Saturday, 28 February 2009

Rob Rang's 'no first rounders' team

Rob Rang from NFL Draft Scout has compiled a team of prospects who are slated to be taken outside of the first round. It's an interesting read, mainly to see what kind of under rated prospects can be found later on at certain positions. The list contains guys who aren't on the national radar, or simply come from smaller schools. There are a few familiar names, such as Patrick Chung (S, Oregon), Paul Kruger (DE, Utah), Andy Levitre (G, Oregon State) and Jamon Meredith (OT, South Carolina).

Scouting reports: Eugene Monroe & Clint Sintim

Kyle Rota from College Talent Scout published two new scouting reports this week, for Eugene Monroe and Clint Sintim of Virginia. Monroe is expected to be a top five pick and a potential option for Seattle in the first round. Sintim is better suited to a 3-4 defense as an outside linebacker, but Rota suggests he could be a project as a weak side end in the Seahawks 4-3 defense.

How free agency could shape the draft

Free agency is under way and the Seahawks have already met with Bengals receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Seattle's ability to fill holes in free agency will ultimately shape their ability to be flexible in the draft, so what can we expect?

In 2008 the Seahawks met with Alge Crumpler (tight end, at the time recently released by the Falcons). After a lot of speculation suggesting he would be signing for Seattle, he eventually chose the Tennessee Titans on a moderate contract. Whether the Seahawks were totally sold on getting an ageing veteran to fill the vacancy at tight end remains to be seen, but it did influence the 2008 draft. They eventually made a significant jump in the second round, trading up to get John Carlson (Notre Dame).

Heading into free agency this year, the team's greatest needs appear to be at wide receiver and adding depth to both lines. As mentioned, Houshmandzadeh has already visited Seattle although reports suggest no deal is imminent. Chris Canty (DL, Dallas) is said to be visiting the team on Monday, whilst other reports suggested Jon Stinchcomb (OL, New Orleans) maybe a target.

To read the full article click here.

Would any of these signings affect the draft? Potentially. The Seahawks want to be in a position to draft the best player on their board with the fourth overall pick and not be handcuffed by a particular need. Getting a proven veteran like Houshmandzadeh may not necessarily rule out the Seahawks drafting someone like Michael Crabtree, but it doesn't force them to address receiver at any stage. Without Housmandzadeh or Crabtree, you feel the team would have to take a receiver in rounds 2-4. This could put them in a similar position as with John Carlson, and maybe needing to trade up to get a particular prospect.

The reported interest in Stinchcomb has since been played down by the player's agent. Such a signing would back up suggestions the Seahawks view Sean Locklear as a long term option at left tackle. Stinchcomb, predominantly a right tackle, would replace Ray Willis as a backup who can start. If Walter Jones was unable to start the season after recovering from surgery, or if he suffered a relapse, the Seahawks would have sufficient security on the offensive line. If Seattle does invest money at this position in free agency, it may suggest they don't plan to spend the fourth overall pick on the o-line.

Finally, should Seattle take Canty he would feature more as a DE/DT. He played at end in a 3-4 for Dallas but has size (over 300 lbs and 6'7") so could be valuable against the run opposite Patrick Kerney, whilst slipping inside to pass rushing DT on third down. He will come at a price if the Seahawks want to complete his signing. Tim Ruskell has found value drafting in the middle rounds at defensive tackle. Brandon Mebane has been a steal, whilst much is expected of Red Bryant if he can stay healthy. With prospects like Peria Jerry, Sen'Derrick Marks and Evander 'Ziggy' Hood likely to be available in rounds 2-3, Seattle may be able to also address the position in the draft. This might not be a bad thing, with Canty reported to be visiting New York and Tennessee before Seattle.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Why I chose Crabtree for the Seahawks

I recently updated my mock draft and have continued to predict the Seahawks will select Michael Crabtree (WR, Texas Tech) with the fourth overall pick. It's a debate which has polarized both fans and pundits alike over recent weeks and this will no doubt continue right up until April 25th. In this article I wanted to explain why, just under two months before the draft, that could be the direction Seattle goes in the first round.

For starters, Crabtree has been without doubt one of the most explosive play makers in college football for the last two years. He caught 231 passes for the Red Raiders and scored 41 touchdowns. The Seahawks have various needs - be it improvement on the defensive line or long term replacements for ageing veterans Matt Hasselbeck & Walter Jones. But they also have a big need for an offensive play maker and none fit the bill greater than Michael Crabtree.

To read the rest of this article, click here.

The offense became stagnant in 2008 in part due to injuries but also because the team really lacks a potent weapon. The passing game in particular suffered. This allowed teams to stack the box against Seattle and predominantly play run defense or blitz - putting increasing pressure on the offensive line and shutting down the run. One way to find a greater balance on offense is to get a viable threat for Matt Hasselbeck to throw to. It would force the opposition to remain honest and could have a dual effect - improving the pass but also relieving some of the pressure on the running game.

Some would argue that Crabtree played in a favorable system for the Red Raiders and it would be a valid point. But you only have to switch on the game tape to see how unfair it would to label him a product of Mike Leach's pass-heavy offense. He catches exclusively with his hands and explodes into his breaks. He's got great reach and an eye opening vertical (see image above, right) allowing him to go up and make a grab above coverage. Crabtree's short game makes him perfect for the west coast offense - he can run slants and screen's blind folded and possesses tremendous yards-after-the-catch ability. But he also has enough speed and explosion to get downfield, even if only as a decoy.

You have to take into consideration the knocks on Crabtree. The initial ankle injury that restricted his ability to work out at the combine was a legitimate concern. In Indianapolis it was discovered he has a fractured metatarsal. The Seahawks spent 2008 struggling at receiver due to a laundry list of injuries and adding another body to the treatment room is not a priority for Tim Ruskell.

"We certainly don’t want to get into the position we had last year with the receivers. That was scary in that a couple injuries then boom! We couldn’t function." - Tim Ruskell, 19th February 2009


But importantly, as Mike Sando from ESPN points out here, the fractured metatarsal has a high recovery rate. As long as the team are confident that there are no lingering issues then they should feel confident enough to select Crabtree. He didn't miss a game for Texas Tech.

Another concern could be the drama that occurred at the combine after the media had been made aware of his injury. Crabtree mumbled his way through a handful of interviews suggesting he would still run at his pro day in March and delay surgery. Eventually, he held a bizarre 20 second press conference to confirm this decision. Then, on the final day of work outs, he appeared on the NFL Network to say he could still change his mind and appeared to be leaning towards undergoing surgery. Frankly, it was a complete mess. Whoever is advising Crabtree really needed to get a grip of this situation immediately, instead it transformed into a circus.

However, you would have to believe the Seahawks would protect him a lot more should something similar happen in the pro's. Crabtree appeared to feel pressured by the situation he found himself in and needed guidance. The immediate thought would be to suggest this is a knock on Crabtree's maturity or character - something GM Ruskell has emphasized as a priority with high draft picks. On the other hand, this is a young man who has never really been put into this situation before. In past interviews he's come across as humble and polite, at the combine he seemed flustered. He's never been the larger than life character you might find from Knowshon Moreno (RB, Georgia) and has let his talking occur on the field.

With no previous history of 'character' red flags, you have to believe that Seattle wouldn't see the weekend's events as a reason to eliminate Crabtree from their hotlist. They reportedly interviewed Crabtree last Saturday evening and would have had the chance to get a better idea of his personality in that meeting.

One of the other main reasons why I have Crabtree slated for fourth overall are the lack of viable alternatives. The Seahawks would like to add a stud defensive linemen in the mould of top five picks from 2008 - Chris Long (Rams, 2nd overall) and Glenn Dorsey (Chiefs, 5th overall). Due to a lack of pure 4-3 defensive linemen (I would rank both Everette Brown and B.J. Raji as 3-4 prospects) the Seahawks will likely look to free agency to try and improve that area of the team. It's already being reported they have a meeting scheduled with Dallas free agent Chris Canty.

A lot of people have suggested the team must use the first round pick on an offensive linemen. The team are confident Walter Jones will return from microfracture surgery and also invested a big contract into Sean Locklear last year. The former's contract also contained incentives for playing at left tackle, which suggests the team view Locklear as a long term replacement at blind side tackle. Adding approximately $60m on a rookie would mean a lot of money is invested at the offensive tackle position. Tim Ruskell has also spoken of his desire to get an impact player in the first round. A left tackle such as Jason Smith or Eugene Monroe would likely sit if Jones is healthy enough to start.

The Seahawks zone blocking scheme could also have an impact on their decision. Such a format has not relied upon highly drafted offensive linemen in the past rather than athletic, agile tackles who are experienced in the scheme.

There is also recent evidence that a highly drafted offensive line isn't tantamount to success. The Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl recently behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. The Arizona Cardinals were carried to the Super Bowl by a dominating passing game, but not a great offensive line.

Of course, it's still perfectly legitimate that Seattle could 'bank' a Jason Smith or Eugene Monroe if they feel they are a 'safe' pick who represent long term value. The same could also be said for quarter backs such as Matt Stafford and Mark Sanchez. Perhaps even Aaron Curry, despite the heavy investment the Seahawks have in their linebackers. But no pick is ever truly safe. For example, for every issue mentioned with Crabtree (injuries, spread system) there are similar concerns for Jason Smith (struggled through 2007 with a knee injury, only recently converted to LT from TE, played exclusively in a two point stance in a spread offense).

There isn't a specific blue print for success in the NFL, which is why I would argue simply loading up on offensive linemen isn't a necessity for instant gratification. The Steelers team that became World Champions recently isn't too different to the one that lost to Jacksonville in the 2008 playoffs. It's all about peaking at the right time. Therefore, rather than stick to an ideology for drafting I firmly believe the Seahawks could look to draft the best player available who can start immediately.

Without a shadow of a doubt, that prospect is Michael Crabtree.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Kiper vs McShay: Round Two

On Tuesday I linked to an amusing podcast that basically saw ESPN's draft duo Todd McShay and Mel Kiper re-create a scene from Tyson vs Holyfield. Today - they're at it again. Even though it's not specifically related to the Seattle Seahawks, I had to post this video for entertainment value. I look forward to round three of this heavyweight bout later in the week.

Knowshon Moreno talks draft

Knowshon Moreno spoke to ESPN recently to talk about his time at the combine and his expectations heading into the draft. The former Georgia running back didn't excel during work outs but should still be amongst the high first round picks. His mature and humble personality, as seen in this clip, should also enhance his stock.

Post-combine mock drafts

Here's my mock draft from yesterday in case you missed it. It's still early days and free agency will impact predictions as we get closer to April 25th.

Rob Rang and Chad Reuter from NFL Draft Scout published updated mock drafts yesterday. Rang says Seattle will take Michael Crabtree, Reuter thinks Eugene Monroe will be the pick.

Walter Cherepinsky has updated his four round mock draft. The Seahawks' picks are as follows: WR Michael Crabtree-R1, S Louis Delmas-R2, OT Troy Kropog-R3, DT Alex Magee-R4.

Michael Abromowitz also has a four round mock draft. Again the Seahawks take Crabtree in the first round, with Jamon Meredith (OT, S. Carolina) taken in round two, Derek Pegues (S, Miss. State) in the third and Andy Levitre (G, Oregon St.) picked in the fourth round.

Draft Tek's computer has been busy with another prediction. In a recurring theme, Michael Crabtree is again taken in the first round. There's a bit of a surprise in round two however - Chris 'Beanie' Wells drops to the Hawks. Crabtree and Wells with the first two picks would certainly breathe some life into the Seahawks' offense.

Pat Kirwan is another pundit who thinks the Seahawks will take Michael Crabtree. Despite the drama surrounding his metatarsal injury this week the consensus amongst the majority of mock drafts is that the Texas Tech receiver will be Seattle's choice in the first round.

ESPN talks to Jason Smith

Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith, one of the stars from this years combine, speaks to ESPN about what happened in Indianapolis. He also talks about his time at college with the Bears and looking forward to the NFL.

Q&A with Chris Steuber

I recently participated in another Q&A with Chris Steuber from Scout.com. I had a chance to ask Chris some questions, including whether he still thinks the Seahawks will target Michael Crabtree.

"If you're asking me if Michael Crabtree is still worthy of a top-five pick, even though he has a stress fracture on the side of his foot - the answer is YES! Personally, if I was advising Crabtree, I'd tell him to have the surgery today and rest up. Teams already know what he can do, and running a 40 won't change the perception of him at all; unless he runs a low 4.4, which I highly doubt. He's a mid-4.5 guy. The Seahawks need WR help and if he's on the board, he will be very tempting. It will probably come down to Crabtree or B.J. Raji." - Chris Steuber

To see more highlights from the Q&A, click here.

On Malcolm Jenkins' speed issues:

"It means that teams will probably view him as a tweener, a guy who can move to free safety and use his physicality and playmaking skills to their highest level. I actually think this is a good thing for Jenkins. He's a strong defender and moving to free safety wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for him. I think he could be a CB at the next level, but his ball skills and ability to anticipate make him perfect at FS. He's still a top-ten prospect, but if he falls; he won't fall past the Texans at No. 15." - Chris Steuber

On Andre Smith:

"Andre Smith is still a talented player; he's a bit immature and lacks commitment to the game, but you can't deny his talent. Even though he wasn't prepared for the biggest job interview of his career, he still has a Pro Day to prepare for and redeem himself. If he performs well and gets into shape for his Pro Day, I don't think his stock will drop too much. With all the stuff that happened in Indianapolis, I just don't see a talent like Smith falling out of the top-15." - Chris Steuber

On which prospect might rise up the board on draft day:

"I'm starting to get the feeling that Kansas State QB Josh Freeman will be a first rounder. I don't think he's worthy of a first round pick, but I didn't think Jason Campbell was either in 2005. If the Lions decide to select an OT with the first pick, don't be surprised if they reach for Freeman at No. 20." - Chris Steuber

On which prospect might fall:

"The obvious answer is one of the quarterbacks, but I'll go in a different direction. I've been hearing a lot of discussion about Rey Maualuga possibly falling in the draft. There are teams that like him, but NFL scouts are more intrigued with Maualuga's USC teammates, Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews. Matthews has solidified himself as a first rounder and Cushing is one of the most complete LBs in the draft. I don't think Maualuga will free fall into the second round, but he could drop to the late-teens or early 20's." - Chris Steuber

On Beanie Wells and Knowshon Moreno (specifically, their disappointing 40 times):

"How many times in a game does a running back actually break off a 40-yard run? If they're lucky, it will happen once; if they're lucky. Don't worry about their track speed, it doesn't matter. Moreno has exceptional vision and cutback ability that makes him lethal. He will be just fine. Wells is fast enough to be a quality back at the next level. The only thing that worries me about Wells is his future durability. He's a big back and big backs fall hard." - Chris Steuber

On how B.J. Raji compares to top 10 picks from last year - Glenn Dorsey and Sedrick Ellis:

"I think he's just as good as those two. The biggest difference is his size. He's very quick off the line and gets good penetration. Raji stacks up very well with Ellis and Dorsey. If all three were available in the draft, I'd rank them like this: 1. Dorsey, 2. Raji, 3. Ellis." - Chris Steuber

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Rob Rang & Chad Reuter - updated mocks

NFL Draft Scout's Rob Rang and Chad Reuter both published new mock drafts today. With the combine complete, it's interesting to see which direction they think Seattle will go. Rang (who has a proven track record for accurately guessing Seattle's picks) still thinks the Seahawks will take Michael Crabtree. After having the Seahawks select Jason Smith with his first mock and a combination of Crabtree and Malcolm Jenkins since, he has settled on Crabtree recently.

"Seattle has holes on both sides of the ball, but none more pressing than a lack of playmakers. There isn't a more dominant playmaker in the draft than Crabtree - whose 41 career receiving touchdowns were largely responsible for his being the only two-time winner of the Biletnikoff award." - Rob Rang

Reuter holds a different opinion. He thinks Seattle's priority will be to find a long term replacement for Walter Jones and predicts the Seahawks will take Eugene Monroe. Reuter originally had the 'Hawks taking Michael Crabtree, but has more recently suggested Malcolm Jenkins and now Monroe.

"Walter Jones had microfracture surgery in December and is heading into his 13th season. Monroe's a very good player who could play on the right side if Jones returns for training camp. Michael Crabtree is another potential choice who fills Seattle's need for a playmaker on offense." - Chad Reuter

Personally, I would be surprised if Seattle took Monroe with the idea of playing him at right tackle. The team gave Sean Locklear a big contract last year with incentives to play on the left side, which suggests they view him as a potential replacement for Jones. Nothing is set in stone but with the Seahawks switching to a zone blocking scheme, having so much money tied up at offensive tackle seems unrealistic. If Jones' recovery takes a setback however, the team may have to seriously consider the position in the draft.

Wednesday links

Pat Kirwan has posted his first mock draft following the combine. He thinks Jason Smith and Euegene Monroe will go number 1 & 2 in the draft, with the Seahawks selecting Michael Crabtree with the fourth overall pick.

Don Banks has published an updated mock draft. He thinks Aaron Curry will go first overall to Detroit, with the two offensive tackles (Jason Smith & Eugene Monroe) following. Seattle take Michael Crabtree.

Peter King says Matt Stafford had a meeting with New Orleans Saints quarter back Drew Brees recently, who had some good advice for the young Georgia prospect. "I guess first I told him it's not a question of whether he'll face adversity. He'll definitely have it." - Drew Brees.

Chris Steuber is hosting a live draft forum today. Things kick off at 4:30 pm EST. Steuber also lists his 'risers and fallers' from the combine, with the defensive prospects here and the offensive guys here.

Matt McGuire analyses Maryland wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. He ran a 4.30 in the forty yard dash on Sunday, but statistically wasn't amongst the top 100 receivers in college during 2008. McGuire doesn't think he'll break into the top 20.

Vic Carucci looks at Malcolm Jenkins' situation as he faces a switch to safety. Carucci points out that scouts already had concerns with his deep speed having watched game tape and those fears were confirmed at the combine. I dropped Jenkins down my mock draft today because teams won't invest big money in a corner who doesn't have good speed. He's also a project at safety.

John Gruden and Charlie Casserly review the combine and what impressed them during work outs. They run through the guys who didn't work out because of injury - namely Michael Crabtree.

John Morgan looks at some of the measurements from the combine. He has an interesting image to portray the significance of two tenths of a second in a 40 yard dash.

Mock draft - reaction to the combine

Here's an updated mock draft to coincide with the end of the combine. Prospects such as Jason Smith and Aaron Curry cemented their places amongst the top picks, whilst others such as Malcolm Jenkins potentially harmed their stock. Both Michael Crabtree and Andre Smith had eventful combines despite refusing to work out. Things will likely change again when free agency begins on Friday.

1 Detroit Lions - Matt Stafford (QB, Georgia)
A lot of people are saying this pick could be Jason Smith or even Aaron Curry. I still think the Lions have to find a franchise quarter back and that will be their priority with the first overall pick. The team is in total rebuild and there won't be a quick fix. Stafford has separated himself from Mark Sanchez as the top ranked quarter back.

2 St Louis Rams - Jason Smith (OT, Baylor)
There wasn't much to choose between the four top ranked offensive tackles until the combine. Jason Smith interviewed well and worked out even better. He's the left tackle with the most upside although the Rams could also look at Eugene Monroe, who is slightly more polished. Reports suggest Orlando Pace will leave the team this off season making left tackle a priority here.

3 Kansas City Chiefs - Aaron Curry (LB, Wake Forest)
Curry made sure of his place amongst the top picks with an excellent work out in Indianapolis. Showed great character when speaking with the media, he added weight coming into the combine and still ran a lightning quick 40 yard dash. He could be the best prospect in this draft class. Kansas City need someone to set the tone on defense.

4 Seattle Seahawks - Michael Crabtree (WR, Texas Tech)
Crabtree didn't cover himself in glory at the combine - the situation with his fractured metatarsal became something of a circus. But he still represents the best value at this pick and provides the offense with a much needed play maker.

5 Cleveland Browns - Chris Wells (RB, Ohio State)
The drafts first big surprise is that Wells breaks into the top five picks. Not many people have him rated that high but he showed athleticism at the combine. Wells has a vibrant personality and would be something of a local hero in Cleveland. According to reports from the combine, Cleveland are thinking about taking Wells here.
To see the rest of the picks click here.

6 Cincinnati Bengals - Eugene Monroe (OT, Virginia)
Monroe could go earlier than this depending on how teams rank him alongside Jason Smith. The Bengals main priority in this draft has to be the offensive line - they need to protect Carson Palmer. They'll gladly take Monroe as a day one starter.

7 Oakland Raiders - Vontae Davis (CB, Illinois)
Davis takes advantage of Malcolm Jenkins' speed issues to climb into the top ten. Al Davis has shown a tendency to draft defensive backs in the first round and he invested millions in DeAngelo Hall trying to get a perfect tandem with Nnamdi Asomugha. That project failed and with the top two offensive tackles off the board he could look at the Illinois corner back.

8 Jacksonville Jaguars - Jeremy Maclin (WR, Missouri)
The Jaguars would have liked to have a shot at one of the top two offensive tackles. They're forced to look elsewhere and could settle on Jeremy Maclin. Injury affected his work out in Indianapolis but he's a talented prospect with upside who can have an instant impact as a punt/kick returner.

9 Green Bay Packers - B.J. Raji (DT, Boston College)
The Packers are switching to a 3-4 defense and they need a big nose tackle to make a smooth transition. Raji fits the bill and worked out well in Indianapolis. Question marks remain about his character and that may lead to a drop on draft day.

10 San Francisco 49ers - Andre Smith (OT, Alabama)
Smith had a nightmare at the combine. Unimpressive during interviews he then disappeared and didn't work out. Some have predicted he could drop right down the draft board, but the talent is there - he just needs the guidance. Mike Singletary is the perfect head coach to take Smith under his wing. The 49ers want to dominate in the running game and Smith would be perfect at right tackle.

11 Buffalo Bills - Michael Oher (OT, Ole Miss)
The Bills have more pressing needs but a lack of pure 4-3 defensive ends mean they'll look elsewhere. Jason Peters held out at the start of last year and was a big disappointment on his return. Teams really value the tackle position these days, so don't expect many of the top talents in this draft to drop too far.

12 Denver Broncos - Everette Brown (DE/OLB Florida State)
Brown didn't light up the combine like some people expected and unless the 49ers are sold on his talents, he likely isn't a top 10 pick. The Broncos could use his pass rushing abilities as a DE/OLB hybrid in their new 3-4 scheme.

13 Washington Redskins - Knowshon Moreno (RB, Georgia)
With only four picks in the 2009 draft the Redskins will look for an 'impact' player in the first round. Moreno didn't have a great combine but he's a dynamic running back who would be perfect in a two back system with Clinton Portis.

14 New Orleans Saints - Brian Cushing (LB, USC)
Like the Broncos, it's defense that holds back this team from being a real force. They have needs at secondary and at linebacker and Cushing has done enough over the last few weeks to warrant consideration as a top 20 pick.

15 Houston Texans - Brian Orakpo (DE, Texas)
Houston has drafted a linemen in the first round for the last four years. They continue that tradition by taking Orakpo to play across from Mario Williams.

16 San Diego Chargers - Tyson Jackson (DE, LSU)
Jackson is perfectly suited to play as a 3-4 defensive end in San Diego's scheme. Igor Olshansky is on his way out and Jackson would be the perfect replacement.

17 New York Jets - Mark Sanchez (QB, USC)
I have Sanchez falling out of the top 10 and if this happens expect a few teams to try and trade up before this pick. If he makes it this far the Jets' trust in Brett Ratliff, Erik Ainge and Kellen Clemens will be tested.

18 Chicago Bears - Michael Johnson (DE, Georgia Tech)
The Bears have needs at QB and WR but perhaps their biggest need is at defensive end. Johnson showed that he has the physical talents to be a force in the NFL and the Bears may take a gamble on him.

19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Josh Freeman (QB, Kansas State)
The Buccs recently cut Jeff Garcia and will be looking for a long term option at quarter back under new head coach Raheem Morris. Freeman is well known by Morris as the pair worked together in K-State during the QB's freshman year.

20 Detroit Lions - James Laurinaitis (LB, Ohio State)
Having got their franchise quarter back with the first overall pick, they pick up their defensive leader in Laurinaitis. The combine was never going to show the true benefit of Laurinaitis, but he'll be the guy they rebuild their defense around.

21 Philadelphia Eagles - Malcolm Jenkins (CB/S, Ohio State)
Jenkins stock dropped dramatically when he ran poorly at the combine. It just confirmed what critics saw when he played for the Buckeye's - his recovery speed is too much of a liability. He is facing a switch to safety which could drop him down the board significantly. The Eagles have two first round picks so can afford to bank Jenkins here. He won't have to start straight away, so they can take their time deciding if he's a corner or a safety. The potential benefits are huge if he works out.

22 Minnesota Vikings - D.J. Moore (CB, Vanderbilt)
It looks like the Vikings will spend a fourth rounder on Sage Rosenfels which suggests they won't use the draft to find an answer at quarter back. In that case, they need to improve their secondary.

23 New England Patriots - Aaron Maybin (DE/OLB, Penn State)
Maybin would be perfect as a DE/LB hybrid in a 3-4 defense. The Pats had great success drafting Jared Mayo to play inside last year and now they could focus on the exterior. Mike Vrabel will be 34 in August.

24 Atlanta Falcons - Brandon Pettigrew (TE, Oklahoma State)
Pettigrew is an old fashioned tight end who can block and catch. The Falcons would like a quality TE to replace Alge Crumpler who was cut this time last year.

25 Miami Dolphins - Rey Maualuga (LB, USC)
Maualuga's stock has dropped somewhat in recent weeks and he injured himself running at the combine. He is a talented ILB though and suits the 3-4 defensive scheme used by Miami. He'd present good value at this spot.

26 Baltimore Ravens - Darrius Heyward-Bey (WR, Maryland)
Heyward-Bey posted a superb run in the 40 yard dash, clocking a sub 4.3. He's all about speed so he needs to play for a team that has a QB with a huge arm. His production at college was poor - he didn't rank amongst the top 124 receivers. That'll put a lot of teams off, but in Joe Flacco the Ravens have a quarter back whose arm can make Heyward-Bey a star.

27 Indianapolis Colts - Hakeem Nicks (WR, North Carolina)
Marvin Harrison has been cut by the Colts and unless he re-signs to a smaller contract, he'll leave a hole at wide receiver. Hakeem Nicks could be a possible replacement and had big games against Miami, Notre Dame and Boston College for the Tar Heels in 2008. Drafting Nicks allows the Colts to keep Anthony Gonzalez in the slot.

28 Philadelphia Eagles - Eben Britton (OT, Arizona)
The Eagles could draft a running back to support Brian Westbrook or even a wide receiver, but with a premium on offensive tackles they see the value in Eben Britton. He excelled at both right and left tackle in Arizona and can be plugged into the line from day one by Philly.

29 New York Giants - Clay Matthews Jr. (LB, USC)
Matthews Jr. put in a solid performance at the combine and made sure teams are thinking of him as a first round pick. The Giants love guys who can get to the quarter back and this guy fits the bill.

30 Tennessee Titans - Robert Ayers (DE, Tennessee)
Many pundits expect the Titans to go wide receiver here but they have resisted that temptation before and I think they will again. Ayers is a local boy who may be more suited to a 3-4 defense, but the Titans need to add depth at defensive end.

31 Arizona Cardinals - LeSean McCoy (RB, Pittsburgh)
It looks like Edgerrin James is on his way out of Arizona and with Tim Hightower more of a short yardage back, the Cardinals could take McCoy as a more permanent option.

32 Pittsburgh Steelers - Percy Harvin (WR, Florida)
This pick might surprise a few people but the Super Bowl champs don't have any great needs and have often been happy to go with the best prospect on their board. They could do with upgrading at offensive line, but they've shown they can succeed without big name veterans and high round draft picks. There are concerns about Harvin's ability to stay healthy but if he can - he's a real play maker.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Tuesday links - combine complete

The combine is over for another year and it's time to look ahead to free agency (which begins on Friday). Teams will have a better idea of the direction they want to go in the draft and therefore, which holes they need to fill with free agents. Here's some links to run through but we'll have lots more reaction to the combine over the next couple of days.

NFL.com lists all the statistics from the combine, including a full list of 40 yard dash times, bench press reps etc. The NFL Network panel also review how the defensive backs performed today and which prospect represents good value.

Mike Sando looks at Cardinals defensive back Antrel Rolle. He was drafted eighth overall and paid to be an elite corner back, but then moved to safety. Malcolm Jenkins is facing a similar situation after running a poor time in today's 40 yard dash.

Tony Pauline has more on Jenkins' disappointing 40 yard dash. This could help Vontae Davis (CB, Illinois) who ran in the high 4.4's and may now go before Jenkins in the draft. A team like Oakland might be interested in either prospect, Al Davis has a tradition of taking defensive backs early. He also spent a lot on DeAngelo Hall last year trying to find a partner for Nnamdi Asomugha.

Mel Kiper and Todd McShay talk combine in their latest podcast. Things get a little heated when Mel and Todd disagree about who goes first overall to Detroit (approximately 20 minutes in). Definitely worth a listen if you like a good argument.

McShay was also impressed with the defensive prospects who worked out on Monday. In particular, Wake Forest's Aaron Curry who seemed to do everything right - in interviews and work outs.

Aaron Weinburg says Michael Crabtree's giant wingspan more than makes up for only measuring 6'1" in height. Crabtree has longer arms than both Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall.

Here's a profile review I wrote about Michael Crabtree for Football Diner. I'll be covering some other prospects over the next few weeks, including Knowshon Moreno and Malcolm Jenkins.

Crabtree: "I might not run at Pro-day"


Michael Crabtree just spoke live to the NFL Network and added another twist to the ongoing saga of his fractured metatarsal. The big headline is - he might have surgery now and not run at his pro day. Mike Mayock told him very bluntly not to run and just get the surgery because he has nothing to prove. Deion Sanders, someone who has been working closely with Crabtree over the last few weeks, seconded the motion.

"He will not run if I have anything to do with it" - Deion Sanders

This could be a big U-turn from the Texas Tech receiver. Over the weekend Crabtree held a short press conference saying he would definitely run. He's clearly been told, possibly by NFL teams, to get the surgery done and dusted. He's determined to prove his speed to scouts but the most important thing is to get the surgery out of the way and be ready for post-draft camps.

Jenkins can't break 4.5 - will his stock drop?


I wrote earlier that Malcolm Jenkins (CB, Ohio State) needed to run a good 40 yard dash this morning to eliminate fears about his recovery speed. He clocked times of 4.52 and 4.58 which all but confirms the worries critics had about Jenkins' ability to play corner back. The game tape showed speed would be an issue and with these times at the combine, teams might start to consider him a safety prospect instead of a corner back.

What does this do for his stock? It could affect him greatly. Teams won't invest a big contract into a corner back who won't stay with the fastest receivers. They also won't spend a lot on a project who needs to switch position. Jenkins' skill set transfers nicely to safety but he needs to add bulk and get stronger. He hasn't got the 'sledgehammer' hit in his arsenal and was often seen struggling to complete tackles, hanging onto the ball carrier but not finishing the play.

"The damage has been done." - Mike Mayock

With the Seahawks looking for an impact player, I would be surprised if they now consider Jenkins with the fourth overall pick. They'd be better served looking at the prospects who played safety in college and could find value in the 2nd or 3rd round if they want to go in that direction.

Combine focus: Malcolm Jenkins

It's the final day of work outs at this year's combine. The defensive backs take centre stage today and one prospect in particular will receive a lot of attention. Malcolm Jenkins (Ohio State) started the year as the top rated corner back in the 2009 NFL draft. Suddenly he has something to prove and his position at the top of the rankings is coming into question.

Nobody can deny Jenkins' obvious qualities. He's the kind of guy you expect to see on the Baltimore Ravens roster - full of passion on the sidelines and on the field, he's a true leader. Not happy playing a bit part in the backfield, he'll push up to the line of scrimmage and take on a running back in run defense. Great vision, he reads the quarter back like a dream and has that ability to turn an interception into six points. Not always the greatest wrap up tackler, but he certainly puts in maximum effort to get to the ball carrier.

But these qualities sound more like you're describing a talented safety, not necessarily a lockdown corner. Critics have questioned Jenkins' recovery speed and his ability to stay with speed receivers. It doesn't take much research to find evidence of this, watch a few Buckeye games and the one noticeable criticism of Jenkins is how often he's struggling to stay with a wide out on a deep route. In the college game he often got away with it due to an under thrown ball, he won't have that luxury in the NFL.

So he'll take to the field in Indianapolis hoping to prove to scouts he's got the speed to warrant consideration not only as a corner back, but also a top 10 pick. A team will be reluctant to take Jenkins as a project safety and he'd need to add bulk to make a smooth transition to that position (despite having height - 6'1" - he isn't the biggest, and lacks that sledgehammer hit you see so often from pro safety's). If he runs well in the 40 yard dash he'll justify a high pick as a potentially elite corner and may even warrant consideration by the Seattle Seahawks with the fourth overall pick.

The Seahawks have invested picks and money into drafting Kelly Jennings and Josh Wilson, whilst also re-signing Marcus Trufant. Another big investment could make the position a little top heavy, but GM Tim Ruskell has spoken of finding an 'impact' player. Jenkins has no obvious character flaws and stayed at Ohio State for his senior year - he's the prototypical 'Ruskell guy'.

But he has to run well today, I don't think we'll see a more crucial 40 yard dash this year.

Latest on Orakpo / Maualuga injuries

Brian Orakpo (DE, Texas) and Rey Maualuga (LB, USC) both picked up hamstring injuries working at the combine yesterday. Here's ESPN's Todd McShay with more information:

Monday, 23 February 2009

Monday afternoon links

Tony Pauline looks at the 'riders and sliders' from the defensive prospects who worked out today. He was impressed with Evander 'Ziggy' Hood (DT, Missouri) a prospect the Seahawks grilled during Senior Bowl week.

Eric Williams caught up with Malcolm Jenkins (CB, Ohio State) to hear his thoughts on performing at the combine. Jenkins says he's fast enough to stay at corner and not move to safety as some people have suggested. Tuesday will be the big test when Jenkins runs the 40 yard dash.

Mike Sando and Rob Rang have been looking at the best case 'draft scenarios' for each NFC West team. Despite the circus that has surrounded Michael Crabtree this weekend, Rang still believes he would be Seattle's ideal pick. Crabtree showed at Texas Tech his ability to be a great play maker, now he has to prove not only his fitness but a greater level of maturity in the aftermath of what wasn't a great weekend - culminating in a bizarre 20 second press conference to clear up the issue of his surgery.

John McGrath says the Seahawks should take Michael Crabtree (WR, Texas Tech) despite his disappointing weekend at the combine. Seattle needs an offensive play maker badly and as long as he's healthy and can show a certain level of maturity, he still makes a lot of sense for the Seahawks.

The NFL Network panel review the standout performances from today, including the linebacker group and defensive tackles. You have to be impressed with Aaron Curry. Adding weight and still beating most of the running backs in the 40 yard dash? Awesome.

Danny O'Neil looks at six things he learnt at the combine. He writes that Curry delivered a killer interview and although, as O'Neil testifies, that won't translate much onto the field, combined with his physical work out he's definitely one of the stars of the show so far.

John Morgan reports that the Seahawks have been meeting with Connecticut defensive back Darius Butler. With former secondary coach Jim Mora now the head honcho it's no surprise the team are checking out corners. Tim Ruskell has used two high round picks on the position previously (Kelly Jennings & Josh Wilson).

Clark Judge rounds up the combine and quotes Seahawks head coach Jim Mora and special teams coach Bruce DeHaven.

Defensive prospects take centre stage

Today the defensive prospects had their turn to impress at the scouting combine. Aaron Curry (LB, Wake Forest) is getting a lot of attention as perhaps the highest ranked defensive player. He did no harm to his chances of going in the top three picks with a lightning quick 40 yard dash despite adding weight ahead of workouts. The Seahawks are stacked at line backer (financially too, not just with talent) but they'll be keeping a close eye on some other positions. Defensive line and secondary are areas that could get an upgrade through the draft.

To recap what's happened today - Brian Orakpo (DE, Texas) and Rey Maualuga (LB, USC) both suffered injuries. Orakpo pulled out of position drills after picking up a 'tweaked' hamstring. Maualuga suffered a similar problem whilst running the 40 yard dash.

Here's some key 40 yard dash times:

Everette Brown (DE, Florida) - 4.63 s
Aaron Curry (LB, Wake Forest) - 4.56 s
Brian Cushing (LB, USC) - 4.64 s
James Laurinaitis (LB, Ohio State) - 4.80 s
B.J. Raji (DT, Boston College) - 5.13 s
Aaron Maybin (DE, Penn State) - 4.78 s
Tyson Jackson (DE, LSU) - 4.91 s
Brian Orakpo (DE, Texas) - 4.70 s
Paul Kruger (DE, Utah) - 4.84 s

The defensive backs have just begun the bench press drill, Vontae Davis (CB, Illinois) just did 25 reps at 225 lbs. Davis is an interesting prospect - the brother of Vontae (TE, 49ers) he has the skills to be a lockdown corner. Some reports say he isn't the greatest worker but he could be the best corner back in this draft class. We wait to see what Malcolm Jenkins (Ohio State) runs tomorrow - if he runs a 4.4/4.5 you have to believe he'll be the first defensive back taken.

Monday morning links

Today the defensive prospects take centre stage at the combine. In preparation for that and to review what's happened so far, here's some links to chew on:

John Clayton says Mark Sanchez gave a solid performance, completing all of the quarter back drills. He also showed confidence and energy in front of scouts, and struck up a rapport with fellow QB Matt Stafford.

The NFL Network panel reviews how the quarter backs performed in work outs. Reports on Mark Sanchez are a little mixed, but John Gruden thinks Sanchez and Freeman did enough to warrant consideration alongside Matt Stafford.

Kevin Seifert speaks with Ohio State defensive back Malcolm Jenkins. Tuesday is huge for him - he has to run a good forty yard dash to eliminate fears about his recovery speed. If he can clock a good time, he could be a top five pick.

Mike Mayock talks about the centers in this year's class. The Seahawks could do with adding to their interior line, possibly with an upgrade at center.

Breaking down the 40's

ESPN's Todd McShay reviews Sunday's 40 yard dash times. It was an impressive showing from the wide receivers, not so good for the running backs.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Sunday's combine links

Another day is in the books at the NFL combine. We've had metatarsal-gate and Andre Smith-gate and thankfully the day passed by without anymore bad news headlines. Tomorrow we'll see the defensive side of the ball take centre stage. Obviously we've covered a lot of items today, I've broken the articles down so they're easy to scroll through below. For different opinions on the day's activities, here's some links.

Don Banks was impressed with Pat White's workout today, noting he threw the ball accurately. He wasn't as impressed with USC's Mark Sanchez.

More from Banks - it's a big day for Malcolm Jenkins (CB, Ohio State) on Tuesday. He has to try and eliminate fears on his recovery speed with a quick 40 yard dash time. A lot of pundits have suggested he could switch to safety in the NFL.

Eric Williams has a view from the press box - watching the quarter backs perform their drills. Williams thinks Mark Sanchez was "just OK" when throwing the football.

The NFL Network team take a look at how the wide receivers ran the 40 yard dash. They also speak to Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji.

Scott Wright says the running backs provided something of an anti-climax. The top two backs - Knowshon Moreno and Chris Wells, both posted disappointing 40 yard dash times. LeSean McCoy didn't participate because he's suffering with flu.

Running backs take on the 40 yard dash


The running backs have begun their turn on the 40 yard dash drill. Knowshon Moreno, looking a lot heavier after adding 10 lbs of bulk, ran a 4.55 time. He said he was hoping to run a 4.40, possibly lower. He needed to run well to dramatically improve his stock. The extra weight sounded good on paper, but it may have affected his speed. He's never been a burner but a really quick time here could have made him an elite prospect.
**UPDATE** he just ran a 4.63 on his second attempt - ouch.

Chris 'Beanie' Wells really strained his 40 yard dash and posted a 4.57. He laboured through the run and appeared to be trying too hard. We saw last year how a quick time can really help a running back. Neither Moreno nor Wells did enough today to have that kind of impact on their stock. Dissapointing - they'll hope for better on their second run.
**UPDATE** on his second attempt he timed a 4.54. This year's class didn't even get close to emulating what we saw at the 2008 combine.

LeSean McCoy isn't running, he's been suffering with an illness.

Shonn Greene (Iowa State) - 4.65 s
Glenn Coffee (Alabama) - 4.53 s
Donald Brown (Connecticut) - 4.48 s
Knowshon Moreno (Georgia) - 4.55 s
Chris Beanie Wells (Ohio State) - 4.57 s

Eye spy... who's watching the QB's?


Seahawks offensive coordinator Greg Knapp was right on the scene as the young quarter back prospects took turns to throw. Georgia's Matt Stafford isn't participating in this drill but Mark Sanchez is working out. Tim Ruskell recently said the team 'was in the zone' with regard to getting a long term replacement for Matt Hasselbeck.

The Crabtree saga continues

Michael Crabtree held a bizarre press conference today to discuss the injury (again). In this very brief statement he simply says he's had the injury for a while and that he'll run at his pro day. He was introduced onto the podium like a foreign dignitary visiting the White House. Crabtree seems to have a large entourage following him round but you just wonder who is actually advising him when things like this happen. All this saga could have been addressed in one simple press conference or statement. Instead it's been dragged out in a will-he-won't-he style regarding surgery. His production justifies his rank amongst the elite prospects but he's had a weekend to forget in Indianapolis.

Thanks to Danny O'Neil at the Seattle Times for the footage.

Running backs into the action

Much hilarity as the running backs are having their broad jumps measured. Chris Beanie Wells nearly cleared his big 235 lbs frame out of the measurement area... five times. Unfortunately none of the jumps counted - although Wells managed to maintain his trademark grin.

The first jump was the best, but Wells accidentally touched the guy taking the reading making it a 'no jump'. He then took four more attempts and failed to keep his footing. On the sixth go he finally nailed it with a 10 feet 7 inches mark - at least a couple of inches shorter than his first go. It was impressive for two reasons - not just the athletic ability of such a big guy but the way Wells maintained his sense of humour despite the obvious frustration. Throughout the entire combine process the Ohio State running back has shown he has a great character and he laughed with fellow prospects as he tried to get a measurement recorded.

The other RB vying to be the first taken at his position - Knowshon Moreno - looked pretty stacked after adding an extra 10 lbs of bulk for the combine (see picture above). He's certainly showing that extra weight and recorded a 10 feet 2 inches jump.

Eric Williams speaks to Rob Rang

Eric Williams from the TNT's Seahawks Insider recently caught up with Rob Rang (NFL Draft Scout) and spoke about the combine. Amongst the obvious topics: the issues surrounding Michael Crabtree and Andre Smith this weekend.

Rang still believes Crabtree has to be on the Seahawks watch list - and states he and his colleagues at Draft Scout still rank him the number one prospect. On the other hands, he doesn't think Andre Smith will be heading to Qwest Field this off season. Another offensive tackle, Jason Smith (Baylor) continues to catch Rang's eye. Personally, I would be suprised if the team took an offensive tackle due to the expected return of Walter Jones and the amount of money tied up in Sean Locklear (with incentives to play LT).

Stafford, Sanchez amongst QB's to run

Mark Sanchez (USC) and Matt Stafford (Georgia) just ran the 40 yard dash. Sanchez posted a 4.88 and Stafford claimed a 4.84 - I would suggest Stafford's run was a little more fluid. One thing was obvious though, both haven't allowed their higher ranking stop them bonding with the other QB's. Sanchez in particular has been often seen laughing and joking with the other prospects and Mike Mayock just said his teammates at USC warmed to the 16 game starter.

Pat White (Virginia) ran perhaps the most crucial 40 yard dash as he hopes to be selected as a QB/WR/wild cat option. He posted a 4.50 dash and looked very sharp.

Wide receivers - 40 yard dash

Percy Harvin (Florida) - 4.37 s
Jeremy Maclin (Missouri) - 4.40 s
Deon Butler (Penn State) - 4.26 s

Darrius Heyward-Bey (Maryland) - 4.32 s
Kenny Britt (Rutgers) - 4.48 s
Brian Robiskie (Ohio State) - 4.51 s
Hakeem Nicks (North Carolina) - 4.49 s
Derrick Williams (Penn State) - 4.58 s

Watch the combine live

It's a big day in Indianapolis today, Mark Sanchez is expected to throw for teams as he hopes to take advantage of Matt Stafford's no show. We'll also see those all important 40 yard dash times - featuring the running backs and wide receivers. Coverage starts at 11 am EST.

What I'm looking forward to today...

The running backs and wide receivers will be running the 40 yard dash on Sunday, usually the highlight of the combine. We'll see who the real speed guys are - it was this event last year that made Darren McFadden a top five pick and propelled Chris Johnson into the first round.

But the reason I'm looking forward to today is to check on one prospect in particular - Knowshon Moreno. In a combine filled with bad news stories (Crabtree's injury, the Andre Smith farce) the Georgia running back quietly arrived in Indianapolis having added 10 lbs of bulk. The knock on Moreno has mainly been his lack of size and elite speed. Having added a bit more to his 5'11" frame, a fast 40 time could put him into the elite bracket of this year's draft class.

Moreno has been working at Michael Johnson's performance centre and says he's hoping to run a 4.4. Such a time (with the extra weight) will go a long way to diminishing the question marks attached to him when he arrived at the combine. As a true triple threat back (he excels as a runner, receiver and blocker) he could offer a team an instant impact - something the Seahawks have spoken about.

He also managed 25 reps on the bench press this weekend - the same amount that Chris 'Beanie' Wells achieved. The difference is, Wells is 20 lbs heavier. Moreno has an infectious personality, solid production (30 touchdowns in two years) and is starting to show physically he can match up. Could he break into the top ten? I'm looking forward to seeing that 40 time.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Seahawks meeting Crabtree tonight

The Seattle Seahawks are meeting with Michael Crabtree tonight after a day of constant analysis regarding his fractured metatarsal. News of this latest injury and a surprisingly short height measurement (just over 6'1") have led to some predicting he could be in for a fall on draft day. To the Seahawks, tonight's interview will likely have more effect on where they rank Crabtree on their big board.

The injury itself is minor - it's just happened at a time when the world's focus is on deciding whose stock is going up or down. Jason Smith (OT, Baylor) suffered a right MCL sprain in 2007 which slowed him for most of the season. He's getting rave reviews at the moment, but how many careers have been ended by metatarsal fractures and how many due to knee injuries?

The height issue will stop some of the (arguably) unfair comparisons to Larry Fitzgerald. But as Jim Mora points out:

"Well, he was, what was he 6-01.3, but his arms were 34.5 and I believe he had the longest arms of the receivers other than the kid from Cal Poly. So I think that makes up for it a little bit. I wouldn't call 6-1 and a half too short. He's about 214, long arms. Hands I think were 10. That's a pretty good-sized kid." - Jim Mora

When you have that kind of reach, what's a couple of inches in height?

Whether Seattle has Crabtree near the top of their wish list could very easily come down to meeting's like tonight's interview. The double Biletnikoff award winner has the production, he's shown what he's capable of in a game situation. The injury isn't a serious one. The only thing holding him back could be the all important 'character test'.

"He's had tremendous production in college, but I don't know him personally and that's a part of the puzzle. Getting to know him and finding out what makes him tick." - Jim Mora

It's been a long day for Michael Crabtree. Rest assured the Seahawks front office won't be giving him an easy ride. How he performs away from his entourage in a pressure situation will be the real test to see if Crabtree is a logical option on draft day.