Posted on: October 12, 2010 6:06 pm
The first step in earning Rookie of the Week honors is, of course, to see the field. Because of their perceived greater talent and their signficantly greater salary, high round picks almost always get the better opportunities to start.
Being fourth round picks, however, certainly hasn't slowed down the progress of Tampa Bay Buccaneers' wideout Mike Williams or Tennessee Titans' cornerback Alterraun Verner .
I've highlighted Williams on numerous occasions, including back in training camp (August 1) when he was already turning heads .
I've long been a fan of Verner, one of the feistier defenders in the draft. I listed him among five players heading up the board as the draft approached (April 7) and was surprised, frankly, that he lasted until the early fourth round.
Unless you're living under a rock somewhere you likely already know that Williams has developed an early rapport with Bucs' young quarterback Josh Freeman. The 3-1 Bucs have featured Williams throughout the season and he entered the matchup against a tough Bengals' secondary leading the team in receptions (12), receiving yardage (139) and receiving touchdowns (2) over the team's first three games. An obvious focus of the Bengals defense, Williams was slowed early in the contest, but stepped up big late, leaping over veteran Johnathan Joseph to catch the tying touchdown with only 56 seconds left. Williams finished with seven grabs for 99 yards and the score.
Like Williams, Verner's solid play contributed to an upset victory. Matched up against a variety of talented receivers and facing Pro Bowl quarterback Tony Romo didn't seem to faze Verner, as he registered eight tackles and stepped in front of a pass intended for tight end Martellus Bennett and tipped at the line of scrimmage by Dave Ball to make the first interception of his NFL career. Verner returned the ball to the one-yard line, where superstar Chris Johnson quickly gave the Titans a touchdown. Playing opposite an established talent like Cortland Finnegan, Verner's tenacious play has earned raves from coaches and scouts throughout the league.
It is interesting to note how closely Williams and Verner went in the fourth round. Williams was the third pick of the round and 101st pick, overall. Verner was selected only three picks later.
** One final note... I considered listing Arizona quarterback Max Hall as my Offensive Rookie of the Week. He certainly made some gutsy plays in the win over the defending Super Bowl champs, but had the Cardinals defense not saved the day by scoring nearly as many points (14) as they allowed to the Saints (20), the interception and two fumbles lost by Hall would be getting more attention than they currently are. Hall was good enough to win -- and that, in itself, is verrry impressive, but all of the comparison between he and Kurt Warner is hyperbole, in my opinion.
Posted on: August 15, 2010 1:03 pm
The physical nature of the game means that there will always be injuries. Considering that they are making the greatest jump in talent of their lives, often the players most susceptible to injury are rookies.
Despite the hype of the draft, only a small portion of rookies are expected by their respective clubs to provide a true immediate and consistent impact.
The Houston Texans, however, were certainly hoping to gain exactly that from second round pick Ben Tate.
Unfortunately, after only his second carry of the game -- a 12 yard burst on the Texans' first drive of the second half -- Tate suffered a severe lower leg injury and had to be carted off the field.
The injury, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter) is believed to be a broken ankle , which would end Tate's season.
The Texans had hoped that Tate would solidify a running game that has struggled with inconsistency throughout the franchise's nine-year history. Veterans Arian Foster and Steve Slaton had most recently flashed in a starting role for Houston, but in investing the No. 58 overall choice in Tate, clearly Gary Kubiak and his staff were hoping the former Auburn star would provide some consistency to the position.
Unfortunately, there have already been some ugly injuries to highly-drafted rookies. The Ravens and Giants may have lost their second and third round picks, OLB Sergio Kindle and S Chad Jones for the year (and more) with scary off-field incidents. The Jaguars lost third round DT D'Anthony Smith to an Achilles tear. Tennessee lost undrafted free agent running back Stafon Johnson to an dislocated ankle just last night.
None of these players, however, were in Tate's position to compete for a prominent role immediately.
Posted on: April 26, 2010 11:50 pm
Each year there are players who slip through the cracks into undrafted free agency that, quite frankly, I'm stunned aren't drafted.
Here is my list of players who were undrafted but I feel could find a roster spot in the NFL.
Today I'm highlighting the offensive players (as well as their NFL franchise). Tomorrow I'll list the defensive players.
QB: Jarrett Brown, West Virginia (signed with San Francisco)
RB: Keiland Williams, LSU (signed with Washington)
FB: Rashawn Jackson, Virginia (signed with Carolina)
TE: Colin Peek, Alabama (signed with Atlanta)
WR: Blair White, Michigan State (signed with Indianapolis)
WR: Seyi Ajirotutu, Fresno State (signed with San Diego)
OT: Casey Knips, South Dakota State (signed with Arizona)
OG: Ciron Black, LSU (signed with Pittsburgh)
C: Kenny Alfred, Washington State (signed with Tennessee)
OG: Jeff Byers, USC (signed with Seattle)
OT: Levi Horn, Montana (signed with Chicago)
Category: NFL Draft
Tags: Alabama, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Fresno State, Indianapolis Colts, LSU, Michigan State, Montana, NFL draft, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, South Dakota State, Tennessee Titans, undrafted free agent, USC, Virginia, Washington Redskins, Washington State, West Virginia
Posted on: April 24, 2010 12:03 pm
The Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals obviously felt strongly enough about the recovery from major knee surgeries to pick Oregon cornerback Walter Thurmond and Wisconsin pass rusher O'Brien Schofield, respectively.
Thurmond had been viewed as a second round pick by most scouts until he tore three ligaments in his knee returning the opening kickoff against Cal in the fourth game of the year. His recovery has been going smoothly enough that he worked out for scouts prior to the draft; though he was unable to perform at the Combine.
Thurmond told the Seattle media he expected to be 100% by the start of training camp, though that might be optimistic considering the severity of his injury.
Schofield was one of the better pass rushers in the Big Ten in 2009 and starred at outside linebacker at the East-West Shrine Game. He was so impressive there, in fact, he was given a late invite to the Senior Bowl. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL in his opening practice with the North team. Schofield will essentially be taking a redshirt year this season for the Cardinals.
While it is always difficult to take players coming off major injuries, in both cases, the athleticism and upside is worth the risk. Thurmond fits in well with the Seahawks expected conversion to more of a press scheme. Similarly, Schofield is a natural pass rusher that could be a star in the 3-4 alignment.
Posted on: April 23, 2010 10:08 pm
As we get into the middle rounds is where NFL scouts and draft analysts earn their money.
While few fans will know much about Andre Roberts, wideout from The Citadel, Hillsdale offensive tackle Jared Veldheer and even Sun Belt standout Alex Carrington from Arkansas State, I believe these three will prove to be three of the better picks of the third round.
Roberts is my favorite of the three. Even with the trade of Anquan Boldin, the Cardinals are well stocked at wide receiver already with Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet. Roberts is a classic slot receiver and returner who could step in immediately should one of them go down to injury. Typically small school receivers are raw route-runners, but I was very impressed with Roberts at the Senior Bowl in this area. He has hands of glue.
Perhaps the most NFL-ready of the bunch, however, is Arkansas State's Alex Carrington, who at 6-5, 280 pounds has the length and strength the Bills need at defensive end for their conversion to the 3-4 defense. Carrington, like Roberts, helped dispel any thoughts that he couldn't make the jump to better competition with a strong showing at the Senior Bowl.
Veldheer, a 46 game starter and All-American, fills an area of real concern for the Raiders. He has the length the Raiders like outside and really made a name for himself at the Texas vs. Nation game. I've spoken to scouts who rate him similarly to former Sebastian Vollmer, a surprise second round pick last year for the Patriots who ended up starting eight games as a rookie, including five games at left tackle.
Posted on: April 23, 2010 3:25 pm
Following the conclusion of the draft, I'll be providing grades for all 32 teams. I've begun the process of writing these grades up based on what transpired in the first round yesterday. I'll be posting comments for each team, by their division, in the blog over the next few hours.
Here is how I saw the action from the NFC West perspective:
Arizona Cardinals: With concerns about the development of recent picks Gabe Watson and Alan Branch, the Cardinals had to be pleased to see Tennessee’s Dan Williams still on the board at No. 26. Williams was the most dominant defensive tackle in the SEC this past season, but some teams were nervous that he only elevated his game to this level as a senior. If the Cardinals can keep him motivated, they will have found a true steal in Williams.
St. Louis Rams: The Rams were on the phones talking trade up until they made the pick, but in the end they filled the need for a franchise quarterback in Sam Bradford. The club has to be concerned with Bradford’s inability to stay healthy in 2009, but there is no denying his talent. When protected, he’s shown the accuracy of an All-Pro.
San Francisco 49ers: With an established star in Frank Gore many casual fans might have thought the 49ers were among the best running teams in the league, but an inability to gain an inch on short yardage plays made addressing the offensive line a huge concern for Mike Singletary. Trading up to No. 11 to get Anthony Davis might have been an unnecessary move, as he likely would have been available to the 49ers at their original No. 13 selection. He provides the 49ers with a quality athlete in tandem with current left tackle Joe Staley. Having athletic tackles will help in Mike Iupati’s adjustment to the NFL’s speedier pass rushers. Few, if any presented Iupati’s power as a drive blocker.
Seattle Seahawks: Along with the 49ers, the Seahawks were the only team to enter the draft with two first round picks and successfully filled their two largest holes when talented players fell right into their lap. Seattle’s biggest concern was at left tackle considering the expected retirement of future Hall of Famer Walter Jones. Russell Okung was graded by many as the top offensive tackle in the draft and was a surprise to still be on the board at six. Similarly, with Seattle releasing free safety and team captain Deon Grant a month before the draft, the team was fortunate to have Texas’ Earl Thomas slip to them at No. 14. A classic ballhawk, he, like Okung, will start immediately.
Posted on: April 25, 2009 7:26 pm
I projected that the Titans would take a receiver for the first since 1998, but with Percy Harvin off the board, thought the Titans might instead shift their attention to the defensive side of the ball. Instead, they took Kenny Britt, whose size and straight-line speed gives the club a big, deep threat they need to take advantage of the safeties cheating close to stop their running game.
The Cardinals have obvious needs at running back and may consider Chris "Beanie" Wells here, though as a bigger, physical back, he is a little similar to what they already have in Tim Hightower. Wells has great potential as a downhill runner, but offers little as a receiver or pass blocker, which might make him a tough fit for the pass-heavy Cardinals.
A pass rusher like Clint Sintim is also a possibility, though inside linebacker Rey Maualuga and cornerback Darius Butler make a lot of sense simply due to their value.
At this point in the draft, Maualuga is just too much of a value for a team needing LBs and more physicality on the defensive side of the ball.
Posted on: April 10, 2009 8:21 pm
According to a report by ESPN's Chris Mortensen, the NFL is going to invite at least 10 players this year to Radio City Music Hall for draft day. The number is nearly double that which the league has invited in recent years and is likely an attempt on the league's part to give the increasingly made-for-television-event a reality-TV appeal. The decision to invite more players was made to highlight especially intriguing players, including some who aren't necessarily expected to be within the top ten picks.
Among the players (listed alphabetically) expected to attend are:
WR Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
OLB Aaron Curry, Wake Forest
OLB Brian Cushing, USC
QB Josh Freeman, Kansas State
OT Eugene Monroe, Virginia
OT Michael Oher, Mississippi
DE/OLB Brian Orakpo, Texas
OT Jason Smith, Baylor
QB Matthew Stafford, Georgia
Some notable names are missing on this list, not the least of which is USC quarterback Mark Sanchez (who, according to Mortensen's report is currently planning on spending the draft with friends and family), Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith and Missouri wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.
Interestingly enough, I spoke with Aaron Curry yesterday in preparation for Part 3 of the four-part "Road to the Draft" we're doing and he had not yet been invited...
The most players I recall the NFL ever inviting to New York for the draft was 11, back in 1996. The 1996 draft was memorable for many reasons -- Keyshawn Johnson was the last wide receiver selected with the top pick and no linebacker has been selected as high since the Jaguars made former Illinois standout Kevin Hardy the second overall pick. The 1996 draft was also memorable in that it featured the only player invited to NYC by the league that slipped entirely out of the first round. The Cardinals made running back Leeland McElroy the second pick of the second round (32nd overall).
Tags: Aaron Curry, Andre Smith, Arizona Cardinals, Brian Cushing, Brian Orakpo, Eugene Monroe, green room, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jason Smith, Jeremy Maclin, Josh Freeman, Kevin Hardy, Keyshawn Johnson, Leeland McElroy, Mark Sanchez, Matthew Stafford, Michael Crabtree, Michael Oher, New York Jets, NFL Draft