Archive for December, 2011

Matt Barkley to announce decision at 1pm

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

USC quarterback Matt Barkley will announce his decision on whether he’s turning pro at 1pm today. Early speculation suggests he will be staying with the Trojans for his senior year. Tony Pauline at SI.com is also reporting that Robert Griffin III and Landry Jones could alsoopt to remain in college – three decisions that would completely change the complexion of the 2012 draft.

For starters, will an unexpected player declare sensing an opportunity with so few quarterbacks available? Could a guy like Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia) jump ship with so many teams in need of a quarterback? Will this benefit second and third tier prospects like Ryan Tannehill and Austin Davis? Where does it leave the list of teams searching for a franchise quarterback, including the Seahawks?

Barkley will announce his intentions at 9pm, but our sources have revealed he didn’t receive a favorable review from the draft committee. Although he was told he would be a high pick, the committee highlighted areas to work on. His skill grade wasn’t particularly high.

There’s no doubt that Barkley would’ve been a high first round pick, but it appears a combination of factors could’ve led him to a decision to stay at USC. The Trojans will be Bowl eligible next year, Barkley will be among the favorites for the Heisman Trophy and he’ll have a realistic shot at being the #1 pick in 2013.

Updated mock draft – 21st December

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

This was one of the most challenging mock drafts I’ve ever had to compile, and the Seahawks are 100% to blame. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to project a pick for Seattle. The defense has taken a giant leap forward this year with several players snatching opportunities to become legitimate starters. The offense is coping despite losing several players to injury. The team overall keeps winning and suddenly the playoffs look mildly possible. In fact, had the Seahawks not blown a 17-7 second half lead at home to Washington, they’d be in a very strong position to claim a wildcard berth.

Due to the slow start (including a 2-6 run through the first half of the season) Seattle is only creeping down the draft board rather than catapulting away from the top ten. At the moment they own the #15 pick, still well out of range for the top three quarterbacks barring a minor miracle. This recent run of wins has only confirmed the need to make a move up the board to get their long term quarterback. There is enough talent on this roster to afford spending a few picks on getting that crucial piece of the puzzle. The fans should have faith in Pete Carroll and John Schneider to keep finding gems with the picks they’re left with after such a deal. We all know the QB position involves so much more development and planning when you go beyond the elite few. Heck – even Robert Griffin III should be viewed as a developmental type of player that’s given time to learn before being thrust into the NFL spotlight. This probably isn’t going to be a problem solved by the kind of quality scouting that uncovered Richard Sherman or KJ Wright.

The Seahawks need that one player that can bring this all together and continue the growth of this franchise under Carroll and Schneider’s guidance. Tarvaris Jackson is doing a good job and deserves a lot of credit. People have stopped talking about Matt Hasselbeck for a start and Jackson himself has developed a rapport with the fans and more importantly, his teammates. As well as he’s played at times this season, it’s still a major stretch to think he can lead this team to the promise land.

Projecting trades is even more convoluted than predicting picks, it’s something I’ll never do in the mocks. There’s going to be this underlying theme every week where I feel the need to place a giant asterisk alongside Seattle’s pick. “This week the Seahawks are taking X, but let’s not forget they could trade up for a quarterback.” The madness must end next April, the Seahawks cannot let a talented roster go to waste as many have in the NFL because they lack that one guy who when needed, can duke it out with the best. If Matt Barkley declares for the NFL draft, the Seahawks have to pull up their pants and go get him.

As Adam Caplan tweeted following the win over Chicago, “Say what you want about the Seahawks, but they are going to be good if they can get the right QB. Love the speed on defense.”

So with that out of the way, let’s talk about this week’s pick.

One player I get asked about a lot is Courtney Upshaw (DE/OLB, Alabama). People want to know why he hasn’t been in the mocks before and the main reason is I have a hard time fitting him into a specific position. He’s in the 6-1/6-2 region, so he’s not got the kind of length you traditionally see at defensive end. His physical style and brilliant sense of leverage works best at the LOS though, so will he be as effective moved into space as a 3-4 OLB? He’s a bit of a tweener in that regard.

It put me off giving him the kind of high grade that everyone else appears willing to offer. However, this week I went back and revisited a handful of Alabama games I’ve saved over the season. One thing stuck out to me, and that was a slight similarity between Upshaw and former Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn. Both have a brawling style, they love to take on blockers and while neither is an elite edge rusher – they maximise leverage and had a lot of success in college. Clayborn is enjoying his rookie year in Tampa Bay so far with 7.5 sacks on a team missing it’s best defensive tackle (Gerald McCoy). I had a look at the physical numbers and Clayborn is only 3cm’s taller than Upshaw, but he’s heavier (281lbs compared to 263lbs) and ran a 4.78 forty yard dash with the extra bulk.

According to the sources we use, the Seahawks liked Clayborn but didn’t anticipate drafting him last April. He wasn’t a LEO pass rusher and didn’t have an obvious role in the the Seahawks front line. Yet there was something they liked about the guy – his style of play, his combative nature perhaps? If only he was a better scheme fit, would he have been a real option? Considering Upshaw plays the game in a similar way, perhaps he’ll get some interest in round one after all? The Seahawks may feel his lighter frame works well off the edge, even if he doesn’t have the kind of break-neck speed or taller frame to be a natural LEO.

The Seahawks use a lot of size in their three man fronts with Chris Clemons playing in space, perhaps they could use some different looks by using Upshaw in more orthodox 4-3 sets? They’ve relied on Clemons for pressure all year (he has 11-sacks, matching his career high from 2010) but they haven’t had the same level or production from Raheem Brock. Could Upshaw provide a fresh dynamic, working with Clemons to enable the defense to get more consistent pressure? It’s really the only thing that’s missing at the moment. Cornerback – a position many considered a big need several weeks ago – now contains two of the most exciting defensive players in the NFC over the last few weeks in Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman. At the safety position, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor have grown into the best young tandem in the entire league (no hyperbole, it’s true). KJ Wright is fast becoming an integral player at linebacker. A more consistent pass rush created by a productive three-technique or a further outside threat could turn this defense from blossoming to dominating.

We’ll never be able to escape Seattle’s need at quarterback, but if there really is no chance of moving up to fill that hole then this is another alternative option for the Seahawks next April.

Note: Jarvis Jones (LB, Georgia) has been removed this week because he didn’t even file his papers to the draft committee for evaluation. He’s staying at Georgia in 2012. Mohamed Sanu (WR, Rutgers) and Manti Te’o (LB, Notre Dame) were removed last week after making it clear they wouldn’t be entering the draft.

Updated first round mock draft

#1 Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)
The Colts are facing a difficult situation where they’ll have to either cut Peyton Manning or trade this pick. Interesting times ahead.
#2 Matt Kalil (OT, USC)
The Rams could end up with the #1 pick at this rate. Whether it’s St. Louis or Minnesota that picks here, they should take Kalil.
#3 Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)
He keeps making plays – eleven interceptions in two seasons. Minnesota’s defense is a mess and needs some help in the secondary.
#4 Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
The Browns have a chance to get good quickly by using their two first rounders wisely. They should run to the podium for Barkley.
#5 Dwight Jones (WR, North Carolina)
The complete package at receiver – size, speed, good hands, competitive, adjusts to the ball. Ideal fodder for Blaine Gabbert.
#6 Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama)
Richardson will take some pressure off Josh Freeman and add star quality to the Buccs. This would be an exciting pick for Tampa Bay.
#7 Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor)
Griffin will help sell tickets in Miami. There’s every chance he’ll go even earlier than this with the hype train rattling down the tracks.
#8 Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State)
If they’re slated to pick after Miami and Cleveland, they could be even more aggressive about landing Peyton Manning.
#9 Jonathan Martin (OT, Stanford)
Buffalo would love to find a top-end pass rusher, but they also have a need at tackle. This would be a smart move.
#10 Luke Kuelchy (LB, Boston College)
A tackling machine who will help solidify Tampa Bay’s defense. Blue collar defender with leadership qualities.
#11 Zach Brown (LB, North Carolina)
Philly should use this high pick to try and find an impact player. Brown has the talent to be a playmaker in year one.
#12 Riley Reiff (OT, Iowa)
A man of few words and a tackle’s attitude. Scott Pioli has ties to Kirk Ferentz and loves players from Iowa – he’s drafted a few for KC already.
#13 Andre Branch (DE, Clemson)
They need an OT, but the top three are off the board. The next biggest need is a pass rusher and Branch will start to rise up boards.
#14 Kendall Wright (WR, Baylor)
Electrifying receiver capable of having an immediate impact in the NFL. Could be the making of Jake Locker in Tennessee.
#15 Courtney Upshaw (DE, Alabama)
The Seahawks rely a lot on Chris Clemons to create pressure, so would they consider adding some help with the aggressive Upshaw?
#16 Quinton Coples (DE, North Carolina)
Would they take first-round five techniques in back-to-back years? Coples’ best fit in the NFL will come at 3-4 DE.
#17 Kevin Reddick (LB, North Carolina)
Under rated linebacker who flies around the field and makes plays. He won’t be much of a pass rush threat, but he’ll solidify the strong side.
#18 Devon Still (DT, Penn State)
A lot of the Bears’ needs come on offense, but adding another big piece to that dangerous front line could appeal too.
#19 David DeCastro (OG, Stanford)
He’s a little over rated, but should find a home in round one. Cincy could use a boost among their interior line.
#20 Janoris Jenkins (CB, North Alabama)
Elite cornerback talent but troubled by off-field problems. The Bengals needs to draft a corner and Jenkins is good enough to start quickly.
#21 Whitney Mercilus (DE, Illinois)
With 14.5 sacks this year, someone will give him a chance early in the draft. New York needs to improve it’s outside pass rush.
#22 Kelechi Osemele (OG, Iowa State)
He could be better than DeCastro, but doesn’t get anywhere near as much hype. This would be a smart move by Detroit.
#23 Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame)
Having drafted a new quarterback earlier, Cleveland now needs to add a playmaker. Floyd has the kind of size Mike Holmgren likes in a #1 receiver.
#24 Lamar Miller (RB, Miami)
The Broncos run the ball well and could look to add another back to their stable. Carolina had two first round runners under John Fox.
#25 Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, Alabama)
He’s big and good in run support, but has struggled in coverage at times. Jerry Jones will like this guy, so will Eli Manning.
#26 Vontaze Burfict (LB, Arizona State)
Although I think his stock is falling, someone could take a shot on Burfict. My guess is he’ll end up playing AFC North..
#27 Alameda Ta’amu (DT, Washington)
His potential to play nose tackle could keep him in round one, even if his play has been inconsistent for the Huskies.
#28 Peter Konz (OC, Wisconsin)
Stood out last year in a big-name Badgers offensive line. Could return for another year, but ready to have an impact as a pro
#29 Nicolas Jean-Baptiste (DT, Baylor)
He’s no Phil Taylor, but every time I’ve watched Baylor this year he’s been the one defensive player who looks to have some pro-potential.
#30 Oday Aboushi (OT, Virginia)
I’ve seen Virginia twice this season and Aboushi looks like a NFL tackle. Baltimore needs to bolster that offensive line.
#31 Fletcher Cox (DT, Mississippi State)
He plays a bit like a runaway train. His running style looks off balance, but he moves for a big guy. A 3-4 fit looks ideal.
#32 Mark Barron (S, Alabama)
He’s having a good year but his stock is limited due to the position he plays. This would be a nice get for the Packers.

Andre Branch (DE,Clemson) game tape vs South Carolina

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Texas game tape no better for Ryan Tannehill

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Tannehill had three more picks against Texas

This was the sixth time I’ve watched Ryan Tannehill this season, and each time I’ve gone in with an open mind. I want to be impressed enough to make the kind of ambitious first round projection others are making. It’s not happening.

The problem is, Tannehill came into the year a ‘flavor of the month’ prospect. People were looking at Texas A&M winning games with this new quarterback who had athletic and physical tools and he looked interesting. This was an opportunity to grade a guy with the benefit of a full off-seasons’ positional coaching after his switch from receiver. He had a good offensive line, some talent at wide out and some serviceable running backs. This was his time to shine.

There’s no other way of looking at it – he simply hasn’t delivered. He’s only been sacked eight times this season, which is less than Andrew Luck and only one more time than the notoriously untouched Kellen Moore. He’s still struggled and he’s been a significant part of team that continued to throw away big leads. He’s turned the ball over too many times and only dominated once against a Baylor defense ranked even lower than Washington’s.

To project Ryan Tannehill as a round one pick is to ignore a lot of the conventional wisdom that comes with making sound decisions in the draft. You’d be taking a leap of faith on his atnohleticism and background as a receiver, hoping you could polish him up to be a starting quarterback who will always be more athlete than dynamic passer. While Robert Griffin III has played beyond his athletic brilliance to look like a guy who can throw the ball around, limit turnovers, make good decisions and game changing plays – Tannehill has blown more cold than hot.

This latest game - a 27-25 defeat to a Texas team that consistently provides almost offensive threat – was a portrait of his season so far. The Aggies are in a comfortable position, but turnovers and mistakes give the Longhorns a shot and suddenly A&M have capitulated. Tannehill threw three interceptions, completed 41% of his passes and did not look like a first round prospect.

One of the things that puts me off a lot of quarterbacks in college is a dependance on the play call. When a player is reliant on everything else around him clicking into place, that’s a concern. The NFL is not a league where things run smoothly most of the time, you need to be able to improvise. A quarterback doesn’t necessarily need to make three quick and precise reads like Matt Barkley, but he does need to show the ability to make plays when things don’t go according to plan.

Landry Jones is a big culprit of this because he’s so zoned into a play call, when things go wrong he looks completely out of ideas. If a play isn’t on, he’ll try and force it anyway because the thought process goes, “this is the play call, I need to hit this receiver on this route.” Matt Barkley is probably thinking, “This is the hot read, this is the second option, this is the checkdown. What are the defense showing me? Do I need to get out of this call? Are they conceding an inside run here?”

Ryan Tannehill isn’t as restricted as Landry Jones because he’s a vastly superior athlete who should be able to extend plays at the next level. At the moment his athletic abilities are only really used on read-options and designed runs, but with good coaching you’d hope he’d be able to learn how to keep things alive given his mobility. Yet he does share a common problem with Jones and that’s how little improvisation he currently shows on tape.

On his second interception against Texas, he has a three step drop and throws without noticing the defensive back who’s gained the upper hand in coverage. Barkley and Luck see that and quickly go to option two, to the checkdown or just back out of the play. Tannehill throws the ball and it’s picked off for a touchdown going the other way. If you’re drafting a player in round one, he has to see that defensive back. It’s a game changing score, with A&M 16-7 up at the start of the second half, suddenly it’s 16-14. The play highlights the main issues you see time and time again on the tape – no pre-snap read, bad decision, forced throw, turnover with a big return.

Over and over again Tannehill will stare down his first read with no intention of actually throwing the ball, hope that draws the safety before going to his actual hot read. That’s what the play call tells him to do, so he better do it. If the safety sits and tries to under cut the pass, Tannehill will still make the throw. On one play against Texas he fakes the read over the middle (very Nick Foles) and turns to the right for Fuller, throwing a floaty pass to the right sideline. He doesn’t notice the defensive back sitting in coverage anticipating the throw and it’s almost intercepted. Because he’s not making reads and reacting to a defense, he’s relying on the play call. If you watch the top three quarterbacks in this class, they all improvise, they all adjust and they generally make good decisions. Tannehill has 14 picks this year, but each game he’ll have two or three extra examples where you think, “that could easily have been a turnover.” Barkley, Luck and Griffin are much more compact and don’t have anywhere near the same level of near misses. If 14 interceptions doesn’t sound that many, let’s remember that Andrew Luck (9), Matt Barkley (7) and Robert Griffin (6) have thrown less.

He’ll be at his best in a quick tempo offense that gets him out of the pocket, running bootlegs and making shorter completions on the run. Tannehill, as with Jake Locker, looks less comfortable and more error prone when he’s sat in the pocket. The technical issues, the mental issues – they’re both less emphasised when the pocket is moved or he’s throwing to developing routes on bootlegs. For whatever reason, his velocity is better throwing on the run and I’m surprised A&M don’t get him moving around more.

His first interception against Texas is a great example of this problem throwing from a standing start. He’s in the pocket, he stares down his receiver on a route down the middle of the field and floats a pass into double coverage. A defensive back reads his eyes and under-cuts the route, forcing the turnover. It’s bad ball placement (tries to throw to the back shoulder, but it’s too high), it’s bad velocity (needs to drive that pass because of the coverage) and it’s the kind of typical turnover Tannehill has forced too many times this season. Simply put, if you’re asking him to sit in the pocket and pick apart a defense, he can’t do it. He needsto be on the run. The big difference between Jake Locker and Tannehill, however, is Locker’s offensive line couldn’t keep him clean for more than 2-3 attempts, while Tannehill is playing behind one of the best offensive lines in college football and is virtually untouched.

Due to his problems in the pocket, it’s impossible to give him even an average grade for accuracy and he’s not grasped touch passing yet. He’ll fire a missile on a simple curl route, then float a deep ball and risk being picked. He doesn’t have a lot of big downfield completions because he generally doesn’t throw the ball into areas that give a receiver a chance to make a play. A lower, flat throw which hugs the sideline won’t cut it when the read is single coverage on a deep out. Tannehill also has a lot of passes tipped or blocked, I have to believe due to his slingy release given he’s got ideal height. It’s an issue he’ll need to correct, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a smoother release at the senior bowl if he attends.

The third interception is the worst of the lot, which is saying something. He’s just given up a pick six to make it 16-14, then he throws one of the laziest interceptions you’ll see all year from inside his own 10-yard line. Shotgun snap, stares down his receiver to the left who’s in double coverage and then just missed, badly, with a looping floaty pass. Perhaps the fact it was so high helps Tannehill, because otherwise it would’ve been another pick-six rather than just an interception. It’s a terrible pass, absolutely nowhere near the intended target, thrown almost with a sense of disregard. A pass like that should scare a scout out of the building. He should never attempt that throw.

People want to use inexperience as an excuse, but we’re not seeing a progression here as he spend more time under center and more time practising at quarterback. If anything, he’s been consistently patchy all season. If you could point to tangible improvements during 2011, I might be willing to accept he’ll enter the pro’s and with high level coaching it’ll click. The mistakes I’m seeing instead make me believe this is a guy with a lot of ideal physical tools, but is only a mediocre quarterback.

David DeCastro (OG, Stanford) game tape vs Notre Dame

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

Jarvis Jones to stay at Georgia?

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

Jones had four sacks in a victory over Florida

In each of my mock drafts so far, Jarvis Jones (LB, Georgia) has been among the early first round picks. Playing as an under-sized defensive end, he’s notched 13.5 sacks this season after transferring from USC. He’ll switch to the WILL linebacker position at the next level providing raw athletic talent, instinct and strong pass rushing ability on third downs.

However, it seems we’ll have to wait a little longer to see him in the NFL.

In several interviews during the season, Jones told reporters he wouldn’t declare. Considering his relatively quick rise to prominence, you had to wonder whether he’d change his mind after getting a high first round grade from the draft committee. Except, according to Pro Football Talk’s John Taylor, he never even filed his papers. “I love being here. I love the guys I play with. I love my coaches. I don’t think I’m ready to let that go yet.”

That’s an honest and open assessment, perhaps a refreshing one. It could hurt his stock in the long haul because it’ll be difficult to match the performance-level he achieved in 2011. Other players – Earl Thomas being a great example – have enjoyed fast starts in the NFL after just two years starting experience in college. Jones is a big talent and he’ll be one to watch next year, he’ll be among the top prospects available in 2013. In my next mock draft on Wednesday, I won’t include Jones which will shake things up a bit. Last week I removed Manti Te’o (LB, Notre Dame) and Mohamed Sanu (WR, Rutgers) after they made it clear they wouldn’t be turning pro.

Matt Kalil, David De Castro declare

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Matt Kalil (OT, USC) and David De Castro (OG, Stanford) will both be part of the 2012 NFL draft. The two highly rated offensive lineman made their intentions clear today and won’t be part of the PAC-12 next season. Both are the highest ranked players at their position, with Kalil very likely to be taken within the first three picks.

It’s no surprise De Castro is turning pro with Andrew Luck set to enter the NFL as the #1 pick. His stock can’t get any higher and the Cardinal will not match their achievements of the last two years in 2012. Kalil is a different case entirely. Here’s how he explained the decision, “I realize that if I came back to USC next season, I could be part of some special things here and potentially win a national championship. That was very tempting. But in my research, I came to the conclusion that I can be the No. 1 tackle drafted and you can’t go any higher than that.  Now is the right time to go. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I have to take it.”

Kalil’s decision to turn pro won’t define Matt Barkley’s next move, but it could impact it. Had Kalil chosen to return to USC it’d be an indicator that Barkley would make a similar decision as the Trojans look to mount a legit national title bid. Barkley losing his blind side blocker gives him something further to contemplate as he runs through his options.

There’s no doubt in my mind what Barkley should do. He’s been successful at USC and should be remembered fondly for guiding that team through a difficult stretch. He doesn’t need a national title or a PAC-12 Championship to legitimise his time in SoCal. Barkley is ready not just to enter the NFL, but to start quickly. That’s not to say it’ll be a smooth transition where he plays at a pro-bowl level from week one, but he’s more than capable of matching Matt Ryan’s rookie production on the right team.

With an incredibly weak looking quarterback class for 2013, staying in school could come with a possible shot at going first overall. But he’s already had three years starting, he’s got what he needed from USC which was the best possible preparation to enter the NFL. He’s one injury or one bad stretch of form from wasting a year and delaying the inevitable.

If Barkley does return to USC, at least there’s some rhyme or reason to it. He’s played in one low ranking bowl game so far due to sanctions. He’s not won major individual awards, again largely due to the impact of the sanctions. Robert Griffin III hasn’t only dragged every possible ounce of achievement out of Baylor, he’s gone beyond that by winning a Heisman. Baylor will not win a national title next year, they probably won’t win even the Big-12 and Griffin’s stock will never get higher. Yahoo’s Jason Cole says Griffin will declare and play football in Washington or Miami. RG3 also appeared on KJR today and told Softy it’d be “an honor” to play for Pete Carroll in Seattle.

In many ways, Griffin has the kind of skill set that the Seahawks appear to be looking for. He’s the one player who could really generate some buzz on draft day – Griffin’s already a star and his public image is through the roof. Team’s will fight over guys like RG3 (he even has a cool and marketable nickmame) and a bidding war could easily break out. From a financial point of view if for no other reasons, teams will pine over Griffin. Would the Seahawks get involved? I’m not convinced, but not because they won’t rate the guy. Let’s not forget that Pete Carroll recruited Matt Barkley in a big way. Pete Carroll made Matt Barkley the first ever starting true freshman quarterback at USC. It wouldn’t surprise me if Pete Carroll pushes hard to bring Matt Barkley to Seattle to be his quarterback for the long haul.

The pressure would be intense, especially if it involves trading up. There’s a stigma to being attached to highly-drafted quarterbacks and that stigma only grows when you have the kind of college ties Carroll and Barkley enjoy. Yet such is the NFL and if that’s the biggest thing the Seahawks have to contend with upon drafting their franchise quarterback, it’s not something they should fear.

We will have to wait a little longer to hear whether Barkley declares, but what chance he’ll be wearing Seahawks blue next season if he chooses to turn pro?

Thanks to JMPasq for supplying the game tape above (Matt Kalil vs Oregon)

Thoughts on Nick Foles and game tape vs ASU

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Tape courtesy of JMPasq

I’m not a big fan of Nick Foles. I’ve seen an awful lot of Arizona tape over the last three years and I feel like I’m watching the same player now that was on view in 2009. Opinion is generally mixed – some tout him as a potential first round pick, others don’t see a future in the NFL. At the National Football Scouting meeting last summer, Foles was given a 7th/UDFA grade – a grade I agree with.

There’s a long list of issues, so here are the highlights. For a guy listed at 6-5 and 240lbs, you’d expect him to be physically better than quarterbacks without that great size. His deep ball is weak, generates little velocity and is inaccurate. Overall he has a problem throwing the ball with pace, he seems to only throw the outside slant with a follow through. Look at the tape above and you’ll see an awkward trend where he almost ‘half’ throws the ball – it leaves his hand early like he’s spinning it to the receiver, and this takes away a lot of power. On deep passes this technical problem is evident, and he doesn’t drive through the football anywhere near enough. The deep completion he makes early in this game is a hopefully lob into single coverage – he won’t be able to make those types of throws in the NFL.

As you’d expect at that size, he’s not great at moving around and getting out of the pocket. He’ll never break outside to extend a play, he’s always looking for ways to stay in the pocket. This is just flat out inconvenient most of the time and it leads to a lot of missed opportunities and sacks. Foles has been sacked 46 times in the last two years and too many times it’s his fault. Look at the play at 4:27 where he’s too hesitant and ends up going backwards to try and extend the play rather than laterally. Move out of the pocket, extend the play and give yourself a chance to throw it away. Move backwards, lose your balance and put yourself in a position to lose 15 yards. He’s a pure pocket passer in every sense of the word, and that’s just not the type of player teams are looking at early in the draft these days.

He’s neither a very accurate passer or a safe, conservative decision maker. He’ll regularly chance a pass into double or triple coverage, he’ll miss on a simple inside slant or throw a knuckle ball on a basic screen. Considering he plays in an offense than utilises so many screen and high percentage passes, he shouldn’t be throwing 14 picks this year. A lot of people get lost in the yardage, but it’s a similar situation to Landry Jones. Sit down, break down the tape and look beyond the numbers. Are you seeing this guy throwing NFL passes? Are you seeing him fitting difficult passes into a tight window? Are you seeing him extend a play and deal adequately with pressure? Is he improvising from the play call? On each occasion, I have to answer ‘no’.

It often looks like he’s making one, two and even three reads at a time. His head will visibly tilt from one option to the next, but is he actually making progressions or is he trying to fool a defense to set up yet another screen? When I actually got into the tape I realised that he’s often not actually scanning the field, it’s a hook to break off a screen or WR flat. Two reads across the middle, then back to the receiver in the flats. You’ll see it time and time again.

When a player is competing within an offense that does such a great job making life easy for the quarterback, you expect them to at least master that scheme. At the start of the season I posted a video breaking down Foles and stated I didn’t believe he’d truly mastered this offense yet. The video above is one of his better game this year in a 31-27 game with no turnovers. At other times this season, I still felt he was struggling to dominate – even considering the gaudy numbers. I have a really hard time imagining him picking up a very technical NFL play book quickly.

You have to factor in his environment and admittedly, Arizona haven’t looked like a well coached team at any time during his career with the Wildcats. The chaos this season was predictable and it’s to Foles’ and his teammates credit that they didn’t completely implode after some heavy defeats. Even so, I cannot project a productive NFL career for this player. Teams will consider him in the middle rounds and the Denver Broncos sent an army of scouts to watch his performance against Colorado (he threw three interceptions in a miserable defeat). That’s the kind of team that’s going to spend a pick on Foles – a team still not completely committed to it’s starting QB, but isn’t going to draft one in the first round. There are better options that maybe require a little more work and a little more patience, but they’ll have a shot. I don’t think Foles does.

Either way, he doesn’t appear to fit what the Seahawks want to do at the position and it’s doubtful he’ll land in Seattle when all is said and done.

Updated mock draft – 14th December

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

There are several changes in this week’s projection. Mohamed Sanu (WR, Rutgers) and Manti Te’o (LB, Notre Dame) will return for their senior years and enter the 2013 draft. Andre Branch (DE, Clemson) makes a big jump into the top-15. He’s had a good season (10.5 sacks) and has the kind of relentless approach, burst, length and busy hands that could make him a productive player at the next level. A lack of pass rushers in this year’s draft could easily promote a player like Branch into the top-15.

Washington fans will probably argue strongly against any projection that has them passing on the quarterbacks at #4. However, it almost makes too much sense for Peyton Manning to find his way to the Redskins, offering Dan Snyder a big-name who can instantly make his team a contender in the NFC East. If Indianapolis does intend to keep the #1 pick, they’ll surely have to release Manning. That would allow Washington to solve their biggest problem before the draft and possibly add a dynamic playmaker like Trent Richardson. Mike Shanahan could bang the table for Ryan Tannehill as his long term QB project and eventual successor to Manning. It’s not such a ridiculous proposition, even if Washington passing on Matt Barkley and Robert Griffin III seems like a stretch at this stage.

Of course, such a scenario would push the two quarterbacks down the board, with Griffin III going to Miami at #7 and Barkley to Cleveland at #8. In this situation the Seahawks could realistically see Carolina (#5) and Jacksonville (#6) as possible trade partners. There’s no getting away from the fact Seattle needs to draft a quarterback and sitting around waiting for that player to arrive over the next few years isn’t going to cut it. There is a lot of talent on this team, but the 6-7 record doesn’t lie. If the Seahawks are going to become a regular playoff contender, they need to know who their quarterback is for the long haul.

I don’t include trades in my mock drafts, so we’ll have to keep looking at alternatives even if I’d like to believe trading up is a strong possibility. This week the Seahawks draft Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still.

He’s not the kind of dominating interior lineman we’ve seen available in previous drafts (Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, Nick Fairley, Corey Luiget, Phil Taylor) but he’s the best available in this class. The Seahawks don’t run an orthodox scheme, and the current rotation of lineman do a good job against the run. There’s still room for a productive three technique, especially one that can double up as a five-tech on certain downs. Still’s best position may actually be at the five, but he’s also an intriguing developmental option as a penetrative inside rusher. He tends to be inconsistent and his hand use needs to get a lot better – he’s quick rather than powerful or technical. He’ll slip a gap with agility, but when he has to brawl he sometimes struggles. It’s a technique issue more than anything, which is why he might be better taking on one blocker rather than working the middle. His versatility, however, makes him an option for the Seahawks and he’s got the foot speed and mobility to offer something different to this defense.

Updated mock draft – 14th December

#1 Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)
The Colts are facing a difficult situation where they’ll have to either cut Peyton Manning or trade this pick. Interesting times ahead.
#2 Matt Kalil (OT, USC)
The Vikings have many needs, but the biggest is probably at left tackle. Kalil will be one of the best OT’s in the NFL as a rookie.
#3 Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)
He keeps making plays – eleven interceptions in two seasons. St. Louis’ secondary is plagued by injury and lacks quality.
#4 Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama)
I keep coming back to Peyton Manning and Washington. It’s an ideal fit, allowing the ‘Skins to draft Richardson here and perhaps add Ryan Tannehill later.
#5 Jarvis Jones (LB, Georgia)
He says he won’t declare, but after a prolific 13.5 sack season, a top-ten grade could change his mind.
#6 Dwight Jones (WR, North Carolina)
The complete package at receiver – size, speed, good hands, competitive, adjusts to the ball. Ideal fodder for Blaine Gabbert.
#7 Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor)
Some teams are going to fall for Griffin, who’s ended the year on a crest of a wave. He’ll help sell tickets in Miami.
#8 Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
This would be an absolute steal for Cleveland. Barkley is an elite talent who can start as a rookie.
#9 Luke Kuelchy (LB, Boston College)
A tackling machine who will help solidify Tampa Bay’s defense. Blue collar defender with leadership qualities.
#10 Zach Brown (LB, North Carolina)
Philly should use this high pick to try and find an impact player. Brown has the talent to be a playmaker in year one.
#11 Jonathan Martin (OT, Stanford)
Buffalo would love to find a top-end pass rusher, but they also have a need at tackle. This would be a smart move.
#12 Riley Reiff (OT, Iowa)
A man of few words and a tackle’s attitude. If they appoint Kirk Ferentz as Head Coach, this could be a logical projection.
#13 Andre Branch (DE, Clemson)
They need an OT, but the top three are off the board. The next biggest need is a pass rusher and Branch will start to rise up boards.
#14 Devon Still (DT, Penn State)
The opportunity to move up will surely tempt the Seahawks to be aggressive for a quarterback. If not, Still adds an interior pass rush to go with Seattle’s stable of DT’s.
#15 Quinton Coples (DE, North Carolina)
San Diego could take a chance on Coples, who is best suited to the 3-4 defense. Can they pick first-round five-techs in consecutive drafts?
#16 Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, Alabama)
He’s big and good in run support, but has struggled in coverage at times. Jerry Jones will like this guy, so will Eli Manning.
#17 Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State)
Could he suffer a fall? He doesn’t have explosive speed, he can make frustrating errors. Blackmon isn’t a top-ten lock.
#18 Lamar Miller (RB, Miami)
Cincinnati has some promising young playmakers and Miller would add another dimension.
#19 Janoris Jenkins (CB, North Alabama)
Elite cornerback talent but troubled by off-field problems. Cincy needs to draft a corner and Jenkins is good enough to start quickly.
#20 Kendall Wright (WR, Baylor)
Jay Cutler will thank the Bears if they make this pick. Wright’s playmaking qualities and deep speed will bring the best out of Chicago’s quarterback.
#21 David DeCastro (OG, Stanford)
He’s a little over rated, but should find a home in round one. New York can afford to take the best player on their board.
#22 Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame)
Having drafted a new quarterback earlier, Cleveland now needs to add a playmaker. Floyd has the kind of size Mike Holmgren likes in a #1 receiver.
#23 Whitney Mercilus (DE, Illinois)
With 14.5 sacks this year, someone will give him a chance early in the draft. New York needs to add to it’s outside pass rush.
#24 David Wilson (RB, Virginia Tech)
Electric running back who adds another dimension to Denver’s offense. They could also look at Kelechi Osemele.
#25 Kelechi Osemele (OG, Iowa State)
He could be better than DeCastro, but doesn’t get anywhere near as much hype. This would be a smart move by Detroit.
#26 Alameda Ta’amu (DT, Washington)
His potential to play nose tackle will keep him in round one, even if his play has been inconsistent for the Huskies.
#27 Peter Konz (OC, Wisconsin)
Stood out last year in a big-name Badgers offensive line. Could return for another year, but ready to have an impact as a pro.
#28 Kevin Reddick (LB, North Carolina)
Bill Belichick doesn’t make obvious picks and could spring a surprise. Reddick can play any of the LB positions – seriously under rated.
#29 Nicolas Jean-Baptiste (DT, Baylor)
He’s no Phil Taylor, but every time I’ve watched Baylor this year he’s been the one defensive player who looks to have some pro-potential.
#30 Oday Aboushi (OT, Virginia)
I’ve seen Virginia twice this season and Aboushi looks like a NFL tackle. Baltimore needs to bolster that offensive line.
#31 Vontaze Burfict (LB, Arizona State)
Although I think his stock is falling, someone could take a shot on Burfict. My guess is he’ll end up playing AFC North.
#32 Mark Barron (S, Alabama)
He’s having a good year but his stock is limited due to the position he plays. This would be a nice get for the Packers.

Landry Jones falling, Seahawks would pick 14th

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Landry Jones has consistently struggled to deal with pressure

Landry Jones falling down the draft boards

Since the summer, we’ve made a case on this blog that Landry Jones isn’t worth a first round grade. Very few others voiced such an opinion, but it appears the tide is changing for Oklahoma’s quarterback. Russ Lande at the Sporting News says NFL scouts are lukewarm to Jones after a disappointing season where he regressed, particularly down the stretch:

“After a season in which he went through some ups and downs, a number of scouts believe he is not worth drafting in the first round.

“There is little doubt Jones has the ability to get rid of the ball quickly and has the touch to make accurate deep passes, but there are some concerns about his a ability to move in the pocket and his accuracy on short and intermediate passes.

“After Andrew Luck, the top prospect in the draft, we are hearing that USC’s Matt Barkley and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III will be the next two quarterbacks taken (it’s impossible to predict which one will go first right now). Then, things get interesting. We have heard that a number of teams would take Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill before Jones.”

I’m not surprised that teams could prefer Tannehill to Jones. There’s only ever been two sure-fire pro-prospects in this class (Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley), but that group has been boosted by the emergence of Robert Griffin III. Demand won’t match supply next April, with at least six teams likely to consider drafting a quarterback in the first two rounds. For all of Tannehill’s faults – and there are many – he has the kind of physical qualities and potential that Jones simply doesn’t have.

There are several issues I have with Tannehill. He’s quite a robotic passer, he looks stiff throwing the ball and there’s not a real nature flow to his release. For a player of ideal size and height, he has far too many passes tipped at the LOS mainly due to his slingy 3/4 throwing motion. Tannehill locks onto receivers and he’s made too many bad decisions this year. He doesn’t have a great feel for the pocket and too often throws under pressure, when a bit more awareness would buy extra time to make an easier completion. I’ve never been sold on the hype which at one point saw Tannehill touted as a possible ‘second best’ quarterback after Andrew Luck. He’s not even close.

Even so, he’s still a much more appealing option than Jones.

The NFL is currently going through a phase where mobile quarterbacks are king. All four of the quarterbacks taken in the top twelve picks last April had plus-mobility. They weren’t flawless – Cam Newton had some off-field red flags, Jake Locker wasn’t considered a good enough pocket passer, Blaine Gabbert was a bit of a one-year wonder coming out of a pure spread system and Christian Ponder had injuries and limited arm strength on short/intermediate throws, meaning he struggles to fit passes into tight windows (evidenced perfectly against Detroit on Sunday). All four were at least above average in terms of mobility and athleticism, and they were drafted as top-end picks. Ryan Mallett had character issues that were the main catalyst for a draft board plummet. However, teams were also significantly put off by his lack of pocket mobility. Jones might not run a forty-yard dash quite as slow as Mallett, but he’s much worse at coping with pressure and extending plays.

If for no other reason, Tannehill will be favored due to his ability to get out of the pocket and make something happen. Maybe he’ll break off a run? Maybe he’ll run a naked bootleg and find a receiver downfield because he just managed to buy that extra split second on the developing route? These are things Jones just cannot do. A coach like Mike Shanahan will look at Tannehill and see a player he can work with. He’s not spent four years learning a strict offensive playbook, so maybe he can coaxed out of bad habits? Maybe you can utilise his physical potential? You’re not going to spend a high pick on the guy because there’s a real level of unknown there, but you’ll take a flier when the commitment is less severe. Seattle and Cleveland are likely to hold the same view if they don’t take a quarterback early in round one.

Put four other quarterbacks in front and suddenly Jones is on the outside looking in. Then you have to consider the possibility of teams preferring an Austin Davis or a Nick Foles. Jones could be faced with a situation where he leaves the board in a similar area to Jimmy Clausen or even Ryan Mallett. It’s hard to find a team that’s going to be the one that says, “Yes – this is the future of our franchise.” We haven’t included Landry Jones in any of our first round mock drafts so far and that’s not about to change.

Seahawks would pick 14th

One of our regular visitors, Ryan, has been calculating the draft order each week to see where the Seahawks would be picking. I’ve listed the updated order below:

1. Colts (0-13, 114 wins)
2. Vikings (2-11, 118)
3. Rams (2-11, 121)
4. Redskins (4-9, 95)
5t. Jaguars (4-9, 105)
5t. Panthers (4-9, 105)
7. Dolphins (4-9, 109)
8. Browns (4-9, 110)
9. Buccaneers (4-9, 112)
10. Eagles (5-8, 102)
11. Bills (5-8, 107)
12. Chiefs (5-8, 109)
13. Cardinals (6-7, 96)
14. Seahawks (6-7, 104)
15. Chargers (6-7, 111)
16. Cowboys (7-6, 95)
17. Titans (7-6, 98)
18t. Bengals (7-6, 106)
18t. Giants (7-6, 106)
20t. Bears (7-6, 109)
20t. Raiders (7-6, 109)
22. Falcons (8-5, 98)
23. Jets (8-5, 101)
24. Broncos (8-5, 107)
25. Lions (8-5, 113)
26. Texans (10-3, 90)
27. Saints (10-3, 92)
28. Patriots (10-3, 93)
29. 49ers (10-3, 94)
30. Ravens (10-3, 101)
31. Steelers (10-3, 102)
32. Packers (13-0, 95)

The Seahawks own the 14th pick after Monday’s comprehensive victory over St. Louis. If they’re going to select a quarterback in round one of the draft next year, it’s looking increasingly likely that they’ll need to trade up. If Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley and Robert Griffin III all declare, they won’t get past the first ten picks. There could well be one player in particular that sticks out within that trio, a player the Seahawks wish to trade up for. I don’t include trades in my mock drafts, so tomorrow’s update will again feature a non-QB paired with the Seahawks. However, I will look at the possible trade up options Seattle could have if the final order ends up being similar to the current list.