I’m wrapping up the weekend with my impressions of the NFL Draft. Yesterday was the first part. Today is the final half.
Another reminder, next Sunday I will be releasing the Post-Draft Add-on to the 2012 Rookie Scouting Portfolio. Readers will find analysis that will serve them well in dynasty and re-draft leagues as well as promote a general understanding of what their favorite teams chose:
- Overall post-draft ranking
- Tiered post-draft cheat sheet
- Post-draft ranking by position
- Depth chart analysis within the context of each draft pick
- Post-draft analysis of undrafted free agents I profiled in 2012 RSP
- Instant impact rookies
- Rookie sleepers
- Developmental projects
- Best and worst stylistic matches for teams
Remember, I will be donating 10 percent of all 2012 sales to the charity Darkness to Light to combat sexual abuse. Get this at no charge on Sunday, May 6 using the login and password you receive to download the 2012 RSP.
Now back to the originally schedule program. Here are some of my impressions of the draft and free agent acquisitions thus far (Team nicknames G-W):
I think half the boroughs of New York City have looked at my take on David Wilson this weekend (thanks Toni), but its the choices at wide receiver where I’m a fan. That admiration began a few years ago when I was at Radio City Music Hall when the Giants drafted Hakeem Nicks one pick before my favorite team the Titans could land him. I don’t know if Tennessee had Nicks above Britt on their board, but I thought it would have been the right call. In hindsight, it’s still a good call (although Britt was coming around before he injured his knee).
Rueben Randle is another big target with skills after the catch and enough speed to stretch the field and I’m surprised Brian Quick, Ryan Broyles, and to a lesser extent, Stephen Hill were off the board before him. He might not replace Mario Manningham’s production in 2012, but I like his long-term upside more than the erstwhile Super Bowl hero. Arizona’s Dave Douglas also intrigues me. His workouts were impressive. I think he could surprise in Giants camp.
I like Andre Branch’s potential, but I wonder if the Jaguars made a “need” pick in the second round. He seems like a specialized weapon to rush the passer who needs work against the run – work that might not fix what’s ailing his game in that department. Seems like a high pick for a player that might not play every down.
I could complain about Stephen Hill as the Jets selection but if you’re going to gamble on future greatness, Hill is one of those picks that fit the bill. The pick I don’t understand is Terrance Ganaway, the Baylor FB/RB. John Connor isn’t going to lose his job to Ganaway and the rookie does not run with the power his size indicates. He plays a scat back game in the Baylor offense. Perhaps he can learn to use his pads better as a down hill runner, but if I’m looking for a power runner and Chris Polk was on the board, I couldn’t think of a better back available that late.
Although he’ll probably need this year to continue rehabbing his knee, Ryan Broyles is a terrific selection for a Lions offense that needs to diversify its passing game. Matt Stafford appropriately took his share of the blame for locking onto Calvin Johnson, but Nate Burleson’s disappearing act didn’t help, either. Broyles has good red zone skills, deep speed, and skill after the catch. If he and Titus Young develop, Detroit could have the most dangerous trio of receivers within three years.
Speaking of the most dangerous trio of receivers in the NFL, Green Bay did nothing to address the running back situation despite pre-draft rumors indicating this possibility. I think the team is happy enough with James Starks for now, but I think they anticipate great support from UDFA Brandon Saine, who was the best receiving back in the 2011 rookie class, and Alex Green, who isn’t far behind in that department and before his knee injury, had the size and burst that reminds me of the Falcons former dancing bulldozer, Jamal Anderson.
I love the Joe Adams pick. The Arkansas receiver makes plays all over the field. His fearlessness and open field skill after the catch are traits he has in common with Steve Smith. After watching a number of games of his as a junior and senior, I got to see him up close at Senior Bowl practices. The takeaway from that week was if Adams could learn to get off press coverage early, he’d be dangerous. Every time he was pressed, he had to battle the corner up field and was consistently a step or two shy of a well-time throw. Who better to teach the 5’10” Adams how to get on top of a defender early than might-mite Smith?
Of course the Patriots acquired Ole Miss RB Brandon Bolden, he’s a similar style runner to BenJarvus Green-Ellis. However don’t anticipate a repeat performance from a Rebels running back, Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead, and Shane Vereen have this under control. If Shane Vereen stays healthy, don’t be surprised if his combination of explosiveness, receiving skills, and balance vaults him to the top of the depth chart. If he can add a consistent, explosive element to the Patriots running game, New England’s defense might be a liability that we don’t see on the field enough to judge.
Chris Givens’ performance against physical play is a concern, but I can’t say I saw enough to pass judgement against him. I like his speed and he adjusts to the ball like an NFL receiver. I think he’s a safer pick than Brian Quick. As a player, Givens reminds me of former Patriot and Cowboy Terry Glenn. He’s not as fluid, but he flashes the potential to be more than just an outside threat. Sam Bradford needs a deep threat that can do more than run in a straight line and I think Givens can be that player.
Maybe Baltimore saw Bernard Pierce show more potential as a blocker than I, but I thought a third-round pick was rather high for a runner that lacks that versatile game of Ray Rice. If the Ravens starter gets hurt, the offense will have to abandon its feature back approach and the offense becomes more predictable unless Anthony Allen and Damien Berry have learned to pass protect. Interestingly enough, the back that reminded me of Ray Rice in style is its UDFA signing of Western Carolina runner Bobby Rainey. The Hilltopper runner has better hands than the trio of backs behind Rice and like the Ravens stud, Rainey has carried the load in a pro style offense without wearing down. I think he’ll need a year to develop and at age 25, his window is short, but if he can make the roster this year, I think he has potential to back up Rice by 2013.
Two other players I saw at the Senior Bowl who are now in Washington are running backs Alfred Morris and Lennon Creer. The all-star practices in Mobile aren’t generally the best way to evaluate runners. Unless the coaches lean towards Marty Schottenheimer in practice habits or the scenario is outlined well, I wouldn’t place much credence in what you hear from writers and analysts in terms of vision and decision-making in those January practices.
However what I did see from Morris and Creer that I liked was a hustle and fight in pass protection drills. I already knew both were physical, down hill runners, but the potential in the passing game was encouraging for both. Early reports suggest Morris will play fullback, but he has Jason Snelling, ‘tweener potential if called upon to display it. Creer isn’t fast, but his size/speed/style reminds me of a mix between Marshawn Lynch and Terrell Davis. Mike Anderson also comes to mind, although he’s not that big. You can see he fits the description that Mike Shanahan likes from his runners. I wouldn’t be surprised if both players stick.
My first impression of Nick Toon in 2010 was a good one, but the more I saw the less enthusiastic I was about him. I don’t think he’s as dynamic at adjusting to the football as he needs to be. He’s also not a good player after the catch. In the Saints offense that’s not as important as getting to the spot and adjusting to Brees throwing his receivers open.
I thought Marvin Jones was a perfect fit for the Saints. He’s excellent at adjusting to the ball and he’s route precision would have made him a strong fit and an instant impact player. I think a lot of teams slept on him. I think they’ll wake up soon, because the Bengals run a west coast offense and Jones is adept with the routes because of his four years in the same offense at Cal. I wouldn’t be surprised if earns playing time as a rookie.
I saw Russell Wilson as an NFL Draft social experiment: would an NFL organization overcome the longstanding bias against quarterbacks under the prototypical height of 6’2″ when Drew Brees, Michael Vick, and Jeff Garcia blew that out of the water years ago? While we’ll never know if there was a consensus of teams that felt similar, it only took Seattle to answer that question with a resounding yes when they took the Wolfpack/Badger in the third round. Even with the signing of Matt Flynn, it’s a fantastic pick.
I got the idea for the Rookie Scouting Portfolio after reading Gil Brandt’s NFL.com scouting capsule of former Eagles running back Brian Westbrook. Westbrook lacked all of the bullet points you want on paper, but his game on the field was too good to ignore. When Brandt said Westbrook would have been a top pick if he were taller and heavier, I realized that draft analysis had more to do with making a financial decision than a talent decision. Nothing wrong with it, but it opened my eyes to an aspect of the draft that can go wrong if teams are too cautious about covering its hind parts.
I heard Mel Kiper allude to the same thing about Wilson as Brandt did about Westbrook years before. Even if Wilson is nothing more than a good back up, it’s a pick with little down side in a league where teams need two good quarterbacks. I think he’ll be a very good quarterback – a starting quarterback by 2014.
Pre-draft chatter was that the Steelers would take a running back. If you count Chris Rainey as a runner then they did. I don’t. Rainey is a kick returner who needs to learn to play wide receiver, but has some skills to bounce runs outside and do damage to a defense.
However, Rainey is not a good inside runner. He’s not patient, decisive, or powerful enough to do what his Florida predecessor Percy Harvin does in Minnesota. If you’re looking for a change of pace running back to emerge while Rashard Mendenhall is on the mend, Chad Spann remains a viable sleeper. We’ll be studying a Ray Rice game together for this blog in the coming weeks, stay tuned.
I’m probably one of the few, but I’m intrigued by Illinois runner Jason Ford. He needs to stay out of trouble and he needs to learn to work like a professional. However, there’s moments when I watch him play and think he could be a lot better than he was in college. He has natural power, good feet, and a burst when he’s in shape.
Admittedly, I’m excited about the Titans selecting Kendall Wright. With or without Kenny Britt to start the year, Wright adds a dimension to this Titans offense that will eventually give opposing defenses fits. Place Wright in one slot and Jared Cook in the other and enjoy who draws the linebacker. I think Jake Locker will learn to love that game.
Greg Childs said he came back too early in 2011. He said he was 70 percent. He looked that way during the year. According to those that went to his postseason workout, he looked a lot closer to 100 percent in March. If Childs is 100 percent for training camp, he is one of the steals of this draft.