Archive for October, 2010

NFC West: Fighting for playoffs… fighting for QB’s?

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

The NFC West is a four way battle. In any other division, the San Francisco 49ers would be done at 0-5. They’re probably done anyway, but at least some people (including the Niners organisation) seriously believe they can turn this around. They’ve still got seven divisional games that are all winnable, so it’s not impossible. My view is – whilst no one team takes the initiative and strings a few wins together, the Niners have an unlikely shot.

Also in the NFC West we have a decidedly uncertain future at quarterback. Sam Bradford is entrenched in St. Louis for years and is quite possibly the best QB in the division already. San Fran’s fans turned on Alex Smith on Sunday as the Niners lost a close one to Philadelphia. Arizona started UDFA Max Hall in a victory over New Orleans. The Seahawks are sticking by Matt Hasselbeck despite three consecutive difficult performances. There’s every possibility that this time next year, none of those QB’s are even on their respective team’s rosters. (more…)

Breaking News: UNC trio out for the year

Monday, October 11th, 2010

North Carolina came into 2010 with a star studded defense full of top draft prospects. Today, three of those prospects were officially ruled out for the year. UNC made star defensive end Robert Quinn and receiver Greg Little ineligible and dismissed defensive tackle Marvin Austin. The NCAA said Quinn and Little were to be made ineligble after violating rules involving agent benefits, preferential treatment and ethical conduct. Reports say they acceptedjewelry, travel accommodations and other benefits” and “according to facts submitted by the university, Little took nearly $5,000 worth of benefits and the value of Quinn’s total exceeded $5,600.”

Austin had been suspended since September 1st after violating an unnamed team rule. The Tar Heels did not seek to have him reinstated. The trio were amongst 13 players who didn’t start the season whilst an investigation was conducted. Some have been able to return, but this development is pretty substantial considering the high profile individuals involved. Quinn had been expected to be a very high first round pick next April, potentially first overall. He had 11 sacks last season. There’s a chance he’ll still go early, but teams will look into this situation and do their homework. You have to wonder also if not playing for essentially two years (that’s what it’ll be when he makes his NFL debut) will affect his performance or conditioning?

Little was considered a mid-round level receiver. He lacks elite blazing speed, but he’s a solid overall prospect with good ball skills and plays with a competitive edge. In 2009 he recorded 724 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Austin was a little bit over rated as a first round prospect – for me he was strictly in the mid-round range. He had perhaps the most to prove this year – he missed two games in 2009 as a coaches decision. Questions have been asked about his attitude and work ethic. You watch the tape and want to see more from a guy with his size and potential – he just doesn’t bring it every play. He didn’t need to be dismissed without playing a snap in 2010.

Essentially, all three can now prepare for the combine. That could be a make or break situation for all. If they take for granted this time off and show up at Indianapolis in anything but peak condition – teams will just plant a red flag in their direction. If they can work hard and stay in game shape, that’ll be considered a plus. Dez Bryant (WR, Dallas) missed the vast majority of 2009 but remained a first round pick. He didn’t, however, go as early as some people thought he could do. For a guy like Quinn, not performing may not be such a terrible thing. People remember his 2009 performances which were raw but generally good. Little will probably do enough – if he works hard – to maintain his stock. Austin has a major challenge to repair the damage created by this dismissal.

Week six review – Jenkins struggles vs LSU

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

Janoris Jenkins (#1) can't stop a fake field goal

One of the prospects who has impressed me the most this year is Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins. I’ve had him in the top ten of my mock drafts, just behind Patrick Peterson (CB, LSU) and Prince Amukamara (CB, Nebraska). It might be time to temper those expectations for him, at least for the time being. Jenkins shut down Julio Jones (WR, Alabama) last week but he struggled against LSU’s Terrance Toliver in the open-field. It’s not a stock killer because Toliver is capable of much more than he’s shown so far. His six catch, 111 yard and 2 TD performance against the Gators was long overdue – he only had 148 yards and zero touchdowns in LSU’s previous five games. 

There were two almost identical plays that stood out. Overall Jenkins was decent in coverage, showed good reaction skills as the play developed and was willing to turn and get involved when the ball wasn’t thrown his way. Indeed, he wasn’t targeted that often by LSU’s duel threat at QB and it’s a sign of the growing respect Jenkins has earned.  He got called on a corner blitz and showed great closing speed to pressure a bad throw and deliver a good, solid QB hit. Jenkins also showed some ability as a kick returner, but a good run was called back for an illegal block and an unnecessary spiking of the ball on the sidelines. 

The first big play against Jenkins came with 1:31 left in the first half. Toliver ran a slant and did well to pull in a difficult grab off balance. As two defenders closed, Toliver pulled off a superb spin move to avoid both and get into the open field. Jenkins initially does really well to anticipate the move and close quickly on Toliver to make the tackle. However, he doesn’t do a good enough job at all of wrapping up and Toliver simply drags him 10-12 yards into the end zone. He needs to make that tackle and whilst Toliver is 6-5 and 203lbs, it’s not like he was trying to bring down Mark Ingram. 

An almost identical incident occurred with 23 seconds left and the game on the line. This time Jenkins is covering Toliver and takes a bad angle as a simple short slant is caught with far too much ease. Jenkins reacts and again initiates the tackle, but cannot bring the receiver down. Toliver makes another 12 yards, dragging Jenkins along as he desperately tries to complete the play. It set up LSU for a game-winning touchdown pass and the victory, when a good solid open-field tackle may have restricted them to a field goal and over time. 

Jenkins’ coverage skills and big play ability will mean more to scouts and GM’s than his open-field tackling, but it’s something he needs to work on. He has good coverage skills, good reactions. He can be a kick return threat at the next level. However, he really needs to work on wrapping up in future and it certainly helped LSU put 14 points on the board. 

Patrick Peterson was the other big cornerback feature in the game – but it was almost impossible to judge him on this performance. He was off the field injured and in some pain for large portions of the game. When he was in action, Florida never tested him. He made a couple of good plays in run support – as you’d expect for a corner his size. He did have a badly botched punt for a turnover though – uncharacteristic because his special teams play has been excellent so far. 

**QB Watch** 

Christian Ponder (QB, Florida State) proved he can win big games on the road with a comprehensive 45-17 win over Miami. The performance summed up Ponder for me – he managed things well without being physically dominant. He completed just 12/21 passing for 173 yards, two scores and an interception. Ponder gets a mid-round grade at this point and certainly doesn’t deserve to be talked amongst the early first round prospects. 

Ryan Mallett (QB, Arkansas) was also victorious in his first game since defeat to Alabama. He put up the big numbers and continues his major improvement in completion percentage this year – getting 310 yards from 27/38 with three TD’s and a pick. However, a good 24-17 win over Texas A&M was spoilt somewhat by Mallett’s petulance – striking a defender, arguing with anyone who’d listen and ignoring the coaches. It’s that kind of attitude that will hold back Mallett’s stock. 

Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford) matched up Jake Locker by helping his team defeat USC with a late field goal. Luck completed a lot of high percentage throws for 20/24 and 285 yards (3 TD’s). If he keeps winning, the hype will continue and it’ll keep his stock high. I still don’t think Luck is either physically outstanding or accurate enough to warrant the #1 overall pick, but whilst ever he’s being described ‘the best QB in college football’… he’ll be at the forefront of most people’s minds – including GM’s. 

Jake Locker (QB, Washington) and the Huskies lost at home to Arizona State. Locker failed to convert a couple of fourth down plays – something that has been a problem this year for Washington. The numbers weren’t really good or bad – 23/38 for 209 yards and a touchdown. Locker had a late pick in the end-zone on a hit and hope. It’s important to remember that Locker was reportedly very ill ahead of this game. However, a lot of people voice concerns about Locker’s ability to get it done against lesser teams. This is one that got away. 

**Other notes** 

A.J. Green (WR, Georgia) had 96 yards and a touchdown from six grabs as Georgia defeated Tennessee. In two games since his suspension, Green has 215 yards and 3 TD’s playing on a bad offense. He will be a top ten pick next year and could go as early as first overall depending on which team owns the pick. They won’t – but if St. Louis had that #1 choice again this year – it’d be a no brainer to pair Green with Sam Bradford. 

Ryan Kerrigan (DE, Purdue) got his sixth sack in five games in a 20-17 win over Northwestern. I’ve had him in the top-20 of my mock because he’s rising quickly. Teams will be interested in his effort and production. I understand why others don’t want to move him even into round one but good publicity, improved technique  and big production will turn what would’ve been a third round pick last year into a potential top choice in 2011. 

Julio Jones (WR, Alabama) and Marcell Dareus (DT, Alabama) both stepped up even in a losing effort. Jones responded after a quiet game against Florida with 118 yards, eight catches and a touchdown. Dareus provided constant inside pressure and got his first sack of the year against South Carolina. Jones’ stock is hard to second guess right now – I could see top-20, I could see second round. Dareus should be a top-20 pick. Mark Ingram (RB, Alabama) had a frustrating afternoon as ‘Bama went away from the pass, he got just 11 carries and 41 yards.

Da’Quan Bowers vs North Carolina

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

Da'Quan Bowers had 2 sacks vs UNC

I managed to get a feed of Clemson vs UNC as a bonus today. I’ll have thoughts on Alabama’s shock defeat at South Carolina  and LSU/Florida when I’ve watched the tape tomorrow. Da’Quan Bowers (DE, Clemson) was once the #1 overall ranked recruit when he committed to the Tigers ahead of the 2008 season. He was slowed by injury and inconsistency to start his career, recording just four sacks in two years. The light appears to have switched on in 2010 . Two more sacks against North Carolina took his tally this season to six in five games. He had a third sack nullified by an offside call, stepping up a split second too early.

It wasn’t just the numbers that stood out. Bowers put constant pressure on UNC quarterback T.J. Yates, flashing a great initial burst to regularly get into the backfield and impact plays. He showed good upper body strength to push back offensive lineman to compliment his speed off the edge. There wasn’t a great repertoire on show and Bowers certainly didn’t flash a great spin move, but he generally didn’t need to against UNC’s offensive line. His size (280lbs, 6-4) doesn’t lend to the LEO position but he has the kind of build that could fit the ‘five technique’ LE position that Red Bryant has been playing. Although Bowers isn’t as big as Bryant, he’s a better pass rusher. With an effective LEO rusher on the other side, Bowers would add another string to Seattle’s defensive line bow. He plays some snaps inside and looks comfortable, so I have to believe he’d be well suited to such a role.

I had Bowers in the 20-32 pick range previously, but I’ll certainly consider upping that in the next mock draft. He can easily be a top-15 pick.

*NOTE: Reports like this on individual prospects or weekend reviews are now listed amongst the ‘Scouting Reports’ page located in the title bar or by clicking here.

Weekend preview

Friday, October 8th, 2010

There’s just two games on the schedule this weekend for me due to the MLB playoffs and NHL return bumping CFB from the network. I’ve got Alabama at South Carolina and LSU at Florida. There are more intriguing games out there from a NFL Draft prospective. The Florida State vs Miami game puts Allen Bailey and Rodney Hudson in one-on-one combat which should be fun to watch. It’s also a chance for Christian Ponder (QB, FSU) to repair his stock on the road after a rough showing at Oklahoma. If you get a chance to watch this game unlike me – keep an eye on Brandon Harris (CB, Miami) who’s really climbing up the boards at the moment.

It’ll be interesting to see how Andrew Luck and Stanford bounce back after defeat against Oregon last week. They face USC at home, which could be a tricky one to negotiate despite Washington’s victory over the Trojans last week. Jake Locker and the Huskies entertain Arizona State needing a win to maintain their momentum. Pittsburgh at Notre Dame might not be the most entertaining to watch, but it’ll feature two big names wide outs – Michael Floyd (ND) and Jonathan Baldwin (Pitt). Other notable draft prospects include UCLA’s OLB Akeem Ayers at California, DE Da’Quan Bowers of Clemson at UNC and Ryan Mallett hoping to out-gun Jerrod Johnson and Texas A&M.

Going back to the two featured games I can watch, here’s two prospects I’ll be looking out for:

Julio Jones (WR, Alabama) vs South Carolina
We’ve seen the best and worst from Jones so far this year. His stunning one-handed catch in week one flashed his brilliance, but he’s also showed his lack of concentration and execution too. Some pundits have him in the top ten of their mocks, whilst others (like Scouts Inc.) give him a second round grade. Clearly he looks like a #1 pro wide out, but teams will need to see greater consistency and effort. Jones was shut out by Janoris Jenkins last week, but Alabama didn’t need much offense to beat a hopeless Florida. This will be a tougher game on the road and the Crimson Tide will need their top receiver to have an impact.

Janoris Jenkins (CB, Florida) vs LSU
The Tigers’ offense has been poor again this year, but they’ve still won games. That’ll be tested against a Gators team that should be motivated to make up for last week’s beat-down in Alabama. If the Gators get in front early, it’ll force LSU to throw and that could be good news for Janoris Jenkins. He’s so far displayed good coverage skills and an ability to shut down one of CFB’s top receivers. There’s definitely opportunities in this game to get a pick or two and Jenkins has that ability to turn it into six points the other way. He might come up against Terrance Tolliver (WR, LSU) who’s been disappointing so far in 2010 – but remains a prospect with some potential who can be a threat.

Interesting stats on first round quarterbacks

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

I’d like to thank blog favorite Kip Earlywine for bringing this article to my attention. There’s an opinion amongst some that drafting a quarterback in the early rounds is something to avoid and that there are often better options later on. It’s certainly true that later round QB’s have battled the odds to have great success in the NFL – namely Tom Brady in New England. However, the DC Times posted this interesting research that shows first round quarterbacks might actually be better bets than previously thought. In looking to measure the success of a quarterback once drafted, the piece of uncredited work relates to Pro Bowl appearances as the determining factor. That’s a pretty fair assessment. Whilst some obviously go to the Pro Bowl on a one off or when other ‘bigger names’ have pulled out, it’s usually a sign of some degree of success for your drafted quarterback to make an all-star game. Indeed, the article itself acknowledges it isn’t a flawless sample.

So what did they find?

“There is a noticeable relationship between a quarterback’s draft position and his future success. Among all first-rounders, there is a 32% chance of making a single Pro Bowl.  That number actually rises to 38% among first round quarterbacks.  Thus, highly-drafted quarterbacks may be slightly more likely to find success than first-rounders at other positions.”

This isn’t just a first round issue either.

“Second-rounders of all positions have a 15.3% chance of making a single Pro Bowl.  Among quarterbacks, that number soars to 32%.  Thus, second round quarterbacks are as likely to make a Pro Bowl as first-rounders at all positions (and more likely after we eliminate the first round quarterbacks). The higher probability of quarterback Pro Bowls continues in the third round, where 13% of signal-callers reach a Pro Bowl, compared to just 6.4% of third-rounders in general. Also note the steep decline in Pro Bowl appearances among third and fourth round quarterbacks. Ultimately, there is a fairly strong correlation between draft round and Pro Bowl appearances.  While the relationship exists for all positions, it is significantly stronger for quarterbacks than for players at other positions.”

It makes for interesting reading. Essentially if you use this advice as a small but useful sample – it is significantly harder to find Pro Bowl quarterbacks outside of the top two rounds. Hardly rocket science as you’d expect the most talented prospects to go early. But what it does suggest is rather than produce a never ending pot of gold, the Tom Brady’s, Matt Hasselbeck’s and Marc Bulger’s off this world are very much the exception to the rule.

The research ends by suggesting the second round, on their evidence, is perhaps the best time to select a quarterback. I would instead choose to end it by singling out the fact that quarterbacks taken in round one are above average amongst other positions with regard Pro Bowl appearances. There are a lot of other positions of greater risk. It might be a leap of faith to commit to a prospect to be the face of the franchise – to lead from the most important position. However – it may end up being a better investment than many other positions when all is said and done.

Do the Seahawks need a defensive end?

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Chris Clemons has four sacks in four starts

What are the Seahawks’ greatest needs? Nearly everyone would say a long term answer at quarterback. I suspect a few people would point to further improvements on the offensive line. Some would suggest cornerback is a big need, especially after significant changes amongst the secondary this year. A decent majority may also point to the wide receiver position. You could probably guarantee a lot of people will also say defensive end.

The team’s trade of Darryl Tapp last March raised a few eye brows. The 26-year-old former second round pick registered 17 sacks during his four years in Seattle and was considered by many to be one of the few potential building blocks on defense. A fourth round pick in the 2010 draft and Chris Clemons were the bounty picked up for dealing Tapp to the Philadelphia Eagles. Clemons – a situational pass rusher and journeyman – gathered minimal attention amongst Pete Carroll and John Schneider’s cauldron of activity. After four games of the 2010 NFL season, Clemons has four sacks – good for second in the NFC behind only Green Bay’s Clay Matthews (7 sacks). He’s on pace for 16 sacks for the year – which seems unlikely – but certainly a realistic aim would be double digits after an excellent start.

Can stats like sack numbers be deceptive? Of course. Seattle’s pass rush has been better when supported by a noisy Qwest Field environment. It hasn’t been as dominant on the road, but it certainly hasn’t been the team’s greatest issue. It’s important to remember also that the Seahawks rank 29th in time of possession. Only Arizona, Carolina and Buffalo have spent less time on offense after four weeks – three teams who have all changed their quarterbacks already and total a current 2-10 record. A pass rush is at it’s best when it isn’t being asked to spend the majority of a game on the field making up for an offensive crisis.

That said, the saying goes you can never have too many good pass rushers. Clemons will be 29-years-old at the end of October and likely isn’t a definitive long term answer at the position, even if his short term play over the next 2-3 years could warrant serious praise. Using a more structured rotation will also help the defense if there’s no drop off in pressure when a guy like Clemons takes a breather. The class of defensive ends for 2011 are a mixed bag of unknowns, under achievers and over achievers. Robert Quinn (UNC) looks like a potential top-five pick, but he remains suspended and might not take the field for the Tar Heels this year. Adrian Clayborn (Iowa) is a great player to watch but has only managed a single sack in 2010 so far and doesn’t own the elite edge-speed perhaps needed to dominate the pro’s like he does in college. Allen Bailey (Miami) is another who looks the part, but doesn’t bring it anywhere near enough. Jeremy Beal (Oklahoma) has 18 sacks in his last 18 appearances for the Sooners, but can that success translate to the next level? DaQuan Bowers (Clemson) is a former #1 ranked overall recruit, but has been slowed by injuries and inconsistency leading up to this year – although he appears to be making up for lost time now and could even break the top ten next April. Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue) is a high motor, big effort guy with five sacks in 2010 but is he a poor man’s Chris Long?

A few weeks ago I had a look at the recent history of defensive ends drated in round one. In the five drafts that took place between 2004 and 2008, there have been four solid-to-elite prospects drafted. Will Smith (2004, Saints), DeMarcus Ware (2005, Cowboys), Mario Williams (2006, Texans) and Tamba Hali (2006, Chiefs). There have been 13 busts – including Lawrence Jackson (2008, Seattle), Jarvis Moss (2007, Denver) and Vernon Gholston (2008, NYJ). During that same time frame Jared Allen, Trent Cole, Elvis Dumervil and LaMarr Woodley were all taken outside of the first round.

What I’d take out of that small sample is that teams clearly value the defensive end position and have perhaps over rated certain prospects in trying to find that elusive edge rusher. Maybe a guy dominated in college and made a lot of sacks but just couldn’t do the same against much greater opponents in the NFL? Being able to record sacks and place such high value on one statistic in CFB may at times be as detrimental as reading too much into a QB coming from a pass-happy offense. Either way, the recent history of drafting defensive ends isn’t great.

Look at the stats for the current NFL season after four games. Amongst the top ten currently leading the sack rankings, there are four undrafted free agents, one fourth round pick and two fifth rounders. There are two first round choices listed. It’s still early in the season and things can change, but it certainly shows that good pass rushers can be found without necessarily spending the top draft picks.

The Seahawks will of course consider every possibility next April – which is still much too far away to accurately project anyway. However, they may be afforded the opportunity to concentrate on other areas of the team – most noticeably on offense – as they continue the climb back to relevancy under Pete Carroll’s regime.

Marshawn Lynch trade: What have we learnt?

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

Marshawn Lynch brings 'beast mode' to Seattle

The Seahawks acquired Marshawn Lynch via trade today in a deal that will cost a 2011 4th round pick and a conditional 2012 draft choice. So how does this leave the 2012 draft following another big trade? Seattle still possesses it’s own selections in rounds one, two, five and seven. The third round pick was spent on Charlie Whitehurst and the sixth rounder on Kentwan Balmer. In addition, the Seahawks acquired a conditional pick from Baltimore for Josh Wilson which could rise to a fourth round selection. The Lawrence Jackson trade brought in a 6th round choice from Detroit to replace the one spent on Balmer. Seattle also gained a conditional 2011 pick for Seneca Wallace after he was traded to Cleveland in March. The deals involving Rob Sims and Darryl Tapp brought in 2010 draft picks that have already been used. Tyler Polumbus was traded to Seattle for what is believed to be a late round pick in 2012.

A lot to take in then right? It just goes to show how busy the Seahawks have been since Pete Carroll and John Schneider arrived in Seattle. Simply put, the Seahawks may end up with a full quota of picks (rounds 1-7) aside from the third rounder spent on Whitehurst. The worst case scenario would likely mean owning two fifth round choices instead of a 4th and a 5th, depending on the Josh Wilson deal. Seattle may also gain a compensatory pick for losing Nate Burleson in free agency. Taking that into consideration, spending a fourth round pick on a running back that is 24 years old and has been to Pro Bowls could be deemed a risk worth taking. 

But what else have we learnt here? For starters, this is a regime not afraid to make deals. Some trades have worked (moving Tapp for Chris Clemons appears to be a master stroke, Seattle even got a 4th rounder out of the deal) whilst others haven’t (moves for Kevin Vickerson and LenDale White – both since cut). Whilst the front office continue to piece together the team’s identity, I suspect they’ll keep making moves. It’s a pro-active approach. Some teams wouldn’t dream of coughing up draft picks – and Seattle’s value in the 2010 draft late on proves the potential is there to get starting caliber players in the later rounds. However – the Seahawks cannot afford not to be pro-active. Drafts alone will not a great team make and it makes greater sense to invest in younger talent that has stalled rather than invest huge sums of money in ageing veterans during free agency like the previous regime.

The move for Lynch also stresses the importance Pete Carroll and his staff have placed on the running back position. Is this an attempt to find a quality runner without spending the big money in round one? Or is this a sign that perhaps if given the opportunity, they may well consider investing in a stud like Mark Ingram next year?

It’s interesting also that they feel better quality at running back was needed rather than solving other issues within the game plan. Perhaps if Lynch fails to generate a productive ground game, it’ll only stress the Seahawks’ need to stretch the field a little more – either by improving at receiver or by using/signing a quarterback who can get the ball downfield. Whilst ever the offense is relying on short-range passes of no more than 10-15 yards maximum, opposition defenses will only have a short area to cover – making it very difficult to create running room whoever carries the rock.

The Lynch trade could indirectly open up debate as to what the Seahawks need to do next April and what prospects they may target.

Updated mock draft – 10/04

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

Washington's Jake Locker is back in the top-20

Here’s this weeks updated mock draft. I’ve extended it to a top-20 projection and plan to keep progressing into a full first-round mock over the next 4-5 weeks. Seattle are back in the mock after Sunday’s 20-3 whimper at St. Louis. With a three-way tie at the top of the NFC West and thanks largely to the performance of the Rams defense and rookie QB/saviour Sam Bradford, I’ve left them out as this week’s ‘pick to win the West’. It’s only fair, having so far already left out Arizona, San Francisco and Seattle.

Andrew Luck still tops the board. Why? It’s clear to me the hype surrounding Luck will almost certainly mask the issues a handful of people (like myself) have voiced. During the broadcast of Oregon and Stanford, Luck was anointed ‘the best quarterback in CFB since Peyton Manning’ by the announcers. Of course, that isn’t true. In fact Sam Bradford would probably be annoyed if he wasn’t just winning games in the NFL on a $50m contract. Luck is neither as accurate as Bradford or in possession of the physical qualities of Matt Stafford. He’s a good, solid college game manager. That’s fine for Stanford.

That probably won’t be fine for the Buffalo Bills.

Whilst the Cardinal continue to get national attention and whilst Luck continues to score rave reviews nationally, momentum will build and he’ll almost certainly declare for next year’s draft. There’s already a lot of talk saying Luck will take advantage of his newly found fame. Buffalo raised a few eye brows when they took C.J. Spiller in the top ten last April. There’s every chance they might prefer the flashier, higher ceiling that belongs to Jake Locker. However – Luck at this stage appears destined to be the #1 pick. I don’t think he’s as good as advertised, but Buffalo almost have to go for a QB. I don’t envy the decision between Luck and Locker that they’ll have to make.

What about Seattle? What about Locker? I’ll answer both at the same time. The Seahawks biggest need is at quarterback. That would be the case even if Matt Hasselbeck was currently enjoying a Pro-Bowl type-revival season (he isn’t). This is a quarterback driven league and Seattle hasn’t solved that riddle to the previous regimes discredit. John Schneider and Pete Carroll rolled the dice to some extent on Charlie Whitehurst and should, I believe, be praised for at least taking a chance on finding a solution.

However, there’s nothing to suggest Whitehurst has proven the long term answer. He may only ever prove to be a stop-gap bridge or a solid backup. Either way, I think two things are clear. Firstly, legend that he is I don’t think Matt Hasselbeck will be part of the Seahawks roster next year. Secondly, they will absolutely have to bring in one quarterback. The options were limited last year (only Bradford and Tebow taken in round one). If they see a guy they want next April, they might just spend the house to get him. Then again, maybe they won’t have to move from their draft position? Either way, the chances Seattle drafts a QB next year increase every week.

Locker deserves to be back in the top-15 after a bounce back win against USC. A lot of people have pointed at the number of roll outs and running he did in the 400+ total yard performance. They may be legitimate points, but it took some guts to win that game after the Nebraska meltdown. People criticise Locker for not winning enough games, but he got the job done in SoCal. The target has to be finding a level of consistency for the rest of the year. No more Nebraska’s. If he can do that, of course teams will consider him in the top ten.

You can view the latest Seahawks Draft Blog mock by clicking here or selecting ‘Mock Draft’ in the title bar.

Weekend review – Locker hits back, Luck vs Oregon

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

Jake Locker (QB, Washington) vs USC
I haven’t had the opportunity to watch any of Washington vs USC but give credit to Jake Locker for leading the Huskies to a 32-31 victory. He needed to bounce back after a highly criticized performance against Nebraska two weeks ago. Locker finished with 310 passing yards and a touchdown, adding 110 rushing yards from just 12 carries. It’s a key note road victory for Locker.

Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford vs Oregon)
Stanford got off to a quick start (at one point leading 21-3) but couldn’t maintain it in a 52-31 defeat. The numbers looked quite good for Luck – 341 passing yards with a pair of touchdowns and interceptions. He added 39 yards and a further score on the ground. However, to me he just looks so unspectacular. I came into the game wondering if he was just a good game-manager and in all honesty, not much has changed.

Here’s my view on Luck in a nutshell. Positives: Mobile quarterback, intelligent, has a good feel for pressure and doesn’t lock on to his receivers. Manages his offense well. Negatives: Nothing stands out (neither physically great or incredibly accurate), floats the deep ball too much, looks like a game manager, gets erratic at times and forces throws.

Mechanically he’s better than Jimmy Clausen was last year. Aside from the occasional low pass, he gets the ball out at a nice high point with a quick release. Clearly they are also very different characters. However, there are some great similarities between Luck and Clausen. Both rely a lot on short/medium range passes with a lot of slants and dump offs. Both will try to throw downfield but don’t put enough velocity on the ball. Luck’s first interception was a classic Clausen attempt – big high throw essentially put up for grabs except he didn’t have Michael Floyd jumping up to pluck it out of the air. Neither drives a deep pass, they put too much air on it and that won’t scare NFL defensive backs.

When Stanford went behind against Oregon Luck started to force things a bit and he became slightly erratic – something that has had a tendency to surface in the past. He isn’t that accurate. He hasn’t got a Matt Stafford type arm, but he hasn’t got Sam Bradford’s accuracy either. What stands out? Luck has a much better ground game and an offensive line than Clausen ever had at Notre Dame and that helps him to ‘manage’ things better. In terms of what they’ll be able to achieve early in the NFL I don’t think there’s a great deal of difference. I’m not that optimistic for Clausen in Carolina.

If Luck did declare for 2011 and he was considered a candidate to go very early, I’d be concerned if it was my team drafting him. If he’s drafted by a bad team that doesn’t have a great offensive line and running game, I’m not convinced he’ll get it done. This was a chance for Luck to prove he can lead an offense with his talents against another prolific scorer. I’m still dubious. I didn’t see enough in this game to pursuade me that we aren’t potentially witnessing another Joey Harrington.

Miami at Clemson
Allen Bailey (DE, Miami) had a better game than he did against Pittsburgh. He tipped a pass and generally got a lot more consistent pressure off the edge. It still concerns me how much he’s subbed in and out, but for the first time this year I felt like we were watching a late first round pick. Brandon Harris (CB, Miami) had another fine display and continues to impress with his tackling. He’s not a huge corner, but he tackles remarkably well in run support. He wasn’t tested all that much in coverage, but I’m confident he deserves a mid/late first round grade.

Texas vs Oklahoma
Jeremy Beal (DE, Oklahoma) might be better than I first thought. He had two more sacks against Texas taking his total to seven for the year already. He has an above average double move and flashed a better repertoire than expected yesterday. He’s an all out effort rusher too, which makes up for a lack of elite burst off the edge. Getting 18 sacks in 1.3 seasons cannot be ignored and he could get up close to 15 for the year at this rate. Beal fits Seattle’s LEO rusher position and is a definite one-to-watch going forward.

Florida at Alabama
It wasn’t a good day for the Gators, but it was a good day for Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins. He completely shut down Julio Jones who managed just 19 yards from four catches (screens). It was a master-class of coverage against a receiver who could easily be amongst the top-15 picks next year. I’ve previously had Jenkins amongst my top ten picks on the mock draft – that’s not changing any time soon. Very, very impressive.

A.J. Green (WR, Georgia) vs Colorado
This was Green’s return from suspension. He managed seven catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns. He added an extra forty yards on a single rush. Green is a dynamic playmaker who could even be the first overall pick next April. If you’re not convinced, watch the video below showing one of his scores yesterday. I was worried that Georgia’s struggles in general could hold him back, but not on yesterday’s evidence. A great start for a prospect who’s best years will come in the NFL.