22 overall pick of the  2008 first round, the team could be getting a similarly finesse back who relies on his speed and hands to make big plays, rather than demonstrate the instincts or toughness to be a consistent force. The Cowboys, of course, boast lots of talent in the backfield and won't have to lean on Murray to be a feature back. Murray has fantastic hands out of the backfield and in that way is a nice schematic fit, but in the physical NFC East division, his role could be just that and very little more.
Posted on: April 23, 2011 12:18 pm
 

Vets' character ?s could (should) impact rookies

The end of the Collective Bargaining Agreement has put the 2011 (and future) NFL seasons in doubt. It has eliminated free agency and veteran trades (to this point) and put a damper on the enthusiasm that many fans have about next weekend's draft.

Perhaps the most unfortunate consequence of NFL teams not being able to communicate directly with their veteran players, however, has been the sudden rise in off-field problems for too many of the league's players.

The NFL world is buzzing this morning about the apparent stabbing of Miami wide receiver Brandon Marshall . This, of course, comes on the heels of Tampa Bay Bucs' cornerback Aqib Talib being charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and for Dallas' wide receiver Dez Bryant's silly controversy regarding he or his friend's inability to wear their pants at a level deemed appropriate by police working inside a shopping mall.

The troubles from these veteran NFL players are as wide-ranging as they are predictable.

As many draft fans know, each of these players was plagued by character questions when entering the NFL.

The actions of these (and other) players since the end of the CBA should serve as a reminder to NFL teams that for some players -- even if they don't like trouble, trouble seems to like them.

Others in the media have highlighted specific instances of criminal activity or character concerns with prospects. I, too, have reservations about many prospects in this draft, which is why I've consistently referred to intangibles as one of the primary factors when ranking players on my Big Board.

I (and more importantly, NFL teams) know of prospects being given first round grades from some with multiple arrests, multiple failed drugs tests (including some who failed at the Combine and/or team administered tests since the Combine), and even multiple abortions.

Wake up NFL teams considering these players. These guys aren't holding up red-flags -- they've planted brilliant scarlet banners on their front lawns.

Does anyone believe that players with these mistakes in their past are likely to improve when given a million (or multi) dollar contract?

Some NFL veterans are proving the opposite to be true -- which could (and perhaps should) be all the more reason to proceed cautiously with any and all prospects with legitimate character concerns -- regardless of their athletic talent.

Posted on: April 12, 2011 12:37 pm
Edited on: April 12, 2011 12:41 pm
 

Broncos, Titans, Redskins, Bears trading out?

The 2011 NFL Draft is still 16 days away, but NFL teams are already making phone calls about potentially draft-day trades.

According to multiple sources in the league, the Denver Broncos, Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins and Chicago Bears are all exploring their options.

The Broncos, owners of the No. 2 overall pick, are thought the unlikeliest to actually be able to trade out of their selection. The significant cost of signing a player drafted that high and this year's lack of an elite prospect hurts their chances.

The Titans, owners of the No. 8 overall pick, however, could be in a more enviable position. Sitting ahead of the Dallas Cowboys -- who many believe are targeting USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith -- the Titans could auction off the pick in the hopes that some team is willing to pay to steal him from Dallas.

Sources tell me the Titans would like to draft a quarterback at No. 8, but are worried that there won't be one worthy of the No. 8 pick. They may have to trade back into the first round, however, rather than waiting for whichever quarterback might slip to their second round pick, No. 39 overall. In trading down from No. 8, they could add the picks needed to move up from the second round and still keep enough selections to help re-tool their young roster.

The Redskins, owners of the 10th overall pick, also could be looking to trade down and acquire more picks. Washington does not have a third or fourth round pick in this year's draft and have several needs. Mike Shanahan is thought likely to pick up a quarterback in this year's draft and has to figure out a way to add talent to a 3-4 defense still largely built on players ideally suited to a four-man front.

The Chicago Bears are perhaps the biggest surprise of the bunch. Despite playing in the NFC Championship game, the Bears have concerns along both lines and could use help at receiver and in the secondary. Considering the talent likely to be available at each of these positions, the Bears could have plenty of options staring at them at No. 29. As such, they could be one of the teams at the end of the first round willing to trade back to allow a club desperate to snatch up a quarterback before the expected run on the position begins in the second round.

Fellow Senior Analyst Chad Reuter and I aren't allowed to project trades in our mock drafts. Here they are anyway...



Posted on: December 26, 2010 12:45 pm
 

Cardinals' rookies stand out on Christmas Day

There is no denying that the losses of Kurt Warner, Anquan Boldin and Karlos Dansby hurt the Cardinals this season. The defending NFC West Champs stand at a disappointing 5-10. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt and his staff, however, are practicing a theory I've always believed in -- if you're going to struggle, you might as well play your young players to determine if there are any building blocks for the future.
Arizona rookie quarterback John Skelton will get much of the glory following the Cardinals' last-second victory over the Dallas Cowboys, but in reality he was only one of various first-year players who stood out during the rare Christmas day NFL game.

Skelton, a fifth round pick out of Skelton, posted marginal numbers (11 of 25 for 183 yards and a TD), but made plays when he needed to, including finding Larry Fitzgerald on 4th down to extend the game-winning drive and hitting fellow rookie Andre Roberts for a 74-yard touchdown to give Arizona a 21-3 lead in the second quarter. Skelton has a rocket for a right arm and a showed some poise in the pocket, stepping up when he needed to and keeping his eyes downfield. Again, he was far from spectacular, but did not throw an interception and slipped away from several sacks.

Roberts, a third round pick out of The Citadel, was arguably the most impressive rookie on the night. He led the Cardinals in targets (nine), receptions (five) and receiving yards (110) and caught Skelton's only touchdown throw of the evening. His most impressive reception was not the touchdown (in which the Dallas defender fell down), but a 21 yard catch (amid very tight coverage) on 3rd and 7 that extended Arizona's lead in the fourth quarter to four points with 3:45 left to play.  Roberts also showed some burst and vision as a returner, registering a combined 134 on nine returns (five on kickoffs, four on punts).

Roberts was "arguably" the Cardinals' most impressive rookie because the Cardinals' second round pick, linebacker Daryl Washington tied with veteran teammate Paris Lemon to lead the game with eight tackles (all solos). Washington's athleticism stood out at TCU, but there were concerns about his physicality and instincts. Those concerns were largely put to rest last night as Washington took on blocks and located the football quickly throughout the game.

The Cardinals' rookie production continued. Fourth round pick O'Brien Schofield (Wisconsin), who tore his ACL approximately 11 months ago at the Senior Bowl, notched his first career sack against the Cowboys. First round pick Dan Williams , who was in Whisenhunt's dog house early in the year due to coming in overweight, flashed the power inside that led the Cardinals to making him the 26th pick of the draft. The former Tennessee Volunteer also showed impressive hustle, chasing ball-carriers downfield and to the sideline.

The Cardinals may be wrapping up a disappointing season, but with each of their top five picks from the 2010 draft contributing to their Christmas Day victory, they (and their fans) should feel good about their future. 

Posted on: December 9, 2010 5:42 pm
 

Ivory, Lee stand out in impressive week for rooks

The 2010 NFL season has been a strong one overall for rookies. This isn't a surprise considering the amount of hype that the group enjoyed prior to the draft.

Two players who didn't gain a great deal of attention, however, were among the rookies who most stood out this past weekend.

Undrafted free agent Chris Ivory enjoyed another strong performance for the Saints, overtaking No. 2 overall pick Ndamukong Suh to be recognized for the third time this year. He rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the Saints' 34-30 win at Cincinnati. The highlight of Ivory's afternoon was a career-long 55 yard run in the second quarter that was the first touchdown scored by either team.

Other offensive players whose play stood out this week included Seattle offensive tackle Russell Okung, Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Williams, and fellow Buc LaGarrette Blount (running back).

While the Cowboys' Sean Lee , as a second round pick, certainly entered the league with a much higher profile than Ivory, the success of the Cowboys' flashy first rounder Dez Bryant and Lee's long recovery from a 2008 ACL surgery made him one of the "quieter" high profile selections in Dallas history. The former Penn State star has flashed during his rookie season but remains a backup behind veterans Keith Brooking and Bradie James for the Cowboys.

Lee's play against the Colts spoke volumes, however. Lee victimized Peyton Manning for two of the All-Pro's four interceptions in this game, returning the first 31 yards to score his first NFL touchdown. Lee's second came in overtime, putting the Cowboys in position to kick the winning field goal. He also tied his previous career-high with five tackles on the day.

Among the other defenders whose play stood out this weekend was the Giants' pass rusher (and reigning Defensive Rookie of the Week) Jason Pierre-Paul, Cincinnati's Carlos Dunlap, New England inside linebacker Brandon Spikes and a trio of cornerbacks - Cleveland's Joe Haden, Kansas City's Javier Arenas, and the Patriots' Devin McCourty.


Posted on: December 2, 2010 1:31 pm
 

Rare BCS "Diamond in the Rough" prospect

I typically try to highlight "small" school prospects for my weekly "Diamond in the Rough."

This week, however, I'm highlighting a prospect from the Big Ten, one of the six automatic qualifying conference for the BCS bowl games.

So how does a Big Ten player qualify as a "Diamond in the Rough."

Well, to start, he plays for Minnesota.

That isn't meant as a slam to the Golden Gophers. They've had their share of highly touted prospects over the years, including wideout Eric Decker (drafted No. 87 overall last year by Denver) and a trio of talented running backs earlier this decade, including current Patriot Lawrence Maroney and Cowboy Marion Barber III.

Still, with Minnesota losing this season to the likes of South Dakota and Northern Illinois on their way to a 3-9 season that got their head coach Tim Brewster fired last month, it is easy to understand why few realize they boast an intriguing NFL prospect -- even if he plays at the game's most important position.

Quarterback Adam Weber is hardly the NFL prototype at 6-1, 221 pounds.

As he demonstrated in Minnesota's upset win over Iowa Saturday, however, Weber possesses the moxie, mobility and short to medium range accuracy to potentially surprise at the pro level.

Weber wasn't spectacular against the Hawkeyes. He completed 13 of 25 passes for 164 yards and no touchdowns in the 27-24 victory.

What scouts like, however, is how he handles the game. Having started all 50 games of his career, Weber is rarely surprised by defenses and does a nice job of anticipating the action. On numerous occasions against the Hawkeyes, Weber would push the safety to one corner of the field with his eyes before dumping the ball off in the other direction. He did the same as a runner, picking up gains of 20 and 13 in the first half to pick up first downs when the defense was keying on his receivers.

Weber appears capable of making every NFL throw, though he doesn't own a howitzer. A few of his passes fluttered in the cold wind Saturday, but often this was the result of poor technique by Weber. He has a tendency to throw flat-footed, a correctable flaw that will add velocity to his throws.

Weber made some flashy throws last year that jumped off the film when I was scouting Decker. He's been one of the few bright spots on a struggling Minnesota team this season.

Scouts certainly know of him.

They should, considering that he ranks behind only one other quarterback in Big Ten history for most career yards gained from scrimmage.

Due to a lack of preferred height, some questioned whether he'd make in the NFL.

Drew Brees has done fine since leaving Purdue, wouldn't you say?

I'm certainly not forecasting that Weber will be the No. 32 pick of the draft (as Brees was) or earn Super Bowl MVP honors. He is, however, a legitimate prospect who hasn't garnered much national media attention. He might when he makes an NFL roster.
Posted on: October 27, 2010 11:18 am
 

Dez Bryant, Eric Berry earn Rookies of the Week

One might think with the dominating performance that Dez Bryant enjoyed on Monday Night Football that it was an easy decision to reward him the Offensive Rookie of the Week honors.

Well, okay, it was.

But that doesn't lessen the fact that several other rookies on the offensive side of the ball were also verrry impressive in Week Seven performances in the NFL.

Carolina receiver David Gettis, for example, caught eight passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns in helping the Panthers beat the 49ers to get their first win of the season.

While Colt McCoy wasn't statistically impressive (9 of 16 for 74 yards), himself, one has to at least acknowledge the fact that his Browns walked into New Orleans and beat the defending Super Bowl champs... especially considering the poise with which McCoy played in his first career start against the Steelers the week before.

McCoy's former favorite wideout - Jordan Shipley - enjoyed a great game for the Bengals, as well. He caught six passes for 131 yards and a 64-yard touchdown against the Falcons.

In the end, Bryant's spectacular performance beat them all, however. Bryant caught four passes for 54 yards and two scores and returned a punt 93 yards for another. His three touchdowns were arguably the only spark shown by the Dallas Cowboys in their key divisional matchup against the first-place Giants.

On the defensive side of the ball, a few back seven defenders really enjoyed strong performances. Arizona outside linebacker Daryl Washington did his best Karlos Dansby impression, posting 11 tackles, including his first career sack Sunday against the Seahawks. On the other sideline of that game, Walter Thurmond III, in his first career game, was often asked to cover Larry Fitzgerald one on one and responded well, recording four tackles and two passes broken up while limiting Fitzgerald to only three catches for 30 yards.

Like for Bryant, it was the versatility shown by Kansas City safety Eric Berry , however, that won him the Defensive Rookie of the Week in my mind.

Berry only had four tackles, but showed the burst and timing in pass defense that helped him establish himself as a star in the SEC from Day One. Berry broke up three passes, recorded his first career interception (which he returned 35 yards) and also forced a fumble in the Chiefs' win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. 



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