Posted on: March 21, 2011 11:31 am
Just as he did during the Combine, Panthers' head coach Ron Rivera has highlighted a group of eight prospects for the No. 1 overall pick.
He cited three quarterbacks among those prospects -- Auburn's Cam Newton, Missouri's Blaine Gabbert and, perhaps surprisingly, Arkansas' Ryan Mallett.
Though there are another five players potentially in play for the top pick -- presumably defensive linemen Marcell Dareus, Da'Quan Bowers and Nick Fairley, cornerback Patrick Peterson and wide receiver A.J. Green -- the Panthers' focus seems pretty intent on finding another quarterback to compete with (and potentially replace) incumbent starter Jimmy Clausen, at least according to a report from Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer.
Person notes that the Panthers "could go after" one of the five "other" picks in the draft, but only if "If the Panthers decide to bring in a veteran quarterback through a trade or free agency, assuming the lockout is resolved early enough."
Clearly, Person believes that the Panthers are acknowleding that quarterback is the number one priority and will be addressed.
Person quotes Rivera as saying, “We have a number of positions that we've identified as needs. We're trying to get to that point where we can start filling those needs as the time is appropriate,” Rivera said. “If you can fill a need through free agency, we're going to do it. If we have to go through the draft, we'll do it. If we've got to make a trade, we'll do it.”
Should Carolina find a way to add a veteran quarterback, which is, of course, impossible until a new CBA is agreed to, the Panthers have options with the first pick.
If not, they'll be choosing between Newton and Gabbert with their first pick.
Regardless of what Rivera is saying publicly, Mallett is very much fighting just to stay in the first round, according to multiple sources inside the league, much less contend for No. 1 overall honors.
Posted on: March 17, 2011 3:22 pm
Edited on: March 17, 2011 6:48 pm
A strong throwing session from Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert could push him to the No. 1 overall pick.
According to a Twitter note from Dave Matter of the Columbia Daily Tribune, Gabbert completed 44 of 49 passes and characterized "at least three" of the incompletions to drops by the collection of D-II receivers organized for the workout. With Missouri having no draft-eligible receivers, he was left to rely on others, rather than former teammates to catch his passes.
A source on the scene characterized Gabbert's workout as a "8" when asked to score it on a scale of 1-10. The source pointed out some "little issues intermediate and deep." But also noted "good velocity and accuracy on the move."
Gabbert's "little issues" on deeper passes wasn't unexpected. This was a primary concern based off of the largely horizontal (rather than vertical) passing he was asked to do while operating Missouri's spread attack.
In demonstrating good footwork from under center and accuracy while on the run, Gabbert helped alleviate concerns about his ability to translate to a more traditional pro-style offense.
As expected, the Missouri Pro Day was well attended by NFL decision-makers, including Jets' head coach Rex Ryan, Ravens' head coach John Harbaugh, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, Bengals' head coach Marvin Lewis, and Jaguars' head coach Jack Del Rio.
We'll have more updates from Missouri's Pro Day as the day goes on, including a report on pass rusher Aldon Smith's attempts to better a rather disappointing Combine workout.
Posted on: March 13, 2011 7:23 pm
Cornerback Patrick Peterson will be the unquestioned star of LSU's Pro Day Monday, but the bigger story might be which NFL representatives are on hand to watch him.
Peterson isn't expected to do anything more than his positional drills. He doesn't need to. The tape shows that he's the best player in the draft and his stellar Combine performance only provided more evidence of this fact.
It will be interesting, however, to see who shows up for the workout. The Carolina Panthers, holders of the No. 1 overall pick, demonstrated their interest in the Thorpe Award winner already by meeting with him at the Senior Bowl. Head coach Ron Rivera was a prominent spectator at Auburn's Pro Day last week and will presumabely be on hand Thursday for Blaine Gabbert's throwing session at Missouri, as well. General manager Marty Hurney, who has final say on personnel matters, was not at Newton's Pro Day, however. He reportedly attended Ryan Mallett's workout at Arkansas, instead.
So, if Hurney and Rivera are each at Peterson's (or Gabbert's) Pro Day does that necessarily mean they are higher on him? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
After all, it isn't the Carolina Panthers' fault that Auburn and Arkansas scheduled their Pro Days on the same day. There are several Pro Days at other universities conflicting with LSU's tomorrow, but none that is likely to keep the Carolina decision-makers from Peterson's workout should they feel it necessary to attend.
Moving past Carolina, another interested party that isn't getting a lot of attention could be the Cincinnati Bengals. The owners of the 4th overall pick and with far greater needs than at cornerback, the Bengals raised some eyebrows with the decision to send defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle to Nebraska's workout. NFL.com's Gil Brandt thought that by sending Coyle to the workout , the Bengals might be tipping their hand that they are very interested in Prince Amukamara. While it is important to note that the Bengals could have sent Coyle to Nebraska to see Cornhuskers' safeties Eric Hagg or Dejon Gomes, Brandt's instincts are as good as anyone's in the business -- and his sources are unmatched.
So, are the Bengals are real player in the Patrick Peterson sweepstakes, as well? It will be interesting to see if Coyle is on hand for the workout.
Posted on: March 7, 2011 1:59 pm
The Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos, owners of the top two picks of the 2011 draft, will be well represented at Auburn's Pro Day tomorrow.
Darin Gantt of the Rock Jill Herald reports that Carolina will send head coach Ron Rivera to the workout. Broncos' Vice President of Football Operations John Elway announced via his Twitter account that he, too, will be making the trip. Don't be surprised if every team in the league is represented at Auburn's Pro Day.
Quarterback Cam Newton is an obvious attraction, but getting a bit lost in the hype over the Heisman winner is the stock of defensive tackle Nick Fairley. One could argue that the Panthers and Broncos need help at defensive tackle every bit as much as at quarterback, especially considering the fact that both clubs invested high round picks in Jimmy Clausen and Tim Tebow, respectivley, just last year.
The timing of Auburn's Pro Day is a bit inconvenient for scouts as Arkansas and Oklahoma also have their Pro Days scheduled for tomorrow.
With so much interest in Newton and Fairley, most teams will likely choose to go to Auburn's workout over the others. However, the Arkansas Pro Day is very intriguing, as well. Talented, but troubled quarterback Ryan Mallett will be throwing, of course, which is reason enough to attend the workout. Mallett enjoyed a spectacular throwing session at the Combine and thus, doesn't have quite as much riding on his physical performance Tuesday as Newton, who struggled with accuracy in Indianapolis.
That said, teams truly interested in drafting Mallett may want to attend his workout to gauge more than just his physical skills. How Mallett interacts with his former teammates (and they with him) could give clubs a greater feel for his leadership potential at the next level.
Posted on: February 24, 2011 10:30 am
The Combine is, of course, about the prospects weighing in, taking medicals, doing interviews and working out.
Posted on: February 22, 2011 1:49 pm
Last night I described Cam Newton as getting a head start on Missouri's Blaine Gabbert in the race to be the first quarterback selected in the 2011 draft.
According to Gil Brandt, the race is already over.
Brandt, an NFL.com analyst and longtime Dallas Cowboys' director of personnel, was quoted by Jimmy Burch in Monday's Star Telegram that he'd be "shocked" if Newton was not the No. 1 overall pick of the draft.
While Newton is unquestionably talented , Brandt's prediction is a bold one. Just because Newton is a spectacular athletic talent and plays the quarterback position does not necessarily mean he should be the first player selected. Newton's numerous character concerns and adjustment to a pro-style offense require significant investigation.
Perhaps Brandt and some clubs have learned enough already about Newton. I have not. I look forward to watching his interview and workout. Both will have play a considerable role in my ultimate grade on his NFL prospects.
Perhaps most importantly, it is important to note the fit that Newton may or may not have with the Carolina Panthers, who, of course, own the No. 1 overall pick.
This is a team currently built around the running game. While the Panthers could lose impending free agent DeAngelo Williams, they boast the talents of Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodson and a solid run-blocking offensive line. On the one hand, adding a multi-purpose threat like Newton might seem like the perfect addition to the club. On the other hand, however, a ball control quarterback might be a better fit for a team likely to be built around the running the ball and defense -- the style of play new head coach Ron Rivera is thought to prefer.
Rivera's offensive coordinator, Rob Chudzinski, might also be making a huge adjustment should the Panthers elect to take Newton. Chudzinski, who was promoted to this role after serving as the tight ends coach and assistant head coach for the Chargers last season, may not have the experience with multi-purpose quarterbacks to endorse such an obvious gamble on pure athletiicsm.
Posted on: February 18, 2011 2:08 pm
Carolina Panthers' head coach Ron Rivera confirmed for Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com yesterday that his team will use their Franchise Tag but did not specify which player they'll designate.
The Panthers are expected to pick between three players -- running back DeAngelo Williams, center Ryan Kalil and defensive end Charles Johnson.
With former first round pick Jonathan Stewart waiting in the wings, the Panthers appear best suited to lose Williams. Mike Goodson was impressive when given the opportunity, as well.
Kalil is one of the best young centers in the game and would be a significant loss for a team built to control the line of scrimmage.
The team boasts a talented young duo of pass rushers in Everett Brown and Greg Hardy behind Johnson, but neither has yet demonstrated the consistency to allow Carolina to feel good about the position should they risk losing him. Johnson finally got the chance to be a full-time starter in 2010 and responded with a team-high 11.5 sacks -- the 2nd highest total among NFC defensive ends (Atlanta's John Abraham had 13 sacks).
Should the Panthers elect to franchise Kalil, Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers could shoot to the top of Carolina's draft board. The 6-4, 275 pound defender led the country with 15.5 sacks and his size and physicality make him an better run supporter than a pass rusher.
On the other hand, if the Panthers elect to franchise Johnson, they almost certainly would not take Bowers or any other defensive end. Even a defensive tackle like Auburn's Nick Fairley or Alabama's Marcell Dareus might be viewed as financially irresponsible if the Panthers invest a huge contract into Johnson.
This is shaping up to be a solid class of interior linemen, though none of the top center prospects are nearly as polished as Kalil was coming out of USC in 2007.
As always for the very best in NFL Draft coverage, be sure to keep NFLDraftScout.com refreshed.
Posted on: January 12, 2011 12:01 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2011 12:03 pm
I'm a firm believer that watching the video (or attending live) the introductory press conferences for new NFL coaches can give us a sense of where a team might be going with their roster.
This isn't always the case and I believe it is lessened when the head coach is taking over his second or third team. Rookie head coaches, however, perhaps because of their inexperience or enthusiasm, do sometimes let things slip in meeting and answering the local media's questions for the first time.
After viewing new Carolina head coach Ron Rivera's press conference (available on the Panthers' official website ), I came away with several thoughts on the direction he'll lead this team.
While most of the impressions I gleaned from the press conference deal with scheme and Rivera's early evaluation of the team's current talent, perhaps the most important one came from Rivera's personality. As stated, I've watched many introductory press conferences during my ten years in this business. Rivera's passion, drive and leadership stood out. I believe the Carolina Panthers are going from one very good head coach in John Fox to another very good one in Rivera. Considering how different the two coaches' personalities are, that's a rare feat.
In a previous blog post I cited Rivera's experience in the 3-4 scheme as a reason why Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley -- who I believe to be best suited to the 4-3 -- would not be the first overall pick. While Rivera was hired away from San Diego, which ran the 3-4 scheme, he is actually more experienced in the 4-3 having played (and coached) this style with the Chicago Bears and coached with the Philadelphia Eagles, as well.
Rivera took little time in addressing which style of defense Carolina would be running.
"As far as the scheme is concerned, we are a 4-3 defense," Rivera said. "That's what this team is, I think the personnel is set up for that. I think that the personnel is set up that if we can make a couple of additions to it we can be a solid unit and have success early."
Could one of those "additions" be Fairley, Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus or LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson? Perhaps. All four are being graded as top five picks from a number of teams I've spoken to. Most cite Peterson as the best player in the draft.
Rivera left the door open for the No. 1 pick to be a quarterback, as well, but I don't believe he'll be
"I think we you look at it, that the one position we have to find answers for [is quarterback] - and I think he has some athletic ability and comes from a pretty solid foundation and that is Jimmy Clausen - to see if Jimmy or if there is a quarterback on this roster who can become that franchise guy you need," Rivera said. "Because if there is one thing I've been fortunate to be around my last four years is a franchise quarterback in Philip Rivers, who is very solid. That's one of the things that we need to take a look at on the offensive side and that is going to be a big influence and impact when we sit down with the offensive coordinator candidates and the quarterback coach is to find out exactly what their approach is going to be with the guys on this roster , okay, and the potential candidates that are out there in the draft or free agency."
I put "on this roster" in italics because Rivera stressed it. This is what I am referring to in actually viewing the press conference. Rivera's words, by transcription only, may lead you to believe that the Panthers will consider drafting a quarterback with the first pick - and, of course, they will. But, the fact that Rivera wants to know "exactly" what prospective offensive coordinators and quarterback coaches thought of Clausen and the Panthers "other" quarterbacks -- Matt Moore, Brian St. Pierre and Tony Pike -- could be an indication that he'd rather use the pick elsewhere.
An unexpected nugget came from Rivera when discussing the tight end position. While complimentary about virtually every other position, the new head coach sounded like a man expecting significant improvement from this position. Rivera, of course, is coming from a San Diego team that boasts All-Pro Antonio Gates - and players like that don't exactly grow on trees - but the fact that he highlighted the position is interesting.
This is pure speculation, but it leads me to wonder if Rivera thought that perhaps better play from the tight end position would have significantly aided Clausen's development as a rookie.
"Tight end is by committee," Rivera said. "There is [sic] three guys there that I like and that I think each have a quality of their own, but if there is a guy out there - whether it be through the draft or free agency or on our roster that does it all the time, we have to find him. I think that will help us as an offense."
The Panthers featured Jeff King, Dante Rosario and Gary Barnidge. The trio combined for 51 catches for 385 yards and two touchdowns.