Saturday, April 28, 2007

Since Last We Spoke . . .

I know, I know it's been awhile -- that's what work (a real job, not the job -- i.e. being a beat writer covering the Pittsburgh Steelers -- I pretend to have here) and a family will do at times. But while I was silent I was still preparing myself for the draft, and here's what I think (updated throughout the first round).

1. Oakland, JaMarcus Russell: Absolutely the most physically gifted quarterback in the draft. However, if the Raiders were actually interested in getting the best player for their situation they would have chosen Joe Thomas (Wisconsin). Mr. Russell passed primarily out of the shotgun, and displayed what Ourlad's Draft Service describes as "[g]ood awareness and field vision." Needs to improve his technique -- his extaordinarily strong arm was a difference maker at the college level, and it's good enough to make up from some mistakes at the pro level -- for awhile. But the league will eventually catch up with arm passers.

2. Detroit, Calvin Johnson: The best athlete in the draft, and arguably the smartest. He joins Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz in recreating the "Greatest Show on Turf;" but even the best collegiate wide receivers struggle tansitioning to the NFL and anyone expecting great things right away is going to be disappointed. On the other hand Mr. Johnson has exceptional deep speed, and is big and physical enough to go across the middle with impunity. His size and strength is sure to create mismatches for defensive coordinators.

3. Cleveland, Joe Thomas: They are the Browns, and I am loathe to give them any kind of a break, but this is absolutely a terrific pick. Given the unbelievable string of injuries Cleveland has suffered along the offensive line -- and even if they hadn't suffered the injuries -- this monster offensive tackle is a difference maker. He is powerful inside, and has speed to move downfield. According to Ourlad's he has "good balance and pass protection technique [and] [s]lides his fee laterally and maintains contact with defender."

4. Tampa Bay, Gaines Adams: Depending on who you believe Mr. Adams is the first or second best defensive end in the draft. At 6'5", 260 he has the size and speed to play linebacker in a 3-4 alignment, but will be asked to play end for Monte Kiffin. A little inexperienced -- only a two year starter at Clemson -- and has to hit the weight room. Amongst the top defensive ends in this year's draft Mr. Adams did the third fewest bench presses (21) at the NFL combine.

5. Arizona, Levi Brown: There is little suprise that Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm opted to go with one of the best offensive linemen in this, or any other, draft. A little slower than Joe Thomas, but a little stronger and quicker. Certainly big enough (6'5", 323 lbs.) to play tackle but is projected by some as a guard at the NFL level. A good player who will contribute, but a bit of a reach at this spot.

6. Washington, Laron Landry: Unsuccessul in their effort to trade down and accumulate some picks in subsequent rounds, the Redskins opted to take a difference maker at the free safety position. Terrific speed (4.45 in the 40), and good size (6'0", 202) who displays excellent football instincts and reactions. Played in Nick Saban's complex defensive scheme and excelled. A great blitzer who will miss tackles because of his aggressive approach.

7. Minnesota, Adrian Peterson: It is testimony to both the dearth of running backs in this draft, as well as the ability and character of Mr. Peterson that despite his injuries he was still a top ten pick. Good size (6'1", 219 lbs) who is a physical, down hill runner who also catches the ball well out of the backfield. Likes to play physical football -- Ourlad's says that he "[r]uns like he's his own blocker" -- but given all the injuries he suffered in college he has to learn how to save himself from big hits. Good speed to the corner, but doesn not possess break away speed. Could benefit from more work in the weight room -- was only able to do 16 bench press repititions in the bench press at the combine.

8. Atlanta, Jamaal Anderson: Enters the draft as an underclassman. Rated the #1 DE prospect by Street & Smith's who say that he is a "[s]pecial pass rusher." However, as is to be expected of someone who started a total of 30 games in his college career, he is a bit raw. Has good football instincts, and exceptional speed and quickness who needs to hit the weight room -- hard.

9. Miami, Ted Ginn: Enters the draft as an underclassman. A terrific playmaker but who is going to get him the football? Faster than Calvin Johsnon, but shorter (5'11" v. 6'5") and smaller (178 lbs. v. 239 lbs.) a la Santonio Holmes. A bit of a reach at this spot despite truly exceptional speed and large, strong hands. Rated by Pro Football Weekly (PFW) as the #3 receiver in the draft behind Calvin Johsnon and Dwayne Jarrett (USC). Of Mr. Ginn PFW says "Thinly built . . . and does not like to get hit."

10. Houston, Amobi Okoye: Enters the draft as an underclassman -- a 19-year old underclassman! It is understandable that a team would see the potential in this young man, but one wonders if the Texans will be able to keep him under contract long enough in order to see him fulfull that potential. Does demonstrate good technique -- Ourlad's says he "can stack the run . . . if he plaus low and wtih leverage." However, they also say that he tries to "muscle blockers" which isn't going to work out to well, at least at first, as he transitions to the NFL.

11. San Francsico, Patrick Willis: The 49ers are on a roll, and this is a terrific pick, though Mr. Willis is a little undersized (6'1", 240 lbs) for inside linebacker. Despite that he has been a good run stopper, though his pass rushing abilities lead some to project him as an outside linebacker. Very aggressive player who plays with emotion, and can sometimes play out of control.

12. Buffalo, Marshawn Lynch: An underrated running back who is powerful between the tackles, as well as quick the edge. Holds the Cal record for 100-yard rushing games in a career (17) who has the size and speed to make people miss. Mr. Lynch is a bigger version of Maurice Jones-Drew, and is an even better pass catcher.

13. St. Louis, Adam Carriker: No better than the #3 defensive end in the draft, but rated as the #10 player overall -- a good value pick for the Rams. An outstanding combine performance (e.g. he out-bench pressed both Gaines Adams and Jamaal Anderson) moved Mr. Carriker up the board. Very polished -- i.e. demonstrated a good combination of strength and technique -- especially compared to others at this position. Strong hands who consistently sheds blockers.

14. New York Jets, Darrelle Revis: The Steelers got our flanked, and the Jets picked up the cornerback that they had earmarked as their #1 pick. Good size (5'11", 200 lbs.) combined with outstanding speed make Mr. Revis a special player. Very physical, very smart, who will benefit from individual coaching to improve some sloppy footwork. Like to hit, and may move to safety in order to more fully exploit his skills.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers, Lawrence Timmons: Ranked by Ourlad's as the #23 player overall -- in no smnall part because he enters the draft after having started at Florida State for only one year -- so he represents something of a reach here. Rated as the #2 outside linebacker by both Ourlad's and Pro Football Weekly. Good size (6'3", 230 lbs.) allows him to disrupt the running game, and his speed makes him a factor both in the pass rush as well as pass coverage (PFW says that "he can eliminate the tight end from the game."). Ourlad's says he has the "[k]nack to make big plays."

16. Green Bay, Justin Harrell: An odd choice for any number of reasons. Ranked as the #3 defensive tackle by PFW and #5 by Ourlad's. A big man (6'4", 305 lbs) who started for three years. A solid run stuffer who is swallows up double teams. Isn't the most durable player, was something of a disappointment at the Combine, and is coming off a bicep injury last season.

17. Denver, Jarvis Moss: Way back when Mr. Moss was identified as the good fit for the Steelers. While he has terrific speed, and a wing span of 34", he is also prone to leaving his feet and arm tackling. According to Ourlad's he was "manhandled by big offensive tackles . . . [who] [c]an be a liability in the run game."

18. Cincinnati, Leon Hall: #1 rated cornerback in the draft -- why didn't the Steelers take him? -- who The Sporting News describes as "tough and physical . . . [who] plays bigger than his size." Great footwork, and adequate speed makes him effective in man-to-man and zone alike. Provides excellent run support. Ourlad's says this: tough-minded, and accepts a challenge . . . competitive and aggressive."

19. Tennessee, Michael Griffin: The #1 rated strong safety. Big hitter who is solid and durable if not as flashy/spectacular as the cornerbacks taken earlier in this round. Good speed keeps him with the receiver in coverage, and his nose for the ball makes him dangerous in coverage. Always ooutstanding in run support who will take on bigger players. Described by PFW as having "blue-chip special-teams ability . . . too big, fast, athletic and exceptional . . . to escape the first round."

20. New York Giants, Aaron Ross: Third or fourth amongst the conerbacks available who was a one year starter at Texas. Shows good quickness, but needs to get stronger -- was pushed around by bigger receivers -- but was solid in run support. His 34" vertical jump at the NFL Combine was mediocre. Is prone to getting burned while trying to make the spectacular play. Good punt returner.

21. Jacksonville, Reggie Nelson: Looks eerily like Maurice Jones-Drew. Rated #25 overall by Ourlad's, the #2 free safety in the draft. The defensive scheme at Florida -- which relies on athletes making plays rather than gimmickery -- is very simplified, meaning that there will be a fairly steep learning curve for Mr. Nelson. Indeed, according to PFW Mr. Nelson is "not a quick study and may struggle on a team that implements . . . different game plans each week." Moreover, Ourlad's warns that he will "need to improve technique in every phase of his game." A junior college transfer who is a below average tackler.

22. Cleveland, Brady Quinn: Our long national nightmare is finally over -- someone tell ESPN to shut up! On the other hand, the Brown are still the Browns. The fans may love this pick, but the view from here is that the Browns traded up to the end of the first round -- and give up their 2008 #1 pick -- to get a third round player who benefited tremendously from playing a pathetic regular season schedule for four years. He is a strong player who surely will benefit from having played in the pro style offense of Charlie Weiss.

23. Kansas City, Dwayne Bowe: Excellent size to go across the middle, with good deep speed. Will go to the ground for the low ball. Good lower body strength makes him tough to tackle, and a good blocker. Every assessment I read discussed "inconsistent hands" and an occasional loss of focus.

24. New England, Brandon Meriweather: Hmmm. The fourth rated free safety in the draft who has had on the field and off the field difficulties. Does not have the speed or size (5'10", 195 lbs.) to cover the top receivers. Good reactions, and strong in run support. His football knowledge and instincts have been compared favorably to those of Ed Reed.

25. Carolina, Jon Beason: The third rated outside linebacker in the draft. At 6'0" he is a little shorter than most NFL scouts prefer, but he is aggressive in taking on -- and shedding -- blockers. Outstanding against the run, and more than adequate in pass coverage. According to Street & Smith he is a [d]isciplined [player who] plays within the scheme . . . [a] very physical player who . . . is simply fearless." Only managed 19 repititions in the bench press at the NFL combine.

26. Dallas, Anthony Spencer: The #22 rated player by Ourlad's. Well respected amongst Big Ten coaches and players. Has the size (6'2", 261 lbs.) and speed (4.73) to play outside linebacker in the 3-4. A four down player who is equally accomplished against the run, and in pass rush. Played primarily from a three point stance, so he will need to work on pass coverage technique. Described by PFW as a "better athlete than a player." Ten yard dash time at the combine was similar to those turned in by Gaines Adams, Adam Carriker, Jamaal Anderson, and jarvis Moss; but his bench press performance was better than all of those players except for Adam Carriker (33 reps versus 30).

27. New Orleans, Robert Meachem : Only started one season at Tennessee, but has good size (6'2", 214 lbs.) and decent speed (4.42). Good vertical jump (37.5" at the combine) and hand placement makes him tough to beat in a jump ball situation. Rated a third round pick by The Sporting News (rated as the #30 pick by Ourlad's) who described Mr. Meachem as lacking focus and "apprehensive when running routes over the middle." A below average blocker.

28. San Francisco, Joe Staley: A good football player, for whom the 49ers overpaid by giving up next season's #1 -- who was a three year starter at Central Michigan and developed into a top notch pass protector. Not quite as accomplished a run blocker, but he is competitive, quick, and "works to finish his blocks (Ourlad's). Needs to improve lower body strength in order to enhance his ability to drive opponents off the line of scrimmage. Good hands and quick footwork is a cut above others in this draft.

29. Baltimore, Ben Grubbs: The #2 rated guard who is more technique/finesse than brute force. Tends to play too high, but was the man behind whom Auburn often run in short yardage/goal line situations. Showed good balance and is very effective at pulling out to lead running plays to the edge. Very durable, three year starter.

30. San Diego, Greg Davis: Rated by Ourlad's at #53 overall -- can we all say "reach"? -- who has game-breaking speed, and can contribute on punt returns. Has good size (6'1", 207 lbs.) and strength that gives him the ability to get away from the line of scrimmage with minimal delay, and also aids his above average blocking ability. Routes can be imprecise, and he is sometimes hesitant when going across the middle.

31. Chicago, Greg olsen: The first tight end taken in the draft. A speedy receiver who is a legitimate threat downfield, though he has a tendency to be too upright when coming off the line. Runs excellent, precise patterns and is difficult to knock off. Physical receiver who is strong across the middle, but is a below average blocker -- something that will have to be remedied with the run-happy Bears. No hesitation in competing for the ball.

32. Indianapolis, Anthony Gonzalez: A tough, competitive receiver cut from the same mold of Hines Ward -- i.e. a great blocker who fights for extra yardage, and is fearless going across the middle. Started only one season, and is entering the draft as an underclassman. Excels at finding the seam/hole in coverage. Unlike Dwayne Bowe, Mr. Gonzalez demosntrates reliable hands and unfailing concentration. Outstanding third down receiver.

So concludes the longest first round in NFL Draft history -- six hours and eight minutes! In this round the picks broke down by position this way:

QB: 2
RB: 2
WR: 6
TE: 1
FB: 0
OT: 3
OG: 1
C: 0
DT: 3
DE: 5
OLB: 2
ILB: 1
CB: 3
S: 4

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