Tag Archive: #1 overall pick


Matt Barkley has decided to return for his senior season at USC. I like this decision and I am excited to see him play for one more year, but there will be a lot of pressure on him to be great.

I may have told some of you that I had a hunch that Barkley would come back for his senior season. It didn’t always seem particularly likely, but I had a feeling he might. He seems like the kind of guy who wants to win and wasn’t just in college to help him make it to the NFL. It seems that is the case after all as Barkley announced at 4 pm ET live on ESPN that he would be returning to USC for his senior season. He stated that he felt the 2012 Trojan squad had “serious unfinished business” and made it clear that his goal was to return to USC to try to lead them to a Rose Bowl or perhaps even a BCS National Championship. That will be a tall order, but Barkley returns to a team loaded with talent especially on the offensive side of the ball. The offensive line is the only potential question mark, but he has two future first round picks at wide receiver in Robert Woods and Marqise Lee plus an emerging star at running back in Curtis McNeal. I am very much looking forward to watching him for his senior season, and I’m kind of glad he decided to come back. It is worth noting that he is losing star left tackle Matt Kalil, so the offensive line will need some tweaking. I think he had more to gain from coming back for his senior year than Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Landry Jones do. Luck has made it clear he is leaving, but Griffin and Jones have not made their decisions public yet. Personally, I would be surprised if both didn’t declare considering Griffin has become the clear #2 quarterback due to Barkley’s absence and Landry Jones’ stock has moved up as well due to the lack of 1st round talent at QB this year outside of Luck, Barkley and Griffin.

Now, I like the decision Barkley has made, but it’s not a perfect one. He is opening himself up to a lot of risk. He could get injured, he could have a down season, and even if neither one happens he is opening himself up to a boatload of nit-picking criticism because media pundits and draft evaluators have an extra year to evaluate him to try to figure out every aspect of his game. I think the decision makes a lot of sense, but the attention he will have on him may end up being comparable to what Luck endured this season. He isn’t quite the prospect that Luck is, but he is going to be the consensus #1 pick for the 2013 NFL Draft now. That means a lot of attention for everything he does. I think he is probably ready for that, but it’s still a lot of pressure on a pretty young kid.

I think it will work out for the best though and I think Barkley will help lead USC to the Pac-12 Title Game and a possible Rose Bowl berth. I’m not sure I’d bet on them for the National Championship game, but anything is possible. Regardless of how USC finishes the season it would be foolish to bet against them going to a bowl game for the first time since Barkley’s freshman year considering all the talent they are returning. I for one can’t wait to see them play next year.

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

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As most of you have heard ESPN confirmed that Peyton Manning underwent an anterior fusion surgical procedure done on his neck which was operated on just a couple months earlier on May 23rd to attempt to repair a damaged nerve in his neck. Nerve injuries are said to be particularly tricky because there is no exact timetable for return. He is expected to be out 2-3 months at which point he could potentially return to football, but it is unclear exactly when he will be back at 100% or if he ever will be. When a player of Manning’s stature is hurt for any extended period of time the impact of the time he misses ripples throughout the league, and this post will be focused on the impact Manning’s injury will have not only on the outcome of this season, the fantasy impact of the players who were around him on offense, but also the impact it could and likely will have on the next NFL Draft in April.

Obviously because Manning is injured he won’t be starting in week one, and he might miss 8-12 weeks of the regular season. While the Colts have been a perennial playoff team for the majority of the last decade, it’s hard to imagine them returning to the playoffs without Manning at the helm. Kerry Collins is a reliable back-up and stop gap, but he isn’t a reliable enough starting candidate to expect him to mesh with the starters quick enough to keep them relevant until Manning gets back this season (if he does get back this season at all). That means that even if Manning is healthy in time for the last 3-4 games of the season he might just be placed on IR and allowed to heal completely in preparation for the 2012-2013 season instead of rushing back for relatively meaningless games at the end of the year. So it is entirely possible that Manning won’t play a single game this season even if he comes back close to 100% within that 2-3 month range. If the Colts do somehow remain competitive the Colts will have a tough decision on their hands for a number of reasons. If they are in range of making the playoffs with Collins, should they bring Manning back once he feels ready even though Collins got them that far? Should they mortgage Manning’s future performances after giving him a substantial contract to salvage a season without a lot of potential for a deep playoff run? There will be a lot of questions for them to answer. Personally I would do everything in my power to make sure Manning isn’t rushed back, but late in the season if there are important games to play that could get the team into the playoffs I would consider playing him.

Obviously Manning’s absence will not only impact the Colts, but the rest of the teams in that division. Suddenly, the Texans schedule has gotten easier without having to match up with Manning twice a year with a secondary that has traditionally struggled to slow him down (however, with Jonathan Joseph in the fold that may have started to change anyways). The Titans and Jaguars both seemed destined to be bottom dwellers in their own special ways due to their uncertainty at the quarterback position, but not having to face Manning twice in a season would be favorable for both squads. I think, due to Manning’s injury, that the Texans are the pretty obvious favorite to win the division. If they can’t pull this off with two weak teams and a Manning-less Colts team then they might need to move to the UFL.

This injury also has a significant fantasy impact. Who knows if Collins will spread the ball around game to game as well as Manning did. It’s hard to imagine Reggie Wayne having the same level of effectiveness, and the same goes for Austin Collie and Dallas Clark. They will probably try to run the ball more, but without Manning there threatening to check out of a run against eight men in the box there might not be as many holes for Joseph Addai and Donald Brown to run though. It will also be particularly interesting to see how Anthony Costanzo does this year. I am not sure if he is expected to be the starter on opening day for the Colts, but I would not be surprised if he was. I was a big fan of his, so I am excited to see how he protects Collins’ blind side over the course of the year. If you have any of the Colts players (I have Collie in one league) their value may never be lower than it is currently. So make sure you don’t panic and trade them, especially if Manning has a freak recovery and comes back healthy sooner than expected or if Collins manages to mesh with the team and gives them an unexpected spark as the starter.

Not only does this injury impact the regular season, fantasy football stats, and the entire landscape of the AFC South division, but it has a significant impact on the 2012 NFL Draft. If you had asked me yesterday if I expected the Colts to have even a remote chance of selecting in the top five, much less #1 overall, in the 2012 Draft I would have told you that Manning would have to get kidnapped or murdered to see such a thing occur. Well, luckily he hasn’t been kidnapped, but he is going to be wearing street clothes on the sideline for a significant period of time. That means it is not inconceivable for the Colts to lose a lot of football games. No one has lost more games during the preseason in recent years than the Colts, and that has a lot to do with them playing Manning extremely sparingly and evaluating their back-ups. Obviously that is not concrete evidence that the Colts are going to go 0-16 by any means, but it serves as evidence that substantiates the monumental impact that Manning has had and continues to have on the Colts franchise. Simply put, there is no way the Colts will be as good this year without Manning as they would be with him. That means they should be expected to lose more games, and possibly miss the playoffs all together.

Naturally, some people will overreact and assume they will lose almost every game and be in the run for the #1 pick. That is where things get interesting, however, as that means they would have a chance at winning the Andrew Luck sweepstakes that will be held over the next 17 weeks. Whoever gets the #1 pick figures to draft Andrew Luck or trade the pick for a wealth of draft picks to a team that desperately wants him. If the Colts ended up with the pick it is hard to imagine they wouldn’t select him, and boy would that be an instance of the rich getting richer. I saw this comparison on Twitter today, so I can’t claim it as my own, but I do think that scenario would be extremely similar to the situation the Spurs found themselves in when they were awarded the #1 pick in the 1999 NBA Draft when they selected Tim Duncan. Duncan then teamed with a healthy David Robinson to lead the Spurs to a NBA Championship, and eventually Duncan took over the Center position when Robinson retired. In this instance, Peyton Manning would be the equivalent of David Robinson, and Andrew Luck would be Tim Duncan. It’s certainly intriguing to think about, and it will surely be something on the mind of everyone who follows the NFL, especially the NFL Draft, as the season progresses. I don’t think it is especially likely that the Colts will end up with the #1 pick, as that would likely mean they lost all but two or maybe three games. I don’t expect them to make the playoffs, especially if Manning doesn’t play all season, but I think they have it in them to win 4-6 games without much fanfare. That would position them high enough in the draft to pick another quarterback if they chose to (Matt Barkley might be in the conversation), but it would require a lot of value to move up from where they would be picking (perhaps #3-7 overall) to move up to #1 overall and select Luck. That’s not to say that it isn’t possible, but perhaps not probable.

So, even though I wouldn’t bet much of my money on the Colts ending up with Andrew Luck as a result of using the #1 pick of the 2012 NFL Draft on him, it sure is interesting to think about the vast impact that one player (though a very important player) can have not only on the games he misses, but on the proceedings that occur long after the season has ended.

Thanks for reading,

–Tom

Scouting Report:

AJ Green is, in my opinion, the best WR prospect since Calvin Johnson.

Positives: Great combination of size, speed and acceleration/burst. He has fantastic hands and has made some incredible catches during his three years at Georgia. He catches the ball with his hands very well, and sometimes with just one hand. He can catch passes that are too far out in front, too far behind him, he adjusts to the ball really well while it is in the air and has great leaping ability to high point the ball in the air above the defender. He attacks the ball in the air as well instead of just letting it come down to him, at least usually. He is much better at catching the ball in traffic than I expected him to be given his slight frame, but I have seen him make some great catches and take huge hits and not let that football go, even if he ended up laying on the field for a while afterwards. He is also effective at running after the catch, and he has a pretty nasty stiff arm to keep defenders at bay. He also has a killer instinct as a receiver which makes him a really dangerous competitor because when he wants to go get the ball he will come down with it as long as it is thrown anywhere near him. He runs good routes for the most part and he has good speed in and out of his breaks to create separation. He definitely has the speed to challenge a defense vertically, in college or the NFL, and should be a very dangerous deep threat once he adjusts to the speed of the NFL game. In addition he offers some effort as a run blocker and has long arms which helps him block defenders that are usually smaller than him pretty effectively. The final thing that I love about AJ Green is that he shows up in critical situations when his team needs a big play. If it is a 3rd down or if his team needs a touchdown he will show up with a great catch for a huge conversion, and you can never have enough guys like that. Showing up in crunch time is something that I love seeing in prospects because it isn’t something that can be taught, it is something within them that can’t be taken away from them. AJ Green has it, and it makes him a really dangerous prospect.

Negatives: One thing you have to watch out for with him is injury. He has dealt with some injuries during his career with the Bulldogs and because he is pretty skinny there is definitely the potential for injury if he goes over the middle and makes a great catch knowing he is going to get lit up after he brings the pass in. Because of his competitive nature sometimes he will play angry and sometimes that means push-offs when the ball is in the air, though they are rarely called, and stiff-arms to the helmet of the defender trying to tackle him. Both of those things could be called more than they were in college, particularly when he is a young player and not a superstar like he was in the SEC whenever he played the last two years. He runs good routes generally and usually comes back to the ball, but like any receiver sometimes he will round off his routes and not come back to the ball. It doesn’t happen a lot but it does happen so it warrants mentioning. Sometimes his effort isn’t what I would like it to be, but I don’t think these lulls in consistent effort will be very detrimental to him. It’s just something to think about. His game is definitely pretty finesse, but like I said he has a lot more toughness than I thought he did.

Overall: AJ Green is without a doubt the best wide receiver in the country and I think he may be my #1 prospect on my big board. Hell, after watching him he probably would have been #1 even if Luck had come out. He is that good. His flaws are relatively minor and he has the ability to dominate any game from the receiver position which is rare, and he has gotten substantially better every year he has been in college, which is hard to believe considering how good he was as a freshman and sophomore. He made Aaron Murray’s transition to the college game as a freshman starter much easier than it could have been once he came back from his suspension, which I don’t think is a red flag personally. He sold his jersey, he knows it was wrong, he has learned from it. That’s all there is to it for me.

Projection: Top 5. The list of things he could do to drop himself out of the top 5 is pretty short, it would have to be something pretty drastic like murder or robbing a bank while wearing his football jersey. He is as close as it gets to a top 5 lock, and I think the Panthers should give him heavy consideration for the #1 pick to give Jimmy Clausen some help as he will likely be the starter going into his second season. Wide receivers like Green can make bad quarterbacks look solid, solid quarterbacks look good and good quarterbacks look great, so no matter what Clausen actually is throwing to Green will help him out.

Skills:
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite

Speed: 4.0
Hands: 5.0
After Catch: 4.0
Body Control: 5.0
Range: 4.0

 

Thanks for reading! I’ll have my Justin Houston report up tomorrow.

–Tom

Scouting Report:

Blaine Gabbert has a great combination of size, arm strength and accuracy. He is also mature for only having started for two seasons.

Positives: Great size, arm strength and accuracy. Has solid mobility and while he might not look graceful as a runner once he gets going he can really pick up a lot of yardage. He has solid vision too and has a good feel for when he should just tuck it down and take off. He has plenty of zip on his throws to make passes from the left hash to the right sideline without a problem, and he can make just about any throw. He has overall terrific ball placement and does a great job of leading his receivers, even against good man coverage, to give them plenty of opportunities for yards after the catch. He has shown flashes of the ability to anticipate his receivers coming open and I have seen him throw a few of his receivers open, but his offense isn’t necessarily conducive to that. He does a good job throwing against man coverage and zone coverage alike because of his accuracy. He can carve up zone coverage with ease and does a great job of combining arm strength, accuracy, timing and touch to throw passes down the seam or down the sideline in-between two defenders for impressive completions. As I said before he is accurate enough to complete passes to his receivers even against blanket man coverage because of his ball placement. He has shown some signs of pocket poise and he has a solid feel for when pressure gets there. I think he progressed in this area as the season went on because he looked better in this aspect against Iowa than he did in all of the previous games I watched him in. And even when he scrambles or moves in the pocket he does a terrific job of resetting his feet and delivering throws with good footwork and mechanics. He has a quick release and he does a great job going from not being set to throw to setting his feet and delivering the ball. He seems to throw better on the run when rolling to his right than he does when he is rolling to his left. He also makes good decisions a lot of the time he throws the ball, which might sound simple, but he throws the ball a lot in his offense and thanks to a largely inconsistent running game he ends up in 3rd and longs more than most QB’s I have scouted this year. However he consistently delivers good passes after making a good decision on where to go with the ball. And if there isn’t a good place to throw the ball he will extend the play and 90% of the time he will throw it away instead of forcing a pass into coverage. That maturity to throw the ball away and not risk a costly turnover is one of the more impressive things about him as a prospect in my opinion.

Negatives: I hate the offense he plays in. It isn’t even close to a NFL offense. I kept track of how often he was working with four and five wide receiver sets and in the games I watched I would say it was at least 80 if not 90% of the time. That is one of my biggest problems with him as a prospect. He will have to work on his footwork on his drops because he rarely if ever made a three or five step drop from under center. That can be coached up though. I am not sure how well he reads defenses because a lot of his reads involve him simply looking at one side of the field and then throwing the ball. He isn’t usually asked to scan the field or go through a lot of progressions. How well he does in the NFL will have to do with how well he learns to use his eyes and how hard he works to learn how to read defenses better, etc. So the offense he plays in definitely makes me wary of him as a prospect. I have a couple other red flags that came up when I watched him. One is his trouble with pocket poise at times. As I said earlier I think he has gotten better in this department, but he still has work to do in my opinion. I would say the majority of the times that he scrambles he is leaving the pocket prematurely, meaning he could have stayed in the pocket or stepped up if he needed to buy more time. That is something I would like to see him improve on, but as I said he flashed the ability to do this more as the season progressed which is encouraging. He also struggles with deep balls. This might sound simple, but the vast majority of his deep passes end up incomplete because he overthrows his receivers. This might have something to do with all of his receivers running 4.5’s or slower (in my estimation) but he should still know to take a little off of it or put a little more air under it to let them run under it after playing with them for two years. But his deep passes, at least in the five games I saw of him, were really the only passes that he struggled to throw accurately with any kind of consistency. Perhaps this won’t be as big of a deal with faster receivers, but not everyone on the team is going to be a burner, so it is worth mentioning that he struggles with ball placement on his deep passes. And, while minor, I think he needs some work on squaring his shoulders when scrambling and attempting to throw on the run. He is pretty good at throwing on the run when moving to the right as he is right handed, but he struggles much more in this area when moving to his left. An additional concern I have is how well he will transition to the NFL because he won’t be throwing the ball as often as he did in college on a regular basis. I don’t think it will be a serious issue, but I wonder how well he will be able to get into a rhythm without throwing the ball as often as he did in college. I’m sure he would trade a chunk of his passing attempts for a more consistent and effective running game though, so this might just be me over-thinking things.

I worry about the offense Gabbert played in, but I believe that if you have good enough intangibles you can overcome a lack of experience in a pro-style offense. We will see if Gabbert proves me right.

Overall: The mark of an effective or even great QB involves a few things: Winning, being effective in the red zone and making big throws late in halves, games and on 3rd downs. Gabbert won a lot of games for just being a two year starter, including an upset of then #1 Oklahoma this season. He is efficient in the red zone despite having almost no running game to keep the defense honest and he makes a lot of good throws late in the half, late in games and especially on 3rd downs. I have to say I was skeptical of Gabbert at first, especially because I am not a Todd McShay fan and he was high on Gabbert, but I was really impressed with what I saw when I watched him play. I took 13 full pages of notes on him so I could learn everything I could about him since I hadn’t seen him play much before, and he is now my #1 QB in this draft class because of Andrew Luck’s decision to stay in school. I would have had him ranked in my top 10 prior to this but probably at about 5 or 6, I just never thought he would declare this year. Now that he has and I have watched him a lot I feel perfectly confident ranking him #1 on my 2011 QB rankings. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to a NFL offense, and while I may be high on him there is no guarantee that the transition will go smoothly. But he has the size, the arm strength, the accuracy and the mechanics to be a successful NFL QB. I wish I could interview him to get a sense for his football IQ, but I think he has pretty good intangibles. I don’t think they are on Matt Ryan’s level, but I think they are adequate. If he has a good football IQ, good intangibles and a good work ethic like I think he does I think he will be a good starting QB in the NFL. Will he be great? I’m not sure. He has the tools to be a great QB, I just don’t know enough about his intangibles and work ethic to say he has that kind of ceiling.

Projection: Top 10. With Luck not declaring there is going to be a vacuum in the top 10 for teams looking for QB’s. Luck wouldn’t have made it out of the top three anyways, but I don’t think I could spend a top 10-15 pick on Locker right now, and I don’t like Mallett much in the top 20 and some teams figure to be turned off by him from interviews based off of what I have heard. That makes Gabbert a prime candidate to leap-frog them all and come off the board first of all the QB’s. I don’t think he warrants the #1 pick to Carolina, but I could definitely see Buffalo or the 49ers picking him in the top 10. He would get a top 15 grade from me, but thanks to the lack of quality QB’s in this class I think he has a great shot to go in the top 10. That makes his decision to declare this year look really smart in my opinion.

SKILLS
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite

ARM STRENGTH: 4.5
ACCURACY: 4.5
MOBILITY: 3.0
DECISION MAKING: 4.0
MECHANICS: 3.5
POCKET AWARENESS: 3.0
INTANGIBLES: 3.5

Sorry about the lull of posts lately, I am back and ready for scouting reports. I’ll have my A.J. Green report up tomorrow and my Justin Houston one up after that! I am also going through all of my Alabama games, so expect reports on Greg McElroy, Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, James Carpenter and Marcell Dareus soon! Hopefully you enjoyed my scouting report on Gabbert. He is a really intriguing prospect. It will be interesting to see where he ends up.

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Andrew Luck is almost certainly going to be the next #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft should he declare, and I think it would definitely be in his best interest to declare. His stock can’t get any higher and he should take advantage of that. He is a very good quarterback with a great combination of size, athletic ability, an impressive arm and intelligence. He is the total package, and I think he will follow in the wake of Matt Ryan, Matt Stafford and Mark Sanchez as top five selections in the NFL Draft that start from Day one.

Andrew Luck is almost a lock to be the first quarterback selected as well as the #1 overall pick, and for good reason.

Scouting Report:

Positives: Luck has good size, good mobility and athletic ability, good arm strength, impressive accuracy, he makes good decisions, has a clean release, and good mechanics. He has two years of experience in a pro style offense and is very intelligent and has great intangibles. He is without a doubt the #1 QB in this draft class if he comes out, and he is probably on par with Matt Ryan and Mark Sanchez as far as overall draft grade.

Negatives: There aren’t a lot of things wrong with Luck’s game, but there are some things that I noticed and had problems with when watching him. First, he doesn’t have the best pocket poise. Especially off of play action he tends to panic and start to scramble if his first or second read isn’t there, and he will throw off balance a lot in these situations. Whether it is off of his back foot or while he is scrambling (even across his body occasionally) he will throw passes without setting his feet which I don’t like to see. He needs to work on his pocket presence if possible. I don’t know if he has a problem feeling the pressure, but he just needs to learn to step up into the pocket and buy time by side-stepping the rush at times instead of pulling the ball down to scramble. He also needs to be coached to not throw off of his back foot as often as he does. He also doesn’t have very good arm strength. He has great zip on passes to about 20-25 yards, but when he tries to throw a deep ball he will often be encountered with underthrown passes that have a lot of air under them. That is something he needs to work on.

Overall: Luck is a very good QB prospect and is definitely the best QB prospect in this draft class. I really like him as a prospect, but he needs to improve his pocket poise, his footwork and I would like to see him work on his play-action reads and throws more because he just looks uncomfortable when his first or second read isn’t there on play-action. He panics and starts to scramble instead of being patient in the pocket at times. I don’t know if he will be automatically ready to start from day one like Ryan and Sanchez were, but there is a good chance he will. I think he could have a similar or better year than Sanchez did if that were the case.

Projection: Top 3. There is almost no way he slides out of the top 3, and frankly I’d be surprised if he wasn’t the #1 overall selection. I think he will have a solid rookie season if asked to play right away, but forcing him into action too soon may hinder his development especially when it comes to throwing off of his back foot and improving his pocket poise.

SKILLS
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite

ARM STRENGTH: 3.5
ACCURACY: 4.0
MOBILITY: 3.5
DECISION MAKING: 3.5
MECHANICS: 4.0
POCKET AWARENESS: 3.0
INTANGIBLES: 4.5

Hopefully you found my thoughts on Andrew Luck interesting. Let me know your thoughts! Also, keep an eye out for reports on Ryan Mallett, Nate Solder, A.J. Green, Da’Quan Bowers, Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara!

Thanks for reading!

–Tom