Tuesday, April 12, 2011

2011 NFL Mock Draft: How the Oakland Raiders Will Move the Crowd

When NFL business begins for the 2011 season, the Oakland Raiders have holes to fill. The Raiders could lose Nnamdi Asomugha, Robert Gallery, Michael Huff, Langston Walker and Khalif Barnes to free agency.

There is still a slight possibility that Asomugha could return upon the start of league business. The offensive line needs improvement. The Raiders are without a first round pick, but are still able to add two of the top-100 players to their roster.

Round 2: Cornerback Ras-I-Dowling-6’1” 199 pounds

Dowling was a team captain that has displayed great character, an experienced corner rarely caught out of position, even against double-moves mainly because of top instincts and vision. At his pro day, Dowling answered questions about his health and pure speed. Dowling is a tall, athletic, confident corner that boasts fluidity, quick feet, body control, excellent tackling ability and ball skills.

The choice should be between QB Colin Kaepernick, CB Jimmy Smith, CB Davon House, WR Titus Young, S Rahim Moore, C Stefan Wisniewski, Guard Ben Ijalana, OT James Carpenter and TE Kyle Rudolph. Five of the nine might not fall to the 48th pick.

My reasoning for the selection is simple, acquire a player that can provide the most immediate impact at a need position. I would have no problem with Oakland selecting QB Colin Kaepernick. However, since 2005, 47-percent of the cornerbacks on NFL two-deep rosters are first and second round selections.

Round 3: Guard Marcus Cannon-6’5” 358 pounds

Cannon is massive, with broad shoulders, long arms and top-15 type talent. It could be an expensive cab ride for defenders to get around him at right tackle. Strong anchor, almost never bull-rushed, has quick feet and is nimble for his size. Cannon has elite size, strength and enough athleticism to drive defenders back and dominate in the running game.

Cannon has great balance, and carries his weight well. The best attribute about Cannon is that he is never on the ground.

The choice should be between NT Kendrick Ellis, OG Clint Boling, OT James Brewer, C Brandon Fusco, OLB Dontay Moch, CB Curtis Marsh, OT Orlando Franklin and WR Edmund Gates. My reasoning for selecting Cannon was his versatility (ability to play Guard or Tackle) and immediate impact on the offensive line.

Round 4: Guard John Moffitt-6’4” 314 pounds

Moffitt is an elite run blocker in terms of his mobility and hand placement. This former Badger started 42 out of a possible 45 games at three positions. Moffitt’s phone-booth quickness, mobility and footwork show the makings of a longtime NFL starter.
Moffitt has the ability to be stout at the point of attack, reach linebackers, safeties on the second level and eliminate them. The former Badger anchors well against even against the strongest nose tackles when man-up in pass protection.

The choice should be between ILB Kelvin Sheppard, NT Kendrick Ellis, WR Jeremy Kerley, WR Vincent Brown, WR Greg Little, S DeAndre McDaniel, S Quinton Carter, CB Kendric Burney and.

Moffitt is the choice, due to his value, versatility and immediate impact on the offensive line. Moffitt could be a Pro Bowl steal as a mid-round pick. If Moffitt were off the board, I would consider Kelvin Sheppard, but select Kendrick Ellis.

Round 5: Free Safety Deunta Williams-6’1” 215 pounds

Williams has good size, length and instincts for the free safety position. Suffering a broken leg in his teams bowl game this year will cause him to drop on some draft boards allowing the Raiders to acquire a steal if he checks out medically. As a former top-ranked wide receiver recruit he understands offensive concepts. Williams is a solid tackler. Williams’ benefited from a dominant pass rush early in his career. This former Tar Heel’s size and athleticism make him an intriguing prospect.

The choice should be between FS Jerrard Tarrant, S Eric Hagg, S Tyler Sash and OLB Ross Homan. If Williams were off the board, I would select NT Kendrick Ellis.

Round 6: Quarterback Ricki Stanzi-6’4” 221 pounds

Stanzi is a pro-style passer with a good frame for the position. This former Hawkeye is smart with outstanding size and toughness. He stands tall in the pocket and has a compact, over-the-top delivery. Stanzi has fluid footwork in 3-, 5-, 7-step drops.

This three-year starter in the Big 10 has adequate arm strength, but it able to put some zip on short and intermediate throws when he steps into it. The former senior from Iowa will have to do a better job of reading defenses and making better decisions before starting. Stanzi possesses the requisite leadership traits and toughness to develop into a solid NFL starter.

The choice should be between DT Ian Williams, FB Henry Hynoski, G/RT Mike Person and QB Pat Devlin

Round 7: Wide Receiver Lester Jean -6’3” 211 pounds

Jean has prototypical size and speed for the position. Will go over the middle make the catch and take the hit. Jean uses his body to shield defenders on slants and in-routes. Jean tracks throws over either shoulder or over his head. Jean worked hard to improve his game and FAU’s offensive MVP earned a trip to the East-West Shrine game and the Scouting Combine.

The choice should be between TE Andre Smith, Guard Bryant Browning, and C Ryan Bartholomew

Round 7: Outside Linebacker Jabara Williams-6’1” 230 pounds

Williams was the Conference Defensive Player of the year had three straight 100-tackle seasons. Williams is very fluid, athletic with good speed, acceleration and instincts. Williams is quick to diagnose plays and solid in coverage.

The choice should be between DT David Carter, SS Shiloh Keo, C J.C. Brignone, and RB Allen Bradford.

The list of un-drafted free agents the Raiders could acquire to fill other roster needs. WR Kris Adams, TE Andre Smith – Virginia Tech, TE Evan Frosch – TCU and TE Richard Gordon – Miami. CB Korey Lindsey – Southern Illinois, OG Bryant Browning – Ohio State, LT Willie Smith – UCF and OLB Bruce Miller – UCF. FS Tejay Johnson – TCU, FS Mark LeGree – Appalachian State and WR Ricardo Lockette – Fort Valley State.

This mock draft addresses the major holes on the Raiders at the Cornerback, Guard, Tackle, Safety and Quarterback. The un-drafted free agents provide competition at other need positions.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

How the Lockout will affect the 2011 NFL Draft

The labor dispute has changed several things. The dispute has added the term ‘courtroom football’ to the football vernacular and added April 6, 2011 as an important date on the NFL’s off-season calendar. The labor dispute should come as no surprise and a lockout in 2011 was imminent prior to the start of the 2010 season.

‘Brady v. NFL’ has started, all we know at this point is that U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson wants the case to remain in her court and has urged both sides to return the bargaining table.

However, it will be weeks before we all hear Nelson’s ruling. Two things are for certain—the draft will start and finish before said ruling and that the process could easily drag on for a while.

In the NFL there are normally three ways to improve your football team 1) veteran free agency 2) the Draft 3) signing un-drafted free agents. The lockout has effectively cut those options down to two.

The league granted a record 56 underclassmen special eligibility for the 2011 draft, exceeding last years record-tying 53. This has added depth to a draft class that does not have a true no.1 talent. That ship sailed the moment Stanford QB Andrew Luck made the decision to remain a Cardinal.

The lockout presents an interesting conundrum. The lockout has caused teams to view members of a weak quarterback class in a different light. Seven of the teams with a top-10 pick in the 2011 draft have a big need at quarterback.

The question is what team is going to reach for a QB?

There are six teams with new head coaches. A new head coach has to find his guy at the QB position. The two are, in a sense, married to each other—although the coach and general manager need to be on the same page as well. Some teams have to replace veterans with drafted players.

When you remove the option of adding a veteran quarterback via trade before the draft, the task of a QB needy team is simple, you must land one in the draft. A team could 'trade up' using draft picks. The fact of the matter is, due to the lockout, it is imperative that every team focus more on NEED in every round.

A team with a top-ten selection in the draft has a difficult task ahead of them. This is the drafts most expensive neighborhood. There are only five positions a team should draft with a top-ten pick; 1) A franchise Quarterback 2) A franchise Left Tackle 3) An elite Pass Rusher 4) A Shutdown Cornerback 5) A top-five Running Back.

We have seen teams swing and miss at the top of the first round year in and year out. It is impossible to think that this year will be different. A mistake with a high selection and it could set the franchise back for years.

Imagine, if in 2005, then head coach Mike Nolan and the 49ers brass pulled the trigger on local kid QB Aaron Rodgers instead of QB Alex Smith. The 49ers are just one of at least 13 other teams that had a need at QB in 2005. Mike Nolan is no longer a head coach and Alex Smith will be playing in a different city when league business begins.

In 2006, the Tennessee Titans were in need of a quarterback. Everyone in the organization wanted to draft Matt Leinart except for owner Bud Adams. Adams is from Houston, Texas and he wanted Vince Young.

At that time, Norm Chow was the Titans offensive coordinator. Chow was the offensive coordinator at the University of Southern California from 2001-2004. If the Titans pulled the trigger on the USC quarterback, Leinart would have hit the ground running playing in the same offense in college and as a professional.

After 16+ seasons, Jeff Fisher is no longer coaching the Titans. As soon as league business begins, Vince Young will no longer be a Titan. How ironic is it that Leinart is a back up QB in Houston?

If Vince Young can clean up his act and display more maturity, he will have to continue to develop in another city.

Friday, April 8, 2011

2011 NFL Draft: Rush Linebackers

These college players were the guys’ once known as ‘tweeners’. These NFL prospects primarily played Defensive End in college, but did not have to size to play the position in the NFL. These prospects possess the athleticism to play the Outside Linebacker position and make an impact as a pass rusher.

To play Defensive End in the NFL the optimum size is 6’ 5” 285 lbs. 3 - 4 scheme calls for run-stopping power ends with more size than speed, quickness, and short area explosion.

The players that do not possess the above-mentioned size are in for a position change at the next level.

The optimum size for a Rush Linebacker in a 3-4 is 6’ 3” 255 lbs. The Rush Linebackers are a team’s primary pass rushers, but they must be big enough to hold up at the line of scrimmage. Outside linebackers must have the strength to shed blocks, the speed to make plays from sideline to sideline and the athletic ability to play in zone or man coverage. A Rush Linebacker has to be able to come off the ball low to the ground and bend.

The 3-4 or “30” front, popular in the NFL, has started sprouting around the college landscape. Former NFL coaches leading college football programs have been good for the league. NFL teams employing the 3-4 had difficulty projecting college defensive ends to the Rush Linebacker position because few colleges ran the scheme.

In general, pro-style college programs have produced the most NFL-ready prospects. Defensively schools like Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State, USC, and Miami come to mind. This is where the SEC has shined.

The NFL scouting community took notice when Nick Saban took over at the University of Alabama. The more coaches like Saban teach the scheme and develop talent the better job evaluators can do projecting college players to the NFL.

Almost every year, these are the guys that grab lots of headlines going into the draft and have phenomenal showing at the NFL combine and on their schools pro day.

Fifteen teams in the NFL employ the 3-4 scheme. Since 2001, six of the 10 Super Bowl winners ran a 3-4 scheme as their base defense. The most desirable traits NFL teams seek in OLB prospects…

Instincts: The ability to find the ball, read play-action and mis-direction, and quickly recognize whether to play the run or drop into coverage.

Range: Outside linebackers operate in space and must be able to get depth in their drops and cover backs-sometimes even receivers-in the slot. They must have enough speed, range to flow to the ball, and chase down backs from sideline to sideline.

Athletic Ability: A rush linebacker has to be a more accomplished pass rusher. A rush linebacker has to come off the ball low to the ground and bend. Ideally, he has to have rare athletic ability.

Hall of famer Lawrence Taylor made this position famous, but today’s prototypes are James Harrison, Clay Matthews Jr., Lamar Woodley, Terrell Suggs, Shawn Phillips, DeMarcus Ware and Brian Orapko.

In this draft, here are the top Rush Linebackers who are rare, physical specimens who have demonstrated the ability to cause havoc:

1) Von Miller - OLB Texas A&M 6’ 2” 240 lbs.
2) Robert Quinn – North Carolina OLB/DE 6’ 5” 270 lbs.
3) Akeem Ayers – OLB UCLA 6’ 3” 255 lbs.
4) Aldon Smith – Missouri OLB/DE 6’ 5” 255 lbs.
5) Justin Houston – OLB Georgia 6’ 3” 258 lbs.
6) Ryan Kerrigan – Purdue 6’ 4” 263 lbs.
7) Jabaal Sheard – Pittsburgh 6’ 3” 255 lbs.