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The Vanilla Gorilla

April 17, 2011

This is pretty much the most absurd thing I’ve ever seen. Watch this behemoth dominate D-II players.

Meet Blaine Sumner–the Vanilla Gorilla who goes to Colorado School of Mines.

Draft Preview: AFC East

April 14, 2011

So by now everyone should know how a mock draft works, but sometimes it’s hard to dissect exactly what a team needs based on a mock draft. So these team guides should help you figure out what your team is going to do on draft day. Or not. We’ll see come Draft Weekend.

1. New England Patriots
2010 Record: 14-2
Season Finish: Divisional Round Loss
Draft Picks:
1st Round — 17th Overall (from Oakland)
1st Round — 28th Overall
2nd Round — 33rd Overall (from Carolina)
2nd Round — 60th Overall
3rd Round — 74th Overall (from Minnesota)
3rd Round — 92nd Overall
4th Round — 125th Overall
5th Round — 159th Overall
6th Round — 193rd Overall
Team Needs: RB, WR, OT, OG/C, 3-4 DE, 3-4 OLB, S

The Patriots have a surprising amount of needs for a team that went 14-2 and is already outrageously young. Even more credit to Bill Belichick for getting New England to 14-2 this season. New England has found a few studs via the draft in right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (likely the left tackle of the future in New England) and of course former first rounder Jerod Mayo. Devin McCourtey had a very good rookie season, though he still has to grow as a complete corner and not just a turnover machine. Still, the nucleus in New England should be exciting fans because the Patriots have essentially been able to rebuild without going through colossally bad seasons. The Patriots continue to perform well with role players at many positions, especially on defense. This is mainly because the offense has been so good that it puts the team in a position to win games.

The key to beating New England last season, was to keep their offense off the field, and force them into long yardage downs to exploit the weaknesses on the offensive line–something that the Jets were able to do twice last season.

The Patriots have a ton of draft picks to continue this process of rebuilding, though I expect the Patriots are likely to trade down at least once (as per their usual standard). I fear that Bill Belichick is biding his time with these draft picks, and that sooner or later, he is going to use the stockpile to go after an elite prospect. Or the other option is that Bill is simply very picky about what he adds to his team from a rookie standpoint (also very likely). Maybe it’s both.

Either way, it’s unimportant. New England has two very valuable picks at 28 and 33. With the expected run on quarterbacks on draft weekend, the Patriots could hold prime position to make a trade out with a team looking to move either direction. Andy Dalton could be someone a team trades up for in that position, though I think Dalton could suffer a similar draft day fall to Colt McCoy even though he’s a far superior prospect to McCoy. That being said, don’t expect New England to use either of their first two picks on a running back or wide receiver. There is a chance that not a single running back goes in the first round because of the devaluation of the position thanks to a plethora of good young backs around the league. Receiver is another position New England is young at, and may choose to address when free agency inevitably begins. The Pats are likely to go after a 3-4 defensive end or outside linebacker at 17th overall. They’ll be in prime position to snag J.J. Watt, Cameron Jordan, Brooks Reed, and a bevy of other good fits in the 3-4. It’s most likely that the Patriots wind up with a 5-tech DE at 17th overall, and my guess right now is J.J. Watt. At 28th, expect them to look at the offensive line. Logan Mankins future is uncertan, Stephen Neal retired, and Matt Light’s career is in it’s twilight. The Patriots will definitely address the line. There are a number of possibilities, including Benjamin Iljana of Villanova (a swing tackle/guard), Marcus Cannon (a big mauler who could play right tackle in a pinch), Mike Pouncey (an experienced guard who has also played center), Gabe Carimi (a great run blocking tackle who is still a little raw), and Derek Sherrod (an experienced technician who can play left or right tackle). I’m almost positive that New England will address either 3-4 DE, 3-4 OLB, or some part of the offensive line with their two first round picks.

Mark Ingram is a serious possibility at 33 if he falls, but the Patriots can likely snag Ryan Williams or Mikel Leshoure with their later 2nd round pick. Shane Vereen and Taiwan Jones will also be options with their second second or first third. Expect the Patriots to also address safety with Brandon Merriweather’s legal woes and a down season from him.

I could also see the Patriots drafting another developmental quarterback if they’ve filled all of their needs. Probably nothing before the 5th round.

2. New York Jets
2010 Record: 11-5
Season Finish: AFC Runner-Ups
Draft Picks:
1st Round — 30th Overall
3rd Round — 94th Overall
4th Round — 126th Overall
5th Round — 161st Overall
6th Round — 194th Overall
7th Round — 208th Overall (from Arizona)
Team Needs: Slot WR, Back-up TE, Back-up OL, 3-4 DE, 3-4 NT, 3-4 OLB, CB, S

The Jets are a team with a bevy of needs, and limited picks to fill them. When player movement becomes unlocked, I expect the Jets to go after a stop gap corner if they don’t retain the services of Antonio Cromartie. Kyle Wilson will not get handed the starting job, and will likely be the nickel corner in 2011. Don’t expect the Jets to draft a corner unless it’s late. At safety the Jets could go after one as early as the first round (Rahim Moore would be the choice) because Jim Leonhard is entering the final year of his contract and coming off of a major shin injury. Eric Smith, Brodney Pool, and James Ihedigbo are all free agents in some form. Smith is a great in-the-box safety, but awful in coverage. Brodney Pool was inconsistent in 2011, but was superb in the playoffs. If the Jets choose to re-sign Pool, it’s likely that they don’t draft a safety until the later rounds. Ihedigbo is a great special teams player and a hard-hitting safety, but can’t be relied on in coverage.

The front seven is where New York really needs to focus. Shaun Ellis may still be re-signed, but if he isn’t, the Jets will go into the season with Marcus Dixon as the bookend to Mike DeVito. Dixon is a project, and is nowhere near ready to be a starter. Ellis is likely to sign a one-year deal with New York, which could allow New York to wait until the 3rd or 4th round to draft a five tech unless one of the bigger names (J.J. Watt or Cameron Jordan) fall to the 30th overall pick. It’s most likely that the Jets go after a nose tackle (Phil Taylor or Jerrell Powe in the 3rd), or a 3-4 outside linebacker. At 30th overall Brooks Reed or Akeem Ayers are the top possibilities as far as availability go. Rahim Moore is likely to be the first safety drafted, and there’s an outside shot that he goes 30th overall. This is a weak safety class, and Moore could fall all the way to the second round.

The nose tackle situation is strange. Sione Pouha has done a fantastic job as a run-stuffer, but he’s like Chris Hoke or Ron Edwards. He’s undersized for a nose tackle, and doesn’t improve the Jets pass rush a lick. Kris Jenkins may get a try-out as he attempts another comeback from ACL surgery, but the Jets can’t count on him. They need someone who can command double teams in the passing game and open things up for the linebackers. If the Jets draft a nose tackle, he’s unlikely to start right away, but if he does, Pouha can rotate at nose tackle and at defensive end with another rookie, which might be the most ideal situation–getting Pouha out of the game on passing downs so he’s fresh for running situations. If the Jets can come away with a pro-ready nose tackle (which is very hard in the draft), they’re defense in 2011 could be outstanding (again).

On offense, the Jets are unlikely to draft a player in the first round. Braylon Edwards is likely to return, while Santonio Holmes status is up in the air, but it’s likely the Jets bring him back as long as they offer him Roddy White money (which he is definitely worth). Brad Smith is pretty much guaranteed to hit free agency unless the NFL installs the 2010 free agency rules which would restrict player movement. Joe McKnight is likely to take Smith’s role on special teams, but the Jets still badly need another wide receiver, especially with Jerricho Cotchery coming off of surgery this off-season.  If the Jets draft a receiver, it will likely be in the 5th or 6th round and likely be a prototypical slot man. The Jets also need a run-blocking back-up tight end to replace Ben Hartsock, but they may look elsewhere for that.

On the offensive line, the Jets are, for the most part, okay. Damien Woody may come back to New York on a cheaper deal after his Achilles surgery, but if he does leave, the Jets have decided to let Wayne Hunter and second round pick Vladamir Ducasse battle it out for the right tackle spot. If the Jets draft a lineman, it will be later, since Matt Slauson played well enough in 2010 to earn him a roster spot and a chance to compete at left guard for at least one more season.

The last possibility is New York trading out of the 30th overall pick for a team trying to snag one of the late first quarterbacks, but I find it very unlikely with how many defensive needs the Jets have. The only way it happens is if the best player remaining is Rahim Moore (or he is gone) and the Jets aren’t sold on him enough to late him in the first.

The Jets can make the playoffs again in 2011 if they can manufacture a pass rush, but the defense is about to see a lot of turnover. It’s going to be up to the Jets to keep Mark Sanchez growing and make sure he still has a big array of weapons in Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery, and Dustin Keller. In 2011, the Jets offense could carry the defense.

3. Miami Dolphins
2010 Record: 7-9
Season Finish: 3rd place in AFC East
Draft Picks:
1st Round — 15th Overall
3rd Round — 79th Overall
4th Round — 111th Overall
5th Round — 146th Overall
6th Round — 179th Overall
7th Round — 217th Overall
7th Round — 218th Overall (from Jacksonville)
7th Round — 235th Overall (Compensatory Selection)
Team Needs: QB, RB, WR, OL, FS

Miami’s defense was one of the best in the league last year, but they really struggled to force turnovers. Miami is holding onto nose tackle Paul Soliai by way of the franchise tag, and Soliai had a breakout year in 2010 as a run defender. With another good year, he could earn a big contract, but Miami can’t let him go. Don’t expect them to draft a nose tackle unless it’s late, but their front seven is fairly deep, so I don’t expect it.

What Miami really needs is a safety who can force turnovers. Yeremiah Bell is good in-the-box, but awful in coverage, and Chris Clemons is only an average starter who will be pushed by young back-up Reshad Jones for a role on defense in 2010. Jones may be the reason why Miami avoids drafting a safety. He is a terrific talent, but looks more like he’ll be the eventual replacement for Yeremiah Bell at strong safety. The other possibility for Miami is moving Sean Smith to safety and finding another number two corner. Miami is close to having a championship caliber defense. Now it’s all about forcing turnovers.

Offensively is where Miami needs a little make-over. Chad Henne is going to be the incumbent starter in 2011, but he could lose his job to a rookie if the Dolphins choose to draft one in round one, which I think is a serious possibility. At running back, the Dolphins are likely to let either Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams walk, and possibly both, which gives them a big need at running back, and makes them the most legitimate chance for Mark Ingram to go in the first half of round one. However, running back has lost some serious value with all the good young backs in the league, and Miami’s other needs and no second round pick may inspire them to try to trade down in the first round. The Dolphins are also looking for a vertical threat at receiver. Brandon Marshall is a terrific combination of possession and power, while Bess is purely a possession guy, but the Phins have to make it a priority to find a speed threat.

On the offensive line, the Dolphins are likely to address that later. Vernon Carey may get kicked inside to guard because of some injury problems, which would alleviate the team’s need at guard. If Carey stays at right tackle, the Phins will likely draft or sign someone to replace Richie Incognito, who has been a serious disappointment since he left St. Louis. The Dolphins may go after a late-round center. Jake Grove has plenty of talent, but has been an injury liability in year’s past.

I fully expect Miami to exit the first round with a quarterback–a  mobile quarterback. If Miami can trade down they are almost a guarantee, but I think they’re going to wind up with Colin Kaepernick or Blaine Gabbert if he falls (but that’s unlikely). I really think Colin Kaepernick is going to be a Dolphin in 2011.

Miami’s close, but Jeff Ireland doesn’t seem to care about his coach after the Harbaugh embarrassment this off-season where Ireland basically threw Sparano under the bus. I’m guessing that the Dolphins won’t have a problem drafting a quarterback, even though a veteran would help this team win now, because they are built to win now. This team could unravel in 2011…or it could rise to the occasion magnificently.

4. Buffalo Bills
2010 Record: 4-12
Season Finish: 4th Place in AFC East
Draft Picks:
1st Round — 3rd Overall
2nd Round — 34th Overall
3rd Round — 68th Overall
4th Round — 100th Overall
4th Round — 122nd Overall
5th Round — 133rd Overall
6th Round — 169th Overall
7th Round — 206th Overall
7th Round — 245th Overall (Compensatory Selection)
Team Needs: QB, TE, OT, 3-4 DE, 3-4 ILB, 3-4 OLB, CB, S Depth

Offensively, Buffalo was able to pick it up down the stretch thanks to the Chan Gailey offense, and inspired play from smart player Ryan Fitzpatrick and scrappy receiver Steve Johnson. Is it enough to make Buffalo a contender? Not by a long shot. The Bills were dead last in turnover differential and still need a lot of help in their transition to the 3-4 defense.

They have plenty of picks, but their first one will be the most important for the franchise since Jim Kelly in 1983. Buffalo could go with the best defensive player in Von Miller or Patrick Peterson, but they are hoping Carolina passes on Newton at first overall and they can snag him up. Newton and Gailey seems like a match made in heaven. Newton’s got the athleticism to do wonders in the Gailey offense, and Gailey is a smart quarterback coach who could help Newton fix his many glaring flaws. If the Bills can’t grab Newton, I expect them to take the best defensive player UNLESS the Bills are sold on Blaine Gabbert as a franchise quarterback (he would be a good fit for Gailey too). Tyron Smith has an outside shot at going 3rd overall, as an extremely athletic offensive tackle who can play on the left side. Buffalo’s Demetrius Bell has turned into an adequate tackle, but if they feel Smith is going to live up to his talent then Bell will move to the right side and supplant Mansfield Wrotto. The most likely pick is Miller.

Buffalo will likely try and snag a quarterback, but will have to trade into the late 1st to do it. It’s not out of the question, but they need someone with the arm to cut through the winds of Buffalo, and that sort of eliminates Christian Ponder and Andy Dalton. Ryan Mallett is probably not athletic enough to do it either, as he seems to be Drew Bledsoe with an attitude problem. If Buffalo doesn’t come away with a quarterback within the first 34 picks I will be shocked.

The Bills drafted Alex Carrington and Torrell Troup last year to help with the 3-4 conversion in the trenches, but they are both a ways away from contributing. The Bills will likely look to add another 3-4 DE, and if they do I could see someone like a Stephen Paea or Lawrence Guy from Arizona State. If the Bills do wind up taking a quarterback 3rd overall, they’re almost a lock to take a pass rusher with the 34th overall pick. This is an extremely deep class for pass rushers, and if Brooks Reed falls to 34, would be a perfect fit. One thing’s for sure, Aaron Maybin won’t be a contributor and Chris Kelsay must be replaced. Arthur Moats is a great athlete, but he’s still raw.

Paul Posluszny and Donte Whitner are both likely to hit free agency, though I think Poz returns. Whitner is likely to seek a big time contract from a team that will be disappointed with his play. The Bills will definitely address the secondary, but likely not until later. In a perfect world, the Bills would get Cam Newton at 3rd overall and maybe Brooks Reed or Justin Houston at 34.

Expect the AFC East to continue to be New England’s for at least one more season, with New York and Miami still hot on their tail and battling for that wildcard spot. Buffalo is going to be in the dumps for a while, but a Newton-Gailey union could finally put them on the right path.

It Feels So Good to be Mocked by You (Round Three!)

April 8, 2011

65. Carolina Panthers — Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
Paea is an athletic nose tackle who is well-rounded, but lacks size. This makes him a poor fit for a 3-4, but Carolina will likely be sticking with a 4-3 under scheme diverse coach Ron Rivera. This makes Paea a perfect fit for a guy who will probably go in round two, and still has an outside shot to sneak into round one if a team falls in love with him. The Panthers may avoid this route already with two young defensive tackles in Derek Landri and Nick Hayden, but neither player is as good against the run is Paea. The Panthers may also go after a corner here with Richard Marshall unlikely to return to Carolina.

66. Cincinnati Bengals — Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech
Poor off-season workouts, a redshirt sophomore tag, and an overload of young running backs in the NFL cause a first round talent in Ryan Williams to drop all the way to the start of round three (and maybe further). Cincinnati will have no qualms about snagging Williams as the feature back to likely replace Cedric Benson.

67. Denver Broncos — Ricky Stanzi, QB, Iowa
Stanzi’s stock has flown all over the map this off-season, but round three is his most likely destination. He’s a big-strong armed quarterback who comes from a pro-style offense in Iowa. Stanzi has drawn some comparisons to Tom Brady as a prospect. Some believe he can still grow into his body even more and develop a bigger arm. But Stanzi’s physical tools aren’t the problem, he’s incredibly inconsistent in ball placement, but he’s a nice project to take in the third round, because most quarterbacks won’t be quite as polished as Stanzi. The only problem is you never know which Ricky Stanzi is going to show up. For Denver, I don’t doubt that Elway doesn’t believe in Tim Tebow. I just don’t think they’re going to draft a quarterback in round one or two with all the needs. I think Elway will hedge his bets with Orton and Tebow while grooming Stanzi to inevitably take the job.

68. Buffalo Bills — Kenrick Ellis, NT, Hampton
Ellis is a behemoth of a man at 6’5” 346 pounds and may wind up being taken in round two. But he has off-field concerns after being booted from the South Carolina football team. Still, Ellis has NFL talent and projects favorably to former Texas A&M nose tackle Red Bryant.

69. Arizona Cardinals — Julius Thomas, TE, Portland State
This may be a little high for Thomas, but the tight end class is pretty weak in 2011 and Thomas’ measurables are pretty outstanding.  He’s 6’5”, 246 pounds with room to add on some weight. The former basketball player is trying to become another one of the converted tight ends. Again, it may be early, but it’s hard to find a combination of size and speed like Thomas’.

70. Cleveland Browns — James Brewer, OT, Alabama
A player with rising stock who could sneak into the second round, Brewer is considered one of the most well-rounded tackles to come out of Alabama in years. He will play right tackle in Cleveland, but could play on either side.

71. Dallas Cowboys — Robert Sands, S, West Virginia
Sands is a big safety. He could play linebacker at the next level, but I think he’s fluid enough to play coverage. He takes great angles to the ball-carrier and has surprisingly good range in coverage. He’s a sleeper at safety.

72. New Orleans Saints (from Washington) — Allen Bailey, DE, Miami (FL)
Bailey is in the same mold as Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap. Plenty of talent, but seems to have a switch that he doesn’t often turn on.

73. Houston Texans — Dontay Moch, OLB, Nevada
Guys who can fly like Dontay Moch are hard to come by. He’s a project at this point, with a long way to go, but athletically he can hang with anyone in the NFL.

74. New England Patriots (from Minnesota) — Rodney Hudson, OG, Florida State
Hudson has an outside shot at going in round two, but some size concerns may scare teams off. Technically though, he’s among the most sound linemen in the draft and can play either guard or center.

75. Detroit Lions — Ugo Chinasa, DE, Oklahoma State
Built along the same lines as Daniel Te’o Neisheim, Chinasa is a solid athlete with a great frame. He’s not going to wow you as a pass rusher, but he could be a solid left end at the next level.

76. San Francisco 49ers — Nathan Enderle, QB, Idaho
Enderle didn’t capitalize on what could have been a good off-season for him, but his big frame and big arm and pro-style pedigree will endear him to the NFL. Lesser competition will hold him out of the early rounds, and could drop him into the fourth or fifth.

77. Tennessee Titans — Shareece Wright, CB, Miami (FL)
Wright is a film-nut, and while he may not necessarily be the most athletic corner in this draft, his intense dedication could make him a big-time sleeper.

78. St. Louis Rams — Sione Fua, DT, Stanford
Fua is an ideal fit to play nose in a 4-3, which is one thing St. Louis absolutely needs. Fred Robbins had a great year in 2010, but Robbins is 34 and won’t be able to continue much longer. St. Louis needs strong interior play to let ends Chris Long and James Hall see one-on-one matchups.

79. Miami Dolphins — Edmund Gates, WR, Abilene Christian
A speedster and a burner, Gates is a project who will need some time to develop, but possesses young Steve Smith speed.

80. Jacksonville Jaguars — Austin Pettis, WR, Boise State
Pettis is more of a possession receiver then counterpart Titus Young, but he is a solid route runner and has good balance.

81. Oakland Raiders — Tandon Doss, WR, Indiana
Doss has been a decent producer on a team that hasn’t been great. He may not be a burner, but he catches just about everything thrown his way. Think Jerricho Cotchery.

82. San Diego Chargers — Marcus Gilbert, RT, Florida
An ideal right tackle, Gilbert is very strong and very big. He won’t ever be much of a left tackle, but he can be the mauling run blocker  on the right side.

83. New York Giants — Shane Vereen, RB, California
With running backs sliding all over the place, the Giants have no choice but to use the value here. Vereen reminds me a lot of Ahmad Bradshaw, but without the fumbling problems. He could develop into a contributor in New York if Bradshaw’s fumbling problems continue to be a detriment to the team.

84. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Pernell McPhee, DE, Mississippi State
McPhee is pretty athletic, but battled some weight problems in 2010 that hindered his production. Tampa Bay’s Raheem Morris does a great job at motivating players like this, and could find a steal here in the third.

85. Philadelphia Eagles — Daniel Thomas, RB, Kansas State
The Eagles are known to be looking for a good compliment to McCoy, and finding a power back would be ideal. McCoy is ideal as a pass catcher out of the backfield and as a home run threat. Finding someone for short-yardage and complimentary situations would be ideal, and Thomas is a big compact 6’1” 230 pound back.

86. Kansas City Chiefs — Jerrell Powe, NT, Ole Miss
Powe’s stock took a big hit after Ole Miss played him out of position as an undertackle, but Powe is one of the few ideal nose tackles in this draft. He could still go in round two, maybe even round one if a team falls in love with him enough, but he’s likely to still be available in round three and the Chiefs know that Ron Edwards would be better in a rotational role.

87. Indianapolis Colts — DeMarcus Van Dyke, CB, Miami (FL)
Another awesome athlete to come from the U, “DVD” has been a fast riser, and may not even be available in the third round come Draft Weekend. Another project, but a high-upside one.

88. New Orleans Saints — Lawrence Wilson, OLB, Connecticut
The Saints always seem to need some help in the linebacking corps., and Wilson is a very good athlete who would work well in Gregg Williams diverse scheme. In most year’s Wilson may be a second round pick, but with the lack of value on the 4-3 OLB position, he will fall on draft day.

89. San Diego Chargers — DeAndre McDaniel, S, Clemson
McDaniel is a big safety with good ball skills, but isn’t the most consistent–usually how a talented player finds his way into round three.

90. Baltimore Ravens — Jah Reid, OT, Central Florida
Reid is a project, but he’s an excellent athlete and could supplant Michael Oher at left tackle where he’s only been average. Moving Oher back to the right side where he’s an elite player would be extremely beneficial to the Ravens running game.

91. Atlanta Falcons — Greg Romeus, DE, Pittsburgh
Romeus is one of the best pure 4-3 defensive ends in the draft, but has been unable to workout this off-season because of back surgery.  Still he’s an outstanding run defender with a big frame who has shown some skill rushing the passer as well. He’s well-rounded and could wind up being a steal once he’s healthy.

92. New England Patriots — Vincent Brown, WR, San Diego State
Some poor 40’s may hurt his draft stock, but Brown is one of those players who will catch just about everything thrown his way despite his small stature (5’11”, 187 pounds). Think Giants Steve Smith.

93. Chicago Bears — Terrance Toliver, WR, LSU
Martz isn’t a big fan of tall receivers, but Toliver should be athletic enough to run his system, and gives Cutler an extra weapon in the red zone.

94. New York Jets — Lawrence Guy, DE, Arizona State
The Jets are about to begin rebuilding the front seven. Having them take a nose tackle in round one, they need to add another end here to play in the 3-4. Lawrence Guy reminds me of former Purdue Boilmaker Mike Neal. He’s best when he can tie up a linemen. The Jets will have to address their outside linebackers eventually, because the lack of speed off the edge is very noticeable in New York’s defense. But the Jets have to focus on the trenches first and foremost.

95. Pittsburgh Steelers — Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State
Pittsburgh has nice power backs in Mendenhall and Redman, but the Steelers need a guy who can catch the ball out of the backfield and Rodgers is perfect for that role (he can also return kicks/punts).

96. Green Bay Packers — Chimdi Chekwa, CB, Ohio State
The Packers have had a tendency to turn athletic corners into big time stars. Chekwa has been a little under appreciated out of Ohio State, but he could be a stud in the NFL with athleticism like his.

97. Carolina Panthers — Dwayne Harris, WR, East Carolina
A speedy, agile receiver with return ability, Harris reminds me a bit of a faster Laveranues Coles.

It Feels So Good to be Mocked by You (Round Two!)

April 6, 2011

33. New England Patriots (from Carolina) — Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA
Carolina losing this pick is an obvious pain for a team that finished with just two wins. And for New England, they continue to acquire draft picks. While it’s likely at some point the Patriots trade down, there is no way to project that (I personally think this will be the pick that they trade…33rd overall is a heavily valued pick). Either way, since I’m not projecting trades, the Patriots make a move for safety Rahim Moore. Brandon Merriweather’s off-season trouble is just the tip of the iceberg of a player that is severely overrated and struggled in coverage last year. Bill Belichick loves competition, and Moore is the type of ball hawk who can provide.

34. Buffalo Bills — Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada
An extremely good consolation prize for Buffalo after missing out on Cam Newton, Chan Gailey can get a quarterback of similar playing style but who is a more natural passer. Still, Kaepernick has his obvious flaws–including the system he comes from, a long release, and a lanky frame. He’s been adding weight, but there is no telling how that will affect his game at the next level. Buffalo may have to trade into the late first to get Kaepernick, but I expect Buffalo to come away with a quarterback within these first 34 picks.

35. Cincinnati Bengals — Andy Dalton, QB, TCU
Dalton’s stock has had a Kellen Clemens-esque rise over the past few weeks with ESPN’s Trent Dilfer going so far as to say he guaranteed that Dalton won’t get out of the first round. If teams trade into the back-end of the first, it’s not at all out of the question that Dalton gets drafted. He’s a prime fit for Cincinnati’s new West Coast Offense under Jay Gruden. The Bengals have no choice but to add a quarterback in some form, since the position is totally depleted with or without Carson Palmer.

36. Denver Broncos — Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame
The Broncos have enough needs, that even though I believe John Elway doesn’t like Tim Tebow, I also believe that they’d rather grab a mid-round developmental player and let Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow battle it out for the top job. The Broncos offense was gutted by Josh McDaniels, but still managed to produce in his pass-happy offense. Even so, the Broncos are not a team that is anywhere close to short-term or long-term success unless Tim Tebow turns into a franchise quarterback.

37. Cleveland Browns — Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
He’s not a spectacular athlete, and his lack of versatility (i.e. inability to play LB in a 3-4) will likely cost him a bit of money. He could go as high as 16 to Jacksonville, but with the probable draft day fall of Da’Quon Bowers its going to push some of the pass rushers with round one grades into round two. Kerrigan is a high-motor, high-intensity player who follows in a long line of good Purdue pass rushers. He’s not in the same mold as Shaun Phillips or Cliff Avril in style, but he will, at worst, be a good starting left end in the NFL.

38. Arizona Cardinals — Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
The speedy Aaron Williams can join an already athletic Arizona secondary that may also need help at safety depending on the health of Adrian Wilson.

39. Tennessee Titans — Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina
Austin would have been a top ten pick if he had played during the regular season. I don’t like him as much as predecessor Cam Thomas, but Austin is a better pass rusher.

40. Dallas Cowboys — Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia
Dowling’s athleticism was on display at his recent pro day, confirming that he’d be able to stay at press corner early in his career. Dowling has the size to play safety like former Cavalier Chris Cook and Hokie Jimmy Williams. Dowling’s athleticism would really suit him in a 3-4 man-to-man based defense which is what Rob Ryan will likely run.

41. Washington Redskins — Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami (FL)
Hankerson is looking like a solid number two, maybe a borderline number one. The Redskins would do well to come away with Julio Jones in the first round, but it’s unlikely that they do.

42. Houston Texans — Deunta Williams, S, North Carolina
No safety has yet to emerge as a top prospect, and that’s unlikely to change in the final weeks leading up to the draft. Williams won’t wow anyone with his natural talent, but he’ll force a few turnovers at the next level. He’s in the same mold as San Francisco’s Da’Shon Goldson.

43. Minnesota Vikings — Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
The most controversial quarterback in this draft? It seems like a title that everyone’s competing for. The best natural quarterback, but also supposed to be the biggest head case. Mallett could go late in the first, but more than likely is a second round pick for a team that runs a vertical based offense to capitalize on Mallett’s monstrous arm and frame. He’s going to need a good pass blocking line, because not only does Mallett struggle with pressure, but he’s a statue in the pocket.

44. Detroit Lions — Curtis Brown, CB, Texas
Detroit has no choice but to address their offensive line in the first round, but the secondary is easily the biggest weakness on Detroit’s defense.  I’m not a huge fan of UT players, but Brown is as gifted as they come (aren’t all UT players?).

45. San Francisco 49ers — Justin Houston, DE/OLB, Georgia
I’m not a big Houston fan, but he’s incredibly gifted. He’s got Vernon Gholston’s physique, but with incredible edge speed. He doesn’t have any pass rushing moves, so he’s going to need some help if he ever wants the chance to succeed.

46. Denver Broncos (from Miami) — Quinton Carter, S, Oklahoma
I’m not his biggest fan, but a good off-season has landed Carter in the second round. At 6’1” 208 and good in coverage, Carter reminds me a bit of Kerry Rhodes (just smaller). Carter needs to improve his tackling and the angles he takes to become a truly solid NFL safety.

47. St. Louis Rams — Titus Young, WR, Boise State
Incredibly speedy, Young possesses more than enough athleticism to cause secondaries fits at the next level. He won’t be an immediate success, but if used similar to DeSean Jackson in his rookie season Young could have rookie of the year potential.

48. Oakland Raiders — Devon House, CB, New Mexico State
With Aso and Michael Huff both likely leaving Oakland, the Raiders are going to be looking at adding some new athletic defensive backs, and House is as athletic as they come in the secondary.

49. Jacksonville Jaguars — Stefan Wisniewski, C, Penn State
He’s moved into the role as top center in the draft and could sneak into the first round, but centers are not in high demand in 2011 anyway. He gets great leverage off the snap, but he’s also not a super athlete.

50. San Diego Chargers — Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
He’s got first round talent, but it doesn’t always show up on tape. Ayers is good enough in coverage to play linebacker in either a 3-4 or a 4-3. He’s a great pass rusher, but not always the best finisher. He reminds me in a lot of ways of Calvin Pace.

51. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Brandon Burton, CB, Utah
Burton is a very good cover corner who could fit in just about any system thanks to his size and tackling skill. The Bucs don’t know if Ronde Barber is returning, and Aqib Talib is in danger of never playing football again. The Bucs want to address the DE position again at some point, but ignoring the threat of losing both their top corners is not an option.

52. New York Giants — Mason Foster, OLB, Washington
He’s big, fast, and can really hit. Foster’s a compact, disciplined run defender with athletic talent to play weakside or in the middle. He’s like a cross of Jonathan Vilma and Lance Briggs. If pure 4-3 linebackers like Foster were more in demand he’d probably be a first round pick. The Giants experiment with Clint Sintim is failing hard right now, and he’s likely better suited for a 3-4.

53. Indianapolis Colts — Marcus Cannon, OG, TCU
Cannon is a mammoth mauling linemen who will likely play guard in the NFL, but could kick outside to right tackle in a pinch. This 350 pound beast has surprisingly good footwork. There’s actually a chance Cannon goes as high as 29 to Chicago, so the value here is too hard to pass up.

54. Philadelphia Eagles — James Brewer, OT/OG, Indiana
Brewer is an athletic tackle who people compare to last year’s Indiana line prospect Rodger Saffold. He’s a bit more athletic than Saffold, but not quite as refined in pass protection.

55. Kansas City Chiefs — Jabaal Sheard, DE/OLB, Pittsburgh
Sheard’s great workouts have likely cemented his grade as a second round pick. He’s a talented enough pass rusher, but has been inconsistent on the field.

56. New Orleans Saints — Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois
A big power back who should remind you of Rashard Mendenhall (though not quite as agile), Leshoure could go as high as the first round, but he plays a position that is undervalued in today’s NFL. Leshoure has the speed to hit home runs, but won’t necessarily make people miss. Think a more athletic (and smarter) version of LaGarrette Blount.

57. Seattle Seahawks — Adrian Clayborne, DE, Iowa
This is a really far fall for a guy who possesses enough talent to be a Top 15 pick,  but Clayborne is probably strictly a 4-3 DE and has a checkered background that will cause his stock to fall. Still, Seattle isn’t locked into anyone at end, and can’t pass up on a talent like Clayborne.

58. Baltimore Ravens — Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky
Cobb is a more natural receiver then former utility man Dexter McCluster, but Cobb is still going to be used very much in wildcat packages. He’s a game changer on the field, and if Baltimore can’t get Torrey Smith, then it’s substitute for a big-play offense should be wildcat packages that feature Ray Rice and Randall Cobb.

59. Atlanta Falcons — Jernel Jernigan, WR, Troy
Jernigan is a speedster who will compliment Roddy White and add much needed speed to a slow-moving Falcons offense, but he’s a ways away from contributing.

60. New England Patriots — Joseph Barksdale, OT, LSU
Barksdale could play either side of the tackle box, and pairing him with stud Sebastian Vollmer will inevitably lead to one of the most well-rounded lines in New England. Barksdale is a true technician with great strength and is very well-rounded. He could start from day one, with his only real weakness being that he is not great at any one thing, but good at many things. In a versatile offense like New England’s, you can’t ask for much else.

61. San Diego Chargers (from New York Jets) — Greg Little, WR, North Carolina
Some have thought that Little may go undrafted because of character flaws, but he is an outstanding athlete who is the body of a linebacker. With the futures of Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd both unsettled, the Chargers have to address wide receiver early.

62. Chicago Bears — Bruce Carter, OLB, North Carolina
One of the many outstanding athletes to emerge from UNC, Bruce Carter is recovering from a torn ACL and has not been able to workout this off-season. Had Carter been able to work out, he may have snuck his way into the first round, even at a position that is not as important in today’s NFL.

63. Pittsburgh Steelers — Marcus Gilchrist, CB, Clemson
The uber-talented corner reminds me a little of Perrish Cox in terms of his inconsistencies on tape. But when you watch Gilchrist play up to form, he’s a first round pick. Let’s just hope he doesn’t have the same legal woes as Cox.

64. Green Bay Packers — Sam Acho, DE/OLB, Texas
I’m not a huge Acho fan. He’s lanky–enough that even at 263 he could afford to add some more weight. He lacks pass rushing moves, and really needs refinement in his technique, but his a superb athlete and I don’t doubt that Dom Capers could do wonders with this type of natural athlete.

Round three to be up tonight! Stay tuned…

It Feels So Good to be Mocked by You…04.07.11

April 6, 2011
  1. Carolina Panthers (2-14) – Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
    For months now I’ve been saying that Cam Newton is an obvious boom-or-bust prospect. He could be the next Ben Roethlisberger. He could also be the next JaMarcus Russell. Personally, I don’t see the Russell comparisons at all. Not only was Russell an Al Davis pick (meaning he probably should have gone in the middle of the first), but his passion for the game and off-field decision making were even more in question then Newton’s. Russell, while possessing incredible size and an awesome arm, had no feel for the pass rush like Newton does. It’s going to take a little coaching, but Newton has everything you need from a franchise quarterback.  Also consider the fact that Ron Rivera has all but endorsed Newton as his pick, and Marty Hurney felt the need to come out and defend Newton’s character from Nolan Nawrocki’s scathing scouting report (though he did write the same things about Jimmy Clausen last year…so that’s something to look out for). I’m starting to think though that Newton to Carolina is pretty much a done deal, since Carolina will only take A.J. Green if they can move down and I can’t see that happening.I don’t necessarily disagree with a lot of things in Nawrocki’s scouting report, but seeing as he’s never met Newton it seems difficult to personally attack him for having a “fake smile.” He does hit one thing on the head though–Newton’s success will make or break Marty Hurney’s career.
  2. Denver Broncos (4-12) – Marcel Dareus, DT, Alabama
    Dareus may not be the most eloquent off-the-field, but he lets his play on the field do the talking. Dareus is as gifted as they come and projects as the ideal 4-3 defensive tackle. He can penetrate and is just as disciplined a run stopper. There may not be a safer pick in this draft then Marcel Dareus. He’s not Ndamukong Suh, but he should have a very good NFL career.
  3. Buffalo Bills (4-12) – Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
    I’ve been really starting to see some things about Von Miller I don’t like. Notably, he seems to really lack any pass rushing moves and that’s a major red flag at the next level. It’s been the death knell of really every big-time pass rushing prospect in the last two decades. One thing to ease the concerns of the fans of the team that drafts Miller is this recent column about Miller’s drive to be the best. If it’s true, then when an NFL coach gets a hold of him, Miller’s shortcomings will turn into strengths. I don’t think he’s going to contribute right away, but I could see him, again with proper coaching, being a real success by his second year.
  4. Cincinnati Bengals (4-12) – A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
    Carson Palmer will never play for Cincinnati again. Mike Brown won’t trade Carson Palmer unless he gets a first round pick. No team in the NFL is likely to give up a first (though a desperate QB needy team that wants to win now could give up two seconds). The Bengals need to a quarterback, but Gabbert really doesn’t fit the West Coast Offense of new coordinator Jay Gruden. The Bengals would be better off simply taking the best player available and going after Kevin Kolb or Alex Smith in the off-season.
  5. Arizona Cardinals (5-11) – Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri

    Aldon Smith against KU

    My favorite player in the draft, I think Aldon Smith will be a stud regardless of team or position. Ideally I’d like to see him play 4-3 defensive end, but there’s no question he’s athletic enough to play linebacker in a 3-4. I see him as the next DeMarcus Ware. He has a bevy of pass rushing moves, outstanding physical attributes, and a great motor. What’s the main concern? He has to stay healthy after an injury-plagued sophomore season in 2010-11. He’s also a redshirt-sophomore, so he’s developmentally still young. Redshirt sophomores tend not to contribute at the next level until there second or third seasons. A healthy Smith will get there though. I can’t imagine Arizona taking a quarterback here, because Ken Wisenhunt’s Super Bowl loss will only hold up for so long if the Cardinals continue to have losing seasons. The team badly needs a quarterback, but the team is built to win now and they have young QB prospects on the roster. Arizona’s best bet is to go after a veteran and see if John Skelton or Max Hall develop. Kevin Kolb and Donovan McNabb would both be nice fits here.

  6. Cleveland Browns (5-11) – Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
    Julio Jones is another player I’m totally sold on, and a perfect fit for the West Coast Offense. An outstanding run blocker and route runner, my only concern is that Cleveland in there desperation for a pass rusher will choose to pass on Jones. However, this draft is incredibly deep with pass rushers, and finding one at the beginning of round two will not be difficult. Blaine Gabbert will again be an option here, but I think Holmgren is prepared to let Colt McCoy quarterback for a full season (before realizing it’s a mistake).
  7. San Francisco 49ers (6-10) – Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
    Gabbert’s slide could end here, but San Francisco has enough talent to win immediately in the weak NFC West. They’d be better suited to draft an impact player in round one and then take a pro-ready quarterback in the beginning of round two (or go after Kevin Kolb or Donovan McNabb in the summer when the lockout inevitably ends).
  8. Tennessee Titans (6-10) – Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
    Tennesse seems to be as perfect a fit for Gabbert as anywhere else in the league. They’ve got a strong offensive line, running attack, seriously good young prospects in the passing game in Kenny Britt and Jared Cook and a defense that is good, but fell apart down the stretch as the team came apart at the seams. With a rookie head coach, it seems only too perfect for Tennessee to grab a rookie quarterback as well, which has been running trend. I don’t love Gabbert, but I do like him. I can see him having above average success in the NFL, and if on the right team, maybe even winning a Super Bowl. He doesn’t lack talent, he’s just never put it all together. He’s never been overly impressive and his downfield accuracy is quite poor. That being said, Gabbert might be the rallying point that helps a team like Tennessee get back to winning. The other option here is Prince Amukamara, and it’ll be tough to pass him up because Amukamara is the only corner who can really compare to Patrick Peterson.
  9. Dallas Cowboys (6-10) – Tyron Smith, OT, USC
    While it seems a little suspicious that a report would come out so close to the draft indicating that Dallas’ top choice is Tyson Smith, it should not shock anybody that Smith is on the top of the Cowboys draft board. Smith’s stock is red hot right now. His impressive athleticism has made him a candidate to play either left or right tackle in the NFL, versatility that can be hard to come by. This report also says that Dallas may want to trade down, which I actually believe. Dallas doesn’t need to take a right tackle at 9th overall. Pure right tackles usually don’t go this high, and it could be an attempt to garner more interest in Smith and allow the Cowboys to force a trade with some team looking to land a Top 10 pick. Smith is highly unlikely to go before this pick, so Dallas is in prime position to try a trade down.
  10. Washington Redskins (6-10) – Jake Locker, QB, Washington
    All reasonable logic says there is absolutely 100% no freaking way that Jake Locker goes 10th overall. There are only two people who can really tell us the answer to this–Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan. Locker is undoubtedly the most polarizing quarterback or player outside of Cam Newton. He has been described as going from anywhere in the top ten picks to the third round. The disparity is unbelievable. Will Washington draft Jake Locker? Yes. I really think they will. Shanahan is said to love Locker’s skill set and how it fits into his offense. What’s probably going to happen? A team wanting to trade up and snag Amukamara or Fairley who will likely fall out of the top ten will come up. If Washington can move back into the late teen’s, this pick really won’t be as bad for the franchise since they can at least get some valued draft picks out of it.
  11. Houston Texans (6-10) – Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
    Taking back-to-back first round corners is becoming more and more necessary in the NFL as cornerback becomes a prime position thanks to the use of five-wide offenses. Amukamara is my favorite corner in this draft, and the best pure cover corner. He won’t make plays like Peterson, but he has the capability to shut down an entire side of the field. I could see him going as high as seven to San Francisco.
  12. Minnesota Vikings (6-10) – Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
    Fairley’s big time drop-off in stock doesn’t change his amazing talent, and in Minnesota he’s a near perfect fit. Fairley is a penetrator in the mold of Glenn Dorsey. He needs to be in a 4-3 where he can play undertackle. Kevin Williams can move to 4-3 nose with Pat Williams likely gone. I’m not sold on Letroy Guion, and Minnesota may be willing to pass on other tackles to let Kevin Williams and Guion run the interior, but if Fairley falls here it would be foolish for Minnesota to pass up such a talent.
  13. Detroit Lions (6-10) – Anthony Castanzo, OT, Boston College
    Alright fine I’ll give in on Castanzo. For a while I was not particularly sold on the BC product, but recent comparisons to Jake Long are starting to make sense. He’s a disciplined pass protector and a good run blocker, but necessarily elite in either area. Detroit knows keeping Matthew Stafford upright is now priority one.
  14. St. Louis Rams (7-9) – Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
    Quinn’s stock has been going up and down, but I think as long as Cleveland doesn’t take him at 6, he can fall all the way to 14 where the Rams will happily add him to a defensive line that overachieved in 2010.
  15. Miami Dolphins (7-9) – Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
    Despite several reports that Miami isn’t going to draft Mark Ingram, I’m not buying it. I do agree that running backs value has severely dropped off because of the successes of players like Arian Foster, but Ingram is the best back in this class, a dynamic runner, and fills possibly Miami’s biggest off-season need. With free agency and trades looking grim, this is a pretty cut and dry decision.
  16. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8) – Cameron Jordan, DE, California
    Teams are beginning to buy Jordan in either a 3-4 or a 4-3, and the Jaguars could have a very versatile, diverse, and scary pass rush by reuniting 2010 1st round pick Tyson Alualu with Cameron Jordan.
  17. New England Patriots (from Oakland, 8-8) – J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
    There may not be a better five tech defensive end in the 2011 NFL Draft, making Watt a perfect selection for a team that is going to be seriously dangerous if they can ever develop a good pass rusher that will allow them not to have to manufacture one in each season. Watt helps with the manufacturing process, and New England will address the pure pass rush later.
  18. San Diego Chargers (9-7) – Muhammed Wilkerson, DE, Temple

    Muhammed Wilkerson

    His stock is skyrocketing up, and this is unquestionably San Diego’s biggest need. Wilkerson is said to be coveted by Baltimore at 26, so a trade up may not be out of the question.

  19. New York Giants (10-6) – Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
    I really think the Giants are going to take a long hard look at a running back, but inevitably allow Bradshaw a chance to correct his fumbling issues. The Giants offensive line is beginning to deteriorate, but they don’t need an immediate upgrade at tackle, which is perfect for Solder. They can ease Solder in as a swing tackle while he continues to develop his technique.
  20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-6) – Da’Quon Bowers, DE, Clemson
    Finally somebody takes the risk on Bowers, who just a few short weeks ago was a candidate to go first overall. But teams seem legitimately concerned about Bowers possibility of needing microfracture surgery and his availability for 2011. Now Andre Smith still went 6th overall in 2009 despite more concerns than just his injuries (and Michael Crabtree 10th overall in 2009 as well), but Bowers has not had a positive review since the season ended. Tampa Bay is the type of team who will take a risk on a guy who when healthy could be a prototypical blind side rusher.
  21. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6) – Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland
    The Chiefs will take a long-hard look at Phil Taylor, but they need a game-breaking receiver. They’ve already got a great possession and red zone threat in Dwayne Bowe, a good young tight end in Tony Moeaki, and a utility man in Dexter McCluster. They need a legit number two who can stretch the field in lieu of losing Charlie Weis and his creative packages and playcalling.
  22. Indianapolis Colts (10-6) – Derrek Sherrod, OT, Missisippi State
    Sherrod is one of the most underrated players in this draft. He reminds me a lot of Michael Oher. He can play on the left side if asked, but can dominate on the right. Possibly the most technically sound of all the linemen in this draft.
  23. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) – Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
    Character concerns may drop Smith entirely out of round one, but Philadelphia is rumored to be one of the teams that isn’t concerned with Smith’s character issues.
  24. New Orleans Saints (11-5) – Corey Liguet, DT, Illinois
    Another fast-riser, Liguet may find himself still available at the start of round two, but New Orleans run-stopping was not up to par with Remi Adoyele starting at nose tackle.
  25. Seattle Seahawks (7-9) – Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
    Quarterbacks are trending upwards with teams afraid they won’t be able to acquire free agents or other NFLers before the draft. Ponder is a perfect fit in any West Coast offense and is pro ready. To me he’s simply Trent Edwards on wheels, and I don’t think he merits a first round grade. Right now though, Ponder’s stock is slowly creeping up to first round status.
  26. Baltimore Ravens (12-4) – Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
    The Ravens are said to covet a five-tech end, and with Torrey Smith off the board as well, the Ravens can still snag a five-tech in what is a heavy draft for 3-4 players.
  27. Atlanta Falcons (13-3) – Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
    Carimi still needs a bit of work before he’s a finished project, but he’s an excellent athlete and a strong run blocker.
  28. New England Patriots (14-2) – Brooks Reed, OLB, Arizona

    If there is one thing the rest of the league should fear, it's Brooks Reed on New England.

    Possibly the steal of the draft, Reed’s motor, pass rushing moves, and hair have earned him fair comparisons to Clay Matthews. If Reed shows even half the on-field instinct as Matthews, he’s going to be every bit as good as Clay.

  29. Chicago Bears (11-5) – Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida
    I won’t be at all shocked if Pittsburgh trades up to snag Maurkice’s brother, but Mike Pouncey is a really solid offensive guard who simply can’t play center.
  30. New York Jets (11-5) – Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor
    I can see Taylor going as high as eleven, so the Jets catch a break here. With Shaun Ellis likely testing the free agent waters, the Jets have become very thin on the line. Sione Pouha has a done an admirable job filling in for Kris Jenkins, but he lacks the pass rushing skills Jenkins had. Moving Pouha over to end and allowing him more one-on-one opportunities will benefit him. Taylor may not start right away, but inevitably he will be the Jets nose tackle.
  31. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) – Benjamin Iljana, OG/OT, Villanova
    Iljana’s versatility and domination at the lower levels have given him an outside shot at a first round selection. The Steelers will draft an offensive linemen within the first two rounds after the slew of injuries and poor play that plagued them in 2010.
  32. Green Bay Packers (10-6) – Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
    Well Jennings and Nelson are going to be the top receivers in 2011 (with Driver slowly fazed out), but Jermichael Finely had to have a second knee operation a few months ago, and as insurance, the very deep Packers can keep Aaron Rodgers well supplied at receiver with Baldwin, who isn’t pro-ready anyway. A year or two of good coaching will allow Baldwin to go from being a red-zone threat to a really solid flanker.

Round two will be posted later on Tuesday April 7th.

It Rhymes With Lock Shafting…Mock Draft #3 (03/14/11)…SPECIAL EDITION

March 16, 2011

It’s been a while since the last mock draft, and much has changed…like the fact that the NFL is now in work stoppage mode. But not for long. I’m fully expecting the courts to side with the players with our without Judge Doty. I am doing a side/by side mock draft. The left side will be what I think happens. The right side is what I would do if I were the GM.

1.       Carolina Panthers – Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn/Marcel Dareus, DT, Alabama
I think Carolina inevitably chooses between Newton or Gabbert, though I’m not sold on taking either first overall. The Panthers need their offensive line to stay healthy next season for success, and if it does, they may actually do well regardless of who is under center. This is still a run-first team and that’s why I would take Dareus here. He’s the true impact player of the draft. Is he Ndamukong Suh? No. I see him being as successful and versatile as Minnesota’s Kevin Williams. However, I think in the end that this team goes ahead and drafts Newton because of his off-the-chart talent. It’s the type of talent that only comes around once in a lifetime. The Panthers are going to have to nurture it though, because Newton’s Spartacus like talents are right now wild and untamed.

If I were running the show I’d take Dareus. He’s scheme versatile which is hard to come by. He was well coached in college. He is supremely athletic and plays the run just as well as he rushes the passer. I think the Panthers can wait a year and then snag a quarterback OR go after Donovan McNabb. The Panthers aren’t the type of first overall team that can’t compete the next season. They were destroyed by a rash of early season injuries and horrific quarterback play. By the time anyone was healthy, the season didn’t matter, and the Panthers coaching staff couldn’t get the team to play for pride (hence why they got fired).

2.       Denver Broncos – Marcel Dareus, DT, Alabama/Robert Quinn, DE, UNC
The Broncos should get the steal of the draft here with scheme diverse Marcel Dareus who could be a dominant five tech end in a 3-4 or kick inside in the 4-3. Denver’s interior line is downright atrocious, especially following there conversion to the 4-3. Dareus is the ideal pick if Carolina passes on him. He’s the number one player in the draft on NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock’s board…and mine as well.

However, in my world, Dareus is already gone. So what does Denver do? They pass on Da’Quon Bowers because of his one-year wonder status and concerns over his knee and draft another outrageously talented end in Robert Quinn. If he had played at all this season, he’d probably be the favorite to go first overall, but was suspended as part of the UNC scandal. Quinn doesn’t come without concerns, though many believe him to be contrite and truly sorry for what he’s done. In fact, his biggest concern may be health related, since Quinn has been playing football with a benign tumor in his brain.

3.       Buffalo Bills – Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M/Cameron Newton, QB, Alabama
I’m still not a huge Von Miller fan, and as athletically gifted as he is, with as strong a resume on the field as he has, I’m not entirely sold on him. Though in the minority, I am not alone in this thought. What scares me the most about Miller is the fact that he’s merely an average defender in the run game who has only one pass rushing move to get to the quarterback. He reminds me of a mix of Aaron Maybin and Manny Lawson. Lawson is a great cover backer and very good against the run, but his pass rushing skills leave a lot to be desired. Miller is built along the same lines as Lawson, but lacks his discipline in the running game. I am very much not sold on Von Miller.

In my world though, the Bills can focus on grooming franchise quarterback Cam Newton. I’m not a big Chan Gailey fan, but I think that sometimes it’s just about marrying the right players to the right coach, and I believe that Gailey and Newton is a match made in heaven. Gailey may never win a Super Bowl…or even get Buffalo to the playoffs, but if he sets Newton along the right path it could finally turn down one of the saddest franchises in sports.

4.       Cincinnati Bengals – Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri/Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Mike Brown knows full well that whether or not Carson Palmer gets traded he won’t be playing football next year. Palmer has 80 million dollars in the bank saved up so he can essentially choose where he either wants to or does not want to play. He has made it clear he doesn’t ever want to play in Cincinnati again unless it’s in a visitor’s uniform. Mike Brown has made it clear that he has no intention of trading Palmer. I don’t see Palmer blinking here because he has the leverage. I don’t see Brown blinking here because he doesn’t give in to many demands. The only way Palmer is out of Cincinnati is if some team wows the Bengals with an offer including at least one first round pick. Basically, Cincinnati needs to start looking for a replacement. With player movement restricted, the draft is the best way to acquire a quarterback, and Gabbert would be the best choice here. I’m starting to come around on Gabbert after an impressive mid-30’s score on the Wonderlic and comparisons to Matt Ryan in the way Gabbert dissects film. There are still flaws in his game, and it would be a mistake for any team to play Gabbert in his first season, but Gabbert could do well in a West Coast Offense. He’s got a powerful arm, but he struggles with downfield accuracy. Brett Favre made an entire career off of using his great arm to complete short and mid range passes with such an incredible accuracy that receivers were in perfect position to pick up yards after the catch. Gabbert can succeed in the NFL, a team just has to be patient because of the spread offense he comes out of.

I think it’s the right move to take Gabbert. I don’t often say that about a team this early in draft season.

5.       Arizona Cardinals – Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina/Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
Based on what I’ve already said I think Arizona would actually be better off with Quinn then they would be with Miller. Quinn is one of the more interesting prospects. His suspension and his benign brain tumor aside, Quinn reminds me of Shawne Merriman. You’re not going to want him covering anybody, and his play in the running game will be spotty at times, but as a pass rusher his instincts and motor are extremely impressive. He doesn’t rely on just one moves, and plays with excellent leverage. I would rather him in a 4-3 as a pure defensive end, but he can be an impact pass rusher from anywhere on the field.

In Spiel’s world though he’s already gone, and Von Miller becomes the logical choice for Arizona here. Miller has his faults, but coming off the edge he can be extremely dangerous, and the talent is there. He needs some coaching.

6.       Cleveland Browns – A.J. Green, WR, Georgia/A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
He is the prototypical receiver that any offense would want. He’s not quite as physically imposing as Larry Fitzgerald or Calvin Johnson, but Green has talent similar to Randy Moss and has far better range then last year’s “next big thing” at receiver Dez Bryant.

7.       San Francisco 49ers – Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU/Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
It may be for the best that San Francisco doesn’t acquire a quarterback here. I have a feeling Harbaugh is going to be the kind of coach (ala Jon Gruden) who would prefer his system run by a veteran. If player movement becomes unrestricted, I would be seriously shocked if Kevin Kolb didn’t land in San Francisco. Patrick Peterson will get his fair share at corner no matter where he goes, but I could definitely see him winding up at safety in San Francisco. When Dashon Goldson leaves San Francisco (which could be this off-season, but likely will be in 1-2 years) it’s a good bet that Peterson will likely fill his shoes.

Personally though as a corner I prefer Prince Amukamara. He reminds me of a poor man’s Darrelle Revis.

8.       Tennessee Titans – Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska/Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Despite getting dominated by Justin Blackmon, Amukamara has all the talent to be the NFL’s next true shut down corner. He’s disciplined and smart in coverage, with an ability to play press/man and with the tackling skills to play in a zone. Amukamara’s only real question mark was his game speed, which he hopes he addressed with a blazing 4.37 40 yard dash.

Obviously in my world Amukamara went off the board first, so the Titans go after Patrick Peterson here. Tennessee’s secondary would be fascinating with Peterson. The amount of athletic and ball-hawking talent would cause turnovers the way Cincinnati did in 2005. And even with all the big plays they could potentially allow, coaches like having a secondary that can score.

9.       Dallas Cowboys – Tyron Smith, OT, USC/ TRADE — St. Louis Rams — Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Tyron Smith has climbed draft boards to the point where he is likely to be the first tackle taken. He reminds me in some ways of D’Brickashaw Ferguson (mainly his inability to keep weight on at this stage of his career), but he’s a little more well rounded then Ferguson was when he came out. Smith is the most well rounded tackle prospect available, but his biggest enemy may be his inability to keep weight on.

Well in my world I can do whatever I want, which means I’m projecting a trade. In my world, the Cowboys aren’t sold on taking any of the offensive linemen in the top ten, and feel they can get a similar valued tackle at 14 whereas St. Louis knows that there is a big drop-off in receivers after Jones and he won’t make it to 14. The Rams realize how close they are to winning the NFC West in a division that will be up for grabs just about every year. Julio Jones is truly a do-it-all receiver. While his overall speed is not the caliber of A.J. Green’s, it doesn’t stop Jones from being able to run every route and block as well as any receiver in the draft. Jones reminds me of Kenny Britt in a lot of ways, and if he stays healthy will be Sam Bradford’s favorite target for a very long time.

10.   Washington Redskins – Julio Jones, WR, Alabama/Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri
Washington will sprint to the podium if Jones is available at ten. I still think he could go as high as six to Cleveland. The Skins are in desperate need of offensive weapons, and a talent like Jones doesn’t come around often.

In my world Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan are POed! But that’s okay. Even though redshirt sophomores have a tendency to fall on draft day, Smith possesses superb measureables and talent to be a perennial double digit sack artist. All he needs is to stay healthy, which he struggled with in 2010. He still has to grow into his body as well. He’s cut, he possesses great moves, and he’s an athlete. He’s not incredibly strong, but he’s disciplined in the run game. He looks like a perfect blind side pass rusher.

11.   Houston Texans – Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri/Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor
If Houston ends up with Aldon Smith on draft day there won’t be many excuses left for this team. Smith is one of the most dangerous pass rushers available in 2011, and placing him with Connor Barwin, Brian Cushing, a healthy DeMeco Ryans, and Mario Williams almost seems unfair.

With Smith gone in my world, Taylor becomes the pick here. It’s a slight reach, but Houston has little reason to trade down. Taylor is likely to go early in the latter half of round one. He is a mammoth nose tackle that’s hard to find. He won’t be an immediate contributor because most nose tackles fail to succeed right away, but down the road Taylor will solidify one of the best up and coming front sevens in football. Some will be concerned because Taylor was expelled from Penn State for engaging in a brawl, but if he’s got his head on his shoulders he could be a great NFL player for a very long time.

12.   Minnesota Vikings – Nate Solder, OT, Colorado/Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Bryant McKinnie’s play has steadily deteriorated to the point that the Vikings are ready to draft another first round tackle while Phil Loadholt continues to be a liability on the strong side in the passing game. Solder has imposing physical qualities standing tall at 6’8” but some teams are concerned with his inability to keep weight on. Others are concerned with his lack of technique in run blocking. Right now, Solder is purely a pass blocking tackle.

It seems like ages ago that Nick Fairley was the odds on favorite to go first overall. While Fairley went into free-fall mode because of his disappointing weigh-in at the combine, he came back with a vengeance at his Pro Day and excelled in position drills showing the footwork of a man 50 pounds lighter (Fairley weighed in at 297, 6 pounds up from the combine). Fairley is going to excel at what he does–get to the quarterback, but he only fits the bill of a 4-3 under tackle. It means he’s going to fall on draft day unless Denver decides to take him 2nd overall. I like him in Minnesota where some believe back-up Letroy Guion will compete for a starting job in 2011, but I think Guion is best served as a rotational pass rusher with Kevin Williams kicking over to Pat Williams old nose tackle spot while Fairley becomes the new under tackle in Minny.

13.   Detroit Lions – Da’Quon Bowers, DE, Clemson/Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi
Make no mistake, the Lions would be blessed if Da’Quon Bowers fell all the way to 13. While they badly want to find someone to protect Matthew Stafford’s blind side, the Lions can wait a round because of the gift that is Bowers at 13th overall. I still believe that some genius general manager is sabotaging Bowers draft stock with reports that he’s not fully healthy, but I think it’s going to work. Bowers was unable to work out at either the Combine or his Pro Day. Right now…his stock is dropping after once being considered a dark horse to go first overall.

In my world the Lions can’t afford to pass on a tackle, let alone one such as Derek Sherrod. Sherrod reminds me in many ways of Michael Oher. He’s gifted athletically, is a natural knee bender, and can play both the left or right side. Sherrod possesses great size at 6’5”, 321 pounds with a wing span of 35 3/8 inches. Sherrod, I think, will wind up being the best left tackle in this draft class because of his athleticism, versatility, and wingspan. He’d be an ideal blind side protector for Matthew Stafford.

14.   St. Louis Rams – Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn/TRADE Dallas Cowboys, Tyron Smith, USC
Well my goodness, this is a steal. The Rams will be able to find a quality receiver for Bradford in the second round in what is a fairly deep class. Fairly is the type of impact tackle that the Rams can’t afford to pass on. Their interior line is aging, and Fairley will fit in very nicely with Chris Long who is finally coming into his own.

Projecting trades is like trying to hit one bullet with another bullet blindfolded while riding a horse  (I’ve been watching a lot of the new Star Trek lately). But I am having some fun with this mock.  As explained earlier I think Smith will be a good tackle, but I have some reservations about him so trading down to get some extra value for him makes the investment worth it.

15.   Miami Dolphins – Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada/Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
The writing is on the wall in Miami. Chad Henne has completely fallen out of favor. If he’s in Miami next year it’ll only be as a stop-gap until the Phins are ready to bring along a new signal caller. The Phins were rumored to be looking at a mobile quarterback and other rumors have pegged there interest in Colin Kaepernick. In an ideal world Miami finds a suitable trade partner to move down and get Kaepernick later since they don’t have a second round pick, but this will have to do. Kaepernick’s measureables are through the roof. He clocked the fastest 40 yard dash among quarterbacks, the most velocity on the radar gun at the combine, and an enormous frame at 6’5” 233 pounds. The project quarterback also has the wingspan of an offensive linemen, which leads to an elongated throwing motion. That being said, his motion isn’t necessarily poor, it’s just a little slower because of his gigantic arms. He comes from a goofy pistol offense at Nevada, but the potential is about as high as Cam Newton’s. What Kaepernick needs more than anything is good solid coaching.

While I think Kaepernick would actually be a solid pick, my top choice in Miami would still be Mark Ingram. The Dolphins still have one of the better, albeit inconsistent, offensive lines in the entire NFL. With it likely that both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are out in Miami (and no more than one of them returning) it would behoove the Dolphins to draft the guy everyone is comparing to Emmitt Smith, and is probably the hardest runner to come out since Adrian Peterson. What Ingram lacks in physical talent he makes up for in his vision and running style. The compact Ingram could be deadly in the NFL. The Dolphins don’t have a second round pick so it’s likely that they’ll need to do some work to acquire one of the top quarterbacks.

16.   Jacksonville Jaguars – Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue/Da’Quon Bowers, DE, Clemson

Kerrigan is a high-motor 4-3 defensive end with outstanding work ethic. Kerrigan has tried his hand at linebacker this off-season as well in an attempt to raise his draft stock, but inevitably he’s going to wind up playing in a 4-3 defense. He could play either side, though he’d be particularly ideal on the strong side given the opportunity.

Well with Bowers falling in the world of Spiel this is an absolute no brainer. He can make a claim to being the best all-around defensive end in the class, and as long as his knee is healthy, will be a huge boost to the perpetually bad Jaguars pass rush.

17.   New England Patriots (from Oakland) – Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida/Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida
I would expect New England to trade down at least once, but I think they’ll stay here because Pouncey isn’t going to last all the way to 28. Like his brother, Pouncey is a physical freak and an awesome run blocker. With concern about Stephen Neal’s retirement and uncertain times for Logan Mankins it makes sense for the Patriots to protect themselves, lest they let their line fall apart. Pouncey is meeting with the Patriots among other teams in this draft range.

18.   San Diego Chargers – Cameron Jordan, DE, California/Cameron Jordan, DE, California
The Chargers will be very thin at defensive end once the off-season begins, and Jordan is, in my opinion, the best five technique defensive end this year. He’s got an incredible motor, ideal size, and the versatility to kick inside in a 4-3 or even play left end. He reminds me in many ways of Shaun Ellis.

19.   New York Giants – Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama/TRADE — Baltimore Ravens — Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland
The Giants will also look along the offensive line, linebacker, and potentially at tight end, but Ingram is incredible value at 19th overall. Brandon Jacobs has little left in the tank, and Bradshaw has severe fumbling problems. If Bradshaw doesn’t correct those problems, Ingram becomes the feature back. If he does correct said problems, Ingram will be the thunder to Bradshaw’s lightning.

I’ve projected a trade here. Baltimore’s biggest concern is Kansas City taking Smith or someone else trading up to grab him. Unlike his predecessor Darius Heyward-Bey, Smith actually can do more then just run long and has proven it on the field. Later in this draft you’ll notice that I think Baltimore can snag Smith at 26 so I’ll explain now. I think that with Phil Taylor off the board, the Chiefs will look at receiver instead of the next nose tackle in Jerrell Powe. Smith would be an ideal fit in Kansas City as well, so Baltimore needs to overtake them. While Baltimore has other needs, Smith is the wide receiver that best fits what Baltimore is looking for–a burner. They’ve got to have something to open up the offense with Flacco’s massive arm. Having a guy who can stretch the field like Smith will be as important as finding a suitable left tackle to move Oher back over to the right side.

20.   Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona/Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
He’s skyrocketing up draft boards after incredible workouts and a solid Senior Bowl. Reed is considered to be a high motor player with incredible athleticism. While an ideal fit for a 3-4, Reed reminds me of John Abraham and will do fine on the weak side of a 4-3 if he’s asked to do that. Another guy he’s drawing comparisons to is Clay Matthews because of his incredible motor. That being said, Reed didn’t quite put up the collegiate sack production expected of a premier pass rusher…but then again neither did Clay Matthews.

Kerrigan is available and he’s an ideal 4-3 DE. Tampa Bay need not worry about what side Kerrigan plays on because he would fill a need either way. They’d be smart to find a blind side rusher later in the draft though.

21.   Kansas City Chiefs – Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor/Jerrell Powe, NT, Ole Miss
This is my guess for the Chiefs primary target in 2011. If they can pull Taylor off consider it a success. Ron Edwards is an average nose tackle who can fill a gap, but he’s undersized and lacks the upside of Taylor.

In my world Torrey Smith and Phil Taylor are gone, leaving only one likely first round nose tackle prospect on the board, so Kansas City has to make the move. The Chiefs are unlikely to repeat their success of 2010 without a serious upgrade at nose tackle.

22.   Indianapolis Colts – Anthony Costanzo, OT, Boston College/Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Personally I thought Costanzo looked a little stiff in workouts, but he’s quite the specimen to behold and he’s got terrific footwork. The Colts need to overhaul the entire line, and it doesn’t really matter where they start–just pick the best lineman available.

As noted earlier Solder’s run blocking leaves a lot to be desired, but first and foremost the Colts need to protect Peyton Manning, and that’s what Solder does best–protect the quarterback.

23.   Philadelphia Eagles – Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado/TRADE — New York Jets — J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
The Eagles have come to realize that Dmitri Patterson is probably no more than a special teamer despite his strong start to 2010. Jimmy Smith may fall out of the first round due to character concerns, but it only takes one team to take the risk.

In my world though the Jets finally end the fall of J.J. Watt, who likely isn’t going to fall this far on draft day anyway. Watt plays with a high motor and has an enormous frame. He’s the prototypical five-technique defensive end. The Jets desperately need that whether or not Shaun Ellis returns. Mike DeVito has established himself as a really solid 3-4 DE, but if opening day was today (and we had a game to play) the Jets would be starting Marcus Dixon. While Dixon looked promising in limited action, he’s a project, nothing more. Watt is the real deal, and could start on opening day for just about any team in the NFL.

24.   New Orleans Saints – Justin Houston, DE, Georgia/Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois
Justin Houston definitely knows how the draft game is played. He bulked up to 270 pounds while maintaining solid 4.6 speed. I still don’t buy into him though. On tape he was productive because he blew by offensive linemen with sheer athleticism. On tape he’s Aaron Maybin. He lacks motor and moves.

In my world I wouldn’t let the 4 year 12 million dollar contract that Pierre Thomas got distract me. Thomas is an adequate starter, but not terribly talented. Leshoure is a very powerful back who would actually compliment Reggie Bush very nicely (if Bush takes a pay cut).

25.   Seattle Seahawks – Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State/Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada
I’m not buying into Ponder yet. The arm surgeries scare me away. Chad Pennington was a supremely accurate quarterback, but his success never got him past the divisional round of the playoffs. Still, Ponder makes sense with the addition of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell who brings with him the west coast offense. Still I don’t see Ponder as being all that much better than Colt McCoy.

If I’m drafting I want Kaepernick–regardless of system run. His upside is outrageous. Whitehurst will likely win the starting job in camp and can fend off Kaepernick until he is ready. For Kaepernick the system is not important…it’s simply fostering his talent.

26.   Baltimore Ravens – Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland/TRADE — New York Giants — Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame
You can see the earlier explanation for Smith going to Baltimore above.

As for the Giants, drafting Rudolph is logical. Boss has turned into an adequate starter, but Rudolph could really help out Eli Manning. He needs receivers with reliable hands (Manning led the league in tipped INT’s), and they don’t get much more reliable then Rudolph.

27.   Atlanta Falcons – Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State/Anthony Costanzo, OT, Boston College
Sherrod is a very good tackle as I have explained earlier. He can play either left or right side. With Tyson Clabo set to hit free agency (whenever that happens), a huge hole has opened up in Atlanta’s line.

I’ve talked about Costanzo at length as well. I think he’d do well in Atlanta as a right tackle prospect.

28.   New England Patriots – J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin/TRADE — Houston Texans — Brooks Reed, OLB, Arizona
Watt is a natural fit at defensive end in New England with his high motor and versatility.

The big idea here is the trade. Brooks Reed is going to be a wildcard on draft day, and if he gets this far I could see a team like Houston offering a lot to get him. They aren’t far off, but Houston has to find an outside linebacker opposite Connor Barwin on draft day.

29.   Chicago Bears – Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin/Marcus Cannon, OG, TCU
I’m not a huge fan of Carimi, and while Chicago needs help at tackle Carimi is raw and likely will be limited to the right side.

Marcus Cannon is a mammoth guard who would be an ideal fit for the Bears who will be looking to upgrade from Chris Williams this off-season.

30.   New York Jets — Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA/TRADE — Philadelphia Eagles — Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
If the Jets don’t move up, this is likely the best remaining outside rusher. Ayers is inconsistent, but certainly doesn’t lack the talent. He’s a fringe first round pick at this point.

The Eagles stay with Smith either way. The trade down just gives them added value.

31.   Pittsburgh Steelers – Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
The Steelers elect to wait a round on snagging an offensive guard due to the value of Aaron Williams at 31./TRADE — Washington Redskins — Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State

The Redskins are going to come away with one of the quarterbacks. Shanahan has a man crush on Jake Locker, but if I’m running the show…the smarter move is definitely Ponder. Especially in a west coast attack.

32.   Green Bay Packers – Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh/Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
The Packers will look hard at pass rushers Dontay Moch and Sam Acho due to their physical talent, but both of them are major project players who need serious coaching if they’ll ever be successful players. James Jones is likely on the outs, Donald Driver is aging (though you’d never know it), and Jermichael Finley had to have a second knee operation this off-season. Baldwin is BPA and Ted Thompson will want to keep his star quarterback well plied with weapons.

Green Bay has enough weapons though in my world–at least for now. Gabe Carimi makes sense as a mauling though raw right tackle. He doesn’t have to play right away, but can ease his way into the role.

The NFL Lockout of 2011

March 13, 2011

When the Union chose to decertify late in the afternoon on Friday it became blatantly obvious that some form of a work stoppage loomed over us. This work stoppage probably won’t lead to a stoppage in games because the players are individually filing an injunction to stop any potential lockout. But until a judge rules on the injunction, the lockout is in full effect.

This, in spite of a deal agreed to for a simplified rookie pay scale and the owner’s sticking point of 18 games taken off the table.

All that was left? According to ESPN–a difference in annual revenues nearing 185 million dollars. It’s a big difference from a month ago when the two sides were one billion dollars apart, but the players weren’t going to budge until the owner’s opened the books of all 32 NFL teams and explained why they needed that extra 185 million dollars.

With a shared revenue policy and a salary cap it’s pretty difficult for teams to be in the red. This suggests a couple of things, things that few are talking about besides Lester Munson of

The owners weren’t happy with the last CBA in 2006 when the players earned a 60% portion of television revenues. In 2008 nine owners opted out of the last collective bargaining agreement and as Lester Munson points out, the owners prepared for the event of a lockout by creating a four billion dollar trust fund to fund themselves in the event of a lockout.

Judge Doty ruled that the owners couldn’t use that money. Munson points out that this is what the owners wanted from the start. They saw how the NHL lockout was able to deflate skyrocketing contracts, and that’s what the owners wanted.

But now they are in trouble. The players are taking this to court, and if the courts rule that the owners have to open their books, then all leverage on the part of the owners is gone. Their refusal to open the books suggests several things that nobody really wants to talk about.

1. The books are cooked.

Now logically speaking it would make sense that the NFL would  be cautious to open their books to anyone. It also makes sense that the NFL continues to grow at the rate it does. The sport’s was more marketable and profitable then any other, and still is. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the league continued to grow and that television revenues have jumped from 7 billion to 9 billion dollars annually over the last five years.

But the growth does suggest something troubling. Was the NFL knowingly fixing it’s books? Is that why they are refusing to make this information public? Because they’re afraid of what will be uncovered? Merely speculation, but still a thought that has to come to the forefront.

2. The owners don’t need the money. They just want more then they’re getting.

It’s likely that this is the true answer. The owners don’t actually need this increase. It’s not a desperate need, but the owners are asking for more because they want to make necessary changes to stadiums. After all, if the owners had more money, couldn’t San Diego better finance a new stadium instead of likely winding up in Los Angeles?

If it’s true that the owners don’t need the money, their likely goal is to re-invest the money they get back into the sport itself, instead of into the players. The players play a major part, but they aren’t the entire piece of the pie.

I’ve been offering a simple solution to this for months now. Gradually decreasing revenues for the players and increasing for the owners by percentage.

In the last Collective Bargaining Agreement the players moved gradually up from 56.5% to 59.5% over a five year span. In the new agreement, would it not make sense to do something similar? Start the players at 56.5% (an immediate 3% reduction which is 270 million dollars) and gradually decrease them to around 53.5%. That’s an annual decrease of 540 million dollars, but if the NFL continues to grow, neither side will actually lose any money.

3. It’s both!

The owners are not only doing something illegal, but they also are greedy. They certainly could go hand in hand. Just a thought…is the NFL running a giant hedge fund? Are the books cooked?

It certainly seems outlandish, but if the books are opened, there may be some skeletons in the closet that hurt the NFL in the long run.

It’s safe to say that litigation is not a good thing, and the players are calling the owners bluff. If they’re right, there are going to be a lot of changes in the NFL. Whether that’s good or bad…only time will tell.