Archive for September, 2010

Saturday review: Jake Locker & Ryan Mallett

Sunday, September 19th, 2010
 

Jake Locker had a day to forget against Nebraska

Jake Locker (QB, Washington) vs Nebraska

Let me start by saying that as bad as Locker was in this game, it doesn’t necessarily mean he isn’t going to be a high first round pick. Amongst all the suspensions and disappointing performances, the 2011 class of prospects have so far flattered to deceive. How Locker responds to this setback could just as easily define his stock next April as the Nebraska performance itself hampers it. He plays enough good teams between now and the new year that he can repair the damage done this weekend.

However, his performance against Nebraska was a horror show. He completed just 4/20 passes, registered 71 yards and threw two picks (a third was called back for a defensive hold). The stats alone paint a bad picture, but the tape simply enhanced the bad display. He miss-fired on many short/medium throws. He looked edgy in the pocket and too often locked onto receivers. He forced far too many throws. Overall it was not what you wanted to see from a fifth year senior touted as a potential #1 overall pick.

It started badly and got worse and Locker’s first throw just encapsulated his entire day. Despite having an age to sit in the pocket, he forces the pass into double coverage and is easily picked off by the Nebraska safety. It was an incomprehensible decision to even attempt the throw. He’s not under pressure and his deep receiver is clearly well covered. If nobody else is open, why didn’t he just throw it away? It set the tone for an afternoon of bad decisions.

For his second interception, he locks onto one receiver who is extremely well covered by a Cornhusker CB. The pass is never on, at no point in that play is the receiver in position to make the catch. Locker never realises this and simply tosses it out there on the slant. The cornerback is always in position to make the interception and deservedly it’s picked off and taken in for a defensive touchdown.

As the game went away from Washington, Locker’s game seemed to further drift. He started to toss throws up for grabs and his accuracy became even looser. It often gets said that Locker is hampered by his supporting cast, but for me – it was his supporting cast being let down by the star quarterback. Granted he was playing against a good defense, but there was no excuse for a performance so disjointed as this.

It’s too simplistic to say that Locker will ‘fall’ down boards now. Can he still go first overall? Of course. We’re three games into the new season. He has a chance to prove this was a freak one off, he has a chance to prove he’s better than this. However, I truly believe we’re looking at someone with a very high ceiling but is still developing as a pro-QB. Anyone who thinks Locker made the wrong decision in coming back to Washington needs to watch this game. He isn’t ready. Maybe he would’ve earned a nice sum for leaving early, but he’s not ready to start. He needs this season of games and I also think he needs to be red-shirted for 1-2 years when he is drafted. That could put some teams off on draft day, but others will look at Locker’s potential and see the long term benefits of him sitting for a couple of seasons. He can still be an early pick, he can still be a first round pick. But he has to do so much better.

Ryan Mallett (QB, Arkansas) vs Georgia

Last year, my biggest issue with Mallett was his consistency. He could demolish weak opposition and put up the big numbers, but he struggled against the better teams (especially on the road). 34.3% (Alabama), 44.4% (Florida) and 35.3% (Ole Miss) away from Arkansas showed the kind of issues the 6’7″, 239lbs quarterback faced last year. This was his first real test of 2010, although it’s important to remember that last year he scored 5 TD’s and registered 408 yards in a losing effort against Georgia.

This was on the road though and Mallett previously hadn’t won away from Arkansas in the SEC. When I watched Mallett in 2009 I liked a lot of things. He has his critics and whilst I acknowledge he’s far from perfect, I came into this year thinking he was the top QB prospect legible for 2011. My opinion hasn’t changed after watching the Georgia game. Mallett completed 63.6% of his passes, scoring 3 TD’s and registering 380 passing yards.

Aside from two throws that should’ve been picked off, he generally made good decisions. Mallett has a brilliant arm and can make a full quota of pro-throws, but it’s the short stuff he needs to improve on. He showed much better touch on short/medium and underneath throws against Georgia and his game-winning pass with seconds remaining on a medium slant route was perfection (see it in the video below). He displayed immense poise in the pocket under pressure and kept his eyes downfield, especially on an inch perfect throw to his running back on a wheel route for a TD just before the end of the third quarter.

Mallett can make throws that a lot of NFL QB’s aren’t capable of because of his arm. Just before half time, he launched a 50-yard bomb downfield which dissected two defenders and hit his receiver absolutely on the money. Despite his size and a lot of inaccurate reports, he isn’t immobile despite his size. He avoids pressure well in the pocket and whilst he isn’t going to be ‘Big Ben’ at the next level, he’s not a statue and this isn’t an issue for me.

In fact ‘Big Ben’ is probably the best comparison I’d have for Mallett. Like Roethlisberger, he’ll have off-days at the next level. What Mallett needs to do when he does enter the NFL, is master the art of winning games despite this. Roethlisberger isn’t the most accurate passer or the most clinical, but he gets it done. It helps that he’s benefited from a well coached team with an elite defense – Mallett may never get that same luxury.

Right now I’d rank Mallett higher than the other quarterbacks legible for 2011. Andrew Luck likely won’t declare for me, but if he does I’m not convinced he isn’t an above average game manager. Jake Locker has a repair job to do and can still be the first QB taken next year, but this weekend has suggested to me he’s more of a long term project. Mallett will come into the NFL facing the same kind of lessons that most rookie’s encounter. But he has the physical talents to interest teams and concern pro-defenses. For someone who has a lot of critics, Mallett (in my opinion) deserves a much greater press.

There are unanswered questions about his work ethic and attitude, no doubt the pro-scouts will do their homework but for know, it’s important to concentrate on what we can actually judge – which is what we see on tape.

Kiper and McShay weekend preview

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Updated mock draft: 09/15

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

I’ve updated the mock draft page for this week with some big changes. You’ll find all my mock drafts via the link in the menu-bar at the top of the page or by clicking here. Last weekend was a major disappointment for me. Christian Ponder imploded in an awful FSU display at Oklahoma. He couldn’t keep up with the Sooners’ offense and as the hosts piled on the points, Ponder’s performance became more and more erratic. Andrew Luck enjoyed a comfortable victory over UCLA but he completed less than 50% of his passes and looked like a classic college game-manager. I didn’t see the kind of accuracy or physical qualities that will transfer into a top NFL quarterback.

This weekend, I’m watching Ryan Mallett (QB, Arkansas) against Georgia and Jake Locker (QB, Washington) taking on Nebraska. Here’s the deal… when I watch Ponder and Luck I see things that I like, but I also don’t see eye catching physical talent or brilliant accuracy. I can accept a guy who’s just accurate but doesn’t have the big arm or great playmaking talent. I’ll consider a prospect with unique abilities to make things happen even if there needs to be greater consistency. Both just seem to be lacking in Ponder and Luck. Being able to move around is fine. Keeping things ‘ticking over’ is fine. But do you draft that first overall?

Matt Stafford has a great arm, but he threw too often into double coverage and wasn’t always the most accurate. He went first overall because there was something to work with and potential due to the physical potential. Sam Bradford maybe didn’t have the cannon arm, but he was faultless in terms of accuracy and put up huge numbers. He also went first overall. I don’t see either qualities in Ponder or Luck.

What about Mallett and Locker? Mallett has an arm which is maybe better than anything you’ll ever see. I like his high release point, it’s a quick release and he’s capable of making throws that most QB’s in the NFL aren’t capable of. His consistency has been patchy which shows up in the numbers last year – he struggled against the top teams (Alabama, Florida) but destroyed the teams beyond that elite level. He made throws in 2009 that were quite simply stunning… and that’s not an over exaggeration. In the NFL, teams will have to respect his arm. If you can get him to appreciate touch and become more consistent, you could have an amazing talent. If I’m a coach, I’d love to take on project:Mallett. Whilst a lot of people are down on the Arkansas QB right now – most of it’s unfair. Let’s see if he can continue his tremendous start to 2010.

Locker is capable of being brilliant some of the time and average others. He can make a play or a drive that you just flat out applaud. The following week, he’ll struggle with accuracy and without the big play – you’re left wondering what the fuss is about. As I’ve said many times, I want Locker to be good most of the time – not great some of the time. Even still, teams will look at the complete package – this is a guy who can beat you with his legs or arm. He can be a playmaker who will frighten teams and cause game plan concerns. A lot of scouts and coaches will wonder ‘what if?’ and they’ll salivate over bringing Locker to their facility for camp knowing they have a chance to mould him into a potential star.

For those reasons alone, I wonder if they’ll be the only quarterbacks taken in round one next year. I don’t think Luck will even declare and Ponder, for me, doesn’t look worthy of a first round pick. Does Terrelle Pryor come into the mix? I think he’ll stay with Ohio State for his senior year unless they win a National title. Jerrod Johnson (QB, Texas A&M) is a guy I like a lot, but as a mid-round pick due to technical flaws.

Glen Peer’s review – Seahawks vs 49ers

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

By Glen Peer, guest writer..
One Week, One Win, One Set of Observations…

What I loved

Winning…not sure anything more needs to be said but as we know W’s are at a premium in this league and we haven’t had too many the past 2 years.

Energy – Sure it was week 1, at Qwest, against the “expected” NFC West champs, but the enthusiasm from Coach Carroll, down to the Special Teams were infectious.  Re-thinking that 1st TD run by Matthew and the celebration after is giving me chills as I type this.  

We won the turnover battle.  A long standing thought in the NFL “win the turnover battle, win the game”.  Of the 16 games this weekend 9 teams who won the turnover battle won, 3 lost (Baltimore, Philadelphia, & Detroit), and in 4 games the turnovers were equal. (more…)

Andrew Luck could be a game manager

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Andrew Luck manages Stanford to a big win over UCLA

I’ve just watched the tape from Saturday’s Stanford vs UCLA game. It was pretty ugly if you’re a Bruins fan – a 35-0 defeat and an offensive performance that was, well, offensive. I wanted to see how Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford) performed against a good defense but when said defense is on the field for almost the entire game it’s tough to judge. Luck’s stat line was pretty similar to the kind of thing we saw last year – 11/24 passing for just 151 yards and a pair of TD’s. The thing that concerned me most from last year was Stanford’s ability to lean on Toby Gerhart to get huge yardage and TD’s in bulk essentially making life easy for the QB. Nothing much has changed.

Instead of Gerhart, the Cardinals are using 4-5 different runners. The results however remain the same. TIme and time again Stanford ran the ball with such ease it was embarassing for UCLA. When you’re able to run the ball as well as Stanford do, Luck simply has to manage the game. His method needs to be (and is) – don’t make mistakes, lead the team, keep it ticking over. Luck manages all of those things well and Stanford will win their fair share of games this year thanks to the run game. But what does this mean for Luck’s pro-prospects? I’m not convinced.

For starters, I don’t think he can beat teams with his arm. He throws an awful lot of low passes and I can only presume this is a technical issue. There’s nothing immediately obvious when you watch his motion, but too many times we saw a receiver diving to the ground to try and make the catch. His arm strength is just average. He doesn’t have a weak arm but he can’t drive the deep ball and stretch teams. He’ll sufficiently get the ball out quickly and with decent velocity on a short or medium range, but physically he’s not going to really test anyone deep. His accuracy is patchy at best, which is why we see these games where he completes less than 50% of his passes. On both TD passes and his two-point conversion he showed nice touch and put the ball on the money. But a lot of other times he’d throw into coverage, just lob it too high/low and force it into tight windows. Not being physically brilliant means he has to be very accurate and he isn’t.

Luck can move around and is agile for a guy listed at 6’4″ and 235lbs, but Jake Locker he isn’t. He can make first downs in CFB but he’s not got difference making speed and he won’t scare anyone in the NFL with his legs. It does mean he can tackle a good bootleg and that’ll be key for teams like Seattle who want their guys to move about – but he’s not going to be a threat at the next level as a runner.

Of course, Luck is merely a redshirt sophomore. Sam Bradford won a Heisman and scored 50 TD’s as a RS/Sph but didn’t declare, so it wouldn’t surprise me if Luck sticks around and doesn’t declare for the 2011 Draft. But I watch Luck and the words ‘game manager’ just scream out at me. If I’m drafting a guy early who isn’t a physical specimen then I want accuracy – and Luck doesn’t show enough of that. I’m taking him out of my next mock draft under the presumption he won’t declare, but I’d have a hard time seeing him go Top-10 anyway on this weekends evidence.

So what does this mean for the 2011 class of QB’s? Christian Ponder had a nightmare against Oklahoma. I’ve given my thoughts on Luck. As things stand, I think we’re potentially looking at two guys as first round picks – Jake Locker and Ryan Mallett. The thing I like about Locker is his ability to make something out of nothing. I want to see him be good a lot of the time not great some of the time – but that ability to be ‘great’ is what makes him an interesting prospect. Mallett has a brilliant arm and is capable of making throws nearly nobody else can. He’s still inconsistent, he’ll still put too much on throws when a bit of touch is needed. However, someone is going to gamble on working that out to own the arm. I think he can turn into a more rounded passer if he isn’t thrown in at the deep end. But right now, I’m looking at those two guys when it comes to top picks at the QB position next year.

Ponder ugly in FSU meltdown

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

A day after my wedding, I’m back watching tape. I have a very understanding wife. Florida State were awful against Oklahoma and a potentially interesting encounter soon became a blow out. The Sooners scored nearly every time they touched the ball and it pumped all the pressure on the Seminoles offense to keep up. They couldn’t. It was a particularly bad day for quarterback Christian Ponder who absolutely extinguished any growing hype that he’s worthy of a top pick next April. Admittedly this was a game where his defense couldn’t stop a thrown beach-ball and FSU had to abandon the run early, but Ponder was still poor.

It started well enough with an opening offensive drive that led to a short touchdown run. The key play was a nice run by Ponder who dodged four defenders to get the ball to the one-yard line. After that it was a catalogue of errors. Where do we start? It’s tough to decide because it was THAT bad. For starters, as agile as Ponder is he was far too keen to tuck it and run when OU brought pressure. Whether it was impatience of frustration, too many times he made one quick read to see his receiver covered and ran only to be sacked.

Decision making was a problem throwing the ball too. He threw into traffic and receivers well covered. On the two interceptions he basically gifted Oklahoma the ball with astonishing neglect. He overthrew short routed and doesn’t have the ideal arm to get the ball deep and take advantage of his wide-outs speed. He stared down his receivers regularly and was pretty inaccurate throughout. Circumstances accepted, this was just a reckless display all round. Struggling when your team is being beaten badly is one thing but to implode in the process isn’t what you want from a top draft pick. It’s only one game but it’s against the best opposition that Ponder will be judged. On this evidence he isn’t even a second round pick.

It was better news for Rodney Hudson who is so easily the best interior lineman in college football it’s not even close. He dominates in every single aspect. I appreciate that his size will put off a of teams and he may not be able to dominate NFL defenders like he does in CFB. However, for a ZBS team that doesn’t mind smaller lineman, he’s worth a shot. Talent wise he’s a top-20 type guy who won’t go that early because of his position. Consistently at the snap the other four FSU offensive lineman would create a pocket, but would be pushed back 4-5 yards. Rodney Hudson would still be blocking his guy at the line of scrimmage ahead of everyone else.

Hudson’s cut blocking is above average for a college guard. With 7:13 left in first quarter he delivers a perfect cut block to completely eliminate the inside rusher, creating an age for Ponder to complete a simple pitch and catch for a first down. On the very next play, he jumps into the second level and destroys a linebacker with another inch perfect cut block to help his running back make a 4 yard run. He could probably play for Seattle against San Francisco today and perform to a good level. He’s pro-ready, immensely talented and if the Seahawks maintain the Alex Gibbs mantra (that remains to be seen) Hudson should be on the team’s radar as a long-term partner to Russell Okung.

Blog may be quiet during ‘big’ weekend

Friday, September 10th, 2010

 

There are so many quality match-ups this weekend in CFB with lots of 2011 draft prospects to watch. The blog is going to be quiet although I have a legitimate excuse. I’m getting married on Saturday, so I’m saving up the games to watch over the next seven days. Here are some of the key games I’ll be watching and what I’ll be looking out for. Expect analysis from Monday.

Florida State vs Oklahoma
Christian Ponder looked excellent… against Samford. Can he do it against a far superior defense on the road? He’ll have to carry the team on offense and put points on the board. If he can perform and lead his team to a win, you’re going to here a lot about Ponder. You’ll see him in the top five of mock drafts. The hype will go into overdrive. Watch FSU’s top offensive lineman Rodney Hudson (LG, Florida State) as he is by far the best in CFB and a perfect fit for zone blocking teams.

Penn State vs Alabama
Still no Mark Ingram or Marcell Dareus for Alabama, so keep an eye on Julio Jones. He made one of the best TD catches you’ll see this year last week and he’s got the physical set up to become a top NFL wide out.  Last year he suffered something of a sophomore slump – struggling with concentration and drops. With so much potential, it was disappointing to watch such sloppy play from a potential top-15 pick. He’s likely to declare for the 2011 draft as a junior, so let’s see if he’s focused on becoming a top pick.

Stanford vs UCLA
For me this is a double opportunity. Firstly, we get to see Andrew Luck without Toby Gerhart against good opposition on the road. Can he lead Stanford and put up the big numbers? If he does so consistently this year, it increases the likelihood he will declare for next April’s draft. On the other side, Akeem Ayers will be rushing at Luck and roaming around in coverage. He l0oks like a logical fit for the LEO position now used by Seattle and might be as good as any player that fits that role in CFB. Watch both prospects.

Ohio State vs Miami
If Terrelle Pryor wants to be talked about amongst the other big name QB’s, he has to win a game like this. He also needs to show poise in the pocket, an ability to control possession and be a leader. These are all things that have stopped Pryor and Ohio State becoming a more dominant machine. He showed up at the Rose Bowl. It was an OK start last week, let’s see if he can get another big victory.

Updated 2011 Mock Draft (09/08)

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Florida State's Christian Ponder deserves greater attention

I’ve published an updated mock draft following the opening weekend of the college football season. You can find the latest mock at any time by clicking the ‘Mock Draft’ link on the menu-bar or simply click here. We’re still nowhere close to making accurate projections on the 2011 draft, but I’ll keep publishing a regular weekly update. The thing that strikes me most in comparison to last year, is the lack of ‘sure things’ at the top of round one. Last year, Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy never left my top-three picks and ultimately, that proved true on draft day. Sam Bradford, even with his injury, appeared almost certain to be the first quarterback taken and a top five pick. I wasn’t always convinced but many others had Eric Berry and Russell Okung as top-ten locks and I felt confident C.J. Spiller would fall in the same range. Good luck trying to find similar ‘sure-things’ for 2011. (more…)

Seahawks Draft Blog Podcast #1

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Download the first podcast for 2010 by clicking the link below:
Seahawks Draft Blog Podcast #1 (Expired, please check podcast #2 or #3)

Saturday review: Akeem Ayers is worth watching

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

Akeem Ayers impressed, but UCLA couldn't stop Daniel Thomas

UCLA’s offense was difficult to watch last year and they relied a lot on a good defense to win games. Having lost Brian Price to the draft this year, could the Bruins maintain that quality? Initial thoughts based on yesterday’s defeat to Kansas State is that not much has changed – the offense still stutters and the defense looks good. One prospect who interests me more than a lot of others this year is outside linebacker/defensive end Akeem Ayers.

With the Seahawks now using a LEO pass rusher off the edge, Ayers fits the bill at 6’4″ and 255lbs. He had an excellent game despite his team’s 31-22 defeat and is one to watch. He might be Seattle’s best bet for a playmaker off the edge after UNC’s Robert Quinn (who missed the opening weekend through suspension). The first thing that you notice are his instincts – he makes quick, accurate decisions and that has helped him make a lot of big plays in his college career. Nothing different in 2010 so far – a recovered fumble early on being a perfect example, simply reacting quicker than anyone else to dive on the ball for a key turnover which led to an eventual touchdown run for QB Kevin Prince.

With eleven minutes left in the first half, Ayers lined up on the left hand side on the LOS in space. He moves to the left initially before engaging the right tackle. Ayers is able to get round the lineman with good hand use to jab the tackle and get inside. He gets to the quarterback just as he delivers the throw and instinctively gets his hands to the ball, tipping the ball high into the air and he’s unfortunate not to make a diving interception.

With seconds left until half-time, he showed why he might be a legitimate option as an edge rusher. He gets into top speed quickly from the snap and just flat out beat the left tackle from the right side, gliding past him with consummate ease. Only a strong second effort from the tackle to push him one handed off balance stops Ayers from recording a big sack, but his presence forces a bad throw which sails out of bounds. On the very next play Ayers lines up in a prevent scheme as part of a three-man defensive line, this time from the left hand side. He runs to the right tackle and delivers a perfectly effortless spin move to embarrass the tackle before chasing down the quarterback and physically shoving 228lbs running back Daneil Thomas to the turf. The hail mary attempt is delivered but incomplete, but it was interesting to see how much UCLA value Ayers as a rusher in that he was the one man attack with nearly everyone else in coverage.

Ayers recorded his only official sack of the game by again beating the right tackle off the edge with 9:19 remaining and throwing the quarterback to the ground. Again it’s good hand use, putting a punch on the tackle’s chest to jolt him back before bursting round the edge to make the sack.

What I also like about Ayers is despite giving up some size, he’s a very sure tackler and does a good job disengaging blockers. He lines up all over the field, but predominantly in this game at linebacker. He’s shown previously that he can cope in coverage (four interceptions last year), which essentially means you can leave him in for a lot of play calls. He’s got fluid hips and moves around freely, K-State very rarely threw in his direction because he did a very good job of taking away a target over the middle.

It wasn’t 100% positive though, he was caught well by the full back off the edge on a big TD run to start the third quarter. This came just moments after a bit of indecision in dealing with an option pass allowed running back Thomas to break off a big run.

Ayers is an instinctive playmaker with good overall talents who can be solid against the pass and run. He could be worthy of a first round grade with a lot of teams looking for outside linebackers who can rush and cover and he’s every bit a potential LEO edge rusher. Rather than focus on over rated prospects like Greg Romeus (DE, Pittsburgh) I’d suggest taking a look at UCLA’s Ayers.

I’m going to watch the tape of LSU vs UNC in a few moments. Bruce Carter (LB, UNC) and Patrick Peterson (CB, LSU) will be the main focus of attention. It appears Peterson picked up an injury during the game and left the field several times, including during North Carolina’s 97-yard TD score. Robert Quinn (DE, UNC), Marvin Austin (DT, UNC) and Greg Little (WR, UNC) all missed the game through suspension. Another top 2011 draft prospect – A.J. Green (WR, Georgia) – was also held out on opening weekend amid more agent issues, although it does appear Green is completely innocent and was merely held out as a precaution in an easy win for the Bulldogs against Lafayette.

It was a good start for Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder. Despite throwing an early interception, he scored four touchdowns and registered 167 passing yards in just a half of football against Samford. The competition level wasn’t great but this is a good start for another prospect who has the mobility, smarts and arm strength that will interest the Seahawks. On a couple of scores Ponder showed his ability to throw accurately on the move, which would be key in a Seahawks offense that will use a lot of play action and bootlegs. He also mixed up a lot of his passes, knowing when to take something off the ball and use touch and also when to put some force into his action. Ponder could gatecrash the top-20 if he can continue performing like this.

Jake Locker, the favorite of many to go first overall next year, had a mixed opening weekend. The stat line was good in Washington’s defeat to BYU – 266 yards and two total touchdowns. CBS Sportsline’s Rob Rang says Locker showed off his obvious talentsbut also his inconsistencies. I need to see Locker this year before making a judgement myself, but I think it’s far from a lock he’ll go first overall next April. I’ve been sceptical too of Stanford’s Andrew Luck, but he made a solid start against Sacramento State with four TD’s and 316 yards. If he can do that against the better teams he’ll face this year, it’ll make it more likely he declares in 2011 and goes high in the draft.