Matt Waldman: Rookie Scouting Portfolio

Waldman nearly pulled the trigger on Jay Cutler, but wants to build with a steadier foundation. Photo by Ashley and Matthew Hemingway.
Waldman nearly pulled the trigger on Jay Cutler, but wants to build with a steadier foundation. Photo by Ashley and Matthew Hemingway.

Twitter: @mattwaldman

Pick Summary

  • Round 1: DT Geno Atkins
  • Round 2: DT Haloti Ngata
  • Round 3: LT Russell Okung
  • Round 4: RT Trent Williams
  • Round 5: C Maurkice Pouncey
  • Round 6: RG Josh Sitton
  • Round 7: QB Carson Palmer
  • Round 8: DE Corey Wootton
  • Round 9: DE Da’Quan Bowers
  • Round 10: RB David Wilson
  • Round 11: TE/FB/H-Back James Casey
  • Round 12: WR Vincent Brown
  • Round 13: FS Ryan Clark
  • Round 14: LG Jason Pinkston
  • Round 15: SLB/WLB Chad Greenway
  • Round 16: CB Nnamdi Asomugha
  • Round 17: SS/CB Charles Woodson
  • Round 18:  WLB Kevin Burnett
  • Round 19: MLB Jonathan Vilma
  • Round 20: CB Terence Newman
  • Round 21: WR Marvin Jones
  • Round 22: TE Owen Daniels
  • Round 23:
  • Round 24:
  • Round 25:

Pick Details

Round 1, Pick 27: DT Geno Atkins

My first inclination is to take Jay Cutler. Watch that Lions game on Monday Night where he takes a beating and makes throws that maybe three quarterbacks in this league could even dare attempt, and there’s no denying that his physical talent for throwing the football is special. I’ve been a Cutler fan since he made Vanderbilt competitive in a stacked S.E.C.  He was as close to a one-man gang on offense as it gets.

I also like that he doesn’t care what you think.

But I do care that he’s 29, a gunslinger who has been through the ringer of offensive systems, coaches, and personnel failures. I’m building a franchise and while lots of my writer brethren will emphasize the “will I be here in three years” realism of being an NFL general manager, I was hired because I told my employer my philosophy and he and the coaching staff signed off on the vision.

Thinking I’m being unrealistic? How realistic is it that the NFL decided to disband its rosters and have a 32-team dispersal draft?

No offense to my buddy Dane Brugler’s realism about tenure in the NFL, but if you aim small you get small results. I’m more ambitious and I need to aim higher than a three-year window. I think winning organizations don’t compromise its fundamental standards and they are willing to do things the right way.

That starts at the top with ownership. If you work for an owner who is more concerned with selling stadium boxes and generating licensing revenues then you’ll be part of the personnel churn after you’ve agreed to lower your standards to their interference within your expertise.

You can think of a few teams already, can’t you?

So the one quarterback left with first-round caliber talent that I think is capable of taking a game over and has 6-7 years of skill left in his body is the one I have to leave behind. It means I’m building for the long-term.

It means I have to go with a difference maker with youth on his side. A team anchor. A creative force who, by his mere presence, makes his 10 other teammates on this side of the ball better. I have to start in the middle and that man is Geno Atkins.

I think Atkins can play inside and out as a three-technique or a five-technique. He’s as good against the run as he is disrupting the pocket. He’s also not a player I have to “fix,” or pad with other players to make him better like Cutler.

As much as I want to go with Cutler like I did with my 2012 RSP roster, I think it’s smarter for the long-term success of my franchise to begin with Atkins.

Building things the right way with this immovable foundation. Photo by Keith Allison.
Building things the right way with this immovable foundation. Photo by Keith Allison.

Round 2, Pick 38: Haloti, Ngata, Defensive Tackle

If you asked me five years ago if I would be in a draft like this and be excited about picking two defensive tackles with my top two picks, I would have told you to do something anatomically impossible. Now that it’s actually happening, I’m more excited about this pick than I’ve been since I took Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James in a fantasy draft almost 15 years ago. For those of you as skill-player-influenced as I typically am, I’ll try my best to help you understand why I love this pick.

I thought about the best players available and considered them because they will likely go off the board before my third pick. However once Geno Atkins was the best player available to me on my board in first round, I decided that had to stick with my philosophy of building a defensive unit. I need to make the most of Atkins skills and find a player who makes my draft plan less volatile. Atkins is a disruptive force and I want to maximize that quality of his game.

The best way to do that is to continue stacking pieces inside and Ngata is that guy. I’m running a 4-3 defense and I want to be able to stop the run but also unleash Atkins up the middle against the pass. I want to make my linebackers lives easier. I also want to give my secondary the opportunity to cover a route and not have to run around the field because I lack a pass rush.

As an offense guy – a skill players guy in particular – nothing is more difficult than penetration up the middle. Control the middle and you make live miserable for most offenses. I seriously contemplated Henry Melton because I loved the idea of having two disruptive forces with youth on their side. But I also loved Ngata’s ability to complement my man Atkins.

I contacted my consultant Eric Stoner over at Draft Breakdown (Twitter @ECStoner), told him the intent of my defense, and asked him what he thought in terms of Melton vs. Ngata vs. my other options:

Ngata gives you more versatility in the types of run fits and gap responsibilities you can use. Melton is really more of a base end that kicks inside a lot because the Bears run so much nickel. But I do like the idea of a sugar look with Melton and Geno inside for pressure packages. Just find a decent one-technique later, but you’re going be kinda of light versus the run in nicke/subpackages inside.

When I told him of my plans with Ngata if I took the Ravens tackle, he immediately saw the team I’m thinking of and sees what I’m trying to do.

So Ngata is mine. At 29, he’s still in his prime and has a good 3-5 years left. He played with an MCL injury all year in 2012 so his stats slipped. He’s great against the run, commands double-teams, and is an underrated force in pass defense. There there’s the fact he makes Geno Atkins even better.

My name is Geno Atkins-Haloti-Ngata, you have the football – prepare to die!!!!”

Okung always has his QB's left . . . even in the huddle. Waldman likes that. Photo by Football Schedule.
Okung always has his QB’s left . . . even in the huddle. Waldman likes that. Photo by Football Schedule.

Round 3, Pick 70: Russell Okung, Offensive Tackle

At this stage of the draft, lots of players were flying off the board that I hoped to at least consider for my third-round pick – Vernon Davis, Jairus Byrd, Eric Weddle, and Percy Harvin, to name four. I thought I had a slight chance at Byrd and Weddle, but Bloom and Richard know their stuff.

Truth be told, these options would have only complicated the decision I knew I needed to make and that was to get a young tackle to protect my quarterback. Lance Zierlein, who took Ryan Clady – the top player on my board – shares my reasoning to the letter: Odds are that we’ll need one of the better left tackles in the league to account for the signal callers we have to choose from. Knowing this, I had to make an early foray to the offensive side and take one of the young, ascending players at the position.

After Clady went to Team Crawfish, the two top players on my draft board were Trent Williams and Okung. Both players had Pro Bowl seasons in 2012 and Williams was among the best in pass protection in the league. Okung has also dealt with injuries during two of his first three NFL season. And by many accounts Williams is a more talented athlete than Okung.

So why Okung? For starters, Okung was a durable guy in college and I’m not concerned about chronic injury issues. His early transition to the NFL may have been marred by injury but when he played, he looked the part of a promising left tackle. Williams struggled a lot more. Although Okung had his share of penalties, he also didn’t allow a sack for nine straight games.

Okung is also a worker and a solid citizen. Williams may be maturing, but his history has a few more question marks. He failed multiple drug tests and while he may have been innocent of any wrong-doing in a nightclub where was on the receiving end of a taser shot and a champagne bottle, that’s enough for me to opt for Okung.

I also have suspicions that Robert Griffin-led offense inflated some of Williams’ performance just enough that it placed Okung atop my board. I would have been happy with Williams, but Okung was my guy.

Round 4, Pick 123: Trent Williams, Offensive Tackle

At the top of the third round, I explained why I preferred Russell Okung to Trent Williams. Now it’s the bottom of the fourth round and Trent Williams is still on the board. During this span we’ve seen multiple edge rushers, wide receivers, tight ends, and a running back leave the draft board.

As I’m watching this go down it gets me thinking that if Williams falls to me I’m putting him at right tackle. You might wonder if it’s a waste to have two top left tackles on one team. I think in this league it’s an advantage. The reality is that can play either Okung or Williams at left or right tackle. If one gets hurt, the other is still capable of protecting my quarterback’s blindside with the best of them.

While I said during my Okung analysis that I believe Williams’ performance may look better due to the presence of RG3, I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Williams is a great athlete at the position who is young, coming into his own, and was one of the best pass blockers in the league last year. Even if I don’t land a great quarterback, I’m going to have the talent up front ot make good skill talent look great.

While my peers will have to keep a tight end or running back to block becuase they lack the protection up front to account for this proliferation of edge talent, I should have more flexibility with my protecton schemes so I can spread the field and put more pressure on defenses. More efficient pass protection, strong run blocking, and depth means I have a greater luxury to draft surrounding talent at positions many of my opponents are busy taking – talent that is so plentiful that there are street free agents capable of producing an NFL level if given a chance.

So I’d like to say to all those teams loading up on a pair of defensive ends and/or outside linebackers, y’all can kiss my immoveable, uncircumnavigable edge.

Waldman took Pouncey for his ability to play center or guard at a high level. Photo by Jeff Bryk.
Waldman took Pouncey for his ability to play center or guard at a high level. Photo by Jeff Bryk.

Round 5, Pick 134: Maurkice Pouncey, Center

Once again, I take a man who does work in the trenches and that guy is a Pouncey, a third-year center with three straight Pro Bowls on his resume. He may not be the best center in the NFL, but he is not far away. A strong run blocker capable of getting to the second level with excellent agility, the former Rimington Trophy winner has only missed three games in three years.

I seriously considered center John Sullivan here, but the microfracture surgery on his knee was a minor ding. While it’s a minor form of the procedure and he’s expected back by training camp, I felt as good as Sullivan has been that Pouncey has a little less risk and more flexibility for my squad.

A former guard at Florida, the Steelers considered moving Pouncey to guard when injury struck.  In a draft like this, I love having two tackles who are essentially interchangeable and a center who can play guard. Quality, flexibility, and built-in depth – that’s value.  At this stage, my offense has the foundation to road grade linebackers and safeties or build a stone wall around the quarterback to throw the ball at will.

Hell, I might lure Ahman Green out of retirement just to show I can get 4.5 yards per carry with retired backs behind my line. Okay, maybe not - but you get the point that adding No.71 Josh Sitton to my stable is ridiculous. Photo by Mike Morbeck.
Hell, I might lure Ahman Green out of retirement just to show I can get 4.5 yards per carry with retired backs behind my line. Okay, maybe not – but you get the point that adding No.71 Josh Sitton to my stable is ridiculous. Photo by Mike Morbeck.

Round 6, Pick 187: Josh Sitton, Right Guard

Continuing my youth movement at offensive line, Sitton is possibly the one bright spot on an Packers offensive line that has underwhelmed. The Packers average more yards per carry behind the right guard than any other part of its line.  He’s a good run blocker and pass protect who should be even better with the likes of Okung, Williams, and Pouncey along side. He’s also just the third guard to ever make the Pro Bowl for the Packers and he’s just 26 years old. Ndamukong Suh told reporters during his rookie year that Sitton was the best guard he faced that season. Not a bad compliment.

All my linemen are young players playing at a high level and getting better and I’m excited about building youth at the spots that matter most. There so much value available at positions I haven’t even touched it’s silly to feel like I’m missing out.  Admittedly, I’m am taking perverse thrill that as the host of a blog and publication that studies skill players that I haven’t picked one yet.

That’s because I know who butters these guy’s bread and I’m milking the cow for all its worth.

I've built a Hot Tub Time Machine for Palmer. Too bad there's not enough room for Chad Johnson. Photo by Keith Allison.
I’ve built a Hot Tub Time Machine for Palmer. Too bad there’s not enough room for Chad Johnson. Photo by Keith Allison.

Round 7, Pick 198: Carson Palmer, Quarterback

Rumford Johnny’s joke on Twitter about Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, and Mark Sanchez starring in the NFL’s version of Hot Tub Time Machine was a brilliant reference – and exactly what I have been thinking since I passed on Jay Cutler in Round 2.

You see, Okung, Williams, Pouncey, and Sitton are Palmer’s Hot Tub Time Machine. From 2005-2007, Palmer was regarded as the quarterback nipping at the heels of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Then a series of unfortunate events changed all of that: injury, Chad Johnson losing his way, Chris Henry’s untimely passing, Rudi Johnson aging, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh hearing “Championship!” one too many times to realize he never won one.

Next thing we know, Palmer is in the Football Land of Misfit Toys where his receivers are all blazing-fast, iffy-handed, and have their health insurance codes committed to memory more than the playbook. For a quarterback with Palmer’s arm, daring, and knowledge of offenses to have a fullback and a slow tight end as his best targets, it is the closest thing to a football retelling of the biblical story of Job that I can imagine.

When you have this kind of situation and an underachieving running game, do you really blame Palmer for pressing or not trusting his young receivers? I think not.

Palmer is 33 years old and his arm may have a few less RPMs in the tank, but he still has franchise-caliber skill and if protected and surrounded with talent, he has another 3-5 years of good football in him. Good enough football to win playoff games and contend for a championship.

It was time to pull the trigger for my quarterback because there were only three passers my team could “live” with.  My third choice was Shaun Hill. Yes, a career backup who is underrated for his ability to make plays down field and playing competitive football. Hill is also 33 and while I could have waited much longer to get him, there were two others I wanted more. Matt Hasselbeck was one of them. However at age 37, he might have a year or two left health to exploit his wizened leadership and knowledge of the game, it’s too risky a proposition.

I’m confident I can surround Palmer with an offense of players that can help this team win now. At the same time, Palmer affords me to be more selective about picking a rookie quarterback within the next 2-3 seasons. Palmer, say hello to your herd of “Great White Buffalo.”

We’re gonna run roughshod over the prairie.

Henry Melton is coming off a big year and the Wootton No.98 has potential as a double-digit sack artist from the left (right tackle) side. Photo by Mark Beery.
Wootton No.98 has potential as a double-digit sack artist from the left (right tackle) side. Photo by Mark Beery.

Round 8, Pick 251 – Corey Wootton, Defensive End

I’ve been a fan of Wootton’s potential since his years at Northwestern. Although ending Brett Favre’s career is an infamous part of Wootton’s early resume, injuries have kept the 6’6″, 270-pound defensive end from fulfilling his potential. Wootton looked more like the player I remember during his third seasons when he became the Bears’ starter at midseason and finished the year with eight sacks, eight quarterback hits, and 17 hurries despite playing less than 60 percent of the defensive snaps. Wootton is also strong against the run. With my defensive tackles, Wootton should be a double-digit sack artist as a left defensive end (opposite the right tackle).

At 6'4, 277 lbs., Bowers has all the tools to remind folks of Julius Peppers in his prime. Photo by PDA Photo.
At 6’4, 277 lbs., Bowers has all the tools to remind folks of Julius Peppers in his prime. Photo by PDA Photo.

Round 9, Pick 262 – Da’Quan Bowers, Defensive End

If Bowers stays healthy and his gun charge reduced, dropped, or he’s exonerated (a strong likelihood), I have a steal in the making and my defensive front could be the best of the teams on this project. Considered a top-five draft pick two years ago before his stock dropped amid concerns about the long-term health of his knee, Bowers tore his Achilles during the offseason and didn’t return to the Buccaneers lineup until midseason.

Bowers only had two sacks in the next eight games, but here’s what Sanders Philipse writes about the Buccaneers pass-rushing turnaround once Bowers returned to the field:

To illustrate Bowers’ impact on the pass rush, we need only look at the sack numbers since his return. Before Bowers’ return, the Bucs managed just eight sacks in six games, good for just over one sack per game. That’s a pathetic tally, and it would have seen the Bucs end the season with 21 sacks. What’s worse, seven of those eight sacks came in the first three weeks, when former first-round pick Adrian Clayborn was not yet sidelined by a knee injury. When the Bucs were without both Bowers and Clayborn, they managed just one sack in three games.

Yet since Bowers’ return to the lineup, the team has managed 16 sacks over seven games, nearly doubling their production. The team was held without a sack in just one game, and that happened when they faced notoriously hard-to-sack Peyton Manning. More impressively, perhaps, the Bucs have done this despite a secondary that struggles to hold up against any quarterback for more than a few seconds.

Bowers has the speed to work around left tackles, but the size to shove them into the backfield. He should have an easier time of it as a pass rusher with Geno Atkins next to him and both players are excellent against the run. Just 23 years old, Bowers joins a defensive line is (for the most part) young, athletic, and ready to wreak havoc.

It may not seem like theft after last year, but I still feel the urge to go to a police station and turn myself into the authorities after this pick of Wilson. Photo by Football Schedule.
It may not seem like theft after last year, but I still feel the urge to go to a police station and turn myself into the authorities after this pick of Wilson. Photo by Football Schedule.

Round 10, Pick 314: David Wilson, Running Back

I could have waited much longer for a running back and felt good about the decision. I planned on it until I looked at my line and decided I don’t want my guys doing all that work in the trenches for back that I had to convince readers will be a 4.2 ypc back instead of a 3.9 ypc guy or sell you on the unknown.

Wilson would be the best running back in the 2013 draft class if he stuck around Virginia Tech for another year. I have written more about Wilson at this blog than any back I have studied:

Physically, Wilson might have as much upside as any back in this [2012] draft, and from this perspective, he might be the best back to come out of Virginia Tech. Ryan Williams was a conceptually smarter runner with great effort and a strong array of skills, but purely from an athletic perspective Wilson is to Williams what Trent Richardson is to Mark Ingram.

Wilson’s quickness, speed, balance and stop-start agility are among the best in the country, and it makes him a special athlete/runner in the open field. Get him in space and he’s a nightmare to bring down. When he’s disciplined about what he’s doing conceptually, he has the pad level, acceleration and technique to be productive as a between-the-tackles, chain-moving runner.

I think Wilson proved all of these things I mentioned about him during his rookie year. He also proved one other thing I warned about, lax ball security. However, I couldn’t dream of a better coach for Wilson to get as a rookie than Tom Coughlin who helped this rising star learn what I believe was a hard, but enduring lesson on maintaining possession of the football.

A good receiver and excellent return specialist. I really get two picks in one with Wilson, although I admit that I doubt I use him as a return specialist unless something crazy happens.

Future star? Many of us think so - Matt Williamson included. Photo by The Brit_2
Future star? Many of us think so – Matt Williamson included. Photo by The Brit_2

Round 11, Pick 325: TE/H-Back/FB James Casey

Based on what I’ve observed about James Casey, I’m willing to bet if he weren’t a professional football player he’s the type of guy that the Universe gives him a gift as it kicks him in the ass. If you’ve lived life, you know what I mean. If you don’t, imagine driving an 12 year-old beater that you’ve been holding together with prayers and duct tape to hang onto that job or get your kid to school and it breaks down and needs $500 in repairs just you won the $520 on a scratch-and-win lottery ticket the night before.

Casey the football player is ahead of his time, but may not be not so far ahead that he missed the entire era. The term “hybrid” may be trendy, but just a few years ago these where “players without a position,” – a phrase football people labeled versatile athletes with good fundamentals but physical dimensions and athleticism that didn’t fit one specific role.

Casey arrived in the NFL just at the end of the NFL’s Hybrid Dark Age, but in 2011 – Casey’s third year – there was a sign of future enlightenment in Texas. The former Rice star was used in multiple tight end sets as a fullback, H-Back, and tight end against the New Orleans Saints and gained 126 yards on 5 catches, including the diving touchdown reception seen in the video clip above. Unfortunately, a pectoral injury while playing special teams limited Casey and the Texans stopped using him as an offensive weapon.

You probably read this last year if you’re a follower of the RSP blog for at least that long. What’s fascinating about what I wrote is that Chip Kelley was watching the same games and thinking If I make the jump to the NFL, Casey is one of the first guys I’m targeting. If the Texans didn’t have maddening depth at tight end and more imagination, they would have realized Casey is Aaron Hernandez before there was an Aaron Hernandez.

Yeah, a little hyperbole for your reading there, but not as much as you might think. Casey can beat linebackers and safeties up the seam or sideline. He can be a lead blocker. He can do serviceable work at the edge alongside a tackle and he can run after the catch.

I might have been able to wait another round or two, but I have learned if I thought of a guy at a specific point at least seven of my fellow writers have thought of him at that point or 1-2 rounds earlier. This lesson was learned the hard way when I passed up Steve Smith, Eric Decker, and Cecil Shorts. However, I still have enough wide receivers up my sleeve who can get the job done for Palmer much better than those Raiders receivers did in 2012.

Here’s a little more about what Casey can do and how that relates to Hernandez without the drops and injuries.

Round 12, Pick 376: Vincent Brown, Wide Receiver

I believe what has been missing from Carson Palmer’s professional life for several years has been a dependable receiver. I think the Cardinals receiving corps is a significant upgrade for Palmer and my quarterback selection is going to look better in many people’s eyes once they see him in Arizona (provided they improve the line, which is the risk). Brown will enhance the view of my offense that much more. If he didn’t break his ankle last year, I think Brown would have been off the board 4-6 rounds ago.

I’m a fan of receivers who have strong technique and just enough athleticism to stretch the outer reaches of the field. The reason is that they aren’t labeled the vertical threat off the hoof like Denarius Moore or Titus Young. So more than anyone in the receiving world they know they have to work hard to get these targets. Because of this, they tend to be the overachievers of NFL receivers.

Brown is that kind of guy and I believe he’s going to give Palmer something that the quarteback hasn’t had in almost 10 years – a hard worker with skill at the receiver position.

The 5’11” receiver isn’t a burner, but he is excellent at getting separation in the range of 25-35 yards past the line of scrimmage and he has already displayed in his young career that he wins position in tight coverage and possesses reliable hands. I’d love to have A.J. Green or Calvin Johnson with Palmer’s deep arm, but I believe I got a receiver that can stretch the field in all but its deepest reaches and win contested targets. If you watched Philip Rivers target Brown with confidence in 2011, you know I speak the truth.

As the Chargers’ new coach Mike McCoy has learned, Brown is a terrific route runner and the one thing Oakland was unable to provide Palmer was a healthy receiver with reliable hands, routes, and intermediate-to-deep prowess in one package. Brown fits this bill and he will have a role much like Reggie Wayne did last year – perhaps in Bruce Arians’ style of offense.

I expect that my running game will generate some excellent play action opportunities for Brown to win early separation on a lot of targets 20-35 yards in length and that’s enough to keep defenses off balance. Brown has already worked with a quality veteran like Philip Rivers and earned the quarterback’s confidence as a down-field weapon, so I expect he develop a strong working relationship with Palmer.

This is among the several reasons why I waited on receivers. People can say all they want that there are plenty of good offensive linemen available later in this draft and that drafting linemen early is a waste of time, but I don’t believe them. The Green Bay Packers have excellent skill players and their line – with the exception of Josh Sitton – play poorly and did they play to their skill level? I don’t think so.

While you can eek into the playoffs with a bad offensive line, I believe you are a perennial contender capable of winning championships with a good one. Just like running back, I believe wide receiver has one of the highest concentrations of talent in the NFL. At the very least it’s easier to find quality there than the big guys upfront. Or perhaps I just feel I know where to look.

We’ll see if it pans out.

Clark provides me a sweet spot of experience with gas still in the tank at a critical position on defense. Photo by Jeff Bryk.
Clark provides me a sweet spot of experience with gas still in the tank at a critical position on defense. Photo by Jeff Bryk.

Round 13, Pick 387: Ryan Clark, Free Safety

This pick turned out better than I expected. I was disappointed when Harrison Smith left the Green Room with Matt Williamson, but I think I got something better for my team needs. I know, I know, you read enough of these and every writer in this project is trying to blow smoke up your hind parts about how good his team is.

I don’t know how good my team is. You know why? Because I only have a little more than 50 percent of a roster. How can I know how good my team is?

The reason I think I got better with Clark than I intended when hoping for Harrison is the power of experience. Clark is a grizzled veteran at 33 with at least another 2-3 years of strong play left in the tank. My defensive line is young enough to do great things. However, my cornerbacks will be my weakness.

It doesn’t mean they will stink, but they will require more help from a smart, experienced, physical defender. Clark is all of these things and I know I can rely on him to take charge of the secondary and that’s not something I would feel as good about with Smith at this stage of the game.

Clark has also seen more than Smith at the pro level and that also makes a difference for a team like mine where cornerback might use more help. Let’s face it, the emphasis on youth in RSPWP2 is to build a great long-term team. Youth is great when you have Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin, Andrew Luck, or another precocious talent wizened beyond their years when it comes to leadership  However, there are tons of examples where a bunch of young, inexperienced guys fail to maximize their talent because they lack a strong, veteran presence.

Haloti Ngata is my veteran on the defensive line. Carson Palmer is my veteran on the offense. Clark will be my veteran in the defensive backfield. I want to mix veteran leadership in key positions because they are better at seeing the game, communicating the game, and motivating teammates when they recognize the potential for mental mistakes.

Clark, who played excellent football with Troy Polamalu out, is an excellent support player for a defense that should generate a lot of pressure. Clark will know how to get his teammates in position to complement the work of my front seven.

Round 14, Pick 442: Jason Pinkston, Left Guard

The former tackle at Pitt is a nice athlete who teammate Joe Thomas believes can be one of the best guards in the game. I don’t know about you, but when a player of Thomas’ skill makes this assessment I’m listening. The reason why Pinkston is available this late in the RSPWP2 has to do with two things: he is new to the position and he suffered a major injury last year.

Pinkston is a third-year player who just made the switch to guard in the NFL. He was off to a great start last year when he suffered a blood clot in his lung. While he’s sitting out mini camp this year, he is medically cleared to participate and should be ready to go this summer.

The 6’3″, 305-lb. Pinkston is a physical player with long arms who loves to maul defenders. He’s a better fit at guard because he struggles with the top edge rushers. However, what I love about having Pinkston at guard is if one of my tackles gets hurt, I can move Pinkston to right tackle, still have a big-time left tackle, and I’m merely looking for a left guard. Not that it’s something I want to happne, but replacing a guard should be easier than to find a tackle.

I may not have “the best” offensive line in the RSPWP2, but it’s on the short list and the redundancy I have built-in to this unit solidifies its spot there.

Greenway can play the strong or weak side and he's a veteran still in his prime. Good leader and smart, disciplined player. Photo by Rick Burtzel.
Greenway can play the strong or weak side and he’s a veteran still in his prime. Good leader and smart, disciplined player. Photo by Rick Burtzel.

Round 15, Pick 453: Chad Greenway, Outside Linebacker

As one of the few 4-3 units in the RSPWP2, I have been able to wait on linebackers. Greenway has played both the strong side and weak side as a 4-3 NFL linebacker. He actually made the Pro Bowl this year after moving to the strong side and remaining a tackling machine in the defense.

He’s excellent at reading and anticipating the offense versus the run and the pass. With a defensive front like mine, Greenway will not only have room to make plays but it will be important that I have a disciplined presence.

Greenway is in the prime of his career and he rarely comes off the field. Although he’s not a big-play guy, he has come up big late in games due to his ability to read and remember what his opponent has tried earlier in the contest. For my team, Greenway provides a disciplined, versatile, and reliable presence in the 4-3 and I’m thrilled to have him on my squad. It’s one of my favorite picks in this draft.

Nnamdi Asomugha was mentioned in the same breath as Darrelle Revis two years ago. Can he return to form. My 17th-round pick did after left for career death years ago. Photo by Matthew Straubmuller.
Nnamdi Asomugha was mentioned in the same breath as Darrelle Revis two years ago. Can he return to form. My 17th-round pick did after left for career death years ago. Photo by Matthew Straubmuller.

Round 16, Pick 502: Nnamdi Asomugha, Cornerback

Just a couple of years ago, Asoumugha was considered one of the best man-to-man corners in the game. Then he went to Philadelphia, played poorly in scheme that miscast his talents, and then didn’t play much better when the Eagles tried to correct the problem with a change to a scheme that was a better fit.

The question for Asomugha is whether he has lost a step, lost his confidence, or the tenure in Philadelphia was a just a bump in the road. At this point I could have taken younger talent at the position, but I love the upside of a player like Asomugha paired with a scheme that will have a more disciplined presence at safety to complement him. Let’s face it, the Eagles safeties were callow at best.

Asomugha may no longer be the dominant shutdown corner he once was, but I’m willing to believe he can flash that talent once again and make fewer mistakes with my defensive backfield in place. It means I can trot him out against top receivers and he’ll hold his own with a little help.

If he plays lights-out, I just earned a short-term steal and my defense could be downright scary.

Charles Woodson still has it. Perhaps not for very long, but long enough to help my team as a veteran presence and versatile option. Photo by Elvis Kennedy.
Charles Woodson still has it. Perhaps not for very long, but long enough to help my team as a veteran presence and versatile option. Photo by Elvis Kennedy.

Round 17, Pick 512: Charles Woodson, Strong Safety/Nickel Corner

I considered Woodson five rounds ago, but couldn’t pass up Clark. I know he’s old. Asomugha’s old. Ryan Clark is old. Yes, if you are part of the Day Care movement called the RSPWP2 Draft then I agree with you.

However, while my peers are changing diapers and trying to figure out how to remove the training wheels from their toddler’s bicycles, I have a defensive backfield with skilled veterans who, at best, could give me a window of quality play for the next 2-3 years as I acquire younger players to phase into the lineup gradually.

It also gives me the makings of a tough defense that can pay man-to-man and buy my front four just that extra moment that my defensive ends might need to collapse the pocket. Although Da’Quan Bowers has that gear to speed rush, both he and Corey Wootton are more physical defenders off the edge.

With Geno Atkins likely to see more single teams due to the presence of Bowers and Haloti Ngata, all I need is my defensive backs to buy a little time with physical coverage and my big guys will wreak havoc.  I believe it will happen because of the combo of my defensive tackles.

Atkins quick penetration up the middle should complement Bowers and Wootton’s games as Woodson and Asoumugha can do enough to force quarterbacks to move in the pocket and into position for my ends to clean up.

Woodson can still play. He just wanted to pick his spot and it didn’t work out yet. However, you should best believe if one of those contenders suffers an injury to its backfield this summer that the veteran will be on speed dial if he’s still waiting.

As far as what he brings to the table – the answer is plenty for even one year. He’s a highly capable strong safety who tackles well and can roam the box against the run, but he still has the skill to put in the slot and harass even the better inside receivers in the game. He’s another versatile, physical veteran who is just a year removed from being a first-team All-Pro cornerback.

I might be able to pair him opposite Asomugha if necessary. While that tandem won’t be as terrifying as it could have been three years ago, it’s still not a bad option if I’m desperate around mid season.

What Woodson will do best is provide a lot of insight to his teammates on this side of the ball. That’s the thing about building a team: You need veteran leadership to balance youthful talent. I believe that Clark, Greenway, Woodson, and Asomugha accomplish this and I’m not even done yet.

The RSP Writers project is brought to you by the 2013 Rookie Scouting Portfolio. Learn more about the 2013 RSP Writers Project and check out the completed 2012 RSP Writers Project where we built teams under a realistic salary cap. You can try it yourself.

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6 responses to “Matt Waldman: Rookie Scouting Portfolio”

  1. Pouncey is an epic steal that late, really surprised he fell that far

    But if you are worried about age with Cutler, I don’t see how you can overlook it by taking Ngata who is the same age at a position that doesn’t age nearly as well. And to boot, Ngata’s past two seasons have been hampered by injuries, those kind of foot ankle type problems only get worse and more vulnerable and likely with age. If the goal is to build 3-5 years down the road like your saying, your last 3 picks make sense and Atkins was probably the best pure player left on the board at the time so I don’t have an issue with that either, but Ngata is not someone your building with 3-5 years down the road. Sure, he’s a physical marvel in terms of god given ability for his size, but he’s already shown signs of eroding(he has a great reputation but he hasn’t played up to it until 2010 in large part due to injuries) and those kind of physical gifts at that position don’t age well.

    • Perhaps the injury with Ngata will bite me, but building with youth isn’t always about going all youth. It’s blending at the right spots. Cutler to me will have to be the leader of a team in more than just name and I understand that my DT may be on a quicker slope downward. However, if I can build the team as I intend I’ll be able to explain my thoughts in more detail at that time.

  2. Ngata is still a beast and the other four picks are really good young players. I like that you’re building from the inside out too, this is shaping up as one of the better teams. Now you need a qb…

  3. Ngata is a beast and the other four players are realy good and really young. I like that you’re building from the inside out too. Now for the qb…

  4. “However, I still have enough wide receivers up my sleeve who can get the job done for Palmer much better than those Raiders receivers did in 2012.”

    That is… impressive. I mean, really, better than the Raiders receivers? Wow. 😉

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