Tag Archive: Joe Flacco


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

Divisional Playoff Picks:

I’m going to be traveling on Sunday morning en route to the East-West Shrine Game so I am going to make all of my picks today. We’ve got four intriguing match-ups going on this weekend, so it will be interesting to see how they shake out.

Denver-Baltimore:

As much as I want to see Ray Lewis and Baltimore continue on this season I’m not convinced they are going to. It’s hard to bet against Peyton Manning and this Broncos team, especially since this Denver defense is much more complete than any defense Manning ever had in Indianapolis. They can really get after the passer but I think they’ll be able to slow down Ray Rice as well, and that’s what I’d be worried about most if I was a Ravens fan. The Broncos can match up with the Ravens on both sides of the ball, and I’m not sure they have the fire-power on offense or the talent on defense to take away Manning’s passing options. On top of that, I’m not a big Flacco fan and I’m not sure he’s going to be able to make the big throws the Ravens need to win this game. He made some last week, but this defense is a different animal. I’m hoping for a good game, but I think Denver is going to win by more than one score: 31-20.

Green Bay-San Francisco:

This is a tough match-up to pick, but I’m going to go with San Francisco. I think they match up ok with Green Bay’s bevy of weapons on offense and they should be able to get after Rodgers without blitzing which is a big no-no against him. If you can generate pressure with four or five rushers (like the Vikings did in Week 17) then you can knock him around a bit and not give him a lot of options and force him to make unbelievable throws. The 49ers should be able to do that, and I think they’ll be able to take away the semblance of a running game that Green Bay has. On the other side of the ball I think the 49ers will be able to run the ball how they want against the Packers, and Kaepernick’s mobility outside of the pocket should extend a couple drives for the 49ers that could prove to be critical. It’s risky to pick a young QB like Kaepernick against a seasoned veteran like Rodgers, but Kaepernick isn’t one to wilt under pressure. I’m going with the 49ers but I think it’s going to be close: 27-21

Houston-New England:

I have to pick the Patriots here. I just don’t think the Texans defense will be able to match up with the weapons that the Patriots have on offense, and if the Pats can get the run game going I think the Texans will struggle to slow Brady and the Pats offense down. The Pats aren’t a great team on defense, but I think they’ll be able to do enough to slow down the Texans offense. If they can bottle Foster up and not allow Schaub to suck their linebackers in with play action fakes I think the Pats will be able to win this game. I think it’s going to be a close game, but I’m not going to be able to bet against Tom Brady in a playoff game at home: 31-24

Atlanta-Seattle:

This is a hard game for me to pick. I mentioned last week that I think the Seahawks match up very well with the Falcons on defense and I still believe that. This game is going to come down to who wins the match-ups between the Falcons WR’s and the Seahawks corners and whether or not the Falcons can find a way to get Tony Gonzalez involved without forcing him the ball. And if Michael Turner finds a way to have a productive game the Falcons can definitely win. But if the Seahawks make the Falcons one dimensional I will be very nervous with Ryan trying to carry the Falcons to victory against a very talented Seahawks secondary. They are missing their top pass rusher, but their secondary is good enough that I’d still be concerned. The Seahawks will look to run the ball early and often and I think the Falcons have the advantage on this side of the ball. Their defense has been very good at coming up with clutch turnovers this year and even if they let Wilson and Lynch move the ball I have a feeling Wilson is going to end up with an interception in this game and Lynch needs to make sure he covers up the ball because the Falcons will be looking to strip it. It’s never a good idea to bet against Russell Wilson (I did it last week and we all know how that worked out) but I think the Falcons have the defense to match up with him and even though I’m very nervous for this game I’m picking the Falcons to win a close one: 27-20

Those are my picks, hopefully I can improve over my 2-2 record last week. Enjoy all the football guys and look out for my coverage of the East-West Shrine game this next week. I’ll be posting notes here and on The Football Standard.

–Tom

Playoff Prediction Post:

I realize I’m late on this, meant to post it earlier but lost track of time today. I had the Texans picked though, I swear!

Wild Card:

Texans over Bengals
Saints over Lions
Giants over Falcons
Pittsburgh over Denver

The Giants-Falcons game could be interesting depending on what Falcons team shows up. They have struggled against quality competition this year and have gotten to the playoffs largely because of a weak schedule (especially to finish the season). The Giants pass rush could give the Falcons offensive line fits, but if they can run the ball and keep Matt Ryan upright they could make things interesting. The Giants should be able to pass all over the Falcons if they want to, but may struggle to run the ball a bit. I’m picking the Giants because they know how to win in the playoffs and the Falcons haven’t proven that they can yet.

Divisional Round:

Ravens over Texans
Patriots over Pittsburgh
Saints over 49ers
Packers over Giants

The Texans have been an inspiring story winning without Matt Schaub and Mario Williams, but I don’t think T.J. Yates will be able to threaten downfield enough to keep the Ravens from working to take away Arian Foster. The Ravens offense is going against a quality defense but I think they will be able to move the ball. Joe Flacco may not have a ton of playoff experience, but he certainly has more than Yates. I’m not sold on Yates making critical plays in big games and I think the Ravens will expose his flaws for all to see.

The Patriots over Pittsburgh is a tough call for me. I think the Patriots are a good team but their secondary is a mess and I am not sold on their defense at all. Pittsburgh can move the ball and threaten teams vertically, so they could make New England pay if they bite on the run. It’s tough to bet against Tom Brady in the playoffs though, and even though the Patriots haven’t won a playoff game in a while I think they have a good chance to win one with Pittsburgh coming up to Foxboro.

The Saints over 49ers isn’t an automatic either, but I think the Saints might be the only team in the NFC that can beat the Packers. There’s just no way I can bet against Drew Brees, especially with Alex Smith starting opposite him.

The Giants are one of the few teams that is built to beat the Packers. The Packers can’t run the ball very well and rely on passing the ball quite a bit, and the Giants have shown that they have the blueprint to beat passing teams when they upset Tom Brady and the Patriots in the Super Bowl in 2007. This is an interesting match-up, especially since Aaron Rodgers didn’t play in week 17, but I expect the Packers to end up winning despite some of their struggles on defense.

Conference Championship Games:

Ravens over Patriots
Saints over Packers

The Ravens have a great defense that I think can slow down the Patriots offense enough for their offense to win the game. I don’t think the Patriots can slow down the Ravens enough to win this game personally. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t think much of the Patriots defense, especially their secondary, but I do love the Ravens defense. So I’m going with them to beat the Patriots!

Yes, I’m picking the Saints. I can’t stand the Saints for what they do to the Falcons every year, but I do respect them. Their defense certainly isn’t elite, but they will be able to pressure Rodgers a bit and won’t have to worry much about the running game I don’t think. The Packers defense has little chance of slowing down the Saints offense and I think this game will end up being a shoot-out, but despite it all I think the Saints can win. They are playing the best football in the NFC right now and as the Packers know it’s all about getting hot at the right time. The Saints are hot, the Packers are not.

Superbowl:

Ravens over Saints

I am a defense first guy even though I love slinging the ball around and scouting quarterbacks, so that has something to do with my pick here. The Saints are a great offense, but the Ravens defense can slow them down in my opinion. Do they match up perfectly? No, I don’t think so. But I think they can rattle Brees and knock him around enough to contain their offense when they need to. The Saints know how to manufacture pressure, but I think the Ravens can run the ball on them and extend drives that way. I am a closet Ravens fan so take that into consideration, but I believe defense wins championships so one of the few good defensive teams left has a great shot to win the title!

Thanks for reading, it’ll be interesting to see how I do!

–Tom

Hey everyone, sorry I haven’t been posting much recently. I’ve been extremely busy so I haven’t had much time to scout, but I took some time this past week to crank out this mock draft. I wanted to wait until after the Senior Bowl and the Super Bowl were done before I posted another one, but now that the draft order is set and all of the postseason games are over with I am happy to present you with my updated mock draft! Enjoy.

1st round NFL Mock Draft:

1st– Carolina- A.J. Green, WR, Georgia: I think that AJ Green is the top player in this draft class, so it makes sense to draft him here especially because there isn’t a QB worth this selection. Nick Fairley will get some consideration here, but this DT class is so deep and talented that there will be quality options available later. Plus Green doesn’t have any of the potential on field distractions that Fairley might bring because of accusations of him being a “dirty player.” Getting another weapon to help Jimmy Clausen bounce back from a pretty terrible rookie season should be a huge priority for Carolina, and while they also badly need a DT I think A.J. Green should be the pick here.

2nd– Denver- Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn: Fairley shouldn’t make it too far if he doesn’t go #1 overall, at least as things stand currently. He would be perfect for Denver if he does become available here because they will be moving to a 4-3 defense under new head coach John Fox. That means they are going to need a quality DT in the middle and Fairley fits that bill perfectly. He is extremely disruptive and reminds me a lot of Kevin Williams as a player because of his combination of burst off the ball and his great strength. He could be a dominant force in a 4-3, so I think he makes a lot of sense for Denver here.

3rd– Buffalo- DaQuan Bowers, DE, Clemson: Bowers was really all potential before this season when he finally capitalized on his immense talent and produced a lot of pressure and sacks this season. I’m wondering how high his ceiling will be in the NFL though. He doesn’t have great burst and speed off the edge, and he was strong enough to beat a lot of offensive lineman with brute strength and hand usage. I think he has the ability to be an impact LE, but I’m not sure he is going to be an 8-10+ sack guy at LE. I understand why he is projected to go this high, but I suppose I would be wary to pick him so high after only one season of consistent production. Buffalo needs pass rush help though and Bowers could be the man to deliver that aid.

4th– Cincinnati- Patrick Peterson, CB/S, LSU: Peterson would be a perfect pick for the Bengals here because they really need help in the secondary, particularly at safety. Peterson definitely has the athletic ability to play cornerback as well as safety so that would give the Bengals flexibility. However, I think Peterson could be an All-Pro safety in the NFL considering his size, athletic ability, speed and ball skills. That is something that the Bengals could really use. It’s possible that the Bengals could go after a DE or a WR here, and Robert Quinn would be a good fit for them, but Peterson is a better player than Quinn, so he makes more sense here. If A.J. Green slid to #4 overall I could also see Cincinnati going in that direction. Quarterback will be considered here, but I personally think that Ryan Mallett could end up falling to the second round due to some potentially serious character concerns. If that ends up being the case then the Bengals could get the best of both worlds here by picking up Peterson, a potentially stud playmaking safety, and Mallett, a rocket-armed quarterback with pretty good pocket poise and accuracy, to eventually replace Palmer. The Bengals haven’t been deterred by character concerns before, so if Mallett does fall to the 2nd round I think the Bengals are a definite landing spot.

5th– Arizona- Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M: Von Miller has really boosted his stock lately as he had a strong finish to the season and a very impressive Senior Bowl showing. It is being argued that he could play 4-3 OLB at this point, but I am not sure he is that effective in coverage. However, I do think he can play the 3-4 OLB position even if he is a little undersized. Will he play right away? I’m not sure. He will need to get at least to 240 or 245 before he will be able to be anything beyond a situational pass rusher in my opinion. But he could rotate in and give a good speed rush at this point. Most pass rushers that get drafted this high aren’t ready to walk into the NFL and contribute right away. They have a lot of potential but they need to be developed, improve their pass rush moves and potentially bulk up. Miller has a great speed rush, especially when standing up, so I think that makes him a good fit for a 3-4. Is the top five a little high for him? In my opinion, yes. He is a good player, I have thought he was a top 15 guy for a while, but top five feels high especially since he will need to add some weight and develop for a year or so before he can contribute as a starter.

6th– Cleveland- Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina: Robert Quinn is a tough guy for me to project just because he had so much potential as a sophomore but we didn’t get a chance to see how much he developed during his junior season to judge him in the NFL. So right now he is still just a guy with tons of raw athletic ability and potential that needs to be developed for a couple of years. Quinn has great burst and speed off the edge, but there is no telling how good his hand usage his, how consistently he gets off blocks or how well his pass rush moves have developed. He is almost like a really expensive grab bag that is required to have a certain amount of value, and it could have no more than that (just raw athletic ability and potential that is never reached) or it could be a fantastic defensive end that everyone looks back on and says “why didn’t we take a chance on him?” Conservative teams should stay away, but I think Robert Quinn can be a very good DE if a team takes their time developing him for a year or two. He should be able to have an impact during those years as a situational pass rusher, but outside of that he should be improving his hand usage and developing pass rush moves. If he can do that, with his speed off the edge, he could be a lethal pass rusher in the NFL.

7th– San Francisco- Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska: The 49ers need a quarterback first of all. Alex Smith has repeatedly proven to be a bust, and while Troy Smith showed fleeting flashes of potential I don’t think he is anything more than a stop-gap. However, I don’t know that any of these quarterbacks are franchise caliber players. I am high on Gabbert because of his strong arm and great accuracy, but he is going to need some development. Ryan Mallett has a rocket arm and lots of production, but he is not reliable late in games and has potentially serious character concerns that will hurt his stock in my opinion. Jake Locker has problems with consistency, and while he has great intangibles you have to wonder if he will actually make his team better as a player, not just as a leader. Finally, there is Cam Newton, who will need a lot of development before he will be able to have a fair shake at being a starter. He has a ton of potential, but I wonder if he will ever come close to reaching it since he has so much work to do as a passer. So it is arguable that there is a legitimate issue with each of these quarterbacks (not that past QB’s have been perfect, but they have been in pro-style offenses or demonstrated more consistency). That said, I think it makes perfect sense to go another direction here with this pick. Amukamara would give the Cardinals another good corner opposite Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but he would fit into their style of play that Whisenhunt tried to bring over from the Steelers. He is a very physical corner and will match up well with any big, physical receivers in that division (most notably Larry Fitzgerald if he sticks around, but also Mike Williams and potentially Danario Alexander). He supports the run well, is a good tackler and has pretty good ball skills, though I’m not sure he has great hands for the interception.

8th– Tennessee- Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: This pick might not make much sense, but I am going out on a limb on this part. I have heard that Tennessee’s owner is high on Cam Newton and really wants him on the Titans. This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me because I think he is a more undeveloped version of Vince Young with better size, arm strength and similar athleticism. There are questions about his character off the field, but on the field he seems to be a good leader and his teammates seem to like him. However, it seems strange to me that the Titans would want another player with potential off-field concerns. To his credit though, Newton didn’t seem distracted by any of the off-field problems brewing this year, so he can definitely block that stuff out (at least he could in college) and produce on the field. However, he is one or two years away from being ready to be a reliable starter because of the offense he played in. He doesn’t have to make any complicated reads, he doesn’t have to go through many progressions, he rarely went through three, five and seven step drops from under center, and he doesn’t have very good pocket poise because of his ability to scramble and gain yardage with his legs. Will he ever be a good pocket passer? I don’t know, I kind of doubt it. But if he ever did his potential would be immense because of his athletic ability and his ability to extend plays. Regardless, the Titans are rumored to be interested in him and even though I don’t think it makes much sense for them I could see them picking him at #8 overall if their owner truly is interested or trading down and picking him in the middle of the first round.

9th– Dallas- Marcell Dareus, DE, Alabama: I previously thought that the Cowboys might trade down from this spot but when I reshuffled some picks Marcell Dareus slid down and he is a perfect fit for Dallas. They really need DE help because Marcus Spears never really lived up to his first round billing, and they need help around Jay Ratliff. Dareus is a perfect 3-4 DE in my opinion even if he isn’t the 6’5”, 315 pound ideal specimen that you would like. He is probably 6’2” but if his arm length checks out then he would be a perfect 3-4 DE because of his experience in that system at Alabama. He is very disruptive against the run game, he is extremely strong, has great hand usage and can also apply some pressure from the DE position in a 3-4. He would really strengthen their defensive line and I honestly think that he could come in and start as a rookie. People seem to have forgotten how good he has been at Alabama and if he does slide to Dallas he could be another very good rookie for them.

10th– Washington- Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri: Originally I had Gabbert getting picked number nine overall after Miami traded up to get him, but because Dallas stayed at #9 to pick up Dareus at that spot Gabbert slides to #10 where Washington could very well be waiting to pick him. On one hand I could see them trading back into the late 1st round to pick a guy like Jake Locker, and spending extra picks to acquire a specific player is a totally Washington Redskins thing to do. However, quarterback is a need for them considering the Donovan McNabb fiasco and Rex Grossman being the back-up. Regardless of who they decide to make their starter they will still be around for another year or two which would be a perfect situation for Gabbert to develop. He will have a very significant transition from the offense he ran at Missouri to a pro-style offense in the NFL. He operated almost exclusively out of the shotgun with four and five wide receiver sets the vast majority of the time so he will need to learn how to take snaps from under center, make pre-snap reads from under center, make his drops and still deliver accurate passes after doing so and he will have to make very different reads than he did at Missouri. However, he has great size, underrated athletic ability and mobility as well as great arm strength and accuracy. His pocket poise leaves something to be desired, but he is fantastic at resetting his feet and delivering accurate throws even after he gets happy feet, which alleviated my concerns about that a bit. Overall he has a lot of potential, so that is why I have him ranked #1 overall in this quarterback class and that is why I think he is worth developing for a year or maybe a little longer than that. His combination of size, arm strength and accuracy is rare so his tools are absolutely worth developing.

11th– Houston- Cameron Jordan, DE, California: This is an interesting pick, but I think it is a good one for Houston. They are apparently switching to a 3-4 defense, which I can’t say I agree with, but that is obviously not my choice to make. I don’t know where Mario Williams fits into that scheme, but I suppose they will have to figure that out. However, they will need a quality DE who can play 3-4 DE in that scheme but also flex into either a 4-3 DE or DT when they run nickel packages and they will probably run a fair amount of 4-3 looks this year as they begin the transition to the 3-4 scheme with some personnel turnover this year. Jordan could potentially play 4-3 DE, he fits best at 3-4 DE in my opinion, but probably has the versatility to slide inside to 4-3 DT if the defense were to be running a nickel package. He is a very good player and is a bit underrated, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he moved up boards and got drafted in the top 15, especially by a team that needs some scheme flexibility like Houston will this year.

12th– Minnesota- Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois: This might seem high for Liuget (pronounced “Legit” how awesome is that) but I think he has a chance to go this high. I am really high on him as a defensive tackle prospect and I think he could be a great fit in Minnesota. They figure to continue running the Cover-2 scheme with Leslie Frazier assuming the head coaching vacancy left by Brad Childress but I think DT is a huge need for them right up there with QB and Safety. There is no safety worth this selection, and honestly I think they need to sign a stop-gap QB like Matt Hasselbeck or Kyle Orton if he is indeed a free agent (or Donovan McNabb if the Redskins do actually get rid of him) because any of the QB’s they could pick in this draft will need time before they can step in and start. There is not a Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco or Mark Sanchez in this draft class. So, I think the Vikings should fill one of their other needs with a BPA pick here and honestly Liuget might be that guy. When I put together my new DT rankings he will probably be #3 behind only Fairley and Dareus. He would play very well next to Kevin Williams because he is very strong and holds up pretty well versus the run but can also penetrate, make plays in the backfield and get pressure on the QB. He isn’t on Fairley’s level of disruption, which is comparable to Kevin Williams but he could be a very good player in their system, especially with Williams as a mentor.

13th– Detroit- Tyron Smith, OT, Southern Cal: This might seem high for Tyron Smith because he played RT at USC and hasn’t really made a name for himself at USC. However, he is arguably the most athletic offensive tackle in the draft and honestly reminds me a lot of D’Brickashaw Ferguson because they both have some trouble keeping weight on and getting up to 300 pounds, so it will be interesting to see how much he weighs in at when he’s at the combine. However, he should put on a show there because he could very well run a 4.8 in the forty yard dash and surprise people with how athletic he really is. He really is an impressive physical specimen and I think he will be fine moving to LT in the NFL. He is still raw despite starting for over two years at USC, but I have seen him mirror corners blitzing off the edge, so his lateral agility and kick slide is pretty amazing for someone his size. He moves very well in the open field too and gets to the second level easily, but he needs to improve his technique and improve his fundamentals as well as add weight before he can step in as a starter. That is probably ideal for Detroit because he has a very high ceiling but with Jeff Backus still entrenched as the starter he won’t be rushed in before he is ready. Tony Ugoh is still listed as the back-up, but I don’t think having Ugoh on the roster as a back-up is enough to pass on Tyron Smith if they think he can be their franchise left tackle, which if he gets coached up well and patiently developed he definitely could be.

14th– St. Louis- Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: I have seen this pick in a number of mocks, so it actually kind of bothers me that I am following suit, but previously I had Dallas trading down to #15 with Miami so that Miami could grab Blaine Gabbert before Washington got their hands on him. That led to Julio going #10 overall instead of here. However, when I reshuffled an earlier pick it led to Marcell Dareus sliding to #9, making him the obvious selection for a Dallas team in desperate need of a 3-4 DE. That led to Washington getting Gabbert after all, and thereby forced Julio down the board until St. Louis. They could really use him here, and he would give them a legitimate #1. With Julio opposite Danario Alexander and with Donnie Avery in the slot the Rams would haveJulio Jones is a very big, strong, physical receiver with big play ability downfield as well as serious red zone potential because of his leaping ability, size and strong hands. He can make some incredible catches and when he gets involved consistently he can take over a game, but he wasn’t always involved or thrown at very often at Alabama and he would also drop routine passes more than I would like. He definitely has great hands, he just needs to concentrate and look in routine passes because it is pretty clear to me that he is just taking for granted the fact that he will be able to make the catch and either taking his eye off the ball or trying to run before securing the catch. He reminds me of Braylon Edwards a bit in that respect because of his potential for big, game-changing plays, but he will also drop passes that any receiver of his talent and caliber should catch. It will be interesting to see how Julio transitions to the NFL and if a good WR coach can help him improve his concentration to make him an even better receiver or if he will be content to make some great catches and then drop some easier ones.

15th– Miami: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama: This feels like a really cliché pick to me but I think this could actually happen. The Dolphins don’t have a ton of needs and with Newton and Gabbert off the board I don’t think a QB is an option here unless the Dolphins get enamored with Locker as a potentially ideal wildcat quarterback. However, as everyone seems to state in their mock draft, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are both getting older and while neither of them has completely worn down Ronnie Brown has had some trouble staying healthy and Ricky is older than a typical complementary back because of his time off from the wear and tear of the NFL. Ingram would be an ideal back to bring in to take pressure off of these guys because the Dolphins running game is the heart and soul of the offense. I have never been a big Chad Henne fan because I have always thought he was incredibly inconsistent and he could make a great throw and follow it up with one or two terrible decisions or passes. I haven’t watched a lot of Dolphins games, but when I have seen him he will look good when I’m watching him and then look like a different player just minutes later. Quarterback is definitely something that needs to be considered for Miami, but Jake Locker’s inconsistency might remind them too much of Henne despite his vastly better athleticism and Ingram is one of the safest picks in the draft if he can stay healthy because he will grade very high as a feature back. If he stays healthy he could very well have seven or eight 1000+ yard seasons with 8+ touchdowns once he becomes the feature back for Miami.

16th– Jacksonville- Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue: Jacksonville has had some trouble with defensive ends in the past (Derrick Harvey, I’m lookin’ at you) so I think they may look for a relatively “safe” player here and that would be Ryan Kerrigan all over. He reminds me of Chris Long in that he can still be a productive DE but I don’t think he will ever be a 10+ sack guy in the NFL. He is good off the line of scrimmage and has pretty good speed off the edge as well as very good hand usage to shed blocks. He could probably step in and contribute immediately, and learning from Aaron Kampman (if he can get healthy) would definitely help him develop into a quality starter. Does he have the highest ceiling of any DE in this draft? No. But he has one of the higher floors of anyone in this draft class especially at defensive end. The Jaguars need to get one right at defensive end, so unless they are willing to roll the dice on another defensive end that may or may not pan out I think they will go ahead and grab Kerrigan.

17th– New England (F/ OAK)- Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State: This might seem high for Cameron Heyward, but everyone seems to be underrating just how dominant he can be as a DE and DT in a 4-3 or as a 3-4 DE. He has great size, he is extremely strong and has great hand usage. He can absolutely toss some blockers around like rag-dolls (I have seen this happen to Gabe Carimi before) and he is very effective in the run game. He is literally an ideal 3-4 DE so I don’t understand why he is so underrated. However, if there is one team that will recognize how good this guy is it will be the Patriots. He would be a perfect fit in their defensive scheme because he can hold the line versus the run and handle double team blocks. Additionally he can get after the passer even though he doesn’t have much speed off the edge, but at his size he really isn’t supposed to. At 17 he would be a great value, and even at this pick I think in a number of years when he is a very good starter for the Patriots a lot of people will look back and wonder how this guy fell so far. That is my bold prediction about Cameron Heyward.

18th– San Diego- Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA: Ayers makes sense at this pick because the Chargers gave up on Shawne Merriman and his supposed replacement Larry English has disappointed in the 3-4 alignment at OLB. I personally thought he was more of a 4-3 RE who struggled in space, but regardless of whether he has struggled in coverage or not he has simply not been applying pressure on the QB enough for the Chargers’ liking, so he could definitely stand to be upgraded. Ayers is a well-rounded football player and is well worth a selection here. I haven’t scouted him specifically yet, but I have seen him play live once or twice and I came away fairly impressed with what I saw. I’m confident he could play in a 3-4 alignment at OLB and should give the Chargers a quality pass rusher, run defender and coverage linebacker.

19th– New York Giants- Derrick Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State: The Giants don’t have a lot of needs, but they could use help at OT potentially. Sherrod is interesting because he could probably play LT, but I personally think he would be a bit better at RT. He is a quality OT prospect, but he isn’t overly flashy. I haven’t scouted him specifically yet, but the Giants could use a relatively safe, quality pick here and I think Sherrod fits that bill. I could see them grabbing a DT to bolster their interior defensive line depth, but I feel like they have bigger needs barring the loss of Barry Cofield via free agency (should there be one).

20th– Tampa Bay- Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri: The Buccaneers spent their first two draft selections to attempt to bolster their defensive line but now it is time to upgrade the defensive end position so that they could have a very good defensive line once all of their prospects develop. Aldon Smith could very well have been a top ten pick if he stayed another year because of his talent level, but I would be surprised if he made it out of the top 25 in this draft. He would fit in well on the Buccaneers and could form a formidable defensive front with Gerald McCoy and Brian Price in the future should all of them pan out.

21st– Kansas City- Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin: The Chiefs have a couple needs, such as OLB and potentially CB, but offensive line might be one of the more pressing concerns. They need help at OT and Carimi is probably one of the best OT’s in this draft class even if he doesn’t project to be a great LT in the NFL. I think he offers a lot of value because I think he can be a very good RT in the NFL and potentially start very early in his career but in a pinch he could slide over to LT and hold his own. That makes him a valuable commodity both as a starter and as a back-up, which should make him attractive to a lot of teams including the Chiefs.

22nd– Indianapolis- Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College: I struggled with this pick because I couldn’t decide if the Colts would look to pick up a LT to protect Manning’s blind side or if they would try to pick up a DT to help improve their disappointing run defense. Ultimately I think they will prioritize protecting Manning here and the Colts aren’t exactly a team to take a risk on a player like Nate Solder who has a lot of raw athletic ability. They seem more likely to take a player who won’t be flashy but will get the job done, and that seems to be Castonzo to a T. Will he be a franchise left tackle? No. Will he be a quality offensive lineman for a long time? Probably. He has above-average athleticism and pretty good technique, so he should be a pretty good tackle for the Colts and should help keep Peyton Manning upright.

23rd– Philadelphia- Brandon Harris, CB, Miami: The Eagles have little talent opposite Asante Samuel and they have had injury issues at this position. They tend to go after offensive and defensive linemen, and if Gabe Carimi lasted this long I could definitely have seen him being the pick here. However, they also need playmakers in the secondary especially at corner and Harris brings that to the table. He is a bit of a risk-taker like Samuel is but he has good ball skills and impressive athletic ability to close when beaten.

24th– New Orleans- Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa: Clayborn is a bit of a disappointing prospect to me because last year he seemed to command double teams and play relentlessly on most snaps but this season he was being taken out of the play with one on one blocks against average offensive tackles and didn’t seem to play as hard. I personally think he could fall out of the first round, but that might not happen come draft day especially if he interviews well. Regardless, I think he had a disappointing senior season. I don’t think he will be a great 4-3 LE because I don’t think he has the edge speed to be much of a pass rushing threat, and honestly I think he would be best served bulking up a bit and playing DE in a 3-4, but his block shedding ability and strength to hold up versus doubles probably makes that transition a bit problematic. However, the Saints need a quality DE prospect and despite his shortcomings this year Clayborn still has his redeeming qualities. You have to wonder which DE you are going to get in the NFL though. Will you get the dominant one who flashed 6-8 sack potential as a LE in a 4-3 or the LE who will get taken out of plays by one on one blocks and occasionally get a sack or TFL on a talented defensive line? That remains to be seen, but I definitely have my doubts about Clayborn.

25th– Seattle- Jake Locker, QB, Washington: This seems like a match made in heaven. The Seahawks have a couple of stop-gap guys in place with Matt Hasselbeck (who is a free agent) and Charlie Whitehurst (who I thought looked solid against St. Louis, but again it was St. Louis) at quarterback which would allow Locker time to develop behind at least one veteran quarterback. That would prevent him from being rushed into the starting job before he was ready (hopefully) and would give him the best chance at NFL success in my estimation. He has off the chart intangibles but his accuracy and ball placement was just too inconsistent for me to be that impressed. He is a very polarizing prospect as you either seem to love him or hate him, but I find myself thinking that he will not live up to the hype that was created for him by his biggest fans but I also don’t think he will turn out to be a colossal bust like his biggest critics think he will be. I don’t think he will be a franchise quarterback, but I think he can be an effective QB in the NFL who completes 58% of his passes and extends drives with his legs. He won’t ever be incredibly accurate, hence my doubts that he will have a career completion percentage of over 60%, but he has good arm strength and such a good work ethic that I don’t think I can bet against him having a solid career as a NFL starting QB. I’m sure he’d love to stay in the state of Washington and play for the Seahawks, so that would be even more motivation to work (not that he needs it).

26th– Baltimore- Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Smith is an interesting guy, but I think that the Ravens will see some similarities to Chris McCalister when they watch him. If they do I would not be surprised if they picked him here, even over the more well known Aaron Williams. Smith has good size and plays physical, plus he has good closing speed. He would fit well in Baltimore’s physical defense in my opinion and would present some much needed talent at cornerback, a position that Baltimore has had trouble with in recent years, especially with injuries. Smith should provide a nice influx of talent to the position with this pick.

27th– Dallas (F/ ATL)- Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA: The Falcons have this pick but if the board breaks like this there will be no obvious player that they should select, and I have been saying for months that this feels like the year that Thomas Dimitroff, a General Manager that was trained by the Patriots, could very well make a “Patriots move” and trade down into the 2nd round. If the board breaks like this that would definitely be my preference. Now, the Cowboys don’t necessarily need to move up here as they could end up with Quinton Carter, but Jerry Jones is an aggressive man and I could see him making this trade to try to secure a player who I believe is an absolute ball-hawk. Moore would bring a lot of range and playmaking ability to the Cowboys secondary and it is very badly needed. They have talent at corner but their safety play leaves a lot to be desired. Moving up and securing Moore, arguably the best safety in this draft class if you don’t grade Patrick Peterson as a safety, would make a great first two selections paired with Marcell Dareus for the Cowboys.

28th– New England- Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois: This was a tough pick for me to project, but because the Patriots have so few holes I could see them going straight BPA here and that could very well be Leshoure. Leshoure is a very talented running back and is probably going to be #2 or #3 on my next RB rankings. He would give the Patriots a legitimate feature back instead of just a running back by committee system that they seem to be employing now. This doesn’t seem like a very likely pick for the Patriots, but I don’t see them drafting an OLB here because I don’t think there is a good one on the board still (this is because I don’t think Justin Houston projects well to the 3-4 OLB position at all, but that is my personal opinion).

29th– Chicago- Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: I struggled with this pick a lot also because honestly I am not a big fan of Solder, and for some reason I really wanted to mock a quality offensive tackle to the Bears because boy do they need one. However, Solder is the best offensive tackle available at this point and he has the potential to be a very good LT if he can develop fundamentally and improve his technique. Whether he actually does that in the NFL is a different story, but if anyone can coach him up it would definitely be Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice, one of the best offensive line coaches in the NFL. So in reality this would be a pretty intriguing selection because Tice managed to produce a relatively solid unit out of a pretty terrible group of offensive linemen, so if the Bears front office got him a guy as athletically talented as Solder he could potentially mold him into a quality left tackle.

30th– New York Jets- J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin: The Jets don’t have a lot of glaring holes but one place I think they could use some youth and talent is defensive end in their 3-4 scheme and J.J. Watt is probably a perfect fit for that scheme. I think he could play 4-3 LE but he would not get a lot of pressure and sacks from that position, but in the 3-4 he could be a perfect fit. I’m not sure how well he will do if asked to occupy blockers and let linebackers make plays behind him, but if he can penetrate into the backfield and play disruptively like he did in college he could be a very nice DE for the Jets.

31st– Pittsburgh- Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor: The Steelers have a very good defense but Casey Hampton is currently 33 years old and they have little talent/depth behind him that could eventually develop into a starter. Taylor has great size, strength and is surprisingly agile for a man of his size. He also holds his weight well. I think he would be a perfect fit at NT in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 defense which makes him a very hot commodity here.

32nd– Green Bay- DeAndre McDaniel, SS, Clemson: This might not seem like the most logical pick considering Green Bay’s terrific secondary, but strong safety is the weakest link in their secondary. Cornerback is strong if Charles Woodson keeps playing well with Tramon Williams and Sam Shields filling out the rest of their nickel package. Nick Collins is one of the best free safeties in the league but he rarely got any credit for his play, but he probably will now. However, Atari Bigby has his issues in coverage and Charlie Peprah is at best a stop-gap starter. Enter DeAndre McDaniel, a quality ball hawk who would fit in well in Green Bay’s secondary in my opinion. He is probably a mid-2nd round grade right now, but that is just my personal opinion. If he can provide quality coverage from the strong safety position as well as solid run support he would really take that secondary to the next level, so I think he makes a lot of sense here.

Hopefully you enjoyed my mock draft! Leave a comment and let me know what you think of it. I tried to keep it original and go in some different directions, but overall I think it is pretty realistic. Some of you will probably be surprised about Mallett falling out of round one, but I think that is a serious possibility come draft day.

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Here are some players who had up and down weeks at the East-West Shrine Game and thus did not improve or hurt their stock. I got pretty long winded in some of these so these are just the offensive guys that I thought warranted mentioning. The defensive guys that didn’t improve their stocks and the players I thought hurt themselves in Orlando will round out the third post I do on this subject. Sorry for the delay on this, school takes up a lot of my time as I’m sure you can all imagine. Enjoy!

Nathan Enderle, QB, Idaho: I am a fan of Nathan Enderle but he had an inconsistent week at the East-West Shrine Game. His ball placement was inconsistent during the practices but overall I think he improved over the course of the week. More than anything I think Enderle struggles to be consistent. He showed this during the game when he struggled with accuracy a bit when he first came in, but then he helped lead the West to their only scoring drive of the entire game when he threw a TD pass with good touch and then converted a 2pt conversion. After that he struggled a bit again. He has a strong arm and he has the ability to put the ball wherever he wants it, he just doesn’t do it consistently. That limits his draft stock as a quarterback. However, he has good size, arm strength and he flashes good ball placement. He has delivered late in games before, and I think with a year or two of development he could eventually be a solid NFL starting QB. I think he could use some coaching on his footwork because that might have something to do with his inconsistent accuracy. He also tends to miss high more than anything else, so despite his fluid throwing motion maybe they could tinker with his release point? That’s just one possible thing they could try. Regardless, he has tools worth developing and I think he will stick in the nfl as a back-up at least. I do think he could be a solid starter in the future though.

Pat Devlin, QB, Delaware: Devlin had an up and down week and was not impressive during the game on Saturday either. Clearly he is adjusting to making his throws after taking the ball from under center and going through his drops instead of setting up to throw after taking a shotgun snap. We have all seen his accuracy so we know he can throw an accurate ball, but he would have really helped his stock if he had shown better ball placement this week. I think he is worth a 3rd or 4th round pick at this point because he has solid arm strength, good accuracy and solid size. I think he can be an above-average starter in the NFL but I am not as high on him as others seem to be.

Scott Tolzien, QB, Wisconsin: Tolzien probably had the best week of practice of any of the QB’s because he was consistent with his ball placement and further demonstrated that he has above average arm strength. It occurred to me that he has a bit of a hitch in his throwing motion that a coach will have to try to tinker with, but other than that his mechanics aren’t bad. He has experience in a pro style offense and is very familiar with play action fakes from playing at Wisconsin. I think he will be a 7th round pick but if he doesn’t get drafted I’m sure he will be signed as an undrafted free agent. I think he will be a career backup in the NFL but that isn’t a bad living by any means.

Tyrod Taylor, QB, Virginia Tech: Taylor didn’t have a great week either. He measured in at over 6 feet tall which, as stupid as it sounds, is important for his stock if he wants to play QB in the NFL. He had the best zip on his passes of anyone here in my opinion but his ball placement consistently left some to be desired. I don’t know how comfortable he is at reading defenses and he still tends to drop his eyes and look at the rush. He does this more than I would like instead of moving in the pocket to find throwing lanes. I don’t know if he will ever have the instinct to run and extend the play outside of the pocket “coached out of him” which makes me question his ceiling. He might be able to be an average NFL starter, but I think he will have to spend a few years as a back-up before he even gets a chance to try that.

Graig Cooper, RB, Miami: Cooper seemed to be regaining his previous form that he had before his injury which was good to see. He looked faster and quicker than he did over the course of the season which is what I was hoping to see. He seemed to be regaining his previous burst though I am not sure how good his footwork and vision is. He seems to dance around in the backfield a bit much for my liking and sometimes tries to bounce things outside when he should take what he can get. I think he will be a solid third down back and special team threat in the NFL especially if he can get healthy and stay that way. He showed soft hands all week and when he gets in the open field he has the shiftiness to make guys miss. I think he is probably a 5th round pick at this point because of the injury and his lack of production during the season this year. However, good interviews and a good showing at the combine could help him even in a deep running back class.

Vai Taua, RB, Nevada: Taua had an up and down week in my opinion, but he runs hard and he has pretty soft hands out of the backfield. The first couple days he dropped a couple passes which made me question his hands, but he bounced back as the week progressed. I don’t think he will be a feature back in the NFL, but I think he has the potential to stick as a late round guy who can pound the ball between the tackles and also catch the ball out of the backfield effectively. I think his ceiling is a more compact Jason Snelling who has made a lot of quality contributions to the Falcons since he was drafted there.

Da’Rel Scott, RB, Maryland: I am not a big Da’Rel Scott fan to be honest, and I was disappointed that he had what I thought was a mediocre week at the East-West Shrine Game and garnered an invitation to the Senior Bowl over Delone Carter who I consider the better player even if he isn’t as well known. Regardless, Scott showed inconsistent hands all week at the East-West Shrine Game but flashed better hands on the last day of practice I saw as well as in the game. He has great straight line speed but I am not sold on him as a feature back in the NFL.

Alex Green, RB, Hawaii: Green had an up and down week because he showed much better burst and speed than I expected him to have and he showed good route running and hands as a receiver which was great to see. However he fumbled on the first snap of the game and I’m not sure that he has anything better than 4.55 speed and I don’t think he has very good vision. I am not sure he will be drafted before the 6th or 7th round if he is drafted at all. He has tools though so he could stick even as a UDFA, but he has things to work on to be sure.

Terrence Turner, WR, Indiana: Turner is a very confusing guy to me. He has impressive size and probably 4.5-4.55 speed… but he could not catch the ball all week in practice. He would body catch, he would drop passes with his hands, he just looked completely unimpressive all week. It was not an up and down affair at all, he just looked terrible. But then the game comes around and he was making catches away from his body with his hands and I didn’t see him drop a single pass all game. I was completely dumbfounded. The practices are important, but I think the game holds weight also so I elected to not grade him as a loser for this week given his surprising performance in the game. He had to do something like that to give him any chance to be drafted, so I’d say his stock is unchanged. I’d say he is at most a 6th or 7th rounder at this point but there were some flashes in that game that intrigued me as a late round developmental receiver.

Armon Binns, WR, Cincinnati: Binns was inconsistent this week. He didn’t get off jams at the line of scrimmage well, he doesn’t seem to like contact much, and because of his size and long strides I have noticed he doesn’t have much burst in and out of his breaks as a receiver which hurts his ability to create separation. He has good hands and long arms which helps his cause, but I am not sure he will be anything more than a solid #2 unless he finds a way to get a lot more explosion and suddenness out of his route running. He seems more like a straight-line speed guy to me.

Anthony Parker, WR, Calgary: Parker started out well because I had never seen him and he was catching everything thrown his way and he was creating solid separation but he seemed to progressively lose momentum as the week went on. He was on Ryan Whalen’s level of not letting any passes thrown near him fall to the ground the first couple days, but he seemed to be rounding off his breaks more as the week continued, he let a couple passes get into his chest and he dropped a couple passes. You would prefer to see a player start off poorly and then improve throughout the week if they are going to start out badly at all, but Parker did the opposite and that hurts him a bit. However, he definitely showed ability that I was not sure he would have, so he should garner some attention in the 7th round or as a UDFA should he not get drafted.

Lester Jean, WR, Florida Atlantic: Some are much higher on Jean than I am, I thought he had an ok week but he started out pretty slow much like Perry Baker did, but his route running did not improve like Baker’s did over the week. He seems to waste steps when making his breaks on curls for instance, and did not create consistent separation that I saw all week. He body catches a lot and I didn’t see him make clean catches away from his hands much during the week. He has pretty good size and speed for the position and inconsistent hands, so there is potential for him to develop into a solid possession receiver in the NFL if he can clean up his footwork and route running. You can work on catching the ball once you get to the NFL too, so if he is committed he can improve. However I wouldn’t draft him before the 5th round right now.

Virgil Green, TE, Nevada: I liked what I saw from Green this week. He was selling out for every pass that he could get to, even diving for a pass that was well overthrown on a ballroom carpet on the first day of practice. He showed good hands by making nice catches away from his body and while I am not sure he will ever be a dynamic TE I think he can be a reliable target. He isn’t a burner at the position so while that is a bit disappointing I was very encouraged by some of the blocking I saw from him this week. He had a few nice drive blocks, one or two even on players as big as him (if not a bit bigger). He has some work to do as a run blocker, but he showed some nice flashes of drive blocking that I did not expect to see from him at all.

Chris Hairston, OT, Clemson: Hairston has really long arms so while he does not have good lateral mobility I think he has a NFL future as a back-up RT that could potentially develop into a solid starter. He struggled with speed rushers, but he used his long arms effectively to keep smaller players from getting off of his blocks and he had at least solid lateral agility to force some speed rush attempts wide of the QB and didn’t seem particularly susceptible to inside moves either. He’s a late round pick, but he has the potential to develop into a starter.

Jah Reid, OT, Central Florida: Jah Reid is a guy that I was not particularly impressed with. He bends at the waist a lot, and when I saw this regularly the first two days of practice I didn’t pay much attention to him the rest of the week. I think he’s a 6th/7th round pick that has the ceiling of an ok back-up. Others thought he had a good week but I am just not impressed with him.

Hopefully you enjoyed reading my thoughts, let me know what you think of them and look forward for my final notes as well as some scouting reports as I find free time to scout over the next couple weeks. I am also working on a mock, but I’m going to wait until after the Superbowl to really put a lot of effort into completing it. Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Last night I got to thinking about this, and I finally wrote down some of my thoughts and it inspired me to write this post up. I know you all would probably rather hear my thoughts on individual prospects, see my rankings or read through my thoughts on recent happenings that pertain to the draft. However, my greatest aspiration in my life as far as my career is concerned is to not only be a general manager of a NFL team, but to ultimately win a Superbowl as the GM of a team. So naturally I have given some thought to what I would do if I ever got a job as a GM, and it inspired me to write this blog post articulating some of the conclusions I have come to at this time. This is mostly focused on player personnel, though I have some thoughts about how to look for a good coach also. But this is going to be long enough without any of those thoughts. Enjoy!

Ron Wolf hoists the Lombardi Trophy with his Head Coach Mike Holmgren

First, you have to consider what schemes you think you want to run so you can hire coaches who shares similar views on how a team should be constructed. Personally I prefer a team that is tough, has a big, strong offensive line and can overpower teams up front. I can’t stand the ZBS because I think it makes it hard to have a lot of success in short yardage situations and on the goal-line, and those are the areas that I want my team to capitalize on. I want one or two receivers who have impressive size, are physical after the catch and attack the ball in the air. They don’t have to be burners, but I’d like them to be able to stretch the field and go up and get the ball. Also, having the kind of toughness that enables them to go across the middle and make a catch in traffic is essential to me. And naturally the QB has to have a quality arm to stretch the field, make accurate passes, etc. However he has to stand tall in the face of pressure and he needs to have the toughness and poise to step into a throw and take a hit. How he reacts in the face of pressure will be incredibly important, plus he has to be a great leader. These quarterbacks are hard to come by, but I am convinced that the best way to prepare your team for a Superbowl is to have a good leader at QB.

On defense I think that I would want to run a 3-4 scheme. I like the options that the scheme gives as far as blitz packages. However I would like to run a base 3-4 with players who are versatile enough to play in a 4-3 in obvious passing situations. That would enable us to take the NT off the field, play the two 3-4 DE’s inside at tackle and the two OLB’s would move to DE to rush the passer. That would give the front line a lot of pass rushing potential, plus we could potentially drop a lot of players back in coverage. But mostly I like the toughness of a 3 man defensive front because each defensive lineman has to be big, strong and smart enough to be responsible for 2 gaps. I’d like each defensive lineman to be able to stand up to a double team because that would make the linebacker’s job easier. I’d like my corners to be able to play man coverage and zone coverage, but being able to play man coverage is more important because the most intricate blitzes in the scheme will leave the corners on an island. Being able to trust them in man coverage will be critical. But if they can play zone effectively it opens a lot of options up as far as zone pressures and overloads.

But first and foremost I would want to build a tough team that can run the ball effectively anywhere on the field, and I’d want to build a team that has a great defense that can go toe to toe with any offense in the NFL and at least slow them down. I have subscribed to the defense wins championships mantra for a long time, and even if your offense is a great unit you need a defense that either creates a lot of turnovers or one that bends but does not break when opposing offenses start to move the ball. I believe stopping the run is the first thing you need to establish before you can have a great defense. Stopping the run makes the opposing offense entirely one dimensional and puts them in a difficult position: Do I continue to attempt to maintain a balance in play-calling even though I know I’m not going to get anything out of the run plays? Or do I abandon the run and become one dimensional and predictable? Neither is a good option for the offense, which gives the defense a significant advantage. Particularly because the team does not have to bite hard on play-action fakes because the run has been stopped so effectively.

I wouldn't have tied the fate of my franchise to Sam Bradford even if God had told me to.

Plus, by dedicating yourself to building a winning defense it means you won’t feel pressured to draft a QB in year one of your regime. This is an extremely common practice, but I think it backfires more often than it usually works. You have to be absolutely sold on the QB you are picking, and usually that means spending a 1st rounder on him. I personally would not have picked any of the QB’s in this draft. I would hate to have the fate of my franchise tied to Sam Bradford, Jimmy Clausen, Colt McCoy or anybody else. If I had an established QB already I would have considered taking Tebow just because his intangibles are off the charts and I think his work ethic is too good to discount him as a NFL QB. However, other than potentially picking Tebow I wouldn’t have tied the fate of my franchise to any of those QB’s. Matt Ryan, Mark Sanchez and possibly Joe Flacco in round 2 are the guys that I would have tied the fate of my franchise to, particularly Ryan and Sanchez. In the upcoming draft I think Jake Locker has a lot of potential, but I need to see more development. I would, however, gladly spend a mid-1st or higher on Christian Ponder at this point. I also think Matt Barkley has franchise QB potential like Ryan and Sanchez did in college.

”]A QB who can win games for you is key in my opinion. Finding a special QB who gives his team a chance to win just by stepping on the field is hard to do because they are so rare. Brett Favre is one, Matt Ryan is one, Tim Tebow could potentially be one but his intangibles have never been in question. I also think that Jake Locker, Christian Ponder and Matt Barkley fit this bill. Those are the guys that I like as QB’s, guys who are great leaders and to quote Ron Wolf: “Players who give their team the advantage simply from stepping on the field.” Ron Wolf and Thomas Dimitroff are two of my idols when it comes to GM’s that I have allowed to influence me. I also really like Ozzie Newsome, the current GM in Baltimore. They all draft efficiently, fill needs well and really preach depth throughout the team. They also didn’t take over, clean house and bring in “their people.” I think that is a mistake that is far too common in the NFL, but people still continue to get jobs and wipe out everyone because it was a losing organization. But just because someone was employed by a losing organization does not make them a loser themselves. It means they were in a bad situation. You have to take the time to not only evaluate the coaches and scouts, but other staff members and especially the players to see if they are capable of helping you build a winner. If you just fire everyone then you are throwing away potentially valuable resources that could have sped up the rebuilding process, and it’s all because you were too lazy to evaluate their performance during the previous season.

This is one reason that I would love to be brought in during the NFL season so I could see how everyone operated during the season. This way I wouldn’t have to predict how they would operate based off of how they conduct themselves during the offseason. Ron Wolf had this opportunity and made the most of it by evaluating everyone by watching tape, talking to current employees and seeing if they had the guts to tell him what they really thought, not what they thought he wanted to hear. That is exactly how I would run my organization. Namely, I want you to tell me what you think. Stick to your guns, stand up for what you truly believe and sell me on a prospect if you think he is good. If he’s good we could use him, but if we look at tape of him and he’s not as good as advertised then we won’t pick him. Simple as that. I have no tolerance for “Yes Men” who just pat you on the back and tell you that you are right all the time. That makes no sense to me because, to put it simply: You aren’t right all the time. You are human and you will inevitably make mistakes. That is why you have a team working with you so they can work to balance you out and keep mistakes to a minimum. Yes Men don’t limit mistakes, and I actually think they only serve to give you a big ego. And I have always believed that the only thing a big ego is good for is impeding current progress by getting in the way. So no “Yes Men,” they are a waste of time.

Thomas Dimitroff did a great job of keeping a core of stop-gap players intact while "trimming the fat" and bringing in an influx of new talent when he arrived in Atlanta.

After you evaluate your team you should have an idea of how many quality players you have, how many are just average, and how many are below-average. If you can trim the fat and cut players who won’t help turn you into a winner you should do it. Ron Wolf did this when he took over the Packers and Thomas Dimitroff did this same thing when he got to the Falcons. He released fan favorites Alge Crumpler, Rod Coleman and just recently he released Keith Brooking as he was no longer serviceable as a WLB. This is the way you must approach these moves. These situations are delicate since they are popular players, but when they are a hindrance to you when you play them you need to cut them unless they will take less money to be a back-up. That rarely happens, so you must cut ties with them in my opinion.

Then you need to look at the key positions and determine which need to be upgraded soonest. For me, QB, LT, NT, OLB, ILB and CB are the most important positions to fill with quality players. Having a great leader at QB and ILB is extremely important in my opinion, as they are the heart and soul of their respective units more often than not. That is why they are so integral to me. You also need a good LT to protect your QB’s blind side from elite speed rushers throughout the NFL. NT is integral for the 3-4 defense that I would want to run. The NT will clog up both A gaps (the gap on either side of the Center) and if he does his job well he will draw a double team and make it difficult for the opposing RB to find anywhere to run up the middle and he should be forced to try to cut-back or bounce the ball outside. Then I want two very good pass rushers at OLB. The more guys you have who can get after the QB the better, but having an OLB who can rush the passer really well is an extremely useful asset. If they can get after the QB standing up and with their hand in the dirt they would be ideal. I want to be deep at this position especially, same with NT and corner.

I personally believe that if the heart of your offense or defense goes down you are likely to be in trouble regardless of the back-up you have for him, but at positions that demand a quality player but not an elite player or leader depth is critical. At those positions the players are replaceable and rotatable. Having a quality back-up at NT means you can keep your starter fresh and not have a significant drop-off should he get injured or if he rotates out. The same can be said at OLB and CB. Like I said, the more OLB’s you have that can get after the QB the better off you will be. You will absorb injuries easier, you will keep your starters fresh and you will have opportunities to create match-up problems if you two or three OLB’s who warrant playing time. And the deeper you are at corner the better because so many teams use three, four or sometimes even five WR sets. If you can match-up with those sets with corners who are capable of playing man or zone coverage your defense will be in a much better position to slow or stop the opposing offense.

”]So, once you evaluate the quality of players in those key positions you can look to sign a potential impact free agent if there is such a player available that would fill a need, would not hinder the development of a young player at the same position and that would help speed up the rebuilding process. Michael Turner was such a player for the Falcons, and Reggie White was such a player for Ron Wolf and the Packers. Then you should look to bring in other veterans who can be stop-gaps at positions of need while you look to the Draft to fill those voids more permanently with a younger, better player. I don’t like rushing rookies into playing time before they are ready, and these veterans who you can usually sign for a reasonable price give the rookies a good mentor and they give them time to adjust instead of forcing them to play immediately.

I would probably focus my efforts to find a stud QB, LT, ILB and NT early in the draft. If there is a QB I am comfortable tying the fate of my franchise to available at my pick or that I could potentially trade up to get then I will go after him and solidify that position for the next decade with a great player and leader. Otherwise I will wait until I am confident enough in a QB in another draft. Rushing into a selection with this position can set your team back three, four or even five years, so I refuse to rush it.

Ray Lewis has been the heart and soul of the Ravens defense for years.

Next I would look for an elite leader and playmaker at ILB. If there is such a player available (such as a player in the Ray Lewis, Patrick Willis mold) then he would certainly warrant an early selection. I think Brandon Spikes was such a player for the Patriots, and I think that the trio of Vince Wilfork, Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo gives the Patriots the best combo of a NT and an ILB in the NFL. Running up the middle of their defense is going to be extraordinarily difficult with those three guys lined up against you. That is what I want for my defense, a team that is extremely tough up the middle and extremely athletic on the outside to rush the passer and defend the pass. But most importantly you need a terrific leader, and Spikes has been called the Tim Tebow of Florida’s defense. That speaks volumes about his leadership capability. Plus he hits extremely hard, has great instincts and is big and strong enough to attack and shed blocks from offensive linemen. If there is a player in that mold available early in the draft, like the 1st or 2nd round, I will make sure I get him if it possible.

Next I have to look at LT and NT. Both are equally important to their respective units in my opinion, so the order in which I acquire one is not important as long as I get a good one. Picking a guy early just to fill a need is not an interest of mine, and I would rather sign a stop-gap guy, draft someone in the mid-rounds and develop them into a potentially solid starter rather than reaching for someone that I don’t think will be able to play early or ever develop into a quality starter.

If I have either filled these four need positions or if there is not a quality player that I think warrants that early of a pick at those positions then I will look to strengthen my offensive and defensive fronts, or to grab a playmaker at RB, WR or a CB or S who can add depth and potentially develop into a starter. More or less, I look for a BPA. When your team is severely lacking in talent the more talent you can stockpile the better. And I have always considered the dilemma of:

Patrick Willis was the BPA for the 49ers at #11 and he has had the vastly superior career to most of the players selected ahead of him.

“Do you pick the best player even if he doesn’t fill a significant need or do you take a lesser player that fills a big need?” I would personally pick the better player nine times out of ten. Settling for a decent or solid player when you could get a good or even great player at a position of relative strength makes little sense to me, especially if your team is hurting for playmakers as the team you are now working to rebuild probably is. Imagine if the Falcons hadn’t picked Matt Ryan, and instead picked Glenn Dorsey because he would have filled a huge need. They would have been lucky to win five games in 2008, instead they went to the playoffs. Imagine if they hadn’t moved up to get Sam Baker, or if they hadn’t drafted Curtis Lofton? Those three players were terrific additions for that team, and they came at three of my key positions that I would seek to upgrade.

After the first year I would ideally have a team with a few quality players and a couple pillars of the team intact from my four key positions. If I have my franchise leaders at QB and ILB then that would be perfect, but that is a hard feat to accomplish. But like I said, you can’t be pressured to draft a QB in the first year of your regime. If you don’t think there is one that can lead you to a Superbowl and win it, don’t pick one. That is exactly how I felt about Sam Bradford this year, and that is why I think he and the Rams are going to be bad for a long time. Mark my words, if Bradford starts from day one he will be a bust and the Rams will regret picking him.

I know this was a long-winded post, but I think that it was good for me to get some of this down on some kind of word-processor and I think it should make for an interesting read. I think my blueprint for building a franchise is pretty solid even though I have no experience making personnel decisions in the NFL yet. Obviously this is just an outline, and you can’t force selections of my four key positions of QB, ILB, LT and NT. If there aren’t good players available in those classes, or if all the good ones are gone when you are picking, you are definitely better off moving on down the list and looking for another position. And if there is a player at another position, particularly one that is a need, that slid and you didn’t think he’d be available and you think he can help you win a Superbowl, go ahead and pick him. I suppose I subscribe to the BPA state of mind, but only to a certain extent. I’m not going to pick three QB’s in a row because I think they can all win me a Superbowl, that makes no sense. I would look for a BPA at another position and ignore the quality QB available early in the draft if I already had one.

So, hopefully you enjoyed reading this. If you have a comment feel free to leave one and I will make sure I respond to it.

Thanks for reading!

— Tom Melton