Tag Archive: AJ Green


NFL Quick Hits: Week 2

This post will have to be more brief than my original one, partially because I missed the majority of the late afternoon games as well as the 49ers-Seahawks game (despite the delay) because of my move. Still, I want to write up my thoughts on the games I was able to see this week, so here there are.

New Message: Missing You. Sender: Tom Brady. Recipients: Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez: The Patriots are 2-0, but barely. They eeked out a win week one against a rookie quarterback and the Buffalo Bills and needed three interceptions from their defense to hang on for a 13-10 win against Geno Smith and the New York Jets this past Thursday. Shane Vereen got hurt after a very productive opening week and Stevan Ridley has started slowly in the first two weeks. On top of that, Danny Amendola was hurt against the Jets, Gronkowski is still out, Hernandez is long gone and so is Wes Welker. Julian Edelman was the only receiver Brady could trust to catch the ball and he targeted him very frequently as a result, though Aaron Dobson had three solid catches for 56 yards and the Patriots’ only touchdown. However, he caught those three passes on a whopping 10 targets from Brady and had at least a couple drops from what I saw watching the game live. Brady let his frustration show throughout the game and it’s easy to understand why. He’s used to sure-handed receivers that are on the same page as him, but it was clear that everyone on the unit outside of Edelman was still working out the kinks with Brady. This was perfectly shown on one 3rd down play in the red zone where Dobson was running a corner route and as he got to the goal line Brady fired a pass expecting him to have read the coverage, recognize the hole in the zone and sit down for an easy touchdown. Instead, Dobson continued running his route and the pass fell incomplete and led to a field goal attempt which left Brady incensed as he came off the field and on the sideline. Hopefully Amendola won’t be out for longer than a couple weeks and Gronkowski should be back either this week or next, so Brady won’t have to put up with this indefinitely. As frustrating as this is for him right now it might pay some dividends later in the season if he gets on the same page with Dobson and rookie undrafted free agent receiver Kenbrell Thompkins early on. Once Amendola and Gronkowski are back (and if they stay healthy) having Dobson, Thompkins and Edelman as reliable complementary options could provide this offense with a significant spark, not to mention if the running game gets going and Vereen returns healthy after he is activated from the injured reserve. The silver lining for the Jets is that Geno Smith flashed some upside in this game despite his three interceptions (though some of the throws he made late in the game were awful and complete head scratchers) and Chris Ivory seems poised to take over as a potential bell cow as he comes back from injury. That would be great for the Jets because they need a running game to help take some of the pressure off of Smith’s shoulders, there’s no way he should be throwing the ball 35 times in poor conditions against Tom Brady and the Patriots in his second career start. As out of synch as the Patriots offense was at times, the Jets defense has been better than a lot of people assumed it would be after losing it’s best player in Darrelle Revis, further proving that Rex Ryan may not be a media darling but he is a very good defensive football coach. We’ll see if that continues, but I don’t expect the Patriots to continue to struggle on offense like this for more than two or three weeks, and hopefully Chris Ivory will stay healthy and help keep Smith from needing to attempt 30+ passes in a game for a while.

It’s A Good Thing the Falcons Played at Home Because They Know Where All the Hospitals Are: Steven Jackson is already hurt and may be out another two to four weeks with a thigh injury. Bradie Ewing is out for the season with a shoulder injury. Kroy Biermann is out for the season with a torn Achilles. Sean Weatherspoon is on IR and is eligible to return week 11 because of a Lisfranc injury. Roddy White is playing through his injury but was clearly limited in week two as he was targeted just three times for three receptions and 21 yards. Julio Jones was on the injury report but thankfully went off for 181 yards and one touchdown against the Rams. The Falcons can survive without Steven Jackson thanks to Jason Snelling (if they ever give him the ball) and Jacquizz Rodgers as a change of pace back, they can survive while Roddy White is largely a decoy if Harry Douglas keeps catching 80% of his targets like he did against the Rams (4/5), they can survive without Ewing at fullback like they did all last season, and they can find a way to replace Biermann’s production as a pass rusher and hopefully his versatility to drop into coverage as well as his terrific motor. However, it’s going to be hard to replace ‘Spoon’s value to the linebacking corp because the Falcons were already thin there and relied on rookie linebacker Joplo Bartu from Texas State to help solidify that unit already. Now they will be scrambling to either add a veteran or will be forced to call up one of the young linebackers who didn’t make the team such as Pat Schiller. The Falcons have been hit hard by injuries already this year, but it’s not time to hit the panic button yet. However, they really need to work on establishing the run game against the Dolphins this upcoming week because running the ball 16 times for 36 yards (2.3 ypc) is embarrassing, particularly when your most effective runner (Jason Snelling) only got 2 carries and managed 19 yards and a touchdown despite the coaching staff almost deliberately trying not to give him the ball. Ryan was brilliant despite the lack of even a semblance of a running game, but expecting him to be that brilliant without a running game consistently is asking for a let down. Feed Snelling and let him take some of the heat off Ryan by getting him in more favorable 2nd and 3rd down situations. I haven’t been able to go back and rewatch the game yet, but Sam Bradford finally seems to have some weapons around him to do some damage with. Chris Givens gives him a deep threat that the Rams have been missing for years, and despite not liking him out of Boise State Austin Pettis has stuck around and remained productive despite lacking any explosiveness what so ever. The Rams, too, need to establish a running game and Daryl Richardson is the man they expect to do it. Still, he only got 10 carries and mustered 35 yards, but I still hope the Rams will give Benny Cunningham a chance to show what he can do. He is my favorite running back on the Rams roster and I really think he and Isiah Pead could do some damage splitting carries. The Rams defense is definitely talented enough to contend, it all comes down to whether Sam Bradford and the offense can take that next step this year now that he has some weapons to throw to.

Aaron Rodgers Is Still A Robot: I watched almost the entirety of the Packers-Redskins game and it honestly scared me watching Rodgers play quarterback. He had 335 yards passing at HALFTIME and finished with 480 yards, tying the passing record set by Packers legend Matt Flynn. He also threw four touchdowns while completing an insane 34 of his 42 passing attempts. His “QBR” of 80.9 is proof that ESPN’s rating system for quarterbacks is a complete joke because Rodgers was nothing short of masterful against the Redskins. On top of that the Packers also got 132 yards and a touchdown out of James Starks who was forced into action after Eddie Lacy was knocked out of the game with a concussion. RGIII on the other hand had a tougher day and started much slower than Rodgers did (though Rodgers was under pressure frequently during the first couple series). He still managed to finish the game with 320 yards, three touchdowns and one interception on 26/40 passing, but only ran the ball four times for a total of one yard. The Redskins are clearly trying to limit the contact that RGIII is taking, but it’s hurting the offense’s effectiveness early on in games if you ask me. The ‘Skins are 0-2 now and RGIII and that offense will have to get things going earlier if they are going to turn things around. We’ll see when the Shanahans are comfortable turning him loose on his surgically repaired knee.

Rivers Gets Redemption, Steals Victory From Vick, Eagles: Philip Rivers bounced back from a disappointing loss to the Texans the week before by winning on a last second field goal against the Eagles this past week. Rivers completed 36/47 passes for 419 yards and three touchdowns, all of which went to his new favorite target Eddie Royal who now has five touchdowns in just two games. Who saw that coming? Not me. I wasn’t happy to see Malcolm Floyd sustain a neck injury when he got sandwiched by two Eagles defenders over the middle, but his injury gave Keenan Allen a chance to get on the field and he caught two of his three targets for 34 yards including a BEAUTIFUL route on a deep in for his first NFL reception. Allen was my #1 ranked wide receiver in the 2013 NFL Draft class so I am excited that he might be getting more playing time even if it is because Floyd went down with an unfortunate injury. Rivers’ performance also overshadowed a terrific game from Mike Vick who threw for a career best 428 yards on 23 of 36 passing and two touchdowns. He also added six rushes for 23 yards and another score on the ground. LeSean McCoy only got 11 carries for 53 yards but he and DeSean Jackson were lethal in the passing game as McCoy totaled 114 yards on just five receptions and Jackson reeled in nine passes good for 193 yards and a touchdown. Chip Kelly’s offense is certainly fun to watch, but I am not surprised that the Eagles’ defense is struggling to stop opposing offenses from gaining a lot of yards and putting up a lot of points. They’re giving up 30 points per game through the first two weeks and that isn’t going to cut it in a division with the Giants, Redskins and Cowboys all capable of putting up a lot of points on any given Sunday.

Texans “Nuke” Titans: For years Texans fans and NFL Draft analysts alike have been waiting and wondering when the Texans would get a legitimate wide receiver to play opposite Andre Johnson and 2013 was finally the year as the Texans added DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins was my #4 ranked wide receiver in an absolutely loaded class but I am a huge fan of his and was not surprised to see him help the Texans rally despite losing Andre Johnson to a possible concussion in the 4th quarter. He finished the game with seven receptions for for 117 yards and the game winning touchdown in overtime in just his second game during his rookie season. It’s clear “Nuk” Hopkins is living up to the hype so far, and it’s great to see such a talented player blossom under the tutelage of a longtime NFL star in Andre Johnson.

Bengals, Bernard Burst Past Steelers: This wasn’t as fun of a game as I was hoping it would be largely in part because the Steelers offense is in a very bad way right now. Outside of Antonio Brown and occasionally Emmanuel Sanders there are no playmakers (Markus Wheaton has barely gotten any snaps the first two weeks) and Heath Miller was out for this game as well. Big Ben will be happy once Le’Veon Bell and Miller return because Bell should help perk up the running game even though Maurkice Pouncey will be out the entire season. Ray Lewis seemed to think that this was a devastating blow to the Steelers, and contrary to what I have read from some media members I tend to side with Ray. It’s easy to overlook how critical a center is to the offensive line sometimes, but players like Pouncey (even if he hasn’t been at his best for the last year or so) don’t come around too often. Add to that the departure of Mike Wallace and Miller’s injury and it’s not hard to see why the Steelers are struggling out of the gate this year. The defense is still strong, but they struggled to match up with the quickness of Giovani Bernard out of the backfield as well as the athleticism of Jermaine Greshman and Tyler Eifert. The Bengals continue to look like a very good team at pretty much every position except quarterback where I still have my reservations about Andy Dalton despite the fact that he is entering the final year of his rookie contract. The Bengals have done well to surround him with weapons to get the most out of him that they can, but I think he plateaued after his rookie season and I don’t think he will ever take the next step from being a solid quarterback to being a good or great one. He settled down in this game and helped steer the Bengals to victory, but he was missing some throws he has to make to Eifert and AJ Green, two players with massive catch radii, that he has to make if he wants to lead the Bengals to the playoffs consistently, much less on a deep playoff run. The Bengals don’t seem to be totally convinced that Dalton is “the guy” yet either or they probably would have signed him to a contract extension, so it will be interesting to see how the season plays out, if Dalton takes the next step, and what the Bengals elect to do with him prior to him becoming a free agent.

Well, it was slightly more brief than last week. Hopefully you all enjoyed my thoughts, let me know what you think and if you agree or disagree with anything I’ve written here.

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

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NFL Quick Hits

This is a feature I’m going to try every week where I post some hopefully brief thoughts on the past weekend of NFL games. I don’t know if I’ll have time to do the same with College Football games, but I will post them if I have time to write them all up. Hopefully you guys enjoy this segment.

1- The Falcons Are Who We Thought They Were- I’m sure most of you guys know I’m a Falcons fan by now, and that loss to the Saints was tough. The Falcons scored on their opening drives in both halves, but otherwise were very inconsistent on offense. I’m wondering why they ran the ball so infrequently despite Steven Jackson having solid success on the ground, and I’m also wondering how they managed to hold Drew Brees and the Saints to 23 points despite a lackluster pass rush. I’m not too worried about the offensive line yet, I think they will gel and become a stronger unit, but the amount of pressure in Matt Ryan’s face and the inexplicable avoidance of the run game and quick-hitting pass game to try to counter the pressure was frustrating. Brees was on point as always and I was impressed with the Saints dramatic improvement on defense. Rob Ryan has done a great job with them up to this point, and the pressure they got on Ryan and the looks they were showing him pre-snap stuck out to me. The Falcons will be fine, but I don’t think they are a 13-3 team like they were a year ago. Maybe I’m overreacting, but I think they are in the 10-6/11-5 area. We shall see.

2- Peyton Manning Needs To Stop Playing On Rookie- The way Manning was playing on Thursday night it is evident to me he was just playing Madden on a rookie setting, and a veteran with his resume should be playing on All-Madden at least, and preferably with a number of the sliders raised manually beyond that. Manning was obviously masterful, and that was despite having no running backs with a yard per carry average over 3.8 and only gaining 65 total yards on the ground. Joe Flacco came down to Earth after his fantastic playoff performances and it’s clear to me that he is missing Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta right now. Torrey Smith is a stud, but he can only do so much without a significant threat to take some pressure off of him. Dallas Clark surprised me with 7 catches for 87 yards, and if he can keep that up the loss of Pitta shouldn’t be quite as significant. I am a huge Demaryius Thomas fan and had a top 20 grade on him out of Georgia Tech and he has completely lived up to my expectations for him. I definitely expected Decker to be the #2 guy and Welker to be the 3rd option, but if the first week is any indication then Welker is going to get a lot of love from Manning this year. I don’t think 2 catches for 32 yards will be a typical week for Decker by any means, but I think I definitely underrated Welker’s potential impact coming into the year. I was also blown away by how well Duke Ihenacho and Shaun Phillips played. I liked Ihenacho out of San Jose State but realized some of his athletic limitations, however he had 12 tackles (including ELEVEN solo stops), 1 tackle for loss and 3 pass deflections as well as some pretty nice hits in this game. Phillips had 2.5 sacks and 3 QB hits on the night and definitely helped make up for the absence of Von Miller for at least one night. The Broncos looked like they were in mid-season form, but I don’t think the Ravens are going to have that much trouble on offense or defense for the entire season. They have lots of new faces on their roster and they need time to gel, and Manning took full advantage. Don’t hit the panic button yet Ravens fans.

3- EJ Manuel Is Making Me Look Stupid- I was pretty clear that I was not a fan of EJ Manuel at FSU and while it is still very early in his career my analysis of him is looking quite foolish right now. I have been very impressed with how Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett have managed Manuel starting from his first pre-season snaps. They haven’t asked him to go out there and be Tom Brady, but much like Cam Newton his rookie season they will likely open up the playbook and let him attack more as he becomes more comfortable. I was happy to see Robert Woods get his first NFL catch and his first NFL touchdown, but Manuel got to see first hand that there’s almost nobody better than Tom Brady when the game is on the line. He may not have had a great day statistically, but when it counted he took the Pats down the field and got them in position to win the game. Danny Amendola predictably had a good game, I loved what Shane Vereen did and I was very sad to see that he is going to miss significant time due to a broken wrist (which he apparently suffered on the first play of the game!). I am hoping that Spiller was given limited touches because of his lost fumble, and not because he is inexplicably being mismanaged again in 2013. Regardless, Bills fans should be very encouraged by the early returns on EJ Manuel.

4- “Same Old Bungles”- That is for my good friend Ryan Koons who is now an active duty marine. He is a die hard Bengals fan and whenever they manage to lose a game like this that is what he would always say. I have to say I really thought those days were behind Cincinnati because on paper I thought they were ready to win the AFC North. However, Andy Dalton continues to make me wonder about just how far the Bengals can go with him as a quarterback even in spite of the absolutely fantastic play of AJ Green. The Bengals have tons of talent on defense, they’ve got weapons on offense, but if they are going to win close games and go deep in the playoffs they need Dalton to play better and limit his turnovers. The run game deserves some ire as well as the Bengals only averaged 3 yards per touch and totaled 63 yards on the ground. On the other side I thought Jay Cutler, overall, had a good game and Brandon Marshall was fantastic. The Bears running game was sluggish as well, and hopefully that offensive line will slowly gel and improve over the course of the season. I know that probably makes Bears fans nervous because they’ve been waiting for that offensive front to improve for years, but I’m hoping this is the year for their sake.

5- Reggie Bush Is Dangerous, Christian Ponder Is Not- The Lions put up 38 points on the Vikings defense and a lot of that is due to Reggie Bush totaling 90 yards on the ground (4.3 ypc) and 101 yards and one touchdown as a receiver (with a long of 77). That’s very impressive production, and it comes despite only hauling in four of his eight targets on the day. Matt Stafford had another high attempt, high yardage day and while it wasn’t the most efficient performance it certainly got the job done. I wouldn’t expect too many four catch, 37 yard days for Calvin Johnson, but Bush, Nate Burleson and Joique Bell took the pressure off of him this week. On the other side Christian Ponder continues to prove his doubters right as he threw 3 interceptions, got sacked three times and lost a fumble on the day. He also spoiled a fantastic game for Jerome Simpson who had 7 catches and 140 yards which I certainly didn’t expect from him. Adrian Peterson had a 78 yard touchdown run on his first carry but gained only 15 additional yards on his next 17 carries, but still managed 93 yards and two touchdowns rushing as well as 18 yards and another touchdown receiving. I will be the first to admit that I liked Ponder out of FSU (clearly I’m 0/2 on scouting Florida State quarterbacks right now) but he doesn’t have the same velocity he had prior to the injuries he sustained his senior year, he isn’t making good decisions and honestly I wouldn’t be surprised to see Matt Cassel start at some point this season for the Vikings. That’s not a good sign, and it likely means the Vikings will be looking to draft a quarterback early in the 2014 NFL Draft. I have been patient with Ponder and he occasionally shows signs of life, but unfortunately now that he’s in his 3rd year these kinds of struggles won’t be tolerated anymore. He’s got to step up his game and quick.

6- Pryor Makes Oakland Offense Almost Competent- I really feel like I am ruining any credibility I have as a quarterback scout but I liked Tyler Wilson a lot out of Arkansas and I didn’t like Terrelle Pryor out of Ohio State, but I am glad the Raiders elected to start Pryor over Matt Flynn. Pryor’s legs gave the Raiders life in this game and while I don’t think it will get them to the playoffs it should make them more competitive than they would have been with Flynn at the helm. I didn’t get to see as much of this game as I wanted to because the feed went out for it multiple times at the bar I was watching the games at (for some reason it was streaming online, not sure why), so outside of Pryor impressing me as a runner and Andrew Luck being a stud I don’t have too many thoughts on this game. Sorry guys.

7- Nolan Nawrocki Your Crow Is Ready- I know it’s early, and I know it’s only his first start, but it was fun to see Geno Smith rally the Jets to an unlikely win against Tampa Bay week one. I’m not going to say he made some unbelievable plays on that final drive to steal victory from the jaws of defeat, but if Sanchez was the QB on that final drive I don’t think the Jets would have won that game. Smith isn’t known for his scrambling, but his athleticism was obvious at the NFL combine and he gave the Jets a chance to get lucky thanks to his skill set. He wasn’t mind-blowingly efficient by any means, but it was definitely a solid first start based on what I was able to see. Unfortunately for Bucs fans Josh Freeman struggled (though the Jets do still have a good, well-coached defense) and despite 154 yards from Vincent Jackson he only managed 210 yards on 31 attempts, was sacked three times and threw one touchdown and one interception. I wasn’t a Freeman fan coming out and his first season it really looked like he might make me eat my words, but he seemed to plateau after that rookie season and hasn’t quite been the same since.

8- Kaepernick Is The Truth- I wasn’t wild about Kaepernick’s throwing motion or accuracy coming out of Nevada, but Jim Harbaugh has done a fantastic job with him and that offense is now tailor made for him. It certainly helps having weapons like Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis (even though Davis had a drop or two that he shouldn’t have) while Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham are injured, but his athleticism, pure arm strength and seemingly improving accuracy really stood out to me against the Packers. Green Bay had absolutely no answer for the Kaepernick-Boldin connection and while they managed to keep him bottled up as a runner he shredded them for 412 yards and three touchdowns as a passer. The Packers will have to go back to the drawing board now to try to figure out how to slow Kaepernick down if they meet again in the playoffs. I thought Aaron Rodgers was great as usual even if he did come up just short, I still love Randall Cobb, and I was happy Jermichael Finley bounced back from that drop that led to Rodgers only interception with some solid catches, good yards after the catch and that impressive touchdown. The Packers should be fine and I think they will be a playoff team, but I’m sure they and their fans are annoyed that another referee controversy led to a do-over for the 49ers that led to an Anquan Boldin touchdown. Maybe I’m alone here, but I think the NFL downgrading Bill Leavy for that mistake is ridiculous. Leavy is a veteran official and while he made a mistake this just reeks of an overreaction to me.

9- RGIII Was Rusty, The Eagles Offense Wasn’t- The Eagles defense made this interesting in the second half as RGIII and the Redskins started to knock some of the rust off, but in the first half RGIII had a lot of issues fading away from throws and not stepping into his passes. He still did some of that in the 2nd half, but he was definitely much more crisp and effective once his receivers stopped dropping passes and Kyle Shanahan adjusted to get him into a rhythm with quicker, easier throws. Michael Vick was impressive, though he’s still the same Michael Vick that will hold onto the ball too long and take unnecessary risks with his body at times. LeSean McCoy looks like an ideal fit for Chip Kelly’s offensive scheme and he should have a huge year. I was also happy to see that one of my favorites from a couple years ago Mychal Kendricks looked much better (based on what I saw live) and was pressuring RGIII pretty consistently. I’m not sure he’s great in coverage, but it was fun to see him rushing some of Griffin’s throws. Additionally, that interception Cary Williams made on that out route that Griffin threw was nothing short of fantastic. What a terrific play.

10- Oh Philip Rivers, You Poor Bastard- Rivers was absolutely fantastic in the 1st half and he started off the 2nd half in the same fashion. He had the Chargers up 28-7 and seemed poised for a statement victory in week one of the 2013 season. Unfortunately, much like he and the Bolts have in the past, they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Rivers and the offense began to sputter, the Texans woke up on offense, and the rally was complete once Brian Cushing read Rivers’ eyes beautifully and made a diving interception that he then returned for a game-tying touchdown. The Texans would go on to move the ball down the field and position Randy Bullock for a game winning 41 yard field goal. Andre Johnson continued to show why he is one of the best in the game with a 12 reception, 146 yard performance, Owen Daniels chipped in 67 yards and two touchdowns, and Deandre Hopkins added five receptions and 66 yards. I thought Arian Foster seemed determined to make a big play all game and didn’t seem focused on doing the little things. He was palming the ball and holding it away from his body, he dropped multiple catchable balls, and almost seemed to be showing off and looking to make someone look foolish. Maybe that’s just me over-extrapolating, but he seemed off tonight. I’d be surprised if Gary Kubiak doesn’t talk to him about how he’s holding the ball after he and the other coaches watch film.

Alright, so that was a LOT less brief than I expected it to be. I guess I had more to say than I anticipated, though I shouldn’t really be surprised since I am so long winded anyway. Sorry that was such a long post, hopefully you enjoyed it anyway!

Thanks for reading,

–Tom

First Round Draft Grades

1st– Carolina- Cam Newton, QB, Auburn:
Grade: C
Analysis: I don’t think Cam Newton is the best player in the draft and I think they made this pick because they felt like they had to. They could have gotten Marcel Dareus, a better player in my opinion, and filled a huge need at the same time. I don’t think Cam Newton will live up to his immense potential that has more to do with his physical ability than his accuracy and intangibles. I don’t think Cam will be a great quarterback in the NFL and that makes it hard to like this pick.

2nd– Denver- Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M:
Grade: B-
Analysis: If Denver was running a 3-4 I would give this pick an A+. Miller is a perfect 3-4 OLB and he would have formed a great tandem at OLB with Elvis Dumervil if he came back healthy. However, they are moving to a 4-3 defense and Miller will still have to be a strong-side linebacker in that defense. I think he can play this position which speaks to his athleticism, but it isn’t going to maximize his potential as a pass rushing linebacker which really is too bad. So I give this pick a B- because they got a good player, but they are limiting his potential by moving to a 4-3.

3rd– Buffalo- Marcel Dareus, DT, Alabama:
Grade: A+
Analysis: Dareus is one of the best players in the draft and the Bills got him at #3. The Bills like to use 3-4 and 4-3 looks and Dareus is versatile enough to play 3-4 DE like he did at Alabama or play 4-3 DT which he did at times in Alabama’s nickel packages. I think he is going to be a very good player for Buffalo and that is why I gave them a great grade.

4th– Cincinnati- A.J. Green, WR, Georgia:
Grade: A
Analysis: The Bengals had a huge need at WR with TO likely leaving and Chad Johnson getting older. Jordan Shipley has ability as a slot receiver but they needed a future #1 and A.J. Green is absolutely that guy. He is the best receiver I have scouted since Calvin Johnson without a doubt and he should be a very good receiver in the NFL. He is as well rounded as any player at any position in this draft and he was the #1 player on my draft board for that reason. This is a great pick for the Bengals and they must have really liked him because reportedly they turned down a lot of picks from Atlanta to get him.

5th– Arizona- Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU:
Grade: A
Analysis: Patrick Peterson is one of the best players in the draft and the Cardinals stood pat and let him fall to them. They had a great shot at getting one of Dareus, Miller, Peterson or Gabbert and they had their choice and I think they made the right one. Peterson will provide them a potentially elite corner to pair with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, a guy who had a bit of a down year last year. He fills a need and provides a lot of talent to a secondary that really needs a playmaker.

6th– Atlanta- Julio Jones, WR, Alabama:
Grade: B-
Analysis: The pick looks really good because Julio has a lot of talent and could form a very formidable duo with Roddy White in Atlanta, however the price that the Falcons paid to move up to #6 and get Julio Jones was extremely high. It also feels to me like the Falcons tried to move up to #4 to get A.J. Green and then “settled” for Julio at #6. I personally wouldn’t have made that move, but it is a gamble and I’m glad that the Falcons identified the guy they wanted and made an aggressive move to get him. I just wish they hadn’t given up so much to do it. Regardless, I like the player and I think that Roddy will be able to mentor him effectively and help him improve his concentration which is something Roddy struggled with early in his career. I hope Julio pans out because otherwise this could be a very problematic for the Falcons in the future.

7th– San Francisco- Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri:
Grade: B-
Analysis: I love the player, I am very high on Aldon Smith and I think I had him #6 on my big board, but I don’t think he is a very good fit in a 3-4 defense as an outside linebacker. He has impressive speed and burst off the edge but I don’t think he is a fluid enough athlete to drop into coverage and I thought he was best with his hand in the dirt. It will be interesting to see if he is still effective in the 3-4, but I thought he had the most upside as a defensive end in a 4-3 which is why I gave the pick a lower grade.

8th– Tennessee- Jake Locker, QB, Washington:
Grade: B-
Analysis: When I watched Jake Locker he didn’t strike me as a franchise QB, and I thought that while he has a lot of potential and great intangibles he won’t be a great QB in the NFL. If he can be brought along slowly for a year or two I think he could be a pretty good QB in the NFL and it’s hard to doubt a kid with his work ethic and leadership capability, but I don’t know how good he will be in the NFL. I like him, but I liked him more as a pick in the 20’s than I do #8. It will be interesting to see how he develops, but I don’t think I would have picked him here.

9th– Dallas- Tyron Smith, OT, Southern Cal:
Grade: B
Analysis: Smith is a solid pick here. Not the best value, but they needed a LT and Smith will fit that bill for them. I don’t think he will be able to start at LT right away for them because while he has a ton of potential he needs coaching up on his technique in my opinion. I think he might be able to play later on in his rookie year but I think he would be best starting as a back-up, developing and then playing when he is ready. Hopefully he isn’t forced in early.

10th– Jacksonville- Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri:
Grade: B+
Analysis: Gabbert is a good pick here and I think he is going into a good situation for him. He needs a year or two to develop without being pressured into the starting position and with Garrard still playing pretty effective football at QB for the Jags Gabbert should be able to learn from him and get coached up. This is a good situation for him and I obviously like him a lot as a QB as he was my #1 ranked QB in the draft.

11th– Houston- J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin:
Grade: A
Analysis: Watt is a perfect fit for the 3-4 defense that the Texans are switching to and he might be able to play significantly as a rookie. Watt really gives the Texans some talent at a position of need and he helps bolster a front seven that was in need of a talent upgrade. I am a big fan of Watt and I think this is going to end up being a great pick. Watt loves the game, has an incredible passion for it and I think he will work extremely hard to continue to improve.

12th– Minnesota- Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State:
Grade: C
Analysis: This fills a position of need obviously but I think that it was a significant reach. I like Ponder, but his injury concerns and his down year this year would have given me pause if I was thinking about pulling the trigger here. Personally I would have drafted Nick Fairley at 12, improved my defensive line and then traded back into round one if Ponder was my guy. Just no value with this pick, and it felt like a desperation move because they couldn’t find a team to trade down with.

13th– Detroit- Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn:
Grade: A
Analysis: I caught a little flak for saying that Fairley would slide to #12 in my final mock draft and not only did he last that long he made it to #13 which I was very surprised about. Fairley has a ton of potential and teaming him with Suh on their interior defensive line is borderline terrifying. Obviously he has work to do and he needs to keep working, but if he keeps improving and developing the Lions could have a terrifying pair of defensive tackles for the next 5-10 years. It’ll be interesting to see how he progresses because he has a ton of ability but there is some boom/bust potential with him. But at this point he is definitely worth the risk.

14th– St. Louis- Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina:
Grade: B+
Analysis: The Rams needed some pass rush help here as Leonard Little is getting older and Quinn has the potential to be a very effective pass rusher. There is boom/bust potential with this pick as well because there isn’t much tape on Quinn since he was suspended during his junior season. It is interesting to note how his season long suspension was not deemed as significant as Dez Bryant’s suspension over seemingly less wrong-doing, but that is just my personal opinion. Quinn has a lot of potential so it will be interesting to see how he develops over the next three years.

15th– Miami- Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida:
Grade: D+
Analysis: This is a very bad pick in my opinion. He might end up being a pretty good guard in the NFL, but I don’t think he is worth this high of a selection at all. I personally think he is very overrated and a lot of that has to do with his brother Maurkice being a pro-bowler at center for the Steelers as a rookie. The mind-boggling thing is that I haven’t heard one person say that they think Mike is going to be a better NFL player than Maurkice, and yet he was drafted two picks higher than Maurkice was! That is absolutely mind-boggling to me. Pouncey has the potential to be a pretty good guard in the NFL, but I think he is overrated and I don’t think he will live up to such a high selection for a guard.

16th– Washington- Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue:
Grade: C+
Analysis: I like Kerrigan a lot as a player but I thought his best fit was as a LE in a 4-3 defense, not as a 3-4 OLB. I never thought he looked like a fluid enough athlete to play that position, so I was pretty surprised when the Redskins, a new 3-4 team, drafted him to play 3-4 OLB. Very surprising. I love his motor and work ethic so I think he will get the most out of his ability, I just don’t think he is a good fit for this scheme.

17th– New England- Nate Solder, OT, Colorado:
Grade: C-
Analysis: I know it seems like I am giving a lot of bad grades, but some guys that I am not high on were going higher than I thought they should have. Solder is a guy that I would have picked in round 2 but I am not high on him. He has a lot of athletic ability and has good potential to play LT, but I think he is overrated as a LT prospect. The Patriots have a great drafting track record so it will be interesting to see if they prove to be right, but I definitely don’t like this pick.

18th– San Diego- Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois:
Grade: B+
Analysis: I like Liuget as a prospect. He will be a pretty good fit at 3-4 DE for the Chargers and he should have a good impact against the run and should be able to penetrate upfield and disrupt plays in the backfield. I’m pretty high on Liuget so I liked this pick for the Chargers.

19th– New York Giants- Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraksa:
Grade: A
Analysis: The Giants needed help at corner and I think they had to be surprised that Amukamara slid this far, so I think this is a very good value pick here. Amukamara has some technique work to do but going to a Giants team that has a thriving pass rush and some veteran experience at corner so hopefully he won’t be forced into playing time too early.

20th– Tampa Bay- Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa:
Grade: B-
Analysis: I am not a big Clayborn fan and I am wary of him because of his down year this past season when he seemed to be throttling it down. I think he has the potential to prove me wrong, but he was a risk that I wouldn’t have felt comfortable taking without being able to evaluate his personality to see if he was as hard of a worker as everyone seemed to make him out to be. So I am not sold on him at 20, but he could very well prove me wrong.

21st– Cleveland: Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor:
Grade: B-
Analysis: This is a pretty good pick and I would probably give it a B+ or A- if the Browns were still running a 3-4 but they are running a 4-3 and having Rubin and Taylor inside will mean they will be getting almost no interior pass rush from their starters. They will need to bolster their interior line depth with some more athletic pass rushers to ever get a pass rush. However, their run defense should be formidable and I like Phil Taylor as a prospect so they still get a pretty good grade.

22nd– Indianapolis- Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College:
Grade: A
Analysis: I thought Castonzo was a top 20 lock so this is good value for him here, plus he was my #1 ranked offensive tackle when it was all said and done, over Tyron Smith. I think he will be a good LT for the Colts for a very long time and I think Castonzo is an underrated prospect when it comes to playing the LT position. The Colts are a savvy team when it comes to the draft and I think they made a very good pick here, I’m a big Castonzo fan.

23rd– Philadelphia- Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor:
Grade: B+
Analysis: Watkins is a player I like but he is older than the average draft pick at 26 years old which limits his upside but I think he will be able to contribute early in his career which makes up for it to a degree. He should be a big help at guard for the Eagles who generally target offensive and defensive linemen in the first round of the draft.

24th– New Orleans- Cameron Jordan, DE, California:
Grade: B+
Analysis: I don’t think Jordan is a great fit as a 4-3 DE but I think he will be pretty good there. I think he would have been better in a 3-4 system though. Regardless, he is a very fundamentally sound player and he should be able to contribute early on in his career as a Saint and I definitely like him a lot as a prospect, plus they got a good value for him here. If he was a better scheme fit, in my opinion, he would have gotten an A or A+ from me here.

25th– Seattle- James Carpenter, OT, Alabama:
Grade: B
Analysis: I think they could have gotten him a bit later but clearly they were high on him and I understand why. He isn’t a flashy guy but I think he is going to have a long, successful NFL career at right tackle in the NFL. I don’t think he will be a guard, I think he will be a very good right tackle. So while they didn’t get great value they did get a good player at 25.

26th– Kansas City- Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh:
Grade: C+
Analysis: I wouldn’t have picked Baldwin this high and I have questions about his fundamentals (such as route running, short area quickness) and I also have questions about his character. He has a ton of potential because of his size and freakish athletic ability but I am just not sold on him living up to that immense potential. It will be interesting to see how he develops because if he learns how to run better routes he could very well live up to his potential because he has great athletic ability, attacks jump balls well and adjusts to the ball in the air as well as any receiver in this draft.

27th– Baltimore- Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado:
Grade: B+
Analysis: I’m not a huge Jimmy Smith fan but he is a good fit for the Ravens scheme and he will be able to play a lot of man coverage on an island for them. He needs to work on some things, particularly his foot work, but he has a lot of potential as a man coverage corner even if I don’t think he has very good ball skills.

28th– New Orleans- Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama:
Grade: A+
Analysis: Ingram is going to turn out to be one of the best players from this draft class but because he isn’t a flashy running back he fell this far, that and because of a lack of need for RB’s early and often in the first round. However, Ingram is going to prove to be a great addition to the Saints and trust me I hate saying that as a Falcons fan. If his knee holds up he will put up 1,000+ yards and 8+ TD’s consistently for the next eight years.

29th– Chicago- Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin:
Grade: A+
Analysis: I think Carimi is EXACTLY what the Bears needed. They needed an offensive lineman who can run block effectively which he can and a guy who can pass block well which he can. He won’t be able to stick at LT in the NFL but he has the potential to be a pro-bowl right tackle and the Bears have to be doing back-flips because he lasted this long. This was a huge step in the right direction for the Bears offensive line.

30th– New York Jets- Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, Temple:
Grade: B
Analysis: Wilkerson is a solid value and he has a lot of potential so I like the pick, I just don’t love it as much as some others. I think he will fit in well in their 3-4 scheme so I think this is a good pick as far as need but they also got a talented player.

31st– Pittsburgh- Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State:
Grade: A+
Analysis: I love this pick, absolutely love it. I am a huge Heyward fan and I think he is going to be one of the biggest steals in this draft when it is all said and done. He won’t ever be a big sack guy in the NFL but he is going to be an impact player against the run and he should be an anchor on this Pittsburgh defensive line for the next ten years. This is one of the best picks of the draft in my opinion.

32nd– Green Bay- Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State:
Grade: A
Analysis: The Packers made a great pick to finish the first round with Sherrod. I wrote in my scouting report that I thought his best fit might be in a zone blocking scheme because of his good first step and his ability to wall off defenders in the run game. He struggles as a drive blocker so his max value would be in a zone blocking scheme because he wouldn’t be asked to drive block as often, and that is why I love this pick so much. Sherrod won’t be asked to drive block as much as he would in a man scheme which makes him more valuable, plus he should be able to play LT for the Packers allowing Bulaga to remain at RT where I think he is a better fit.

That’s all I have for the first round of the draft. I’ll try and get grades out for day two tomorrow or Sunday! Thanks for reading!

–Tom