Posted on: January 9, 2011 12:07 pm
As the only sub-.500 division winner in NFL history, the Seattle Seahawks entered the playoffs largely as a joke, at least to many.
The idea that they'd be rewarded for their 7-9 regular season record with a home playoff game rankled some. Critics pointed to Seattle as a primary example of why the NFL should consider re-seeding the playoffs based in wins, rather than division titles.
One might argue, as I, Sports Illustrated's Jim Trotter (and many others) did on Twitter yesterday that the Seahawks' victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints would end the discussion. By convincingly winning a game in which many of the national experts predicted Seattle would be slaughtered, it would serve to reason that the NFL's policy of rewarding division winners with a home playoff game, is indeed, working.
Critics maintain, however, that Seattle's win over New Orleans, could, in fact, have the opposite effect. They argue that New Orleans, due to their significantly better record (11-5) while playing in the more competitive NFC South division deserved the right to host the game. That Seattle, essentially, got an unfair advantage and if Saturday's divisional playoff game would have ended quite differently had the game been played in New Orleans.
There are elements to their argument that I understand. The Saints' regular season was unquestionably more deserving of recognition than the Seahawks'. Critics who feel that the NFL should consider re-seeding can point to Seattle, the 10-6 Kansas City Chiefs (who host the 12-4 Baltimore Ravens today) and countless other teams in history as "proof" that the NFL's playoff system needs fixing.
However, if the Seahawks' win Saturday doesn't convince critics that the NFL is right to continue their playoff system, I don't know what would. I don't believe anything would.
Isn't it obvious that if Seattle had been throttled by the Saints Saturday (as so many expected) that playoff critics would have pointed to the lopsided score as evidence the Seahawks didn't deserve to be in the playoffs, much less host a game? Hell, even if Seattle had lost despite giving a "surprisingly" competitive effort, that those same critics would give a collective, "See, we told you so."
And now, because Seattle did win the game, they still don't deserve it?
Pick a side. You can't have it both ways.
There remains a lot that needs fixing in the NFL -- the rookie wage scale, the miniscule pension provided to retired players, and the ridiculously long review policy among them.
The NFL playoff seeding is one of the league's longest standing traditions. The system makes divisional games mean more than others, creating and maintaining natural rivalries that are good for the competitiveness of the game. To change the seeding based on the NFC West winner's 7-9 record is a bad idea.
To change it now, after Seattle (like many other division winners in the past) took advantage of the spoils of their title and beat a wildcard team, would be a slap in the face to the traditions and competitiveness that makes the NFL the world's greatest sporting league.
Posted on: January 6, 2011 1:02 pm
Oregon State senior wideout James Rodgers was granted a medical redshirt for the 2010 season and will return to the Beavers next year , according to the school's official website.
Rodgers suffered a gruesome knee injury while being tackled in the endzone against Arizona October 2. Rodgers had caught a 56-yard touchdown pass - but an OSU penalty nullified the score.
Rodgers, the older brother of Beavers' junior running back Jacquizz Rodgers, has been a bit overshadowed by his sibling during their respective college careers, but is a legitimate NFL talent, in his own right.
Though certainly shorter than scouts would prefer (5-7), James' versatility and toughness as a receiver and returner make him a very similar prospect to former Hawaii and Texas standouts' Davone Bess and Quan Cosby -- two undrafted free agents who have carved out careers with the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals.
Despite the lack the height, scouts don't have to look hard to find either of the Rodgers brothers on tape. James already is Oregon State's career all-purpose leader with 5,784 yards, based largely on his record-breaking 2009 season. As a junior, Rodgers set OSU's single game (303 yards against Oregon) and single season (2,328) all-purpose yardage records records. Futhermore, he broke the Beavers' single season record for most receptions in 2009 with 91 grabs for 1,034 yards and nine scores earning First Team all conference honors.
James' return to the Beavers is likely to fuel speculation that Jacquizz will return for his senior season. It is hardly a secret in the scouting community that Rodgers - like most savvy and talented underclassmen technically draft eligible -- has explored his draft options, but the diminutive runner has adamantly denied reports that he's leaving early .
Posted on: January 3, 2011 12:32 pm
The following is the official release from the NFL.
CAROLINA HOLDS FIRST PICK IN 2011 NFL DRAFT
The Carolina Panthers own the No. 1 pick of the 2011 National Football League Draft, which will be held on April 28-30 at Radio City Music Hall in New York.
The order of the first round of the 2011 Draft was announced today by the NFL.
The NFL Draft will kick off in primetime for the second consecutive year. The first round will be held on Thursday, April 28. The second and third rounds are set for Friday, April 29. Rounds 4-7 will be held on Saturday, April 30.
The Panthers’ choice will be followed by the Denver Broncos picking second and the Buffalo Bills third.
Below is the tentative order of the first round of the 2011 Draft, subject to the results of the playoffs. The draft order is determined by the following procedures:
(A) The winner of the Super Bowl will select last and the other Super Bowl participant next-to-last, regardless of their regular-season record.
(B) The Championship Game participants not advancing to the Super Bowl will select 29th and 30th, according to the reverse order of their standing.
(C) The Divisional Playoff participants not advancing to the Championship Games will select 25th through 28th, according to the reverse order of their standing.
(D) The Wild Card participants not advancing to the Divisional Playoffs will select 21st through 24th, according to the reverse order of their standing.
(E) Non-playoff clubs will select first through 20th, according to the reverse order of their standing.
If ties exist in any grouping except (A) above, they will be broken by strength of schedule (i.e., figuring the aggregate won-lost-tied percentage of each involved club’s regular-season opponents and awarding preferential selection order to the club which faced the schedule of teams with the lowest aggregate won-lost-tied percentage).
If ties still exist after applying the strength of schedule tiebreaker, the divisional or conference tiebreakers are applied, if applicable. If the divisional or conference tiebreakers are not applicable, ties will be broken by a coin flip.
2011 FIRST ROUND DRAFT ORDER
*- Subject to Playoffs
Posted on: December 28, 2010 11:31 am
Edited on: December 28, 2010 11:36 am
As a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, I was recently asked to fill out my ballot for the All-Rookie Team.
While I reserve the right to change players over the final week of the season (and welcome your review) , this is how I have things now.
Offensive Rookie of the Year : Mike Williams, WR, Tampa Bay
Defensive Rookie of the Year : Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit
Overall Rookie of the Year : Suh
Quarterback: Sam Bradford, Rams: If he can go on the road and beat Seattle to win the NFC West, Bradford may overtake Williams as my Offensive ROY, but I'm not giving it to him just because he's a QB, went No. 1 and played well early. Bradford has faded late this year.
Running back: LaGarrette Blount, Bucs: Free agent leads all NFL rookies with 941 rushing yards while splitting duty.
Running back: Chris Ivory, Saints: Can't overstate how vital of a role the free agent played with injuries to Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas.
Wide receiver: Mike Williams, Bucs: Has been dynamic all year long. Leads rookie WRs in grabs (61), yards (924) and TDs (10).
Wide receiver: Dez Bryant, Cowboys: Only started twice and injury sidelined him early but Dez was dazzling.
Tight end: Rob Gronkowski, Patriots: Second to Williams in receiving TDs as a rookie with nine; which leads the Patriots.
Center: Mike Pouncey, Steelers: Deserves some Offensive Rookie of the Year consideration. A standout here since Day One.
Offensive guard: Mike Iupati, 49ers: A bit inconsistent, but has improved throughout the year and been one of SF's few bright spots.
Offensive guard: Ted Larsen, Bucs: Cut by Pats, signed by Bucs and has started the past 10 consecutive at LG for contending Bucs, giving him the edge over Zane Beadles in Denver.
Offensive tackle: Rodger Saffold, Rams: Overshadowed by Bradford, but has been quietly spectacular at LT this season.
Offensive tackle: Bryan Bulaga, Packers: Has been beaten at times, but versatility is key. Backup at LT, OG early. Has started last 10 at RT.
Defensive lineman: Carlos Dunlap, Bengals: Situational pass rusher (zero starts) for Bengals, but quietly is 2nd amongst rookies with 8 sacks.
Defensive lineman: Ndamukong Suh, Lions: Leads all NFL defensive tackles -- not just rookies -- in tackles (60) and sacks (nine).
Defensive lineman: Tyson Alualu, Jaguars: A surprise at No. 10? Yes. A reach? No, considering he's 3rd amongst rookie DTs in tackles, 2nd in sacks.
Defensive lineman: Lamarr Houston, Raiders: Similar #s, greater consistency, less help around him than Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul.
Linebacker: Pat Angerer, Colts: Quietly leads all rookie linebackers in tackles this season (80).
Linebacker: Daryl Washington, Cardinals: Doesn't have Ro McClain's big name or even quite his stats, but has been more impressive this year.
Linebacker: Koa Misi, Dolphins: Overshadowed by Cameron Wake, but versatility standing out (36 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 TD)
Cornerback: Devin McCourty, Patriots: In a typical year, he'd likely win the Defensive ROY. 81 tackles, 21 PBUs, 6 INTs, 2 FF for AFC's No. 1 seed.
Cornerback: Joe Haden, Browns: Similar numbers as McCourty - 58 tackles, 23 PBUs, 6 INTs, 1 FF.
Safety: Eric Berry, Chiefs: Gets nod over Earl Thomas as he's played better late for contending team. 84 tackles, 13 PBUs, 4 INTs, 1 FF, 1 TD.
Safety: TJ Ward, Browns: Leads all rookies in tackles (116) and is second only to Suh in intimidation. Big hitter over the middle.
Placekicker: Clint Stitser, Bengals: 7 for 7 in FGs (though he's missed two PATs) since signing as UFA. Weak year for rookie kickers.
Punter: Zolton Mesko, Patriots: Unheralded component of Pats' success. Averaging 43 yards per and has zero blocked, returned for TDs against him.
Kickoff returner: Jacoby Ford, Raiders: Tied with Leon Washington for most kickoff return TDs this season (3).
Punt returner: Marc Mariani, Titans: Better avg. on KOR than Ford; also dynamic as a punt returner. Has returned TDs both ways.
You can always expect the best coverage of the draft at NFLDraftScout.com.
Posted on: December 28, 2010 11:25 am
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Posted on: December 14, 2010 7:13 pm
Edited on: December 14, 2010 7:22 pm
North Carolina outside linebacker Bruce Carter underwent surgery Tuesday to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
Carter, a Second Team All-ACC selection and finalist for the Butkus Award as the nation's best linebacker, injured his knee November 20 against North Carolina State. He was kept out of the Tar Heels' finale against Duke due to the knee injury, though news of the severity of his injury was kept quiet until now. Dr. Jeff Spang performed the operation at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill.
The injury casts a considerable shadow over Carter's pro stock. Rated among the elite senior prospects in the country heading into the season, Carter's best attribute is his jaw-dropping athleticism. The 6-3, 235 pound Carter has unofficially been credited with a 4.4 second running of the 40-yard dash, a 40.5" vertical jump and a 440 pound bench press. In fact, he was recognized by ESPN's Bruce Feldman as the No. 1 "Freak" in his annual Top 10 breakdown of college football's elite athletes.
The torn ACL, however, could rob Carter of that athleticism. It certainly will keep him from being able to work out for teams prior to the draft.
Carter, quite frankly, needed to wow in workouts because his play this season has been disappointing. Carter exploded onto the scene as a sophomore in 2008, recording 68 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, five sacks and five blocked kicks. He wasn't able to match that production as a junior (65-7.5-2-0) and slipped even further in 2010 (57-3.5-2.5-1).
Without his breathtaking athleticism, Carter simply isn't nearly as highly thought of as a prospect. Despite his experience, Carter does not locate the football particularly well and is viewed by some scouts as simply a better athlete than football player, despite his hype. His less than ideal instincts were masked by his straight-line speed and explosiveness.
Unable to wow scouts in workouts, Carter could see his stock slide into the third round, or even lower. This, despite the fact that he's been rated at or near the top of the senior outside linebacker rankings all year long.
Consider that two other highly touted OLB prospects of recent years -- Clemson's Ricky Sapp and Wisconsin's O'Brien Schofield -- dropped into the fifth and fourth rounds, respectively, due to knee concerns. Sapp, drafted last year by Philadelphia, was placed on IR before the season began. Schofield, drafted by Arizona, has registered seven tackles this season.
As always, remember that for complete draft coverage, be sure to check out NFLDraftScout.com or simply click here.
Posted on: December 9, 2010 1:08 pm
A week ago Iowa wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos was viewed as a legitimate middle round prospect by NFL scouts.
That may have ended yesterday, however, as he appeared in court for the first time to hear the potential 7 1/2 years of jail time he faces after being arrested on multiple drug charges Tuesday.
It is important to note that Johnson-Koulianos is not being charged with selling drugs as has been reported elsewhere. He is, however, being charged with keeping a drug house as well as possession of marijuana, cocaine and a variety of legal pain medication and muscle-relaxers for which he did not have a prescription. Johnson-Koulianos reportedly was tested for marijuana and cocaine and came up positive for both.
In the court of law, Johnson-Koulianos is, of course, innocent until proven guilty. In the eyes of most NFL teams, however, the charges alone against him could eliminate any chance he'll play for their team. Obviously if he were to be found guilty and had to serve any jail time, his chances would drop even further.
Despite the fact that players are drafted every year after testing positive at the Combine for failed drug tests, teams are highly sensitive to players with drug charges. Actual charges tend to generate more public outcry, after all, especially for narcotics like cocaine.
DJK as he is affectionally called by fans and those close to the Iowa program enjoyed a stellar career for the Hawkeyes. A First Team All Big-Ten selection this season with 46 receptions for 745 yards and 10 touchdowns, he leaves Iowa as their career record-holder in catches (173) and yardage (2,616). Johnson-Koulianos is also a standout kick returner with two touchdown returns over his career, including one against Minnesota in what appears to have been his final collegiate game - and perhaps the final organized football game of his career.
Posted on: December 5, 2010 1:44 pm
I have been as critictal of Washington quarterback Jake Locker's struggles as anyone. He entered this season as a prohibitive favorite to be the first senior selected in the 2011 draft and now I do not currently project him among the Top 32 in my first round mock draft.
Part of the reason for Locker's downfall has been the expectations placed upon him after what appeared to be a breakout junior season under Steve Sarkisian. Locker made such strides in his first season under Sarkisian that it was natural to believe he'd make similar gains year two.
It hasn't happened. Locker is still too often fooled by coverages and is highly inconsistent with his accuracy. Those two facts, regardless of how athletic a quarterback might be, have historically translated into struggles at the NFL level.
Scouts can't just write off Locker as a project, however. That's because, as he again demonstrated last night in a thrilling Apple Cup victory over state rival Washington State, Locker has shown the ability to make accurate throws when the pressure is highest.
Now, let's be clear. Locker was bad -- not just bad, abysmal - in home losses this season to Nebraska and Stanford, the two best defenses he faced all season long. Considering the expectations placed on him, one could argue those two games were the ones he faced the most "pressure" and therefore my argument doesn't appear to hold water.
However, anyone who has watched the Huskies play this season knows about the struggles they've had on the offensive line. This isn't an excuse for Locker. Washington has started a staggering six different lineups along the offensive line. Teams with physical defensive lines -- like Nebraska and Stanford -- have so thoroughly dominated UW up front that Locker had no chance.
Rather, by "pressure," I mean that Locker has been able to make accurate throws when the game is on the line. He's demonstrated this ability often after he's been average (or worse) throughout much of the rest of the game. It is a big reason why, as Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times notes, four of Washington's six victories this season have come in the "final minute or in their last possession of the game ."
Locker demonstrated this ability to make legitimate NFL throws in critical moments in Washington's upsets over USC and Cal each of the past two years and the win over Washington State last night. Folks, that may not sound like many games, but when you've been as bad as Washington has been (Duke and Baylor are the only BCS teams with a longer bowl game drought), there haven't been many opportunities to scout Locker in "pressure" situations.
Again, don't get me wrong. Locker was fair from great last night. It was the Huskies' redshirt sophomore running back Chris Polk who won this game. His jaw-dropping 284 rushing yards and two touchdowns made life much easier on Locker and will be a featured component Monday in my Weekly Rewind feature . Locker, in fact, wasn't even the best quarterback on the field last night. The Cougars' sophomore quarterback Jeff Tuel was spectacular, providing ample evidence that WSU head coach Paul Wulff is doing an admirable job of turning around WSU's program.
But, on the 4th quarter drive to earn a bowl game or end his collegiate career, Locker threw a perfect 27-yard fade to Jermaine Kearse with 44 seconds left to win it. Peyton Manning doesn't throw that pass with better touch, timing or placement than Locker did on that critical play. Here is the link to watch the throw.
And that, in a nutshell, is why Jake Locker is the most frustrating quarterback I've ever scouted. He made some of the same errors in this game that he's made throughout his career. In calling for eight consecutive running plays (six by Polk, two by Locker) on that final drive, scouts are left to wonder whether Sarkisian simply trusted his running game or didn't trust Locker's passing to put the Huskies in position to kick the game-winning field goal.
But, when the play was called to go for the throat, Locker delivered. As Football Outsiders and Sports Press Northwest's writer Doug Farrar noted on Twitter , "That's the throw they're going to show through the entire pre-draft process when everyone's debating Locker's NFL QB ability."
With that one throw, Locker again proved that he can make accurate throws in critical moments. I, like A LOT of scouts I speak to, am not convinced that Locker will ever get past his struggles reading coverage or inconsistent ball placement and be a successful NFL quarterback.
But throws like that one - in moments like that one - provide the evidence that perhaps he can.