Category Archives: Player Analysis

The Most Coveted Prospect

An Article By: Curtis Rukavina

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With the draft a few days away, names such as Matthew Stafford, Michael Crabtree, Mark Sanchez and Aaron Curry are all considered the elite prospects in this draft. Yet there is an under-the-radar prospect who may be more sought after than any of those listed above. His name is Tyson Jackson and he is the most versatile player on the defensive line in this year’s draft. Jackson has the ability to play defensive end in the 3-4 alignment, as well as defensive end and nose tackle in the 4-3 alignment.

There have been many teams recently who have abandoned the 4-3 defense and introduced the 3-4 hybrid defense. This requires substantial change, as far as personnel is concerned. 4-3 defensive ends project toward the linebacker position in the 3-4, and defensive tackles in a 4-3 may not have a home at all in the 3-4 defense. Tyson Jackson benefits from being the top-rated defensive end prospect, bringing adaptability to both schemes.  It also helps that there are five teams in the top 10 picks that are in need of his services.

Kansas City recently overhauled their entire coaching staff and front office and made the switch from the 4-3 to 3-4. They simply don’t have all the personnel that is necessary to run the 3-4 defense and will look to address this through the draft. Scott Pioli played a large role in deciding who the Patriots would select in years past– and rarely failed. The Chiefs have been linked to Tyson Jackson and that is the highest I see him going.

Cleveland, Green Bay and San Francisco are all very likely destinations for Jackson if Kansas City chooses not to select him. Each of those teams have huge holes at the 3-4 defensive end position and would immediately benefit with Jackson on their roster . Jacksonville is a possibility based on their history of selecting big lineman whether to play defensive tackle or end in their 4-3.

I do not think he slips past the Broncos at the 12th pick, as they would have a steal if he fell to them. Tyson Jackson has all the intangibles and triangle numbers that make him a top prospect. It will show with his draft position on Saturday.

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Filed under Defensive Line, Player Analysis

Not An Issue

Harvin

In a widely publicized report, Percy Harvin, the junior wide receiver formally of the Florida Gators, has tested positive for marijuana use at the 2009 NFL combine. This has been a lingering rumor for quite some time, but became official throughout mainstream media in the past 36 hours.

Yes, Harvin may now be a tough sell to a chapter of the boy-scouts, and he probably won’t be the top candidate to lead a Sunday-school group, but let’s be serious now– this is not a cause for concern. Obviously we don’t condone recreational drug-use for professional athletes, but it’s truly sad how quickly we can tattoo the dreaded term “character issue” to a player, for such a trivial practice .

Certainly, Percy Harvin now has an obligation, as a representative of the National Football League, to stay clean on a zero-tolerance basis. The fact that he failed to keep his urine clean for the biggest job interview in his life, isn’t particularly comforting; however, to allow this drug-test to demean his draft status is just plain silly. If you’re naive enough to believe that Harvin is the only high calibre athlete to smoke pot, you’re horribly mistaken. It’s a common phenomena in pro-sports, that is often jokingly admitted to, and the adverse effects attached to a positive drug test don’t take into account the substantial majority who do not get caught.

Harvin was a hard-working, stand-up guy during his time as a Florida Gator. He was not a chronic law-breaker, nor was he a generic trouble-maker. He was loved by teammates, and was never perceived as a distraction. Some question his coachability and repect for authority, but personally, anyone who plays for his team on a broken ankle, and publicly discloses the injury as a simple sprain needs to be given a tad more credit.

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Filed under Player Analysis, Wide Receiver

Three Of A Kind

USC LBs

The University of Southern California certainly forbids plagiarism, but in this instance, cutting-and-pasting is the only option available. Later this month, the 2009 NFL Draft will feature the entire core of starting linebackers from the 2008 USC Trojans defense.

The trio of Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews will all most-likely be selected in the first round of the upcoming draft. They all bring a similar smash-mouth style, that isn’t overly fancy and is undeniably rough around the edges. These guys aren’t squeeky clean kids, they aren’t flashy athletes, and they certainly don’t take kindly to dudes wearing the opposite color jersey.

Each of these guys are gladiator-like warriors who live up to their Trojan name. Maualuga is the fierce inside-backer, who may not be very fast, but is a bonafied tackle-machine and a fox-in-the-whole leader. Cushing could be the most impressive physical specimen of the trio and possesses a tremendous strength-speed combo. Clay Matthews, though equipped with a similar build, is a more sideline-to-sideline athlete who can fly around in coverage while remaining stout against the run.

With the proliferation of 3-4 defenses around the league, a premium has been put on big-strong-quick linebackers. All three of these guys fit that bill, and will definitely be gone by pick 35.

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Filed under Inside Linebacker, Outside Linebacker, Player Analysis

A New Number One

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It’s official, we’ve released version two of our 2009 NFL Mock Draft, and there is a new face a-top the draft board– Matthew Stafford, the quarterback from the University of Georgia.

The Lions have an undeniable need on the o-line, but that need can be satisfied at both pick #20, and pick #33. Our Mock has the Lions going offensive tackle Eben Britton at 20, and the Lions would be wise to go offensive guard at 33. This draft strategy allows them to take a risk on Stafford, knowing that he will not suffer the same fate as Joey Harrington.

Stafford has looked absolutely lights out in all post-season workouts, and seems to be handling himself like a true professional. His footwork is top-notch, he ran a tremendous 40, and he possesses this draft’s biggest arm. He is a bonafied leader, clean off the field, and embodies the rebirth that the Lions are going through.

Even if he turns out to be nothing but a serviveable QB, he will still be an improvement from the Lions current QB situation, which cannot be left in its current state for the start of training camp. Yes, Stafford will bring a massive price-tag, and his failure would be a major set-back, but the Lions cannot be haunted by mistakes of the past. Stafford has all the makings of a top signal-caller, and given the necessary support around him, he should flourish in Detroit.

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Filed under Mock Draft, Player Analysis, Quarterbacks

Body English

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With the proliferation of the 3-4 defence in the NFL, an urgent need has developed for high-caliber ‘hybrid’ outside linebackers. These are generally kids who played with their hands in the ground in college, as undersized defensive ends. NFL scouts proceed to envision these physical specimens as the ideal 3-4 outside linebacker– where laying booming hits and putting pressure on the opposing quarterback are the primary objectives. Larry English, this year’s MAC-conference defensive player of the year, falls within this prototype.

When you first look at English’s 6’2″ frame, carrying 255-260 pounds, you’re automatically reassured this kid belongs in first-round conversation. When you compound this with the fact that he’s a workout warrior, and ran a pair of 4.7 forty-times at his Northern Illinois pro-day yesterday, you’re confident that this kid will do damage at the next level.

Examining English’s body of work, you’ll see that he’s had over 30 sacks in the past three seasons. When you flip on the film, you see a high-motor workhorse who brings it every down. In addition to looking at his tape, you could also reference his trophy case– where on top of being the MAC-conference defensive player of the year this year, he was their MVP in both 2007 and 2008. That’s a some serious hardware to back up your resume.

What’s the catch?

Well naturally, you have the “small-school” debate, where people criticize English’s production for the fact that he often played against inferior competition at Northern Illinois. Of course, I despise these sentiments, and one only need to look to last year, where a Div 2 corner from Tennessee State ended up making some noise on draft day. I’m of course referring to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who was taken 16th overall by the Arizona Cardinals, and who amassed 6 interceptions as a nickle corner.

The other knock on English is a history of fairly serious injuries, and admittedly, this is a more substantive concern. With an injury history that includes a torn ACL, a torn pectoral muscle and a broken thumb– the caution flags may be warranted. But physical examinations have deemed English 100% healthy, and that is ultimately bad new for NFL QB’s.

Verdict: First-Rounder.

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Filed under Outside Linebacker, Player Analysis

No Logging Permitted

How imperfect is the human memory? Why are we so consumed with the present,  so much so that we ignore the very proof that is permanently ingrained in history.

In the case of Texas Tech wide-out Michael Crabtree (6’2″, 220lbs) , we’ve forgotten that bone fractures heal, that rehabilitation regenerates health, and perhaps most importantly, that this kid caught 231 passes for well over 3000 yards and 41 touchdowns— in two seasons.

It has been the trendy draft prediction to suggest that Crabtree will fall to the Oakland Raiders at pick number seven, creating a three-headed offensive juggernaut in the black-hole (Jamarcus Russell, Darren McFadden and Crabtree). Even more ridiculously, some suspect that Crabtree will be passed by the Raiders, falling to the Jacksonville Jaguars at pick number eight. My reaction, shock and awe.

Aside from the fact that Crabtree is hands down the best offensive weapon in this draft, there are also natural fits for Crabtree in the top 5, that satisfy both golden draft requirements: “need” and “value”. Let’s go numerically—pick two, three, and five.

At pick number two, St. Louis will go into their off-season program with Donnie Avery and Keenan Burton starting at wide receiver. Given the release of Torry Holt, Avery is the only viable option that can possibly hold a starting spot. The Rams are frighteningly thin at WR. Enter Crabtree.

At pick number three, Kansas City has the proven receiving threat of Dewayne Bowe on the outside, but the patchwork beneath him leaves much to be desired. With Todd Haley as the head coach, and Tony Gonzalez’s career winding down, this makes more sense than people are lead to believe. Enter Crabtree.

Finally, the fifth pick. The Cleveland Browns shipped away Kellen Winslow earlier this offseason, there goes 100 catches. Braylon Edwards has been horribly inconsistent. Joe Jurivicious is gone, and Stallworth will be soon, given his recent automotive incident. Enter Crabtree.

This kid is a true phenom. Sorry Oakland and Sorry Jacksonville.

Verdict: Top-5.

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Filed under Player Analysis, Wide Receiver

Recession Proof

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With the first overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions select Jason Smith, Offensive Tackle, from Baylor University. Two months ago, most people would have been left scratching their heads at this proclamation by Roger Goodell. “Jason Smith? Don’t you mean Andre Smith from Alabama?” It’s incredible what the post-collegiate draft season can bring, but here’s a look at why Jason Smith, the 6’5″, 310 pounder from Baylor makes the most sense.

Let us be clear that this kid is a phenomenal talent. He’s sculpted as a physical duplicate of last year’s offensive rookie of the year, 3rd runner-up, Ryan Clady. Both have the unbelievable athleticism, nimble feet, and tremendous agility needed to protect the QB’s blind-side. Given the recent success of highly touted left tackles (including Ryan Clady, Jake Long, Brandon Albert, and Joe Thomas), Jason Smith will likely benefit from their precedent.

More obviously, we are in one of the most severe economic downturns since the Great Depression, and all indications point to a situation similar to that which unfolded with last year’s first overall pick, Jake Long. Long was the consensus choice for the Dolphins for the fact that he was willing to accept significantly less money, when compared to the other top prospects. This will almost undoubtedly be the case with Smith, who will certainly come with a cheaper price tag than quarterback Matt Stafford from Georgia.

After the trade that acquired Julian Peterson from the Seahawks, the likelihood that the Lions select Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry decreased significantly. This left quarterback and left tackle as the Lion’s two top priorities. People will point to the golden rule, “Don’t pass on a franchise QB unless you have one”, but let’s be honest here, the Lions cannot afford to miss on another top pick. With questions still hovering over Stafford, it’s a monumental risk that this franchise simply cannot endure.

Thus in these troublesome times for our economy, and for Lions fans, Jason Smith is the pick.  The affordable and undeniably secure option who will be a fixture on their 0-line for the next 10 years.

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Filed under Offensive Tackle, Player Analysis