Archive for December, 2010

What about Pat Devlin?

Monday, December 20th, 2010

A lot of people ask me about Pat Devlin (QB, Delaware) and unfortunately I can’t offer any opinion. With no access to Delaware games, it’s impossible for me to judge a prospect who some have touted as a potential draft dark-horse.

Kevin Wiedl from Scouts Inc has seen Devlin perform and he has this to say:

“At 6-3 and 225 pounds Devlin isn’t as big as former Delaware and current Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco and Devlin’s arm is not as strong as Flacco’s either. However, the two are similar in terms of poise and pocket presence when going through progressions. Devlin is able to feel and sidestep the pass rush and consistently get to his second and third options, and he has a great grasp of the offense and makes solid decisions (22 TD passes, 2 INT in 2010). 

“Devlin isn’t the most mobile quarterback and will take his fair share of sacks, but he’s functional in the pocket and shows intelligence. His accuracy could improve a bit but Devlin’s overall skill set has positioned him in the late-third or early-fourth round area at this point and he could move up the board with a strong showing in all-star games and other pre-draft workouts.”

A lack of mobility probably won’t cut it in this Seahawks offense. We only had a brief glimpse of Charlie Whitehurst on Sunday but in the red zone it was noticable how option-run’s were being called. Whitehurst was given the chance to run if the read went that way and it actually led to a fourth down conversion and a touchdown.

Neither play has been called with Matt Hasselbeck on the field and it’s not a surprise given that both of Seattle’s quarterbacks have different levels of mobility. 

It may not have been obvious this year but the Seahawks want their quarterback to move around, whether it’s an option-run, a bootleg or simply evading pressure and getting out of the pocket. 

I’ll try to acquire some tape on Devlin in the future.

Washington vs Seattle = Locker?

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

Earlier in the week I commented on how the Redskins’ picking ahead of Seattle could define both team’s draft.

The fact is – both have very similar needs, not to mention at quarterback. The decision to bench Donovan McNabb clearly had nothing to do with giving Rex Grossman his chance – it simply sets the wheels in motion for the quarterback’s release.

Maybe it also shows Washington are now playing for draft position?

Pro Football Talk relays a discussion held on the NFL Network about the subject. I think there’s every chance Washington have decided they need to draft a new quarterback and are acting now to give themselves a better chance of achieving that.

The names touted in PFT are Cam Newton and Ryan Mallett. I disagree. Jake Locker will be the quarterback Washington intends to draft.

Everyone is down on Locker at the moment – and with good reason. Everything people report about Locker is true – he’s not progressed this year as a passer, he’s still very inaccurate and he’s struggled badly against half-decent opponents.

There’s absolutely no doubt that will concern some scouts and GM’s enough to move Locker way down the board.

For others – it will mean little compared to the potential upside the Huskies QB brings to the table. Locker’s arm, athletic abilities, character, decent mechanics – it doesn’t make it right but some teams will ignore the issues and will feel they can turn him into a pro-passer.

The simple fact is, Seattle and Washington both have very similar offensive schemes and make very similar demands from their QB’s.

There’s enough out there regarding Mike Shanahan’s admiration for Locker for it to be more than rogue speculation.

The ties between Pete Carroll and Locker are obvious – they are clearly close as seen when Carroll has attended Washington practises. When Carroll was at USC, he called Locker the best QB he’d faced. There was speculation from Scout.com’s Chris Steuber (now with NFL Draft Scout) that Locker almost made a dramatic U-turn to declare for the 2010 draft due to Carroll’s arrival in Seattle and the pair’s admiration for each other. There’s also the fact Carroll’s trusted former offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian has been Locker’s coach for two years.

Believe as much of this as you wish, but there’s every reason the two coaches see Locker in a much more positive light than most others. After all – it wouldn’t be the first time physical and character qualities dwarfed accuracy problems in grading.

It could be as little as a two-team shoot-out between Washington and Seattle. There may be other candidates (Arizona?) in the running.

Locker, at least in my opinion, is much closer to the kind of quarterback Shanhan or Carroll would want rather than a prospect like Mallett. Neither will likely get a shot at Newton, who’s being seriously under rated as a mid/late first round pick.

Maybe I’m wrong about this. I’m willing to be proven completely wrong. It’s a rather substantial ‘hunch’.

But why else are Washington making this move? While Seattle carry on with Matt Hasselbeck, potentially earning an unlikely playoff spot with a 7-9 or 8-8 record, the Redskins are making a huge statement about their intentions. They are out of playoff contention because they don’t play in a division containing Arizona, St. Louis and San Francisco.

It’s a stab in the dark – but maybe they’re thinking ‘let’s make sure we’re above Seattle’ – or anyone else they suspect will be interested.

Don’t sleep on Locker as a top-15 or even a top-10 pick. As I said before – it doesn’t make it right if he does go in that region. His issues may eventually be his downfall in the NFL.

Whilst most people have written him off going even in round one, that probably won’t be the case come next April and there may be more than two teams fighting over his services. If Washington are canning the season for draft position, I wouldn’t bet against Locker being the reason – with the possible intention of guaranteeing a position above Seattle who are just one win better off than the ‘Skins at this stage.

Saturday videos: Bowl games & Locker

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

Mel Kiper and Todd McShay look at the top match-ups during Bowl Season:

We’ve spent a lot of time discussing Jake Locker’s issues. Here’s what will keep team’s interested early in round one:

Washington situation could affect Seahawks

Friday, December 17th, 2010

If the season ended today, the Washington Redskins would own the #9 overall pick – six spots ahead of Seattle.

They may have a significant impact on the Seahawks come next April.

Today’s news that Donovan McNabb will be benched in place of Rex Grossman almost certainly signals the end of his tenure in Washington. Despite signing a new contract only a few weeks ago – there’s an easy get-out for the Redskins at the end of this year.

In that scenario you would have to add quarterback to the list of probable options for Washington in the draft.

That could make life difficult for the Seahawks.

I mocked Jake Locker to Seattle this week. There’s a very good chance Washington will show interest in the Huskies quarterback. Many reports (including this onefrom Brock Huard) suggested Shanahan was ‘enamoured’ with Locker when the Redskins owned the #4 pick last year. He eventually chose to return for his senior season.

Jeremy Bates (Seahawks offensive coordinator) worked under Shanahan in Denver and both use a very similar offensive scheme.

It’s not just the quarterback position (or round one) where the two teams may be competing.

Washington have needs amongst their interior offensive line, at five-technique on the defensive line and due to their 3-4 scheme, they’ll take a serious look at outside rushers.

The Seahawks ‘LEO’ position is very similar to the more orthodox outside linebacker. The importance of Red Bryant’s role as a 5-tech has been emphasised in his absence. Seattle’s offensive line policy is almost identical to that used by Shanahan.

The Redskins final three games are at Dallas, at Jacksonville and at home against the New York Giants.

It seems almost probable now Grossman is starting that they’ll go 0-3 to complete the season 5-11.

There’s nothing the Seahawks can really do about it – but if the teams do end up picking in the same area on draft day with only a couple of spots difference – it might not be a good thing for Seattle.

The Jake Locker debate

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Locker - back in the mock tomorrow

I’ve had a mixed reaction to my latest mock draft.

Understandably some have questioned the decision to once again pair Jake Locker with the Seattle Seahawks in the middle of round one.

I’ve spent a lot of time discussing Locker on this blog – and I’ve left him out of the first round altogether on occasions.

If you ask most GM’s or pundits what is the most important thing when it comes to a good, young quarterback – they’ll almost certainly say ‘accuracy’.

That is Locker’s biggest issue.

I certainly think the environment he plays in with Washington has had some effect. He’s been sacked 47 times in the last two years and constant pressure will tamper with any QB’s poise and accuracy.

In comparison, Andrew Luck has taken thirty-seven less sacks in the same time frame.

It’s not a complete excuse though.

Locker still made bad decisions and forced throws when afforded time in the pocket this season. Take a look at the first pass in the video below for an example of that:

That play was in the notorious Nebraska blow out from earlier this year, where Locker completed a meagre 4/20 passing.

The two teams meet again in the Holiday Bowl on December 30th.

When people see Locker make bad decisions like that and perform like he did against Nebraska and UCLA this year (where he was equally poor) – I appreciate why people want to know why I keep Locker in round one.

Plenty others have bailed on the former top ranked senior.

I could certainly see a situation where he falls into round two – or maybe worse.

At the same time, he could still be a top-15 pick.

To be presumptive, I’m not sure accuracy is as important to teams as perhaps they’d want you to believe.

Sure – we all want our team to have the quarterback who can dissect a defense with expert precision, make limited mistakes and achieve Tom Brady-esque perfection.

But there’s a history of physical ability trumping any other quality when it comes to the first round of the NFL draft.

Look at the recent history and you’ll see physically talented quarterbacks outnumbering those who are limited in that area.

Why else did Oakland take JaMarcus Russell first overall in 2007?

Ok – that’s the Raiders. They have history in over-rating physical aspects in draft prospects.

There are other examples. Denver fell for Tim Tebow’s ‘upside’ last year despite serious mechanical and accuracy issues.

Miami passed on Matt Ryan in 2008 – in preference of selecting the bigger arm of Chad Henne in round two and the physically strong Jake Long first overall.

Vince Young, Jay Cutler, Matt Stafford, Josh Freeman and Joe Flacco. All physically gifted – all with question marks about their mechanics, experience or accuracy.

Jimmy Clausen wasn’t inaccurate for Notre Dame last year. He completed 68% of his passes (Andrew Luck is currently at 70%) and protected the ball well – he only had four picks in 2009.

The reason he fell – in my opinion – had little to do with character and more to do with being a physically limited quarterback.

Rather than working from a pro-style offense under Charlie Weiss, it was a lot of high percentage, short range throws and a limited variety of plays.

When Lofa Tatupu picked off Clausen for a touchdown in week 13, he read the typical Clausen dump off with consummate ease.

Even as a rookie starter for a hopeless one-win team, it’s no surprise that he’s thrown seven picks and just the one score.

He hasn’t got a weak arm, but it’s far from strong. His throwing motion comes from the side and he struggles to generate velocity throwing off his back foot.

Overall he’s just an incredibly limited quarterback.

Teams will not allow Locker to fall like Clausen. Someone, be it a coach or GM, will be confident (arrogant?) enough to believe they can develop him into a pro-passer.

He has ideal size (6-3, 230lbs) and an over the top throwing motion. Locker has the arm and will be capable of making a full range of throws.

He’s an above average athlete – certainly a grade above Tebow – with ideal mobility and that ability to make things happen on the ground.

Locker also has a faultless character and work ethic. You wouldn’t be concerned introducing him to a veteran roster as your starting quarterback.

The accuracy issues are a problem that will be difficult to address. They could prevent Locker from ever developing his tremendous physical potential.

But someone is going to take that chance.

It might be that a coach feels he can restrict the mistakes – encourage ball security but still offer enough freedom to allow Locker to improvise and be a playmaker.

A GM might think some time spent watching and learning will be the cure to such issues.

When or if it happens – drafting Locker early may prove to be a tremendous mistake.

But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

I look at the Seahawks, the Vikings and the Cardinals and see potential landing spots for Locker.

Landing spots in round one.

Things could change over the forthcoming weeks. Locker has another big game against Nebraska not to mention possible appearances at the Senior Bowl and Scouting Combine.

As of today – right or wrong – I think he can still be a first round pick.

Updated prospect tracker & latest on declarations

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

I’ve updated the prospect tracker with all the complete stats for the 2010 college football season. You can access the tracker by clicking here or selecting the logo underneath the title bar on the home page.

It’s interesting to see that the top two quarterback prospects (Andrew Luck & Cam Newton) have some similarities amongst their statistics. Of the top ranked QB prospects for 2010, they are #1 and #3 for completion percentage with only Pat Devlin dissecting them at #2. Luck passed for 28 TD’s with seven picks, Newton matched the touchdown total but threw an extra interception. (more…)

Updated mock draft: 14th December

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

I often talk about my desire to use mock drafts to experiment.

I’d say it’s a need to review everything that ‘could’ happen rather than an unrealistic prediction months before even the combine, let alone next April’s draft.

However, I’m using this week’s projection as a ‘where we are now’ type experience.

It’s the end of college football’s regular season and now we’re waiting for Bowl season to begin. Things will change as we get to the Senior Bowl, the combine and then individual work outs. As of today, this is how I see things panning out.

It’s the purest mock I’ve done so far – and maybe the most reckless. There’s more opinion and ‘hunch’ involved to justify picks, rather than a qualified, “what if?”.

I will archive this mock and keep it in the ‘Scouting Reports’ section of the blog. It’ll be interesting to see how things have changed by April.

A few thoughts and explanations:

- Ryan Mallett (QB, Arkansas) isn’t in the first round. I am a big fan of Mallett’s on field talent, but I remain unconvinced that he has the necessary mental aspects that teams want in an expensive young quarterback. It’s harder, in my opinion, to place Mallett with a team than it is Newton or Locker. Whilst there are teams in need of a quarterback (and Mallett has top-15 qualities) I would predict a fall as of today. I’m willing to be proven wrong.

- Jake Locker (QB, Washington) on the other hand remains in the top-15. Some people would (rightly) question this logic. Others might call it ‘bizarre’ or ‘plain wrong’. I would not grade Locker in the first round myself. His accuracy issues are a major concern. However, I do think some teams – rightly or wrongly – will see the physical qualities, the character and occasional flashes of brilliance and feel they can turn water into wine. I can see a situation where Locker drops (and badly). I can also see a situation where one team takes him as high as I have projected here. The Seahawks could easily be that team.

- Cameron Jordan (DE, California) and Tyron Smith (OT, USC) are two prospects on the rise. That is represented here – with both having the potential to crack the top ten during work outs. For both – it’s the promise of potential and the physical quality they bring to the team that will be attractive rather than any brilliance shown in college. Smith in particular is the hot tip right now to be the first tackle off the board – representing a year without any obvious top end OT prospects.

- Other prospects might fall, such as Prince Amukamara (CB, Nebraska) and Robert Quinn (DE, UNC). I’ve kept both high on the board here with Quinn at #6 and Amukamara at #11. Quinn might suffer after missing the entire year through suspension and I could see a drop into the teens. This is a best case scenario for him based on the assumption he will work out well at the combine. Amukamara also has to show well in Indianapolis after only a so-so year without any picks. He struggled against Justin Blackmon and whilst he hasn’t been challenged that much this year, that hasn’t stopped a guy like Patrick Peterson having an impact.

You can see the latest projection by clicking here or selecting ‘Mock Draft’ in the title bar.

Status check: Draft order and the top five

Monday, December 13th, 2010

It’s time for a quick status check on how the draft order looks today. I also want to run through the first few picks, look at what teams might do early on. It’s also important to remember that a lot can change between now and April – specifically during Senior Bowl workouts and the combine.

Currently, the top seven picks are easy to distinguish. Carolina (1-12) would own the first overall selection with Cincinnati (2-11) in second. Denver, Detroit and Buffalo all have a 3-10 record, but the Broncos would pick third based on strength of schedule with the Lions selecting fourth and the Bills fifth.

The Cowboys and Cardinals are 4-9, but Arizona would own the 6th overall pick.

It then gets a bit more complicated. Four teams have a 5-8 record, with Houston and Minnesota (5-7) both potentially joining them after Monday’s games.

If the Texans and Vikings both improved their record to 6-7, strength of schedule would give the Seahawks the 12th overall pick with three games to go.

Here’s some thoughts on what could happen - subject to changes over the next few weeks.

#1 Carolina Panthers (1-12)

Projection: Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)

There is no question what will happen with this pick if, as expected, Andrew Luck declares for the 2011 Draft (the deadline for that decision is January 15th). With a new regime and fresh start imminent in Carolina, they will select the top ranked quarterback to lead the path forward. The new coaches will have no ties to Jimmy Clausen, who isn’t of the same class as Luck anyway. A no brainer.

#2 Cincinatti Bengals (2-11)

Projection: Cam Newton (QB, Auburn)

This could be an interesting team to follow. Carson Palmer has had a disastrous season and could be released in favor of a fresh start. Cam Newton, in my opinion, needs to be discussed even as high as this pick. It could happen. If the Bengals pick second, they can cut Palmer loose knowing they’d be guaranteed one of Luck or Newton. The Auburn prospect could be their own version of Big Ben – big in size and arm, mobile, occasional miracle worker.

Cincy are also joint last in the NFL for sacks, so you can’t rule out Da’Quan Bowers. It appears to be a pretty safe bet that if the Bengals do pick second overall – it’ll be a quarterback (Luck, Newton) or defensive end (Bowers).

#3 Denver Broncos (3-10)

Projection: Da’Quan Bowers (DE, Clemson)

Denver appear likely to appoint a GM to control the draft and the appointment of a head coach – that will be a significant change for the franchise. Josh McDaniels invested a lot in young offensive talent (Tebow, Thomas, Moreno) but who knows how the new regime will view what is a stagnant offense. Even so – the defense needs to be a priority.

Whether they switch back to a 4-3 or maintain a 3-4 defensive scheme – Da’Quan Bowers makes a ton of sense. Getting bigger up front and adding to the joint worst pass rush in the NFL is crucial (even when Elvis Dumervil returns in 2011). Marcell Dareus and Nick Fairley are other options, but don’t be surprised if we see a move for A.J. Green or Patrick Peterson either.

#4 Detroit Lions (3-10)

Projection: Patrick Peterson (CB, LSU)

The Lions are joint fifth in the NFL for sacks but only eight teams have given up more passing touchdowns. I could see a situation where this team pairs Ndamukong Suh with Da’Quan Bowers (if available) but it would appear unlikely they’d spend so much draft stock at the DT position by considering Nick Fairley or Marcell Dareus.

A.J. Green and Calvin Johnson would be a frightening, yet unlikely combo. The offensive line needs an upgrade – but there are no solutions here. Cornerbacks don’t always go this early – but I have a hard time seeing Detroit pass on Patrick Peterson in this particular scenario.

#5 Buffalo Bills (3-10)

Projection: A.J. Green (WR, Georgia)

This is the most interesting team currently picking in the top ten. How can you project Buffalo? They had so many needs last year and took the flashy running back (C.J. Spiller). I could easily see a similar situation this year with the team snubbing other needs to draft another dynamic playmaker - A.J. Green. Why not? After all - if they persist with a 3-4 defense, neither Nick Fairley or Marcell Dareus are ideal fits. There are no OT’s worthy of the pick and the top two QB’s are gone.

In a situation like this particular projection – I’d almost make Green the favorite to go here. They believed Spiller was too good to pass and in my opinion, Green is a bettter overall prospect than Spiller was last year – and I liked Spiller a lot.

After that it gets a little harder to project. Arizona with the 6th overall pick have big needs at quarterback, offensive tackle, pass rushing OLB and cornerback. I cannot project Ryan Mallett to work under Ken Wisenhunt. Jake Locker has the right mental make-up and can’t be ruled out even despite his major issues with accuracy this year. Even so, I suspect Arizona will address the QB position before the draft. They need to find an experienced veteran who can manage the extreme talent they have on offense.

Robert Quinn (DE/OLB, UNC) is a possibility – but he has a lot of convincing to do in work outs after missing the entire year thanks to a  NCAA suspension. Tyron Smith (OT, USC) may be the best bet for a top-ten left tackle, but lacks the size Arizona would prefer to have on their offensive line. He would need to add 15lbs before the combine. Janoris Jenkins and Prince Amukamara are possibilities at cornerback. I wouldn’t rule out Green or Julio Jones if both are available. Arizona is a difficult team to project at this position.

The Cowboys picked at #7 are a little clearer. Their biggest issue is amongst the secondary, but there are no Eric Berry’s or Earl Thomas’ this year. You can see Jerry Jones falling for Patrick Peterson, but not necessarily for Janoris Jenkins or Prince Amukamara. Both have to be considered however. The depth at CB may also afford the Cowboys to look at beefing up their defensive front with one of Nick Fairley or Marcell Dareus – even if both are better placed in a 4-3.

Seahawks would be picking between #13 and #15

Monday, December 13th, 2010

If the season ended after this weekend’s games, the Seahawks would be picking between #13 and #15 overall. Wins for Houston and Minnesota would put the Seahawks at #13. If only one of those two is victorious, Seattle gets the #14 pick.

The top three picks would belong to Carolina, Cincinatti and Denver in that order.

Prospects taken in the 12-14 range in previous five years:

2010: Ryan Mathews, Brandon Graham, Earl Thomas
2009: Knowshon Moreno, Brian Orakpo, Malcolm Jenkins
2008: Ryan Clady, Jonathan Stewart, Chris Williams
2007: Marshawn Lynch, Adam Carriker, Darelle Revis
2006: Haloti Ngata, Kamerion Wimbley, Brodrick Bunkley

Picking in this range would not give the Seahawks the opportunity to draft Andrew Luck or Cam Newton – I expect both to leave the board early alongside Da’Quan Bowers and Patrick Peterson.

Cam Newton wins the Heisman

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

Cam Newton was rightfully awarded the Heisman Trophy on Saturday. The Auburn quarterback won in a landslide victory ahead of second placed Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford).

LaMichael James (RB, Oregon) and Kellen Moore (QB, Boise State) were also finalists.

With 2589 passing yards, 1409 rushing yards and 49 total touchdowns this season – there was never any doubt who deserved the award. Make no mistake – Auburn are in the BCS Championship because of their quarterback.

Before the deadline on January 15th, Newton will declare for the 2011 NFL Draft with a cluster of awards under his arm. He won the Maxwell and O’Brien awards earlier this week and now adds the Heisman.

I’ve discussed Newton’s pro-prospects often on this blog. I’ve included him amongst the top-ten picks in my mock drafts for the majority of the current college football season.

Initial suspicions that this was merely another run-first, athletic QB were cast aside with further research. This is a guy who has the arm, can make NFL throws with accuracy and precision and doesn’t go into the league needing major repair work to his mechanics.

There are improvements that need to be made – he needs to do a better job setting his feet and throwing less off the back foot. Like most rookies he’ll need to learn a playbook much deeper than he’s used to in college. Newton will need to work in a system completely different to that at Auburn where he’s required to make one or two reads before running.

That’s no different to any other rookie.

Newton restricts his mistakes, is capable of making big plays and managing situations. The pressure he’s been under this year will not have been matched with any other prospect in college football. He’s been able to put that to the back of his mind – win – and perform.

Coming from behind to win against Alabama was a defining moment in his development. So far, it might be the highlight in a year where Newton has dominated one of the strongest conferences in the game.

I understand why some high profile pundits are hesitant to put Newton as high as I have in their mocks. This is a guy with little playing experience (one year in the JUCO ranks, one year with Auburn). He’s also got some questions that need answering in team meetings during the draft process – not least his departure from Florida and recent issues involving his father and the ‘pay-to-play’ story.

As long as they can be answered then the sky’s the limit for Cam Newton. Today he won the Heisman – next April he could be back in New York to celebrate being a high pick in the draft.