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Found 18 results

  1. ESPN INSIDER Mel Kiper's Final Mock Draft The 2019 NFL draft is finally here, and it's time for one last first-round mock draft. This is a projection of where I think guys could come off the board based on what I'm hearing, not a reflection of my final rankings. Still, check out my top 300 Big Board and position rankings to see where I have the rest of the class. Trades change the draft every year, and I don't expect 2019 to be any different. I'm not including trades in my 1-32 projection, but I will note the picks that could see action. 1. Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma I'm sticking with 99.9 percent here. There has just been too much smoke the past two months. Murray could be a star for new coach Kliff Kingsbury. 2. San Francisco 49ers: Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State Bosa is my top-ranked prospect in this class, and the Niners have to improve their edge rush. Easy pick for GM John Lynch. 3. New York Jets: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama This is a spot to watch for a team trying to trade up. The Jets have holes all over their roster. If they stay at No. 3, they should get pass-rushing help, and they can't go wrong with Williams or Josh Allen. 4. Oakland Raiders: Josh Allen, OLB, Kentucky Jon Gruden would be thrilled -- he loves playmakers on both sides of the ball. Allen had 17 sacks and five forced fumbles last season. He's a force off the edge. 5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Devin White, ILB, LSU The fit is too perfect, but keep a close eye on the pass-rushers, too. White is a sideline-to-sideline star. 6. New York Giants: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston No quarterback here, but Oliver would fill a need for the Giants. He could play end in a 3-4 defense. 7. Jacksonville Jaguars: T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa Have you seen the Jacksonville tight end depth chart? Nick Foles needs a weapon. The No. 7 pick is another spot to keep an eye on with trades. 8. Detroit Lions: Brian Burns, OLB, Florida State This offseason in Detroit is about giving coach Matt Patricia some defensive pieces with which to work. Burns is a big-time athlete and excellent, ascending edge rusher. 9. Buffalo Bills: Jonah Williams, OT/G, Alabama I wrote Wednesday that I just love the match between Williams and Buffalo. He could play guard or tackle. 10. Denver Broncos: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State Will there be a trade up to get Haskins? For now, I think Denver makes the most sense. With Joe Flacco in Denver for at least a year, there's no pressure on Haskins to start immediately. He's raw, but you can't teach his accuracy and touch. 11. Cincinnati Bengals: Devin Bush, ILB, Michigan Will Cincinnati pull the trigger on a quarterback here? I'm not so sure. Bush fills a void and could be a steal. Some teams like Bush more than White. 12. Green Bay Packers: Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida Right tackle is a sneaky long-term need in Green Bay. Taylor's future is at tackle, but he could play guard in Year 1 if needed. He's a mauler in the run game. 13. Miami Dolphins: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson If Miami really is waiting until 2020 to get a quarterback, GM Chris Grier & Co. should go with the best player available here. Miami has holes at several positions. Wilkins is an underrated pass-rusher, and he's one of the best locker room guys in this draft. 14. Atlanta Falcons: Cody Ford, OT/G, Oklahoma Ford, who played both tackle and guard in college, could start at right tackle immediately for Atlanta. He plays with an edge -- he wants to dominate defenders. I thought about defensive tackle here, too. 15. Washington Redskins: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri This was the toughest pick of the bunch. Remember: I'm not projecting trades here, which could blow up everything. If Lock or Haskins is still on the board at No. 15, though, I expect Washington to go with a quarterback. Lock has a high ceiling. 16. Carolina Panthers: Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State Edge rusher is a clear need for Carolina -- Rashan Gary is still available -- but Dillard, the best true pass protector in this class, would improve this team. He might play right tackle if he goes here. 17. New York Giants (from CLE): Daniel Jones, QB, Duke Could Jones fall into GM Dave Gettleman's lap? I like Jones' potential, but he should sit and learn for a year behind Eli Manning. 18. Minnesota Vikings: Chris Lindstrom, G, Boston College I expect an offensive lineman for Minnesota, and there should still be good options on the board. Lindstrom is my top-ranked guard. 19. Tennessee Titans: Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan Gary is dropping a little bit, but he has all the talent in the world to be an all-pro player. His issue is consistency. Could Mike Vrabel and Dean Pees get the best out of him? 20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Byron Murphy, CB, Washington If the top two inside linebackers are gone, cornerback makes the most sense for Pittsburgh. Murphy is my top-ranked corner. He tracks the ball in the air well, and he plays faster than his 4.55 40-yard dash. 21. Seattle Seahawks: Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State This is great value for Sweat, and Seattle just dealt its best pass-rusher in Frank Clark. GM John Schneider has to address the pass rush with one of these first-round picks. 22. Baltimore Ravens: Erik McCoy, C/G, Texas A&M I expect the Ravens to try to trade down, but their biggest hole is at the interior offensive line. I have picked McCoy to the Ravens in previous mocks, and I'll stick with it. 23. Houston Texans: Greedy Williams, CB, LSU Houston needs help at offensive tackle, but with Dillard and Ford gone, I'll move to defensive back. Williams is a polarizing prospect, but he is very talented. The Texans should use their two second-round picks on offensive linemen. 24. Oakland Raiders (from CHI): Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama Leave it to Gruden to take the first running back off the board. Jacobs is a three-down, explosive player. 25. Philadelphia Eagles: Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma If you're keeping count, Brown would be the first wide receiver picked. I can see a few 75-yard catch-and-runs in his future with Carson Wentz throwing him the ball. He'd be a teammate of his closest pro comp, Desean Jackson. 26. Indianapolis Colts: Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State If Simmons were healthy, he might be a top-10 pick. He's extremely talented. But after he tore his ACL in February, Indy could stash him for a few months and see if he's ready for the playoffs. 27. Oakland Raiders (from DAL): Darnell Savage Jr., S, Maryland Savage is one of the biggest risers since the combine, a ball hawk who ran a 4.36 40-yard dash in Indianapolis. He's a Gruden kind of player. 28. Los Angeles Chargers: Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson This pick should be interior offensive line or defensive tackle. Lawrence is the best nose tackle in the draft, and the Chargers were gashed up the middle by the Patriots in the playoffs. Lawrence will plug gaps. 29. Seattle Seahawks (from KC): Justin Layne, CB, Michigan State This is a little bit of a reach on my board -- I have a second-round grade on Layne -- but he fits the profile that Pete Carroll likes in defensive backs. Layne is 6-foot-2 with a huge wingspan. 30. Green Bay Packers (from NO): Noah Fant, TE, Iowa Fant would essentially be a 6-foot-4 slot receiver as a rookie, but Aaron Rodgers won't complain. 31. Los Angeles Rams: Garrett Bradbury, C/G, NC State I thought about defensive line for the Rams, but Bradbury's versatility to play guard or center is a plus. 32. New England Patriots: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson What are the chances that New England keeps this pick? Bill Belichick & Co. have six selections the first two days. Ferrell is the best edge rusher available, but there's also a thought inside the league that he could play defensive tackle. We know Belichick likes versatile defenders.
  2. http://www.espn.com/nfl/insider/story/_/id/23003327/nfl-2018-free-agency-execs-unfiltered-every-team-free-agent-signings-trades
  3. My take: Not sure he understand our roster and/or scheme. He also probably underestimates Riley. LINK (insiders required) Outside linebacker: Atlanta Falcons Starters: Vic Beasley Jr., De'Vondre Campbell Key reserve: Duke Riley Every defense would love to have at least two quality edge rushers. We see this best in the AFC West with Denver (Von Miller and Shane Ray), Kansas City (Justin Houston and Dee Ford/Tamba Hali), Los Angeles (Joey Bosa and Melvin Gordon) and Oakland (Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin). In Atlanta, Vic Beasley was a bit of a one-man show last season. His 15.5 sacks led the NFL, while no other Atlanta defender had more than 4.5 sacks. Dwight Freeney, who had 29 hurries, is not returning this year, so it could be the Beasley show again, with only rookies -- including third-round pick Duke Riley -- backing him up. De'Vondre Campbell was a fourth-round pick who started last year, but he had only three hurries because he's more of an off-ball linebacker. First-round pick Takkarist McKinley could eventually create a duo of bookend rushers for Atlanta, but he is more of a traditional 4-3 defensive end than Beasley.
  4. 2 falcons players made the list http://www.espn.com/nfl/insider/story/_/id/17179183/nfl-top-25-breakout-prospects-arizona-cardinals-david-johnson-seattle-seahawks-thomas-rawls
  5. Vic Beasley Jr., DE, Atlanta Falcons Beasley's combine performance the past February was absolutely ridiculous. At 6-foot-3, 246 pounds, the former Clemson star ran a 4.53 40-yard dash, posted a vertical jump of 41 inches and recorded a time of 6.91 in the three-cone drill. Those are numbers we would expect from a defensive back -- not a 240-plus-pound edge rusher. Oh, and he threw some weight around at the combine, with 35 reps on the bench test. Even with all the buzz Beasley generated, questions lingered. Would his athleticism translate to the field on Sundays? Could he develop the counter moves necessary to get to the quarterback? Beasley recorded only four sacks in 2015, which is low for a top-10 pick. But I caution against looking only at box scores to analyze his production: Beasley progressively improved over the course of the season, based on the tape I watched. That's a sign of development at a position in which rookies often struggle. It's hard to consistently win on the edge in the NFL. Speed, or burst, is one thing -- you need that. But can you set up offensive tackles, use multiple moves at the point of attack, win with your hands and create a positive angle to put a hit on the quarterback? This stuff takes time (and reps) to truly see results. With that one year of experience, tape to self-scout in the offseason and a better feel for the pro game, Beasley will be in position to produce more and become a disruptive edge rusher in Dan Quinn's scheme. Although he needs to improve against the run game (another transition for college players), his development is something to watch in 2016. All that speed and power? A lot of talent here. http://espn.go.com/nfl/insider/story/_/id/14755329/five-rookies-ready-pop-year-2-nfl http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/19027/espn-insider-big-2016-for-falcons-vic-beasley
  6. Atlanta entered Week 17 at 6-9, with a chance to win the NFC South if they could defeat the Panthers at home. Instead, they were blown out and finished the season 6-10, and head coach Mike Smith was fired Monday. The Falcons have several key personnel needs to address this offseason and will have the use of the No. 8 overall draft pick. Here are the team's top offseason priorities: 1. Establish a pass rush To see the full rundown of the necessary offseason fixes for the Falcons, and every other NFL team, you must be an ESPN Insider. What's good Insiders? Who's got some access that the rest of us scumbags at TATF can borrow? LOL!
  7. By all accounts, Eric Fisher is going to be a fine NFL player. Maybe even a great one. Scouts agree that he's a sound, steady, athletic technician with upside -- perhaps an even better prospect than offensive tackles Jake Long and Joe Thomas were coming out of college. The problem is Fisher plays a position that, in terms of importance, is in serious decline. But few seem to notice. After Michael Lewis published "The Blind Side" in 2006, NFL analysts and fans started describing left tackle as the game's second-most important position, behind quarterback. Their reasoning was that the left tackle is the one most responsible for the quarterback's safety. It became chic to trumpet the 300-pounders as unheralded stars. It even became chic to pay them like heralded stars. This seems logical, but it fails to see the big picture of today's NFL. And once you consider this ongoing offensive evolution, it seems rather silly to take an offensive tackle at the top of Round 1. In pro football's recent and ongoing evolution, increasingly fewer offensive concepts are heavily dependent on a left tackle being able to win on an island against a quality defensive opponent. A lot of passing attacks these days operate primarily out of spread sets with three- and five-step drop-back timing. The objective is getting the ball out quickly to skill players in space. This naturally quells a pass rush, as it is physically impossible for an edge rusher to reach a quarterback on three-step timing and very difficult for him to get there against five-step timing. Besides, when pass-rushers do get there, good quarterbacks have learned how to compensate with pocket mobility, progression-read poise and pre-snap diagnostic skills. Many also have the athleticism to extend plays on the perimeter. What's more, much of today's game is predicated on disguise and deception. When the offense does take a deep shot (which requires a seven-step drop), it's usually out of a running formation and involves some sort of play-action. (The key to most deep-shot designs is baiting the safety into stepping forward.) These deceptive tactics often have a tight end blocking on the edge and/or a running back staying in to protect. Which means the left tackle is usually getting help. [+] Enlarge AP Photo/Elise AmendolaReceivers who can uncover quickly are more help to a QB than an LT.The run game is changing, too. Yes, there will always be situations in football where an offense has to move the chains by ramming the ball through the A, B and C gaps. But more and more run games today are predicated on agility and deception. This is seen most starkly in the rise of toss sweeps and delay handoffs out of three- and four-receiver sets (including shotgun). And it's especially seen in the increasingly popular read-option (where the left tackle can essentially be something of a decoy, as the offense's objective is to force an unblocked edge defender into making an either/or decision on the ball). Gone are the days when left tackles have to constantly pile-drive opponents off the ball. All of these trends point to less being demanded of left tackles. Where teams once needed a great player at the position, a lot of them now just need a player who doesn't stink. Of course, the consequences of having a left tackle who does stink can be dire -- especially given that offense is not the only side of the ball that is evolving. Defenses today present remarkably sophisticated sub-package disguises and pass-rush designs, plus they're loaded with insanely gifted athletes, particularly on the front edges. One could maybe even argue that an elite left tackle is now vital for any offense that does not have an upper-tier quarterback. Because if the quarterback can't adjust to the defense, the offense's only prayer is with a potent front line. But a legitimate rebuttal is that an elite left tackle is still not enough anyway. Based on the play calling we're seeing these days, most offensive coaches seem to agree. The evolution of defense has been so profound that offenses, no matter who they have up front, don't feel comfortable relying heavily on any single pass-blocker. Teams are using a lot more schematic wrinkles and group efforts to protect their quarterback. Tactics like chip-blocks, tight formations, rolled pockets and slide protections are now standard. A left tackle has little or nothing to do with combating complex defensive tactics; it's all about the quarterback's ability to make pre- and post-snap adjustments. As with quicker, more spread-out pass plays and space-oriented running, an uptick in group-oriented blocking concepts points to less being demanded of a left tackle. Consequently, the difference between a Eric Fisher and, say, a Menelik Watson, is naturally mitigated. "Fisher with help" might dominate his opponent on a given play, while "Watson with help" might only neutralize his opponent. But what does it matter? Both produce the same result: a protected quarterback. Sure, Fisher's superiority over Watson might still shine in certain run-blocking situations. But in today's pass-happy NFL, that's not hugely valuable (as the declining market for running backs attests to). [+] Enlarge Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesBryant McKinnie wasn't a huge factor in Joe Flacco's success.The effects of these evolutionary changes can be seen in the makeup of the past five years' Super Bowl rosters. One of the many leaguewide trends these rosters reflect is that quarterbacks are everything while left tackles are, well, just pieces. Look at the starting quarterbacks from the past five Super Bowls: Joe Flacco, Colin Kaepernick, Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Kurt Warner. These guys need no explanation. All are top-shelf superstars except Flacco and Kaepernick (and they both have distinct superstar traits, including maybe the most important of all: an ability to make strong-armed throws in tight windows). Now look at the collective mediocrity of the left tackles who protected these superstars: Bryant McKinnie, 2012, Ravens: Veteran castoff who began the season as a backup; he entered the starting lineup because of a domino effect from injuries at right tackle and guard. Joe Staley, 2012, 49ers: An outlier, as he's the only guy on this list to make the Pro Bowl in his team's Super Bowl season. David Diehl, 2011, Giants: A respectable veteran right tackle who moved to the left side after Will Beatty's injury. Matt Light, 2011, Patriots: A very solid veteran but one who was beginning to wear down; Super Bowl XLII wound up being his final game. Chad Clifton, 2010, Packers: Another solid veteran who was wearing down. Played just six games in 2011 before being out of the league. Trai Essex, 2010, Steelers: A backup who started just three games the following season; was essentially out of the league by the end of 2012. Jermon Bushrod, 2009, Saints: Many insiders described him as the league's worst left tackle in 2009. He would eventually develop into an adequate starter, but not until the second part of 2011. The Saints were not devastated when he signed with the Bears this past March. Charlie Johnson, 2009, Colts: A utility player who became a guard in Minnesota. Max Starks, 2008, Steelers: A fairly decent starter but one who could be prone to mistakes and bad weight gain. Mike Gandy, 2008, Cardinals: Went on IR in the middle of 2009 with a pelvic/groin injury; was released after the season (at age 30) and never played again. Obviously there are a lot of factors besides elite quarterback play that propel a team to the Super Bowl. But elite left tackle play does not appear to be one of them. On a similar note, let's look at the teams that have had elite left tackles. Below is a list of the AP first-team All-Pros from each of the past five years, along with their team's record from that season. Tackle Year Team Record Duane Brown 2012 Texans 12-4 Ryan Clady 2012 Broncos 13-3 Joe Thomas 2011 Browns 4-12 Jason Peters 2011 Eagles 8-8 Jake Long 2010 Dolphins 7-9 Joe Thomas 2010 Browns 5-11 Ryan Clady 2009 Broncos 8-8 Joe Thomas 2009 Browns 5-11 Jordan Gross 2008 Panthers 12-4 Michael Roos 2008 Titans 13-3 Over the past five years, the NFL's marquee left tackles have been Thomas, Long, Ryan Clady, Michael Roos, Jason Peters and Jordan Gross. How successful have the Browns, Dolphins, pre-Manning Broncos, Titans, Eagles and Panthers been in that span? Their collective record in games that these left tackles started is 210-232. Maybe it is unfair to tie a team's wins and losses to a left tackle -- but that's the point. If there is little correlation between quality left tackle play and winning, why are left tackles still considered premium assets? By its very nature, the position is forever mundane, not dynamic. Its function is to allow for big offensive plays and prevent big defensive plays. Unlike quarterback, receiver, running back, defensive line and linebacker, the left tackle position cannot create big plays. You cannot craft your team's identity around a left tackle. So why take one at the very top of the first round? Theoretically, what presents more opportunity to help your quarterback in today's quick-passing, space-oriented NFL? Drafting a left tackle high in the first round, or trading down and drafting, say, two receivers who can win off the line of scrimmage and make plays in space? Think of it this way: In an honest moment, who would Tom Brady admit he could least afford to lose, Nate Solder or Aaron Hernandez? It's not even a question; Solder is good, but Hernandez is critical to New England's identity. Perhaps a more pertinent example is Andy Dalton and the Bengals. Being an average pocket passer with average raw tools, Dalton is exactly the type of quarterback who needs good protection. And he gets that, as eighth-year veteran Andrew Whitworth has blossomed into one of the league's better left tackles. And yet, no intelligent football observer would say Whitworth is more valuable to the Bengals than A.J. Green. If the Bengals were to lose Whitworth, their protection concepts would have to be reworked. If they were to lose Green, their entire offense would have to be reworked. Not every team has a talent like Green. But when you're drafting near the very top of the first round, that's what you're trying to find. Superstars. Building blocks. Guys who define your team. You're not looking for really good cogs (which is what left tackles are becoming). Those are found in the bottom of the first round or in the later rounds, not with the No. 1 overall pick.
  8. Top 10 all-time QB prospects Kiper reveals his grades for elite college QBs before they were drafted Originally Published: April 11, 2013By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider 1 1 127 Email Print I put out my first draft guide in 1979. This year will be No. 35. That first guide was a full six years before the first NFL scouting combine. Back then, there were no online prospect guides and no recruiting rankings to track talent down to the high school level, and the draft looked something like this. For me, evaluating prospects was all about getting as much tape as I could find (there was no ESPN GamePlan), and making hundreds and hundreds of phone calls (no cellphones, either!) to coaches, scouts and front-office folks who would listen and evaluators at every level. You couldn't watch a verified 40-yard dash time on live TV; instead, you had to triangulate and weed out truth from fiction. It wasn't easy. But throughout all this time, I've kept the same 10-point grading scale, so even as the athletes changed, we can compare today where players stood among their prospect peers over a generation. So, some parameters for what you see below: 1. The ranking is based on the final draft grade before the draft, and it goes back to 1979, my first draft guide. It's clear to me now I graded a little easier when I was younger. I didn't have the point of reference I do today. 2. The grades do not reflect NFL performance. (You'll see.) I printed these grades and simply went back through every book. I have to live with the busts. 3. There are some ties on grades, so I had to break those ties without a great deal of science. But again, I didn't break ties based on NFL production. Here are my top 10 all-time quarterbacks based on draft grades. 1. John Elway, Stanford (No. 1 pick, 1983) Grade: 9.9 A generation later, Elway's skill set and pedigree would look just as impressive. His arm strength was legendary and would stand up to the strongest arms in the current NFL. He wasn't just smart in a traditional sense with obvious academic intelligence; he also was the son of an innovative coach in Jack Elway and was perfectly tailored to enter an era in part defined by the growth of the passing game under innovators such as Bill Walsh. It's fair to say Elway made his draft grade look accurate. 2. Andrew Luck, Stanford (No. 1 pick, 2012) Grade: 9.8 Highly accurate, highly intelligent, highly prepared and highly adaptable, Luck was a true modern prospect in the sense that the innate skills became obvious early in his career at Stanford. His NFL rookie season showed off not just what we all could see, but fans also got to see what kind of an athlete Luck is. Great size, strength and durability are just add-ons to an already exceptionally promising profile. The Mel Kiper Draft Tool The Mel Kiper Draft tool lets you change picks for teams -- or make trades -- then watch how the draft will play out. Simulate all kinds of draft scenarios, from surprise picks to draft-day trades. Draft Tool 3. Jim Kelly, Miami (No. 14 pick, 1983) Grade: 9.7 The third QB off the board in 1983, Kelly was a great prospect not just because of the arm, accuracy and good size (6-foot-3, 215 pounds), but because he was extremely competitive and could read the field from both sides of the ball. I've noted it previously, but he wouldn't have gone to Miami if Penn State and Joe Paterno had recruited him as a QB; Paterno wanted him to play linebacker. Kelly was one of the big early names in the USFL, but he proved Hall of Fame-worthy in the NFL. 4. Drew Bledsoe, Washington State (No. 1 pick, 1993) Grade: 9.7 Just a natural QB. Bledsoe had a low arm slot and wasn't going to beat most of the guys blocking for him in a race, but he had uncanny accuracy, a very strong arm, and the ability to make quick reads and snap off throws all over the field with ease. He quietly put up major numbers, too. Bledsoe is 10th all-time in passing yards, seventh in completions and 15th in touchdowns. 5. Peyton Manning, Tennessee (No. 1 pick, 1998) Grade: 9.7 The Colts … chose wisely. I'll hear Manning described retrospectively as a perfect prospect, but there were questions on arm strength and about performance in big moments. Manning's arm got stronger in the NFL, and it's almost impossible to project the level of professionalism -- obsession, even -- that Manning has when it comes to preparation and the science of passing. A first-ballot Hall of Famer. 6. Ryan Leaf, Washington State (No. 2 pick, 1998) Grade: 9.7 The mistake you can make with Leaf is assuming you wouldn't make the same mistake again. That's wrong. Leaf was a fantastic prospect and would be one today based on what we knew. Huge arm, great size, even the intangibles were there. He was a winner, a player who made others around him better in college and played well on big stages when given the chance. Who knows what would have happened to Leaf if he hadn't started on an awful team as a rookie. He simply wasn't prepared to fail and bounce back. He failed and never truly recovered. 7. Vinny Testaverde, Miami (No. 1 pick, 1987) Grade: 9.7 A big, accurate, smart passer, Testaverde had such an odd NFL career. He was practically a bust given his draft slot, and yet there he was in 1998 at age 35, going 12-1 as a starter with 29 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He could never truly carry a team or make a lot of really bad teams good on his own, but I think few will ever doubt his ability to play QB, which is why he did it for so long. 8. Andre Ware, Houston (No. 7 pick, 1990) Grade: 9.7 I loved Ware. We now see the type of college system he was in as a potential warning sign -- the Houston Cougars under Ware could put up 70 points like nothing, and defenses simply weren't prepared to stop them at the time -- but we didn't know that at the time, and Ware really was an accurate passer with an above-average arm. He was smart and capable of good reads. But he too never really recovered from a bad start to his NFL career. And yes, this was the famous Jeff George draft -- I had him No. 84 on my board and he went No. 1. I still like my grade. 9. Troy Aikman, UCLA (No. 1 pick, 1989) Grade: 9.6 Great arm, and great, great accuracy. It can't be underscored enough just how precise a passer Aikman was in the era in which he played. The NFL of today would make Aikman dominant, and he was very good for the era in which he played. People forget he transferred out of Oklahoma to find a better place to develop as a passer. A cinch for the No. 1 pick in 1989, and he went on to have a great career. 10. (Tie) Boomer Esiason, Maryland (No. 38 pick, 1984) Grade: 9.6 Now we'd see Esiason's 54.2 completion percentage in college as a disastrous number, but it wasn't a bad one then. Esiason wasn't surrounded with great talent at Maryland and willed his team to an ACC title. I loved the upside and the competitiveness, and he put together a great NFL career. 10. (Tie) Steve Young (No. 1 supplemental, 1984) Grade: 9.6 Extremely accurate, Young didn't have a huge arm and really had to learn the position after being recruited as an option quarterback, but the natural ability was there. Young wasn't brilliant in any one area save for his remarkable ability as a scrambler, but he made himself great, at both the college and NFL levels. Next best quarterbacks • Eli Manning (Ole Miss, 2004) He fell off as a junior, but Eli showed a flair for the dramatic and clutch play even in college. • Jim Everett (Purdue, 1986) The No. 3 pick in the draft, Everett had a great presence in the pocket and a big arm. Purdue is underrated as a QB producer, huh? • Carson Palmer (USC, 2003) I questioned his ceiling, but the downside for Palmer was high because he's such a gifted thrower of the ball. • Matt Ryan (Boston College, 2008) Not surprised he's such a good QB. I think what surprised me was how seamless the transition was for Ryan. Accute talent. • Matthew Stafford (Georgia, 2009) I said he'd be a No. 1 pick before he committed to Georgia. Safe to say I think he's pretty talented.
  9. NFL's best talent evaluators Ted Thompson, Ozzie Newsome among the NFL's best judges of talent Originally Published: April 2, 2013By Bill Polian | ESPN Insider 0 0 13 Email Print Mitchell Layton/Getty Images Ozzie Newsome is a big reason the Ravens are one of the NFL's best teams every year. When discussing the qualities associated with the league's best talent evaluators, you might think it starts with an ability to identify potential in draft prospects. On the contrary, what separates the best from the rest is an ability to first understand your own franchise. As I've written many times before, player value is relative and will vary from team to team. Teams prioritize certain positions over others depending on scheme. Some will prioritize pass-rushers, others will hold shutdown man-to-man cornerbacks in high regard. Some teams will seek an elite tight end, others will treat the position as a highly replaceable part. Supply and demand may change the price tag on free agents, and raw ability may determine a prospect's overall draft stock, but it's the teams themselves that ultimately determine a player's value. The names I've identified as the NFL's best talent evaluators may not surprise you. They all represent teams that have been perennial powers in recent years. And at the core of that success is a distinct stylistic blueprint -- the ability to first assess what you have on the roster -- that helps guide the continued building of rosters through the draft. Here are the top six NFL talent evaluators in my eyes: Ozzie Newsome, Baltimore Ravens Ozzie understands exactly what their needs are at all times, and he understands how players fit in their system. As a result, he makes the appropriate calls on draft day … and after. Take a look at Dannell Ellerbe. Ozzie signed the interior linebacker as an undrafted free agent in 2009. In his time with Baltimore, Ellerbe proved to be one of the league's best bargains. Last season he filled in extremely well when Ray Lewis was injured, and he just left the team for a $35 million contract with the Miami Dolphins. While it was a loss that stung the Ravens, Newsome has shown a track record of being able to find another player capable of taking his place. Perhaps more notably, Joe Flacco, Ray Rice and Terrell Suggs are other prime examples of Newsome's evaluation ability. Suggs fits their system perfectly. In his draft year, the critics got carried away with his poor 40 times, but the Ravens did not, and now they're reaping the dividends. Newsome doesn't just identify talent, he knows the rate at which to value it. Thomas Dimitroff, Atlanta Falcons Like the rest of the GMs on this list, Thomas understands what the Falcons are looking for in a player and what it takes for that player to fit their system. Not only is he very cognizant of what a player can contribute on the whole, he's also very adept at identifying individual traits that might help certain players excel in particular roles. In a cap-conscious league, you need those specific-trait players to fill out your roster in the best way possible. Thomas has identified several for the Falcons, including Jacquizz Rodgers, Akeem Dent, Kroy Biermann and Harry Douglas -- all are relatively specialized players who make key contributions on this team. It was a bold move to make the trade and go get Julio Jones in the 2011 draft, but Dimitroff had identified Jones as a perfect system fit, increasing the value of the player specific to an organization. Matt Ryan is a vertical downfield passer, and they needed another game breaker. Dimitroff had courage to go up and get him, and while a lot of people second-guessed the move at the time, it's clearly paid off. Ted Thompson, Green Bay Packers The Packers have a simple model: Build from within. Green Bay places an enormous emphasis on the draft (and signing undrafted free agents), and Thompson really does a great job identifying big-time playmakers: Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji, A.J. Hawk, Sam Shields and Randall Cobb are just a few examples. And, of course, he pulled the trigger to select Aaron Rodgers in the 2005 draft despite having Brett Favre under center. I also like that Ted is impervious to the noise around him -- and that is true of all the guys on this list. Whether it's coming from the media, fans or even voices within an organization, there is no shortage of critics in this line of work. Ted presses the mute button on all of that and goes about his business, following his blueprint and accumulating wins. The Super Bowl ring is evidence that he's got the right plan in front of him. That they won a title with 14 players on the IR speaks to his ability to bring in depth players who can make an impact. Jerry Reese, New York Giants He goes out and finds players who fit what head coach Tom Coughlin wants, which points to one of his greatest strengths as a GM: Not only is Jerry a terrific judge of talent, he's also an excellent manager in the way he includes his staff and the coaches in the process. Throughout the organization, every scout is working from the same script and knows that their voice will be heard in the player-evaluation process. Another defining characteristic for Jerry is that he's not afraid to take a chance on a player who he believes will fit their system. Mark Herzlich is a good example. Many teams were scared of his battle with cancer, but he's helped the Giants. And identifying Victor Cruz as a player to develop can't be overlooked -- remember, they kept him through an entire season where Cruz sat on IR. Reese and Coughlin will now unearth last year's first-rounder, RB David Wilson. While the Virginia Tech back had a rough start following a Week 1 fumble, he should be a strong asset for the Giants going forward after the team had to make financial decisions at the position this offseason. Trent Baalke, San Francisco 49ers One of the main reasons the 49ers are set up so well for future success is Baalke's ability to identify talent. One draft alone might have positioned them perfectly, namely 2011 (his first as GM), when they selected Aldon Smith in the first round and Colin Kaepernick in the second. There's your future. By identifying a player who appears capable of being a franchise quarterback in the second round, the 49ers have saved a lot of cap money they can deploy elsewhere until Kaepernick's first contract expires. Baalke was the VP of player personnel in 2010 and built this team around Bill Parcells' concept of positioning power on both sides of the ball -- as evidenced by the selection of tackle Anthony Davis and guard Mike Iupati with their two first-round picks. And in Jim Harbaugh, he has the right coach to maximize that trait. It's created the perfect marriage, and it's already been a successful one. They're a perennial contender and it all starts with Baalke's ability to recognize elite talent. Kevin Colbert, Pittsburgh Steelers Colbert may be the least well-known name on this list, but he is very well-respected within the league. He understands the team's philosophy -- eschew free agency, sign its own players, emphasize the draft. Schematically, the Steelers stick with the power run game and vertical passing game, and of course the blitz-heavy 3-4 defense. Colbert drafts to fit that mold. He manages the draft board as well as anyone in the league, which is essential since the Steelers almost always draft low. But even so, Colbert's eye for talent keeps them in a position to still get the players they want -- the players who fit. It's almost a seamless operation. You may not see many headlines on draft day, but the Steelers simply select players who can win games. Cameron Heyward on the D-line is a great example, as is guard David DeCastro, though he didn't play much as a rookie due to injury. And when you can identify big-time talent later in the draft -- like Antonio Brown -- it doesn't sting quite as much when a veteran like Mike Wallace
  10. Didn't see this posted so I figured I would put it on here. Found this on ESPN Insider, apparently we are wanting to sign Elvis Dumervil... One man to rule them all RECOMMENDBy AJ Mass | ESPN.com0 NFL agent Tom Condon apparently is holding all of the cards. As the agent for Elvis Dumervil, Osi Umenyiora and Dwight Freeney, the entire merry-go-round at defensive end appears to be under his control. The Denver Broncos have said that they still want to work out a deal with Elvis Dumervil, as do the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Falcons. However, when it comes to a Plan B for all three teams, Baltimore doesn't have one, Atlanta was willing to meet with Umenyiora, and Denver has said they'd be willing to settle for Freeney. Although agents are supposed to act in each individual client's best interest, it doesn't take a genius to see which scenario ends up with Condon smiling the widest here, and unless John Abraham enters the conversation for one of these teams on the hunt for help, the writing is on the wall as to where the dominos will ultimately fall.
  11. A nice read and a few names I saw tossed around here.... In NFL free agency, it's important to exercise discretion when making moves. Sometimes the moves you don't make can be more significant than the ones you do. Even if your team needs an upgrade at a position, paying top dollar in an inflated market for a player can be costly. Years down the line, it is those big flops that hurt a franchise unable to rebuild as it lives out its impetuous mistake of trying to find a quick fix. So which players come with a "buyer beware" tag in 2013? Here are the top 10 when viewed through the Pro Football Focus prism. Note: More detailed explanations of the advanced statistics used below can be found here. Defense Cary Williams, cornerback 2012 team: Baltimore Ravens If reports are to be believed, Williams bet on himself by turning down a three-year, $15 million contract from the Ravens last year. Two postseason interceptions, to go with four in the regular season (along with 11 pass deflections), might suggest that was a wise move from Williams. But watching the tape a little closer doesn't leave you quite as impressed. Williams gave up 39 first downs in the regular season and six more in the postseason, meaning his combined 45 first downs surrendered were the second highest of all cornerbacks. He wasn't a shutdown corner but rather someone teams moved the chains on. He may be looking for top cornerback money, but teams shouldn't be fooled into thinking he is one. LaRon Landry, safety 2012 team: New York Jets On the back of what ended up being a Pro Bowl season, Landry has positioned himself to get paid. He won't be taking a hometown discount with the Jets because in his eyes his stock is at an all-time high after he proved he could handle the rigors of an NFL season by playing 96.6 percent of the Jets' defensive snaps. Only the tape doesn't back up his performance. Eighty-eight tackles represent a big number, but his 4.7 run stop percentage was only 14th among safeties despite his spending 46.2 percent of his snaps in the box. He also got beat for 16 first downs and four touchdowns, the 11th-highest number of all safeties in coverage. Sure Landry can put a big hit on a receiver at times, but don't let those big plays fool you. He's not an elite, difference-making player, and he misses too many tackles (his 13 were 12th highest among safeties). Osi Umenyiora, defensive end 2012 team: New York Giants Despite what Umenyiora may say, the tape definitely isn't kind to him after a 2012 where he looked a step slower and was a whole lot less productive. The soon-to-be former Giant is above all else a pass-rusher, but his 8.6 pass rushing productivity score was down from 11.3 in 2011 -- and a large part of why he finished just 31st in our 4-3 defensive end rankings. A non-presence against the run for the most part, some team in desperate need of help in the pass rush may turn to him hoping to find answers, but the truth is he's better suited to a situational role with lowered expectations on his output. Connor Barwin, outside linebacker 2012 team: Houston Texans This season was supposed to be the year that Barwin broke out. In theory it should have been, given that with teams paying extra attention to J.J. Watt, fewer resources were dedicated to stopping him. Only he couldn't take advantage of this, to the point where Houston can consider itself lucky to be priced out of his re-signing. Barwin finished the season as our third-lowest-ranked 3-4 outside linebacker, struggling in all areas of the game. As a pass-rusher, he had the fourth-lowest score of his peers in our pass rushing productivity rating after notching 40 combined sacks, hits and hurries on 533 pass rushes, while in the run game, his run stop percentage score of 4.0 was the sixth-lowest number. You spend big money on impact players, and Barwin just isn't one of those. Sean Smith, cornerback 2012 team: Miami Dolphins There are times when I watch Smith and think he can be an elite cornerback; there are other times when I watch him and think he shouldn't even be on the field. For proof, no cornerback gave up more combined first downs and touchdowns than Smith's 46. Smith started the season playing well but finished poorly, reminding us how badly he played in 2011 where he had the second-lowest coverage grade of all cornerbacks. Smith is as talented as he is inconsistent, and for that reason teams should be hesitant to part with the big bucks for him. Rey Maualuga, linebacker 2012 team: Cincinnati Bengals Granted, no team thinks it's going to be getting a superstar linebacker with Maualuga, but it might think it has found itself a stopgap starter and pay him as such. And it would be wrong to do so. Maualuga was our lowest-ranked middle linebacker this season, struggling all over the field but being a particular liability in coverage (London Fletcher was the only linebacker to give up more than Maualuga's 37 combined first downs and touchdowns). Throw in 16 missed tackles -- fifth most among inside linebackers -- and you have a liability on your hands. Offense Dustin Keller, tight end 2012 team: Jets If you were building an ideal tight end, he'd probably look a lot like Keller: explosive and able to do damage with the ball in his hands. Yet all too often he's not a mismatch, and with the way he blocks, ensuring the Jets can't use him as an every-down tight end, he really needs to be more of a playmaker in the receiving game. This season he picked up only 1.48 yards per route run, a number that if he had run enough routes to qualify would have ranked tied for 15th with Martellus Bennett, a much more complete player. Keller is capable, but there's too much inconsistency in his game for him to be relied upon and given big money. Jake Long, left tackle 2012 team: Dolphins There's a lot to be said for the position of left tackle being less important now, with teams getting rid of the ball quicker and quarterbacks defined by how they handle pressure. For example, has Joe Thomas propelled to Cleveland Browns to victory? Even if you don't share that viewpoint, you would be hard-pressed not to see a depressing trend in Long's recent play. In his first three years in the league he was exceptional, but whether it's injuries or wear and tear, his past two years have created more questions, to the point where investing big money in him is a true gamble. If you judge a left tackle by his work in pass protection, Long has gone from ranking first in our pass blocking efficiency stat in 2009 and 2010 to 13th (2011) and what would have been 14th (2012) if he had have played enough snaps to qualify. Is that the kind of recent performance a team should put a substantial part of its salary cap into, in the hope he turns it around? Reggie Bush, running back 2012 team: Dolphins Bush was 14 yards away from a second consecutive 1,000-yard season, but despite his high profile and success in Miami, there isn't much reason to invest significant money in him. Out of 59 running backs to play at least 200 snaps, Bush finished 31st in our rankings, and that was mostly due to his receiving skills. For Bush, the same old problems prevail, as he averaged just 2.06 yards after contact per carry, a number that was better than only five backs with more than 100 carries. He just isn't a convincing runner between the tackles, teasing us with the idea he will be and then being quick to bounce the ball outside. The truth is that the New Orleans Saints used him the way they did because that was the best use of his talents. Now he is older and has less tread on the tires. Donnie Avery, wide receiver 2012 team: Indianapolis Colts Given how obsessed Andrew Luck was with Reggie Wayne at times (179 balls thrown his way), it might be a minor miracle for some that Avery was able to walk away with 781 yards. That's a decent number for a No. 2 receiver. But Avery benefited from a pass-happy offense in which Bruce Arians at times seemed determined to treat him as he had Mike Wallace in Pittsburgh. It meant the former Ram was targeted 25 times on balls aimed over 20 yards in the air (13th highest in the league), yet he caught only six of them while dropping four. Indeed, drops were a huge problem for the unreliable Avery, as he led our drop ratesignature stat for wideouts after dropping 12 of 72 catchable balls. A team might think he can provide another dimension to its offense, but it will overspend on plays left on the field
  12. I know it's been talked about plenty already, but figured I'd post it for those of you who don't waste your money (like me) on ESPN Insider. Enjoy.
  13. Not sure we have the edge in the DB category, especially now without Grimes. Still some good insight.
  14. Position Advantage: QB: ATL RB: ATL WR: ATL OL: TB DL: TB LB: ATL DB: TB ST: TB Coach: ATL After breaking down film of both teams, Scouts Inc. offers 10 things to watch in this week's Falcons-Buccaneers matchup. 1. Atlanta wants to pound the rock: The Falcons have traditionally been a running team that throws the ball effectively with an explosive downfield attack. The Buccaneers have struggled to stop the run this year (giving up an average of 156 yards a game) and can expect to see the Falcons come with their best power running game. 2. Protect the pocket: After facing two of the NFL's better pass-rushing teams, Chicago and Philadelphia, the Falcons will see a much softer pass rush from the Buccaneers. Still, the tackles need to do a much better job of protecting the edge as Matt Ryan has been sacked a total of nine times in just two games. They are not apt to ask Tony Gonzalez to stay in and pass block, though, as he is one of their most consistent and clutch receivers. Look for more blocking help from a fullback or two-tight end formations. 3. Get rookie WR Julio Jones more involved: The Falcons traded away a lot of draft picks to move up in the 2011 draft and take Jones with the sixth pick. Jones has shown flashes of the kind of talent Atlanta hoped to get but hasn't yet found the end zone or provided the deep threat that can stretch secondaries. Atlanta has lots of effective intermediate-to-short range options and needs Jones to show the kind of explosive skills that force coverages to soften up in order to prevent the home run pass. 4. Atlanta must stop the run with its base defense: Atlanta is giving up a respectable 110 yards a game or 3.88 yards per carry on the ground. The Buccaneers know that they have to run the ball effectively after giving LeGarrette Blount just five carries in Week 1 and 13 in Week 2. Josh Freeman is quickly becoming one of the league's better quarterbacks and the Falcons will need all the help in coverage they can get. They can ill afford to push extra defenders up into the box. 5. Matchup to watch: Atlanta RB Michael Turner vs. Tampa Bay MLB Mason Foster:Turner is Atlanta's leading rusher with 214 yards after two games and is averaging 6.9 yards per carry. When Turner is running the ball effectively and moving the chains, the passing game becomes much more effective. Mason was a third-round draft pick in this past draft and is leading the Buccaneers in tackles. He is a good-sized linebacker that has excellent range and a good nose for the ball. 6. Tampa Bay needs to get Blount involved early: Tampa Bay needs to establish a ground game when they face the Falcons to keep the ball out of Ryan's hands. Look for Tampa Bay to slow the game down with Blount to keep Atlanta's explosive receivers and Turner off the field. 7. Crowd the box: Tampa Bay is giving up 156 yards a game on the ground, second-most in the NFL. They need to find a way to plug up the running lanes and force Turner to run laterally rather than getting his shoulders turned and running north and south. Watch for strong safety Sean Jones to push up close to the line of scrimmage, as Atlanta did most of its damage against Philadelphia by running off tackle to both sides. 8. Win on special teams: Neither team has been particularly dynamic with their return units this year. Neither Atlanta nor Tampa Bay has scored a touchdown with punt or kickoff returns, nor have they given up a touchdown by either route. The Buccaneers don't have a lot of explosive weapons and generally have to rely on sustained drives, so any big punt or kickoff return could have a huge impact. 9. Bring some heat on passing downs: The Buccaneers have not been able to generate much pocket pressure with just their base four-man front this year. Look for head coach (and defensive coordinator) Raheem Morris to be a little more creative with his blitz package this week. Tampa Bay may use more safety and linebacker blitzes to try to get some pressure. 10. Matchup to watch: Tampa Bay RT Davin Joseph vs. Atlanta DT Peria Jerry: After two seasons of relatively disappointing play, Peria is showing why he was a first-round pick in 2009. Against the Eagles' interior line he spent a lot of time in Philadelphia's backfield and did a good job of pressuring Michael Vick from up the middle. Joseph will spend most of this game facing Peria and will need to bring his best game to keep Freeman upright. Predicted Score: Atlanta 21, Tampa Bay 20
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