RSP Writers Team: Russ Lande, GM Jr. – The Sporting News


About Russ Lande

If you want to learn something right away about former NFL scout Russ Lande, note his preference for quarterbacks with great awareness and accuracy over pure arm talent and athleticism (I agree). Photo by Parker Anderson.

Russ Lande began his football career as a scout with an unpaid position as a part-time recruiting intern with the UCLA Bruins. The next year, Lande was a pro scouting intern with the Los Angeles Rams and then transitioned into the role of scouting administrator from 1994-1998. He learned from the likes of Jack Faulkner, Dick Vermeil, Mike White, Bud Carson, Charley Armey, and Nick Aliotti.

Lande founded GM Jr Scouting and published his first annual GM Jr’s Guide to the NFL Draft (“The Guide”), starting with the 1999 NFL Draft. He also worked in the XFL as an east coast scout and later earned a job with CBS Sports’ television show NFL Today as an editorial consultant. Soon after, the Cleveland Browns hired Lande as a Midwest Blesto Scout responsible for evaluating senior players at over 70 colleges and universities. Since 2007, Lande has been the draft expert for The Sporting News.  His company, GM Jr. Scouting LLC supplies The Sporting News all NFL content for the NFL and NFL Draft, both online and in their annual Sporting News Pro Football Draft publication.

Lande’s RSP Writers Team was originally composed with a $140 million cap through a miscommunication that we had about the rules (which was my fault). When I gave him more time to redo his team with the extra $10 million, he made tweaks to his quarterback depth and added Matt Hasselbeck. I think this is important to note, because I believe Lande is confident enough in hi selections that the extra $10 million didn’t make a huge difference except at one position.

Because I regard Lande as an industry peer when it comes to studying prospects, I enjoyed discovering players we both like: Hasselbeck, Juron Criner, Donald Brown, Taylor Thompson, Glenn Dorsey, and Cordy Glenn. The fact that Criner reminds me of Cris Carter and Lande describes the rookie as having “the best hands [he has] ever evaluated,” was a fun read. My second RSP team has Matt Hasselbeck for similar reasons as Lande. I’m looking forward to sharing that roster with you.

If you’ve been viewing the other RSP Writers Teams, then you’ll also notice that Demaryius Thomas, Chris Spencer, Paul Solai, and Earl Thomas are common picks for several squads. However, what I love about Lande’s team is that it is filled with players that I mostly haven’t seen elsewhere. Because of this, I’m especially looking forward to sharing his Q&A within the next day or so.

Offense

Philip Rivers with Hasselbeck backing him is the best 1-2 combo I’ve seen at quarterback thus far. If Lande is right about Colin Kaepernick, he could become a quarterback factory rivaling the Packers of the `80s and `90s. Photo by San Diego Shooter.

Quarterback Depth Chart
Starting Position Role (optional) Name Value Commentary (Why you picked the player: specific skills and talents you like, potential upside, and/or fit within the system)
QB1 Philip Rivers 15 Rivers has carried the San Diego passing attack on his back for a number of seasons and combined with his leadership, he is the type of quarterback that I want to build my franchise around.
QB3 Matt Hasselbeck 5.5 Hasselbeck is still a high-quality starter, but to get him to backup Rivers and mentor Kaepernick and Crompton is a home run.
QB2 Colin Kaepernick 3.5 Keapernick is a tremendously gifted young quarterback with the potential to be a long time Pro Bowl passer.
Jonathan Crompton 0.5 Crompton is a personal favorite who has a lot of physical tools, but must prove he can handle the mental side of the game to succeed in the NFL.
Running Back Depth Chart

Many people forget that Donald Brown was a top prospect at Connecticut and I understand Lande’s choice. However, I suggest you think more about the Chargers offense and Darren Sproles as played by Jacquizz Rodgers. Photo by Jeffery Beall.

Starting Position Role (optional) Name Value Commentary (Why you picked the player: specific skills and talents you like, potential upside, and fit within the system)
RB1 Donald Brown 4 Brown is a gifted back who I believe can be a quality starter if given the chance we will give him.
RB2 Jacquizz Rodgers 3.5 In today’s NFL you need a back who can be an integral part of the offense and Rodgers is a great chess piece to have.
RB3 Jonathan Dwyer 1.5 Dwyer is an explosive and powerful inside runner who should excel running between offensive tackles in our power based rushing attack.
Dimitri Nance 1 Nance is a strong and physical runner with better agility and athleticism that he gets credit for.
Wide Receiver Depth Chart

“Sure-handed” is a mantra that fits not only Juron Criner, but Northwestern alum Jeremy Ebert. Photo by West Point Public Affairs.

Starting Position Role (optional) Name Value Commentary (Why you picked the player: specific skills and talents you like, potential upside, and fit within the system)
WR1 Demaryius Thomas 6 Thomas has elite talent and with a quality QB like Rivers throwing the ball he should be very productive.
WR2 Juron Criner 3.5 Criner has great size and some of the best hands I have ever evaluated and should shine with a quarterback like Rivers throwing to him.
WR3 Danny Amendola 3 With Thomas and Criner outside, Amendola is in a perfect spot to excel as the slot receiver.
WR4 Kealona Pilares 1.5 Pilares can back up the slot and outside spots and be the No.4 receiver. He is an excellent kickoff returner.
WR5 Jeremy Ebert 0.5 Ebert runs excellent routes, knows how to get open and has great hands.  An excellent developmental receiver.
WR6 Devin Thomas 1 Thomas has size and speed to be an adequate backup outside receiver. He is a good kickoff returner and an excellent gunner on punt team.
WR7 Matt Slater 1 Slater is not likely to play on offense, but should make an impact as one of the team’s best special teams players.
Fullback and Tight End Depth Chart

Brent Celek is one of the more sensible selections at tight end that I have seen. Photo by Chris Pusateri.

Starting Position Role (optional) Name Value Commentary (Why you picked the player: specific skills and talents you like, potential upside, and fit within the system)
TE1 Brent Celek 3.5 Celek is a sure-handed receiver with better blocking ability than he gets credit for, but he is also a backup long snapper.
TE3 Taylor Thompson 1.5 Thompson is a raw prospect, but we are confident that he has what it takes to be an impact receiving tight end in the NFL.
FB D.J. Williams 0.5 Williams is a very good athlete with excellent hands and can contribute as an in-line tight end, move H-Back, and fullback.
TE2 Coby Fleener 2.5 Fleener gives me another receiving weapon to open up the offense.
Tackle Depth Chart

GM Jr-Sporting News Draft Analyst and former NFL Scout Russ Lande’s choice of Ryan Harris is a good example of an even hand with budgeting for an offensive line. Photo by Jeffery Beall.

Starting Position Role (optional) Name Value Commentary (Why you picked the player: specific skills and talents you like, potential upside, and fit within the system)
LT1 Will Svitek 5.5 Svitek is a solid athlete with excellent smarts and great competes, which helped him shine in 2011 and should allow him to start for my team for many years.
RT1 Cordy Glenn 5 Glenn is a massive offensive lineman with the feet to play left tackle.  As a rookie he should play right tackle, but could make the switch to the left side in time.
LT2 Ryan Harris 4 Harris is a quality starting NFL tackle when his back is healthy, so he is an ideal swing tackle because of his versatility and talent.
Guard Depth Chart
Starting Position Role (optional) Name Value Commentary (Why you picked the player: specific skills and talents you like, potential upside, and fit within the system)
RG1 Louis Vasquez 2.5 Vasquez plays with the tough and aggressive attitude I want from my interior linemen.
LG2 Garrett Reynolds 1 Reynolds is a versatile backup who can fill in at any offensive line position and could start at guard or right tackle in time.
LG1 Harvey Dahl 3.5 Dahl is a tough, old school guard who plays with the attitude I love.
RG2 Maurice Hurt 1 Hurt is a young, strong and physical blocker with upside to start in time – Started 8 of final 9 games for Redskins in 2011.
Center Depth Chart
Starting Position Role (optional) Name Value Commentary (Why you picked the player: specific skills and talents you like, potential upside, and fit within the system)
C1 Backup G Lyle Sendlein 4 Sendlein has started nearly every game since he became a starter in his second season and is a solid, work-man-like player.
C2 Backup G Chris Spencer 1 Spencer is a top athlete with a lot of starting experience and makes an excellent backup.

Defense

Richard Sherman, one of Russ Lande’s corners, laying down Ray Rice. Photo by Lewis McChord.

Cornerback and Safety Depth Chart
Starting Position Role (optional) Name Value Commentary (Why you picked the player: specific skills and talents you like, potential upside, and/or fit within the system)
LCB1  Richard Sherman 6.5 This former receiver-turned-corner shined in his first year in NFL and is only going to get better.  He has the talent to be one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL for many years to come.
RCB1 Adam Jones 2 Jones has tremendous physical talent to be effective in all types of coverage and he seems to have straightened out his off the field issues.
LCB2 Marcus Gilchrist 1 Gilchrist is an explosive athlete who has shown playing making ability in man-to-man and zone coverage, plays with a real attitude, and is an excellent gunner on special teams.
RCB2 D.J. Moore 0.5 Moore has excelled as a slot/nickel corner and has the hands and ball skills to make plays on the ball consistently.  Every team needs strong play by their slot corners to be successful and he can do that.
Chris Rucker 0.5 Rucker is a very gifted cornerback with star potential, but he has to take care of his business off the field.
FS1  Earl Thomas 6 Thomas has the best combination of coverage ability, run stuff ability, and all around athleticism to shine in any defensive scheme.
SS1  Steve Gregory 2 Gregory is a very versatile safety who is good in deep coverage, against the run and solid in man-to-man coverage.
FS2 Kendrick Lewis 1 Has started for two years since entering the NFL, will challenge to start opposite Thomas, and he is a good special teams player.
Jim Leonard 1.5 If healthy, Leonard will challenge for a starting job next to Earl Thomas and will contribute as a punt returner.
Linebacker Depth Chart
Starting Position Role (optional) Name Value Commentary (Why you picked the player: specific skills and talents you like, potential upside, and fit within the system)
Sam Acho 4 Acho played very well over the final half of the 2011 season and has the pass rush ability and ability to make plays against the run that he should be a fixture at outside linebacker in my 34 for many years.
Dannell Ellerbe 1 Ellerbe has been a consistently productive inside linebacker in Baltimore’s 34 defense when he has gotten the chance to play and should compete with Dent for a starting job.
Sean Spence 3 Spence is a very explosive, play-making linebacker whose speed and instincts will let him shine playing inside linebacker in my 34 despite being under 6’0.
Ryan Kerrigan 6 Kerrigan is an excellent all around outside linebacker who makes plays rushing the QB and against the run and should be the anchor of my linebacker corps.
Martez Wilson 1 Wilson has tremendous speed and is a natural pass rusher, so he will contribute as the third outside linebacker in my 34 defense.
Akeem Dent 2 Dent challenges Ellerbe to start at one inside linebacker spot and was one of most productive special teams coverage men in 2011.
Zak DeOssie 0.5 He may not play much on defense, but he is a Pro Bowl long snapper and contributor on rest of special teams.
Heath Farwell 0.5 Another excellent special teams player.
Defensive End and Tackle Depth Chart

Glenn Dorsey is another player I consider, albeit for my 43. Lande is using him in his version of the 34. Photo by Barry Lenard.

Starting Position Role (optional) Name Value Commentary (Why you picked the player: specific skills and talents you like, potential upside, and fit within the system)
NT Paul Soliai 4 Soliai has developed into a rock of a nose tackle and could anchor the middle of my defensive line for the next 5 to 7 years
NT2 Alameda Ta’amu 2.5 He is a massive man who we believe will be a Pro Bowl nose tackle in a few seasons.
LDE1 Ray McDonald 5.5 McDonald was a strong and productive starting defensive end in the 49’ers 34 scheme, so he will fit perfectly for us.
RDE1 Glenn Dorsey 3 Even though Dorsey does not fit the size mold of a 34 defensive, he has become a very good one for KC and would do extremely well in the 34 defense I run which relies more on quickness and block shedding ability than size, strength and 2-Gap ability.
LDE2 Kenrick Ellis 1 Ellis is another massive man with the talent to be a dominant 34 DE and could also play the nose.
RDE2 Cameron Jordan 3 Jordan is a perfect fit as a defensive end in our 34 scheme that asks their ends to be strong at the point of attack while also defeating blocks to make plays.
Final Special Teams Roster

See that kicker in the corner? Russ Lande was credited for “discovering” Billy Cundiff for the NFL.

Kicker and Punter Depth Chart
Starters Name Value Commentary (Why did you choose the player for special teams and what Role (optional) will he play?)
K1 Billy Cundiff 1.5 Because he has a strong leg and if I had not found him at Drake he would not be in the NFL.
P1 Mike Sciifres 4 He has a tremendous leg, great touch & is the only punter I have ever seen win pretty much win a playoff game.
Kick Coverage Team
Name Commentary (Why did you choose the player for special teams and what Role (optional) will he play?)
Zak DeOssie
Heath Farwell
Kendrick Lewis
Devin Thomas
Matt Stlater
Akeem Dent
Marcus Gilchrist
D.J. Moore
Chris Rucker
Punt Coverage Team
Name Commentary (Why did you choose the player for special teams and what Role (optional) will he play?)
Zak DeOssie He is an excellent (Pro Bowl) snapper who also covers punts well.  In addition, he is smart, tough and fast which makes him a good backup LB.
Heath Farwell
Kendrick Lewis
Devin Thomas
Matt Stlater
Akeem Dent
Marcus Gilchrist
D.J. Moore
Chris Rucker

Coming Soon: Russ Lande’s RSP Writer’s Team Q&A.

Categories: RSP Writers ProjectTags: , , , , , , , , , ,

2 comments

  1. Putting a value of 4 to R.Harris is something I don’t get – If we use the “when healthy” criteria we might give Bob Sanders a value of 8 too. He hasn’t played for way too long.

    I really liked what I saw of Criner too, but I wonder if his lack of athleticism won’t prevent him to be a starter in the NFL. His upside might be Jason Avant (which is not bad though).

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