Posted on: July 10, 2010 2:28 pm
The Buffalo Bills surprised many with their selection of Clemson running back C.J. Spiller in the first round considering their already talented backfield and the number of otherwise gaping holes on their roster.
One of those gaping holes is at wide receiver. Terrell Owens, who led the team in both catches (55) and receiving yards (829) is gone. As is Josh Reed. Lee Evans remains a quality wideout on one side, but the club has yet to see a return on their investment in Roscoe Parrish or James Hardy.
The 5'11, 196 pound Spiller with 4.32 speed has the body control and quick feet necessary to gain separation and showcased reliable hands when used as a running back, wide receiver, punt returner and kick returner at Clemson.
Buffalo head coach Chan Gailey recognized Spiller's versatility recently.
"We can split him out and try to create a mismatch out wide," Gailey said. " ... It just creates a lot of matchup problems in our opinion with defenses. I know in talking to George Edwards, our defensive coordinator, he said every time you have a guy like that you better know where he is on the field, you better know what his assignment is and what he does from that spot. So we feel we have a chance to create some very good matchups in our favor with a guy like C.J." It isn't a surprise that Buffalo would use Spiller at receiver, necessarily. A similarly gifted athlete as Reggie Bush, many forecasted that he'd be used in a similar capacity as the New Orleans' Saints all-purpose dynamo.
Depending on how many times the creative Gailey moves Spiller wide, the former ACC Player of the Year could actually play a role more similar to the one Percy Harvin played with the Minnesota Vikings last year.
Posted on: May 10, 2010 10:38 pm
The news that Houston outside linebacker Brian Cushing failed a drug test last September and, after losing his appeal, could now lose his Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, as well as be suspended for the first four games of the upcoming season has generated plenty of attention.
Too much attention, in my opinion -- at least in terms of the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
The reality is, Cushing won the award in a landslide, but was outplayed -- apparently too quietly -- by Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd.
Now, don't get me wrong. Cushing was spectacular last season. In starting all 16 games, he provided the Texans' with the playmaker in the back seven that this team has been lacking. His 134 tackles, four interceptions, four sacks and two forced fumbles showed the all-around game that scouts had seen him flash throughout his career at USC. Cushing's play was critical in several of Houston's victories this past season -- the team's first winning season (9-7) in franchise history. For his exploits, Cushing received 39 of the possible 50 votes by AP writers and broadcasters for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. He was also voted to the Pro Bowl, though he was unable to play due to various injuries.
All of that said, Byrd's impact on the Bills was even more rare and deserved greater attention.
Byrd, who only played in 14 games due to suffering a torn labrum in his hip that required off-season surgery, nonetheless tied for the league-lead with nine interceptions. Like Cushing, Byrd was voted to the AFC Pro Bowl -- the first rookie defensive back to be honored since Charles Woodson burst into the NFL with the Oakland Raiders... in 1998.
For his play, Byrd only received six -- yes, six -- first place votes as the top defensive rookie of the 2009 class. Again, Cushing received 39.
Whether he wins it in his second attempt or not, one thing is clear: Byrd will get a helluva lot more consideration now that voters will have to take into account Cushing's failed drug test.
And that is a shame.
Byrd was better in the first place...
Posted on: May 3, 2010 6:01 pm
Considering the money and time invested, every draft selection ever made is, by definition, a gamble.
However, there are always a group of picks made each year that surprise me with their brazen and obvious risk. These are the picks that either earn general managers and scouting directors the admiration of fans and foes, alike, or result in unemployment.
These are the five moves that I thought were the boldest gambles of the 2010 draft.
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 2:07 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 AFC East perspective:
The Bills may be lacking at the other offensive skill positions, but the addition of running back CJ Spiller, they boast one of the more talented and explosive backfields in all of the NFL. Spiller's great speed and elusiveness make him a big play threat on every snap, but there were other, bigger needs for this club.
By trading for Brandon Marshall the Dolphins eliminated their primary need with their second round pick (and a 2011 pick) and quickly recouped it, as well as added a fourth round pick and veteran linebacker Tim Dobbins on Thursday by dropping 16 spots in a trade with the San Diego Chargers. The Dolphins were still able to reinforce their defensive line with the selection of the steady and versatile Jared Odrick, who some teams felt might go in the top 15.
New England Patriots:
No one gets better value on draft day than the Patriots, as they masterfully slip down the board, pick up extra picks and then add players who should have been taken earlier. Just as they did last April with the selections of defensive backs Patrick Chung and Darius Butler, the Patriots traded down in the first round (twice, actually) and found the steady Devin McCourty still on the board. McCourty isn't as flashy in man coverage as Kyle Wilson or Patrick Robinson, but he's a sounder overall defender and a force on special teams.
New York Jets:
After aggressively leaping up in 2009 to land Mark Sanchez and Shonn Green and trading for veterans Antonio Cromartie and Santonio Holmes in the off-season, New York (perhaps surprisingly) simply took the best available player in cornerback Kyle Wilson with the 29th overall selection of the first round. The Jets know that to get past Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the playoffs, they need to be athletic in the secondary. With the addition of the big play specialist Wilson, they'll be even better against the pass - a scary thought, considering they led the league by a wide margin last year.
Posted on: April 19, 2010 7:41 pm
Arizona State wide receiver Chris McGaha may have improved his stock with a late workout Monday. The former all-Pac-10 receiver had been unable to workout for scouts at the Combine and Arizona State's Pro Day March 26 due to a strained hamstring.
With teams focusing on their draft board, a scout from the Buffalo Bills was on hand to record McGaha's times and circulate the results to the rest of the NFL clubs through the APT system.
According to a source with knowledge of the situation, McGaha measured in at 6-1, 199 pounds and was timed at 4.52 seconds in the 40-yard dash -- an impressive time considering McGaha is known more for his sticky hands and savvy route-running and the fact that the workout was done on grass. Most impressive about McGaha's speed was his time over the first 20 yards (2.54). Only one receiver tested at the Combine was clocked faster over the first 20 yards and that was Clemson's Jacoby Ford, whose hand-held time in the 40-yard dash, according to records provided to me by a league source, was 4.24 seconds.
McGaha's slowing over the final 20 yards could have been a result of his only recent recovery from the hamstring injury. He's only recently been able to prepare fully for this workout.
McGaha was also impressive in the short shuttle (4.10) and 3-cone drills (6.75).
Though he was not able to perform in the timed drills at the Combine, McGaha did impress scouts with his explosiveness in the vertical jump (40"), broad jump (10'2) and bench press (19 reps).
McGaha, who recently underwent Lasik surgery to improve his vision, caught 56 passes for 673 yards and 4 TDs in 2009.
He was not asked to catch passes during today's session.
Posted on: April 9, 2010 2:09 pm
Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen threw for scouts Friday morning in South Bend, easing concerns about his surgically repaired toe.
According to scouts in attendance, Clausen "looked pretty good," driving the ball on intermediate routes and completing 57 of 59 passes overall. His two incompletions come on long balls in which he overthrew his receiver.
Like Sam Bradford's Pro Day, Clausen's workout was scripted. He took 3, 5 and 7 steps drops, though he did not attempt any bootlegs or perform in the 40-yard dash due to the fact that he is still recovering from the injury. Afterwards he described himself as "75-80%" of his normal self. Clausen has only recently been able to throw and fully workout following his surgery, January 5. Due to the surgery, Clausen was unable to workout for scouts at the Combine or in Notre Dame's first Pro Day. Clausen will be traveling to Indianapolis for a medical re-check, but afterwards has visits and private workouts lined up with several clubs, including the St. Louis Rams, Washington Redskins and Buffalo Bills.
Clausen threw to four former Notre Dame receivers: Golden Tate, James Aldridge, Robby Parris and David Grimes.
There were 16 teams represented Friday. Among the heavy hitters in attendance at Clausen's Pro Day were St. Louis general manager Billy Devaney, head coach Steve Spagnuolo, Buffalo general manager Buddy Nix, and Seattle offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates.
I currently have Clausen being drafted by the Buffalo Bills in my mock draft.
Posted on: April 4, 2010 10:49 pm
Over the past few weeks there has been increasing talk in the scouting community that the Washington Redskins were going to do something at the quarterback position. With the draft less than a month away, I (and the league personnel I'd spoken with) generally presumed that the Redskins would focus their quarterback search there. With Sam Bradford essentially unattainable , the belief was that Washington would select Jimmy Clausen with the 4th overall pick.
Obviously, Washington went in another direction with their quarterback search, landing Donovan McNabb for their 37th overall selection in the 2010 draft and a conditional 3rd-4th round pick in 2011.
And because the Redskins filled their need at quarterback, Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen could see a significant drop on draft day.
Considering the big contract signed by Matt Cassell last year, the Chiefs aren't likely to reunite Charlie Weis and Clausen with the fifth pick. Similarly, the Seahawks gave up too much in trade and contract money for they to be likely to use the sixth overall pick on the Irish passer. Cleveland president Mike Holmgren has publicly admitted that he's not a huge Clausen fan. The Raiders won't take him with JaMarcus Russell still drawing checks.
The only obvious contenders in the top ten are the final two teams within it -- the Buffalo Bills at No. 9 and the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 10. With neither of these clubs guaranteed to take the hotly debated Clausen, his "slip" on draft day could prove even steeper.
The slip from the potential 4th overall choice to No. 9 doesn't sound that significant until you look at the contracts.
Assume for a moment that Clausen would have been the 4th overall choice. He likely would have signed a deal slightly better than the one received by last year's 4th overall pick, Aaron Curry. Curry signed a six year deal for 60 million, including 34 million guaranteed.
The ninth overall pick last year, nose guard BJ Raji, signed a five year deal with Green Bay for 28.5 million, including 18 million guaranteed.