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: April 27, 2011 2:01 pm
There has been a great deal of speculation that there will be a handful of quarterbacks selected in the first round. After the Jacksonville Jaguars (who own the No. 16 pick), however, there is only one team -- the Seattle Seahawks (No. 25) with an obvious need for a young passer.
So, unless we see several teams reach for quarterbacks in the first half of a draft loaded with talented offensive and defensive linemen, there is going to be a fair amount of trading into the second half by QB-needy teams if these predictions are to come true. One of the fascinating elements of this year's QB class is how widely disputed the ranking of the players is among NFL teams. I've spoken to clubs that see Washington's Jake Locker as the No. 3 quarterback of the class and TCU's Andy Dalton as seventh best option. Others have the two flipped, with every combination of Florida State's Christian Ponder, Arkansas' Ryan Mallett, and Nevada's Colin Kaepernick ranking 3rd-7th, as well. Auburn's Cam Newton and Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, of course, are each expected to be top ten picks.
Here is a look at the teams currently slated in the bottom half of the first round whose picks could be for sale.
Philadelphia (No. 23) -- Many throughout the league believe that the Eagles will be very tempted by Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith. While Smith is certainly a first round talent, his myriad of off-field concerns could push him out of the first. The Eagles could feel that they could land him five or ten spots lower and might be willing to trade as teams needing a QB jump ahead of Seattle.
Seattle (No. 25) -- Because Seattle has a clear need for a young quarterback, there is a belief among some that they'll reach for a quarterback at No. 25 if they have to. General manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll have noted on numerous occasions, however, their intent to beef up the offensive and defensive lines. It certainly could be smoke-screening on the part of the Seahawks, but with no third round (due to last year's trade for Charlie Whitehurst), the Seahawks will almost surely be entertaining offers to move down.
New England (No. 17, No. 28, No. 33) -- I list all three of the Patriots' picks within the top 33 selections because history tells us it is unlikely that Bill Belichick is going to keep all of them. Whether he packages some combination of the picks to move up for a pass rusher or moves down in an effort to be in the same position of power for next year remains to be seen. As I've mentioned before, one of the reasons that teams may look to trade into the late portion of the first round this year would be the longer contracts potentially available to players drafted in the first round. That will appeal to QB-needy teams like the Titans and Bengals, among others.
Posted on: April 25, 2011 1:45 pm
Edited on: April 25, 2011 7:41 pm
The public relations digs from both sides in the labor dispute have hit full tilt since the lockout began, with neither side wanting to miss an opportunity to win additional public sentiment.
You can almost feel the NFL and the players looking at the invisible pendulumn swinging and just waiting for an opportunity to push gravity in their favor.
The NFLPA immediately retreated amid strong backlash when word leaked out that the union would encourage prospects invited to the draft to skip the event at Radio City Music Hall and instead attend union-sponsored events in NYC.
Sensing the momentum, the NFL is going to squeeze every ounce of PR juice out of the door opened by the NFLPA's slip up. The league announced that a record 25 prospects have accepted invitations to attend Thursday night's first round festivities in primetime.
That's not including several who were invited but have chosen to stay home to watch the first round with their families, including quarterbacks Jake Locker and Colin Kaepernick. But it does include a host of players considered fringe first-round prospects by NFLDraftScout.com.
It could make for an uncomfortable scene late in the stanza as 5-6 prospects will likely be sitting in the "green room" as commentators discuss what a great value they'll make 24 hours later. Among those could be Kentucky WR Randall Cobb, UCLA S Rahim Moore, Baylor NT Phil Taylor, Baylor OL Danny Watkins and Virginia Tech RB Ryan Williams. And a few others could slide into the category as the night wears on.
Boston College LB Mark Herzlich will also be in attendance, but the cancer survivor has an inspirational story and isn't expected to be selected until at least the middle rounds (he's projected as a sixth-round value by NFLDraftScout.com.
Update: The NFL Network's Jason La Canfora reported that Herzlich will be announced with the others and take part in a group photo, but then will be allowed to stay as long as he likes or leave to be with friends and family. That's a sensible approach for a compelling prospect who likely won't hear his name called until Saturday - if at all.
--Derek Harper, NFLDraftScout.com Executive Editor
Posted on: April 25, 2011 12:54 pm
I'm a visual learner and learn more when I read it, but for those of you who like to listen to information, Yahoo.com's Doug Farrar and I recently had a conversation about this week's upcoming NFL Draft.
We touched upon many subjects, including which quarterbacks each of us prefer (not named Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert), as well as breaking down some of the year's top offensive linemen, a safety who might fit bit dropping down to cornerback and much, much more.
I'm flattered to be part of Doug's "Draftmaster" series, which also features my fellow Senior Analyst Chad Reuter and Charles Davis of the NFL Network.
You can listen to my episode here.
Posted on: April 24, 2011 3:00 pm
Minnesota Vikings 2010 record: 6-10, fourth place NFC West
2011 draft rundown - Nine total picks (round): 12 (1); 43 (2); 106 (4); 139 (5); 150 (5); 172 (6); 200 (6); 215 (7) 236 (7)
Quarterback: Favre had a miserable 2010 season after a spectacular 2009 and has called it quits for a third time. That's fine with the Vikings, who feel it's time for them to move on. Frazier's preference would be to draft a quarterback and have that player develop under new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.
Defensive line: Starting left end Ray Edwards is expected to be a free agent when a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is reached and that means the Vikings will be in search of a starter. Brian Robison signed an extension just before the lockout, but he might be best suited as a situational pass rusher. Everson Griffen, a fourth-round pick last year, has talent but has had off-the-field issues this offseason and is considered less than reliable.
Offensive line: Pro Bowl left guard Steve Hutchinson is 34 years old, center John Sullivan has yet to establish himself and right guard Anthony Herrera is coming off a knee injury. This unit needs to get younger and add depth. And that's not even getting into the fact that Bryant McKinnie is considered a chronic underachiever, despite the fact many teams probably would like to have the massive left tackle.
First-round focus 12th overall -- The Vikings had to be impressed by the level of play of rookie Joe Webb last year as the former wide receiver shocked the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football* (*actually played on Tuesday) with a solid all-around performance. Even with Webb's impressive performance, the Vikings are expected to look for another young quarterback to groom now that Brett Favre has retired (and will presumably remain so). The Vikings have been linked to Washington's Jake Locker, as his mobility, upside and intangibles are thought to be very highly valued by the Vikings. Minnesota is also thought to be high on the upside of Nevada's Colin Kaepernick and view Florida State's Christian Ponder and TCU's Andy Dalton as ideal fits in their offense, as well, but may not have a first round grade on these three passers. Should the Vikings elect to push off their needs at quarterback, addressing their concern at defensive end is also a strong possibility. Veteran Ray Edwards is scheduled for free agency and could be one of the more sought-after talents whenever the league and union make amends. The Vikings could look to take advantage of this year's rare talent and depth along the defensive line with the No. 12 pick, overall. The team is thought to have Cal's Cameron Jordan, Wisconsin's JJ Watt and Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan closely rated and as such might be willing to trade down a few spots should all three be on the board. Jordan would be a particularly intriguing fit considering that his father, Steve Jordan, was a Pro Bowl tight end for the Vikings from 1982-1994. The Vikings are thought likely to consider an interior offensive lineman at some point in the draft. Florida's Mike Pouncey would be a bit of a reach at No. 12, but would solidify the unit due to his size, strength and versatility.
Five names on Vikings' board:
QB Jake Locker, Washington
DE Cameron Jordan, California
DE JJ Watt, Wisconsin
DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
OL Mike Pouncey, Florida
Posted on: April 23, 2011 12:09 pm
2010 record: 6-10, fourth place NFC East
2011 draft rundown
Eight total picks (round): 10 (1), 41 (2), 144 (5), 155 (5), 177 (6), 213 (7), 224 (7), 253 (7)
Quarterback: Donovan McNabb had the worst season of his 11 as a starter during his Washington debut and won't be back. Journeyman Rex Grossman, who finished 2010 as the starter, would be a caretaker until a draft pick is ready to play, but he's unsigned. That leaves John Beck, who hasn't thrown a pass since 2007, as the likely No. 1 as of now. Ouch.
Nose tackle: Coordinator Jim Haslett says the nose is the key to his 3-4 defense. Albert Haynesworth refused to play the position. Ma'ake Kemoeatu was a bust coming off an Achilles injury and, like Haynesworth, will almost certainly not be back. Late-season starter Anthony Bryant might get a shot, but Washington needs a force here.
Pass rusher: The now-departed Andre Carter's failed transition from defensive end to linebacker left Brian Orakpo constantly double-teamed last year. Orakpo was the only Redskin with more than 2.5 sacks. Washington needs someone else to generate pressure.
Cornerback: With five-year starter Carlos Rogers and nickel back Phillip Buchanon both free agents, the Redskins will be in deep trouble at cornerback beyond Pro Bowl MVP DeAngelo Hall if they don't return. Youngsters Kevin Barnes and Byron Westbrook haven't played much so the Redskins need to protect themselves against the possible departures of Rogers and Buchanon by drafting a corner.
Wide Receiver: Anthony Armstrong appears to be a find, but Santana Moss is a free agent and a legitimate tall downfield threat should be on Shanny's List if he wants his new quarterback (whoever that may be) to succeed.
Running Back: Clinton Portis is gone and Ryan Torain, who has trouble staying healthy, is more intriguing than exceptional. Getting a tough one-cut back is required to continue Shanahan's long history of successful mid-to-late round finds at the position.
First round focus
--One never knows what team owner Daniel Snyder and GM/Head Coach Mike Shanahan will do. They have a lot of holes to fill in their roster, but may covet one of the draft's top two quarterbacks so much they'll be willing to move up instead of accumulating the picks they've given up chasing players in the past. If they can't grab reported target QB Blaine Gabbert early, they may select/trade down to pick Washington's enigmatic Jake Locker or select from one of the quality players meeting another need available to them at 10.
Five names on Redskins' board
--Contributed by NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Chad Reuter
Posted on: April 19, 2011 12:53 pm
2010 record: 7-9, third place AFC East
2011 draft rundown
Eight total picks (round): 15 (1), 79 (3), 111 (4), 146 (5), 179 (6), 217 (7), 218 (7), 235 (7)
Top needs:Running back: With their top three running backs from the past three seasons all free agents - Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams and Patrick Cobbs - there's a clear and obvious need in the offensive backfield. They seem certain to draft a running back in the first few rounds, possibly even at No. 15 overall.
Guard/Center: Only left tackle Jake Long and left guard/center Richie Incognito seem assured of a starting spot after a disappointing 2010 for this unit. Dolphins coach Tony Sparano admitted it was a mistake to keep rotating his interior line last season, so it's possible the Dolphins will spend a first-round pick on help at this important area.
Speed wide receiver: Brian Hartline is a former state champion hurdler in Ohio but he doesn't stretch defenses the way Ted Ginn Jr. once did. Someone like Julio Jones or Torrey Smith would fit nicely opposite Brandon Marshall, allowing Davone Bess more room to roam the middle as well.
Quarterback: Chad Henne has made 27 starts in the NFL but has a losing record (13-14) and lacks the full support of his bosses. The Dolphins have spent their first-round pick on a quarterback just twice in franchise history, and each time they came away with a future Hall of Famer (Bob Griese and Dan Marino).
First round focus
-- Under head coach Tony Sparano, the Dolphins have built a powerful rushing attack but have had only limited success in their passing game despite the addition of star receiver Brandon Marshall. With their top two running backs scheduled for unrestricted free agency, the Dolphins may be looking to the draft as a replacement for Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. As such, Alabama's Mark Ingram is a popular choice for the Dolphins in mock drafts. Should the team elect to go in another direction, local standout Mike Pouncey would fill a clear area of need in the middle and would be a nice public relations move. The need for size and strength on the interior of the offensive line is especially important for the Dolphins considering that they face three teams operating out of the 3-4 in the AFC East division. Adding a speed receiver to compliment Marshall and to put Davone Bess in his more natural slot position could go a long way in fixing the Dolphins' passing game. On the other hand, should Miami decide that they've seen enough of Chad Henne, the team could opt instead for a new quarterback. Arkansas' Ryan Mallett, Washington's Jake Locker and Nevada's Colin Kaepernick are all thought to be high on the Dolphins' board.
Five names on Dolphins' board
-- OC Mike Pouncey, Florida
Posted on: March 30, 2011 3:25 pm
Edited on: March 30, 2011 3:27 pm
Before the Jake Locker Show began at the Washington pro day Wednesday, All-Pac-10 linebacker Mason Foster took part in all of the typical agility drills.
Foster ran his forties in the mid 4.7's, about what was expected after being credited with a 4.75 in Indy. Not surprisingly, his short shuttle and three-cone drill times were very close to his Combine times in those events. Scouts will appreciate, however, that he came out to work instead of standing on his performance at the Combine.
His times are quite typical of third round prospects like Foster who were productive college players (161 tackles in 2010) but lack elite athleticism. When teams watch the tape, they'll see Foster aggressively attacking the line on pass and run blitzes. The questions scouts have, however, will be about his ability to chase down quicker NFL ballcarriers and stand up against more physical linemen at the next level.
Regional scouts from almost every team are in attendance. A major contingent is also there from the nearby Seahawks, including General Manager John Schneider and Head Coach Pete Carroll.
NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Rob Rang is also in attendance at the Washington pro day, and will be providing his take on Locker's throwing session--which the Ferndale, Washington native hopes helps him secure a first round slot.
--Contributed by NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Chad Reuter