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: October 11, 2010 1:07 pm
The University of North Carolina Tar Heel football program received a huge blow Monday morning with the news that All-ACC defensive tackle Marvin Austin had been kicked off the team and that defensive end Robert Quinn and wide receiver Greg Little were each "permanently suspended."
Considering that the trio had missed all five games to start the season, the news wasn't completely unexpected. However, those close to the NCAA program had held out hope that each would get onto the field at some point this season. Now it appears unlikely that any of them will ever play another snap of college football.
Their unavailability has led to a disappointing 3-2 start to the season in Chapel Hill after being pronounced a darkhorse NCAA title contender by some over the summer.
And to be sure, it wasn't just the distraction of the investigation into these and other UNC players that led to the Tar Heels' poor start. Austin, Quinn and Little were the Tar Heels three best players. Each was considered a potential first round pick, with Austin and Quinn earning potential top ten grades.
At first glance, Austin's being kicked off the team entirely would seem likelier to adversely affect his potential NFL draft stock than the suspensions penalties handed down for Quinn and Little.
That isn't necessarily the case, however, at least according to a few high-ranking NFL sources.
Unlike Austin and Little, who are each seniors, Quinn is a junior and thus is potentially eligible to return to the collegiate field next year. Though Quinn, like Little, was "permanently suspended" by the NCAA, with an extra year he has the time to appeal the ruling should he be so inclined.
Whether Quinn attempts to play college football again is another question. He certainly looked like a future high first round pick as a sophomore, finishing second to Georgia Tech first round (Tennessee) defensive end Derrick Morgan in the voting for the ACC Defensive Player of the Year after notching 52 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. His tape is so good, in fact, Quinn would "surely" make the first round in this upcoming draft, I'm told, assuming he clears NFL questions at the Combine.
Being kicked off the team entirely, Austin finds himself in a similar situation to former Oklahoma State wideout Dez Bryant last year. Bryant played well in three games last year prior to being suspended for the rest of the 2010 season and was an All-American in 2009. Austin, of course, hasn't played this year, but earned Second-Team All-ACC honors as a junior. Bryant received less than stellar reviews from Oklahoma State coaches following his suspension. Austin is likely to get similar reviews from the UNC coaching staff when interviewed by NFL scouts.
Nonetheless, Bryant's film, pre-draft workouts and his answers to NFL decision-makers questions were sincere enough, apparently, that the Cowboys drafted him in the first round. While Austin no doubt would rather be playing alongside his former UNC teammates, with months to prepare for the Combine workouts and interviews, strong tape and the value of quality defensive linemen as high as ever, the former Second Team All-ACC pick still has a good shot at making the first round.
Much of the fallout regarding this morning's news will center upon North Carolina's defensive linemen, but the greater impact -- at least in terms of draft day -- may be felt by Little. A former running back, Little flashed spectacular body control and hands in his first full season at wide receiver last year, leading the team with 62 receptions for 724 yards and five touchdowns. The strong play of former UNC receivers Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Tate in the NFL this season only seem to heighten Little's intrigue to scouts.
That said, Little appeared last year to be far from a finished product. Scouts can hope that he made strides over the off-season, but with no tape on him this year to prove it, teams will have a hard time believing he could make an immediate impact in the NFL. That likely means he drops out of the top two rounds and with the expected influx of junior receivers A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Jon Baldwin and several others, Little -- despite real talent and an ideal NFL frame (6-2, 214) could struggle to recoup his falling stock.
Posted on: October 10, 2010 10:39 pm
Many of the most interesting NFL and NCAA games over the weekend featured spectacular individual efforts from some of today's best and most athletic pass-catchers.
Unfortunately, there were also some tough injuries to good young pass-catchers that ultimately could take some of the polish from their position-mates' great performances.
In the NFL, standout games from the Giants' Hakeem Nicks (12 receptions for 130 yards and two touchdowns against the Texans), the Chargers' Malcolm Floyd (eight catches for 213 yards and a score against the Raiders), the Cowboys' Miles Austin (nine receptions for 169 yards and a touchdown against the Titans) and the Broncos' Brandon Lloyd (five catches for 135 yards and two scores against Baltimore) put an exclamation point to a Saturday full of big plays by some of the nation's best young receiver prospects.
Among the highligths, was South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery catching seven passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns to help the Gamecocks upset Alabama. LSU's Terrance Toliver -- who needed a strong game to save his falling stock -- responded with a six-catch, 111 yard, two touchdown (including the game-winner with six seconds left) to beat the Gators. Eighteen year-old true freshman Robert Woods was even more productive in USC's loss to Stanford, hauling in 12 passes for 224 yards and three scores.
That was the good news. The bad -- and we won't know just how bad we're talking until Monday's MRIs -- could prove just as newsworthy.
For all of the spectacular plays made by pass-catchers over the weekend, there were troubling injuries to some of the NFL's most intriguing breakout stars and college football's best senior prospects.
St. Louis' Mark Bradley, who had developed a quick rapport with rookie Sam Bradley, was carted off the field in Detroit after sustaining a knee injury that is expected to knock him out for the season. Green Bay tight end Jermichael Finley, an emerging superstar, went down with what the Packers' official site is characterizing as a "hamstring ligament" injury, but certainly looked bad. Denver first round pick Demaryius Thomas was sidelined with head and neck injuries after a big hit against Baltimore. Peyton Mannings' newest toy, undrafted free agent Blair White, also suffered neck injuries in the Colts' win over the Chiefs. In each case, the young breakout players never returned to the game after sustaining their injury.
The injury front could prove equally bad if the early reports across the college landscape are correct. Oregon State's James Rodgers and Cecil Shorts III of Mount Union each went down Saturday with injuries. Rodgers, rated by NFLDraftScout.com as a potential 3rd round pick prior to injury, suffered an ugly injury to his left knee as he scored a touchdown against Arizona. Even worse for Beaver fans, Rodgers' score was called back due to a penalty.
Few fans have heard of Shorts III, but scouts certainly know of him. He was viewed by some as the elite "small school" prospect entering the year and caught 100 passes for 1,736 yards and 19 touchdowns last year. Shorts III was held out of the second half of undefeated OAC power Mount Union's 28-14 victory over Marietta after sustaining an injury on punt return in the second quarter.
Category: NFL Draft
Tags: Alabama, Alshon Jeffery, Blair White, Brandon Lloyd, Cecil Shorts III, Chargers, Dallas Cowboys, Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos, Denver Broncos, Green Bay, Hakeem Nicks, Indianapolis Colts, James Rodgers, Jermichael Finley, LSU, Malcolm Floyd, Mark Bradley, Miles Austin, Mount Union, New York Giants, Oregon State, Peyton Manning, Robert Woods, South Carolina, St. Louis Rams, Stanford, Terrance Toliver, USC
Posted on: September 29, 2010 5:40 pm
I've written articles the past two years on the rapid development of world class training facilities and the impact they have on prospects preparation for the Combine and Pro Day workouts.
One of the best of those facilities is owned and ran by former Olympian great Michael Johnson. The facility, located in McKinney, Texas has developed a reputation for improving the speed of professional athletes. In fact, over its three years, Michael Johnson Performance has worked with athletes from the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS and PGA, as well as served as the Combine prep facility of choice for first round picks Ndamukong Suh, Felix Jones, Knowshon Moreno, Michael Crabtree and many others.
On Wednesday, MJP and the Dallas Cowboys announced that they've become the official training partner of the Dallas Cowboys.
According to their press release, this partnership grants the Cowboys:
Exclusive speed training – developed by MJP Founder Michael Johnson based on his legendary career as an Olympic Gold Medalist and World Record Holder.
Nike’s patented Sensory Sport Training (SST) – including access to MJP’s Sports Vision Lab, where athletes train to improve their visual capabilities, such as depth perception, peripheral vision and reaction time.
MJP Functional movement screening program – specifically, providing program orientation to the Cowboys strength and conditioning staff and assisting with the program’s implementation at their request.
Posted on: September 21, 2010 1:43 pm
Each Tuesday I'll list two first year players -- one on offense, one from the defense -- as my official NFLDraftScout.com's Rookies of the Week.
Various rookies enjoyed strong performances in Week One. On offense, Denver wideout Demaryius Thomas had a strong first game to his NFL career against the Seahawks with 98 receiving yards and a touchdown. Dallas' Dez Bryant, who I recognized last week in this space as a "honorable mention" Rookie of the Week, enjoyed a strong second game as well, with 52 receiving yards and a 62-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears. I try to look beyond just the "skill" position players for these awards and I was mightily impressed with the drive blocking of San Francisco left guard Mike Iupati last night against the Saints, as well as that of Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey in the Steelers' win over the Titans.
In the end, however, this week's Offensive Rookie of the Week was a no-brainer.
Though his Detroit Lions lost to the Eagles Sunday, Jahvid Best was absolutely electric. He had 232 total yards from scrimmage (17 attempts for 78 rushing yards and nine receptions for 154 yards) and scored three more touchdowns. His five touchdowns over the first two weeks of the season lead the NFL. Some anticipated that an athletic and aggressive Philadelphia defense would tee off on Best considering the marginal downfield passing of Detroit backup quarterback Shaun Hill. With the Eagles crowding the line of scrimmage against the run, Hill simply found Best as an outlet receiver. Once in the open field, Best's agility and straight-line speed make him a matchup nightmare. Best is the first rookie to score five touchdowns in his first two NFL games since another Lion, Billy Simms, accomplished the feat 30 years ago.
On the defensive side of the ball, there were again several worthy candidates, though in my opinion this week's award was just as much a no-brainer. Sean Weatherspoon (Falcons), Koa Misi (Dolphins) and last week's honoree T.J. Ward (Browns) were impressive again. I was also impressed with the coverage supplied by Denver cornerback Perrish Cox. His coverage helped shut down the Seahawks reclamation project, Mike Williams, and his interception of Matt Hasselbeck ended any chance of a Seahawk comeback.
However, Ndamukong Suh proved to be every bit the dominant player against the Eagles we projected he'd be in the NFL. Suh posted eight tackles -- second most in the league by an interior defensive lineman -- and recorded his second sack in as many games. The Lions featured Suh and Best on the same play twice Sunday, with Suh lining up as Best's fullback.
Tags: Atlanta Falcons, Billy Sims, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Dez Bryant, Jahvid Best, Koa Misi, Matt Hasselbeck, Maurkice Pouncey, Miami Dolphins, Mike Iupati, Mike Williams, Ndamukong Suh, NFL, Perrish Cox, Pittsburgh Steelers, Rookie of the Week, San Francisco 49ers, Sean Weatherspoon, T.J. Ward
Posted on: August 1, 2010 11:36 pm
The Tampa Bay Bucs surprised many with the decision to fortify the defensive tackle and wide receiver positions in April with multiple picks in the first four rounds. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, the third overall pick of the draft, of course, received most of the attention. His linemate, Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year Brian Price, received plenty, as well.
Of the wideouts, second round pick Arrelious Benn, not surprisingly garnered more media hype than fourth round pick Mike Williams. It is Williams, who, according to Tampa head coach Raheem Morris, is the rookie creating the most buzz among the Bucs' staff.
In fact, according to this article from the Bucs' official website , Williams is currently the team's starting X receiver.
Morris, of course, was quick to point out that the depth chart could change before Tampa opens the regular season September 12 hosting the Cleveland Browns, but he gushed about his rookie wideout to reporters following practice Sunday.
"He's been working at the X position with the ones. He's been out there a lot of the time. You also see Sammie Stroughter out there at the X position. Mike Williams had a dynamic offseason. He's come in and done everything we've asked. He's been one of the guys that's caught the ball. He's stood out. He's been standing out since he's been here."
Morris further explained Williams' impressive start.
"He's a big, tall, fast guy that can go out there and make plays," said Morris. "Right now, he's running with the ones. He'll have an opportunity to go out there and prove himself in the preseason. Final depth charts and all that stuff don't come out until we go play Cleveland, but right now he's running with the ones, he's getting some one reps and he's having a ball. And his teammates are having a ball with him.
Williams impressing on the field shouldn't come as a surprise. NFLDraftScout.com rated Williams as a potential first round talent entering the 2009 season. His off-field actions that led to an academic suspension in 2008 and ultimately his abrupt departure from the Orange November 2nd of last year were the reasons why the former Big East star fell to the 101st pick of the draft. Previous to the suspension, Williams was enjoying a fantastic season for Syracuse (49 receptions for 746 yards and six touchdowns), earning recognition as a Biletnikof Award semi-finalist as the nation's top receiver. Only the ten most deserving receivers in the country (at least in the eyes of the Biletnikof committee) are recognized as semi-finalists.
In 31 games for the Orange Williams caught 133 passes for 2,044 yards and 20 touchdowns. He caught touchdowns in a school record nine consecutive games in 2008.
Williams certainly has the physical components to surprise as a rookie. His rare combination of size, speed, body control and sticky hands jumped off on film. I thought Williams was the single-most impressive wideout during receiver drills at the Combine -- which I and a handful of other media members the league and National Football Scouting allowed to attend. I characterized Williams as "routinely [making] the eye-popping reception look easy" in this post-workout report.
With fantasy football enthusiasts all champing at the bit to find the newest sleeper, you can expect a fair amount of talk about Dez Bryant and Golden Tate's fits with the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks, respectively. Don't discount Williams, however. He and quarterback Josh Freeman may be too inexperienced for Williams to truly standout as a rookie, but watch out for the former 'Cuse star to some day be considered one of the true steals of the 2010 draft should be and Freeman develop rapport.
Posted on: July 15, 2010 2:22 pm
Edited on: July 15, 2010 5:55 pm
NFLDraftScout.com has learned that BYU running back Harvey Unga and Illinois defensive tackle Joshua Price-Brent have been drafted today by the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys, respectively. Both players were drafted in the 7th and final round.
Unga and Price-Brent were the only two of the four prospects eligible for today's Supplemental draft that were selected. Running backs Vanness Emokpae (Truman State) and Quentin Castille (Northwestern State) are now considered unrestricted free agents and can sign with any NFL team.
I'm writing a full article on today's events, which will be posted on NFLDraftScout.com in the next few hours. It is now available here.
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.