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Archive for the ‘NFL Mock Draft’ Category

Keeping the 2011 NFL Draft in Perspective

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

By Ron Jumper

Whenever the draft rolls around, I always am fascinated with the thought process of not only the NFL teams but also the draft analysts and media in general. The lack of genuine understanding from the average guy that works in the media, particularly at the local level, of how the draft process works and everything that goes into it is laughable. As for the NFL scouts and general managers, it blows my mind how the draft is almost a sport of its own, much like recruiting is at the college level, as opposed to being an extension of your overall strategy for how you plan to build your specific franchise into a winner.

Getting all caught up in “best player available” and what have you, which for the record can work if executed correctly, often earns a nice “grade” the day after but doesn’t always translate to success on the field when the season rolls around. With this draft in particular, giving any team’s draft a grade really is incomplete anyways because there hasn’t been free agency due to the lockout. If you choose to address needs by adding veterans then draft best player available that combo can work, it once again is just about the execution more than the strategy. However, not every team has that luxury. Think about a small market team that isn’t able to compete financially, for them the playing field isn’t level.

The best example I can give is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They DO NOT sign free agents, it is not an option due to their financial situation. For them, the draft is how they address their roster from a needs standpoint. They have no choice but to address needs as opposed to best player available, which is what they did in this draft. Coming in, GM Mark Dominik made it very obvious they HAD to get a pass rusher in this draft. The front office and scouting department was basically just trying to pinpoint what defensive ends would be available when they picked at 20. There was some talk of moving up to improve their odds of landing an elite DE but, ultimately, I’m sure they didn’t pull the trigger because they didn’t want to give up any picks because those are at a premium to them more so than any franchise in the league. The Bucs ended up taking defensive ends in the first two rounds, clearly addressing their biggest need.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Lions landed a stud in DT Nick Fairley. At different points in the draft process, Fairley was looked at as a top 3 talent. However, how does he help them? They already have a very good defensive line, with some guy named Ndamukong Suh. I just can’t imagine Fairley makes them much better, where as they could really use a LT to protect Mathew Stafford or open up running lanes. Long story short, the Lions spent some money in free agency last year while the Bucs focused on specific needs and team chemistry on a tight budget. The Lions were much more competitive than in years past but the Bucs won 10 games and are a team on the rise. The point is that having a concise strategy and executing it usually works better than blindly going after talent and throwing money at B-list free agents.

Quarterback Rankings All Over The Board

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

By Ron Jumper

I’m trying to figure out where to even start…

The 2011 NFL draft quarterback class has been a wild roller coaster ride all season long. It just seems like every week a new quarterback would emerge in the top 5 and the guys that I view as the actual quarterback prospects get pushed further and further back. Never have I been more confused, granted I’ve only seriously covered the NFL draft for 6 years, but the fact still remains my mind has officially been blown.

I’m going to give a very simple analogy, look at all the top quarterbacks in the NFL: Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Rothleisberger, Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, Michael Vick, Joe Flacco, and Matt Schaub. Even look at the young guns like Sam Bradford, Mathew Stafford, and Josh Freeman. Now, of all those guys, only ONE relies on his legs and that is Michael Vick. Can Aaron Rodgers or Josh Freeman take off when they need to? Yes, but let’s not get carried away and call them scramblers. To be a successful NFL quarterback, it is obvious there is a pretty clear cut prototype. They need to be able to play under center, stay in the pocket, dissect the defense pre-snap, and deliver the ball quickly in tight windows to the correct read.

Now, with that prototype in mind, who fits the mold in this draft class? Let’s take a look at the latest quarterback the “experts” have anointed as the top prospect in this draft: Blaine Gabbert. I just don’t see it. While he has nice size (6’5 240), nothing else about him says franchise quarterback. Look at the numbers, Gabbert only had 16 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. More importantly, his yards per attempt was 6.7 (which ranked just 78th in the country) and his QB rating was 127 (good for 64th nationally), both of which are very mediocre. Andrew Luck, Ryan Mallett, and Cam Newton were all in the top 10 in both of those categories, not to mention they also all three had at least 30 touchdown passes. When you consider all of this took place in a quarterback friendly system at Missouri in a conference like the Big 12 that, other than Nebraska, doesn’t believe in defense it doesn’t sound too impressive. Honestly tell me if you are a Bills, Panthers, or Cardinals fan that you will be drooling with anticipation over this guy come draft day? Give me a break…

Then there is Cam Newton. Think it through, while he is big and fast, what does that matter in the NFL? He hasn’t played under center and hasn’t had to learn how to read defenses since every pass play was one-read due to eight guys being in the box on defense. Don’t be an amateur and say defenses will have to do that in the NFL to stop him because I got news for you…they won’t. It is a complete leap of faith thinking he can become an NFL QB. At best, we can label him a “project” that will need several years of seasoning before we know what we are getting (think Vince Young).

Now, based on the criteria we’ve discussed, who best fits the mold? Who has great size? Who has outstanding numbers (yards, touchdowns, yard per attempt, QB rating)? Who has played in a pro-style offense against elite defenses? In my opinion, there is only one choice: Ryan Mallett.

Grading The Draft

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

By Ron Jumper

This was an odd NFL draft, as it seemed to offer unique twists and turns throughout the three day weekend. It stayed predictable for basically only the first three picks of the first round and, from there, the madness began. I’ll be detailing some of the bigger surprises and who my big winners and losers were now that all the dust has settled. Here goes:

Surprises

-The Raiders playing it safe. There were those of us that thought the Raiders might take a “Workout Warrior” like OT Bruce Campbell with the 8th overall pick. However, they were patient and drafted him in the fourth round. By taking Campbell that late, the risk-reward is much more favorable. As for who they did take in the first round, I am a huge supporter of Alabama LB Rolando McClain. This is a safe, smart pick and they got a player who can likely make an impact on opening day. It still wasn’t as good a draft as some of the other clubs, but it was much better than a typical Al Davis draft.

-The Jaguars taking Cal DT Tyson Alualu with the tenth overall pick was a shock. If the Jaguars decided he was the guy they really wanted, fine. However, there were plenty of teams trying to move up into that range, as evidenced by picks 11, 12, and 13 all being successfully shopped. If the Jaguars had traded down for an extra pick or two and took him in the 20s, then this would be a positive discussion about their draft. As it is, the Jaguars have put an awful lot of pressure on Alualu to emerge as a cornerstone of their franchise.

-The Broncos have seemed to get a little too creative. Basically, they’ve gotten rid of Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall to build around Tim Tebow and Demaryius Thomas. The Broncos weren’t a bad team last year, with an 8-8 record. If they had just instead used the collection of picks they’d stockpiled on specific needs like finding the proper personnel to help assist the transition to a 3-4 defense then they could have put themselves right in the mix of the AFC playoff race. As it is now, they have taken more of a long-term investment approach. If Tebow doesn’t develop into an NFL starter in 2-3 years, this could very well be the end of the Josh McDaniel era in the Mile High City.

-I was not only surprised that Tebow went to the Broncos at pick 25, but that Jimmy Clausen fell down the board to 48. This could be a pick we look back at in a few years and say it was the turning point in the Carolina Panthers franchise. Remember, this team was in desperate need of a quarterback and is also a team that has some nice pieces around it on offense to build around. Clausen will benefit from an excellent running game behind DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart, plus having a big time weapon on the outside like Steve Smith. All in all, this is a great spot for a rookie QB to come in and lean on the running game until he has learned the ropes. It reminds me of the Jets in 2009 with Mark Sanchez and the Ravens in 2008 with Joe Flacco.

Big Winners

Seattle Seahawks
Everything seemed to fall Pete Carroll’s way in his first draft back in the NFL. Just as Hall of Fame left tackle Walter Jones retires, top left tackle prospect Russell Okung falls to them at 6. Then at 14, they were able to land Texas safety Earl Thomas. Some considered Thomas to be as talented as Eric Berry. Interestingly, this did infuriate former USC standout Taylor Mays, who was expecting his former coach to draft him in that spot.

(I do feel for Mays though, as he could have come out last season and been a top 10 pick. Staying for his senior year cost him millions of dollars. Not that Carroll is losing any sleep at night over it…)

The good fortune didn’t stop there for the Seahawks, as Notre Dame WR Golden Tate fell down the board to them as well. While these aren’t draft picks, they did make some nice trades for a pair of veteran running backs: Lendale White and Leon Washington. If Matt Hasselbeck is able to hold up at QB, this team could be competitive sooner rather than later.

Carolina Panthers
While no one agrees with me, I think this was a HUGE draft for the Panthers. I’ve mentioned how great I think the Clausen pick was already, so I’ll focus on the rest of their draft. Besides inconsistent QB play, not having a second wide receiver to compliment Steve Smith has been an area of weakness. LSU WR Brandon LaFell should be able to come in and contribute. Also, I love the late round value in South Carolina OLB Eric Norwood (round 4) and Ole Miss DE Greg Hardy (round 6). In addition, Armanti Edwards adds a nice element in the return game and possibly as a “Wildcat” package quarterback. Landing Cincy QB Tony Pike in round 6 was a great pick, as he provides a nice “Plan B” just in case Clausen doesn’t pan out. Whether it is Clausen or Pike, the Panthers should have their QB of the future. Keep in mind when valuing this draft, they added all of this to their roster without a first round pick. In my opinion, they did a wonderful job of getting maximum value out of the picks they had and this will pay dividends to their roster in the years to come.

Honorable Mentions

Baltimore Ravens: OLB Sergio Kindle and DT Terrence Cody will keep that defense nasty.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Biggest position of need was DT, McCoy and Price should fill void.
Philadelphia Eagles: Added a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball.

Biggest Losers

Jacksonville Jaguars
I’ve already harped on the Alualu pick, but the rest of their draft was even worse. Now, I won’t pretend to know a lot about the FCS level players, but I can’t believe that drafting four in a row was the smart way to go. There are going to be exceptions but, on average, there is usually a reason these guys played at a small school besides just bad luck. I just think in some cases, scouts can over think and over evaluate to the point they don’t make the quality, value pick and try to make the home run pick instead. In a deep draft like this one, why not just go ahead and take the more established players still on the board?

Buffalo Bills
I didn’t like anything about the Bills draft. Their most glaring area of need was at left tackle, a position they did not address until round 5 when they took Ed Wang out of Virginia Tech. Taking C.J. Spiller was more of a want than a need, even with Marshawn Lynch on the trading block. I also don’t see why they didn’t take Clausen when he was still on the board at 41. Instead, they reach on UCF DT Torell Troup. I have to think addressing one their needs at either QB or LT would have better served them. DE Alex Carrington and WR Marcus Easley were their best picks in my opinion, but neither of those should be impact players in the near future.



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