***Official 2012 IDP NFL Draft Thread***
Posted 10 April 2012 - 08:51 AM
Like last year, Iím going to borrow this thread to post my pre-draft thoughts on the higher profile prospects by position, the Bloom 100 columns, my yearly column on the best depth chart opportunities and then some real-time thoughts during draft weekend.
Defensive Line/Tweener Capsules
Defensive Back Capsules
Depth Chart Opportunity
Pre-Draft Bloom 100 (1-50)
Pre-Draft Bloom 100 (51-100)
If youíre new to these threads, here are our previous threads to revisit and enjoy. Itís always one of my favorite threads of the year.
2011 // 2010 // 2009 // 2008 // 2007 // 2006
Posted 10 April 2012 - 08:51 AM
Though the list of potential impact prospects that will get a look in the first two rounds is long, I don’t think there’s an elite edge rushing prospect in this group. All have them have a technical flaw that has to be corrected or a concern about their experience or level of competition. Quinton Coples and Melvin Ingram have generated buzz at times as potential top ten draft picks, but it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see a defensive end or rush linebacker taken in the first hour of the draft.
Interestingly, nearly every player teams will be considering in the early rounds has position versatility. And the back half of the first round is flush with hybrid teams on the prowl for versatile pass rushing prospects. It’s a deep draft at many positions, but there’s room for a run on this group in the first round.
The player comparisons, as always, should be taken as vague comments on body type and playing style rather than an expectation of their performance in the NFL. The situations will be much clearer for most of these players after the draft. Though loosely organized by expected draft position, these vignettes should give you an idea of how I value these players by talent. My first formal rookie fantasy rankings will not come until shortly after the draft.
Quinton Coples (6-6, 284) / UNC // 4-3 DE / 3-4 DE / 4-3 DT -- WATCH -- 1st of three part RSP blog series
Coples has been heavily scrutinized this year. He had a very productive junior season, then struggled to follow up with a strong senior performance. Coples suggested that he took one for the team by playing more defensive tackle, others pointed to inconsistent effort as the primary reason for his drop in sacks. After a dominant performance during Senior Bowl practices, Coples was again drawing comparisons to another UNC defensive end with impressive length and size (Julius Peppers). Coples compared himself to Jason Pierre-Paul at the Senior Bowl.
While Coples could become that caliber of player, he’ll need to work on his technique to get there. He gets off the ball very well, often beating his opponent with a quick first couple of strides. But he gets too high at times and struggles to establish a base against the run and has difficulty flattening out and finishing like an elite edge rusher. When he does maintain a consistent pad level, he’s a very good all-around end. He has a good bull rush and a dominant inside swim move when he’s able to control the offensive lineman. There’s room for him to grow into an edge rushing threat, but he’s not there yet.
He probably fits best as a 4-3 LDE, but he’s versatile enough to play on the weak side, shift inside to the 3-technique on passing downs or possibly play a 1-gap 3-4 defensive end role. Expect him to get a chance to contribute heavily immediately.
NFL comparison(s): a raw Julius Peppers, Calais Campbell
Expected Draft Round: Mid-late 1st
Melvin Ingram (6-1, 264) / South Carolina // 3-4 OLB / 4-3 DE -- WATCH
Ingram is a marvel. He looks like a fire hydrant, but moves like a running back. In fact, he was arguably the most impressive front seven player in lateral agility and change of direction drills at the Senior Bowl and the combine. He’s so agile that Alen Dumonjic had a Twitter debate over whether he could thrive as a new kind of Joker – one part seek-and-destroy 4-3 Will linebacker, one part zone blitzer extraordinaire, one part nickel Elephant.
If he was 1-2 inches taller or had arms that were 2-3 inches longer, he’d be far and away the best all-around prospect in this class. However, there are reasonable concerns that elite offensive tackles will be able to lock him up against the run and in pass rush and that his impressive edge rushing burst and spin counter won’t be consistent on Sundays because his length won’t allow him to gain separation.
I think he could be a productive 4-3 RDE, but will have a better chance at wreaking havoc as a 3-4 ROLB or hybrid front player. The current buzz suggests he’ll come off the board ahead of Coples. He should be an immediate starter wherever he lands.
NFL comparison(s): Adalius Thomas, less physical James Harrison
Expected Draft Round: Early-mid 1st
Fletcher Cox (6-4, 298) / Mississippi State // 4-3 DT / 3-4 DE / 4-3 DE -- WATCH
In the first month or two after the college season ended though the combine, the buzz at the defensive tackle position was all about Michael Brockers, Devon Still and Dontari Poe. But I thought Cox had the most consistently impressive game tape and am not at all surprised that his stock has been steadily rising over the past six weeks.
Cox is a biscuit under 300 pounds but looks and moves like a 4-3 DE on tape. He was used as a 4-3 NT, 4-3 DT, 3-4 DE and 4-3 DE at Mississippi State and was effective in every role. There are plays where he looks like a better edge rushing prospect than Coples and plays where he shows his potential as a dominating 3-technique. Like every other prospect in this group, though, he has a maddening tendency to get too high too quickly and get ridden out of plays. And he’s more of a flash penetrator than an instinctive, technician between the tackles.
I like Cox as a 1-gap player anywhere on the line. He’s athletic enough to overpower interior linemen and quick and strong enough to make plays as an end. His stock has continued to rise and he’s now generating discussion on whether he can be a top ten pick.
NFL comparison(s): part Corey Williams, part Darnell Dockett; very poor man’s Bryant Young
Expected Draft Round: Early-mid 1st
Dontari Poe (6-3, 346) / Memphis // 4-3 NT / 4-3 DT / 3-4 NT -- WATCH
Poe is an enigma. He doesn't jump off the tape as a dominant DT worthy of a top 15 pick, but you can see the potential that's driving his draft buzz. He's more athletic than the 350 pound frame would suggest, but still handles a double team well. But he's not consistently explosive off the ball, doesn't consistently impact the run by plugging the middle or disrupting gaps and he doesn't always play to the whistle when a ball carrier breaks through the line. He doesn't show much in pass rush either.
Still, his frame and athletic measurables are going to push him into the top half of the first round. I think his best fit is as a penetrating 1-gap NT in either a 4-3 or 3-4 front, but he's athletic enough to play 3-technique, too. He's not likely to play on passing downs much; hopefully he'll have more consistent impact against the run as a base defensive anchor.
Expected Draft Round: Early-Mid 1st
Michael Brockers (6-5, 322) / LSU // 4-3 DT / 3-4 DE -- WATCH
Brockers has the size and athleticism that makes teams drool – and project raw talents to the height of their upside. Brockers has flashed enough talent to make scouts think he could become a dominant interior defender and I think he was a much more consistent player at the end of the year than the beginning. But while he’s shows good instincts in the run game and plays with a very effective pad level for a tall interior lineman, he doesn’t always play to his size. He’s more of a penetrating player than an anchor and doesn’t show the ability to win against double teams yet. He provides little pass rush, but that’s often a late developing skill for defensive linemen.
Brockers is a tantalizing prospect. He’s probably good enough to be a factor against the run as a 4-3 1-gapping DT right away. With further development, he could be dominant. He could also get looks as a 3-4 DE and be a versatile piece of a hybrid front. It’s possible that added responsibility could slow his development, however.
NFL comparison(s): John Henderson, possible upside of a stable Albert Haynesworth
Expected Draft Round: Early-mid 1st
Courtney Upshaw (6-2, 272) / Alabama // 3-4 OLB / 4-3 DE -- WATCH
Upshaw is a much better football player than athlete. He looks stiff at times, doesn’t change direction well and isn’t a straight line speed, edge rushing player. But he plays with outstanding leverage, is instinctive and is a more savvy and coordinated pass rusher than he looks. He didn’t flash at the Senior Bowl as Coples and Ingram did, but he was just as effective in his own way.
I don’t think he would be a dominant 4-3 LDE, but he could succeed there. He’s probably a better fit as a 3-4 SOLB that is asked to play the run and pass rush more often than drop into coverage. He looks like he could fall to the bottom half of the first round, where he’ll be a steal if a contending team with a hybrid defense has him fall into their lap.
NFL comparison(s): more savvy, less athletic LaMarr Woodley
Expected Draft Round: Mid-late 1st
Whitney Mercilus (6-4, 261) / Illinois // 3-4 OLB / 4-3 DE -- WATCH
Something doesn’t add up for me with Mercilus. His frame in pads looks even better than the measurables suggest, but he was skinny and a little stiff out of pads during the combine drills I saw. He’s something of a one year wonder, but there’s some depth to his pass rushing ability. He’ll pursue well, but he’s slow to diagnose the run coming at him and struggles whether he’s blocked or not to set the edge correctly.
It’s hard to avoid the comparisons to Simeon Rice, another Illinois alum who played the run erratically on his way to the passer. I think I like Mercilus better as a 3-4 WOLB than a 4-3 end, but the frame is there to improve if his recognition skills against the run improve. I’m not sure I buy the late first round value, but it won’t be surprising to see him get drafted there.
NFL comparison(s): Everette Brown, a raw Simeon Rice
Expected Draft Round: Mid-late 1st
Nick Perry (6-3, 271) / USC // 4-3 DE / 3-4 OLB -- WATCH
Perry will be on every team’s draft board, regardless of their defensive scheme. He doesn’t have a clear best fit. Certain aspects of his frame and playing style suggest a 3-4 OLB, others suggest a 4-3 end. Though he wasn’t used as a standup pass rusher at USC, he’s shown good athleticism for his frame and ran a 4.64 40 at the combine. His first step is good enough to win at the line of scrimmage and his closing speed is good, but he’ll need to improve his pad level and technique off the corner to convert his pressure numbers into sacks. Though he has the size and raw strength (35 reps on the bench) to succeed as an every-down defensive end, he doesn’t show much consistency in reading the run and getting off blocks.
Perry is probably most attractive as a 3-4 ROLB and it’ll be a surprise if he doesn’t come off the board to one of the many 3-4 teams in the second half of the first round.
NFL comparison(s): thicker Derrick Burgess, Andre Carter
Expected Draft Round: Late 1st
Jerel Worthy (6-2, 308) / Michigan State // 4-3 DT / 4-3 NT -- WATCH
Worthy is extremely quick off the ball and at times is a full step ahead of anyone on either side of the line of scrimmage. He has the build of a 1-gap NT and flashed the ability to hold his ground against a double team, but is athletic enough to be disruptive in penetration. Instinctive against the run and works back to the ball effectively. Only an average pass rusher, but gets there on effort and penetration often enough to possibly be a factor on passing downs.
Brockers and Cox are going to get more attention, but Worthy should be a very nice pick later in the first round. It's rare to see a defensive tackle this quick off the ball and if Worthy can handle double teams effectively, he could be a force at either defensive tackle position.
Expected Draft Round: Late 1st
Devon Still (6-5, 303) / Penn State // 4-3 DT -- WATCH
Still was the consensus top defensive tackle last fall, but his stock has fallen in recent months after missing the Senior Bowl due to injury, concerns about his effort and senior tape and a strong group of early entrants combined to push him down draft boards.
If Still gets a quick jump off the ball, he can be dominant. He's rarely pushed backward, but often struggles to change direction. He has the hands and strength to shed and penetrate quickly, but if he has to turn back to make a play he can be turned, rode out or put on the ground. He's an average pass rusher, with his success based on his first step penetration rather than a set of refined pass rush moves.
I think Still has gotten a bit of a bum rap. He may not have the elite upside that the others in this deep class may have, but I think he's more consistent on tape than some give him credit. I don't think he'll hold up well enough against double teams to play over the center, but he should be a very good 1-gap tackle.
Expected Draft Round: Late 1st - Early 2nd
Andre Branch (6-4, 259) / Clemson // 3-4 OLB / 4-3 DE -- WATCH
Branch doesn’t have an elite first step but is quick enough in his first couple of steps to win against offensive tackles. Branch flattens better than most when he keeps his pad level low as his pass rush develops. He’s very good when he’s able to get up to straight line speed early in his rush move. Like so many others in this class, though, pad level can be a concern against the run. I think he’s a more consistent run defender than others in this class, however, and he seems underrated to me given the consensus that Mercilus currently carries a higher draft grade.
Branch is a true ‘tweener. There’s a lot of talk about him moving to 3-4 rush backer (and he looked pretty fluid on a zone blitz drop on one play I saw) but, like Robert Quinn and Jabaal Sheard and others before them, I think he may end up with a 4-3 team and do well. If his technique improves, I can see Trent Cole development and upside here.
NFL comparison(s): mix of Brian Orakpo and Jason Babin
Expected Draft Round: Late 1st – Early 2nd
Vinny Curry (6-3, 266) / Marshall // 4-3 DE / 3-4 OLB -- WATCH
Curry probably won’t get drafted as highly as the others on this list, due to concerns about the level of competition he faced and his so-so combine measurable (which he vastly improved on during his pro day), but he belongs in the discussion. When he gets off the ball well, he is a very effective pass rusher with a high motor. When he doesn’t, he’s relatively easily blocked. The same issue plagues him against the run. He works hard to get free, but if he’s not initiating contact, he generally struggles.
I think Curry may project a little better as a rush OLB, but he has the potential to grow into a solid 4-3 end. I haven’t seen him mocked into the first round much. The second round seems to be his likely sweet spot.
NFL comparison(s): less polished Derrick Morgan
Expected Draft Round: Late 1st – Early 2nd
Others to watch:
Shea McClellin (Boise State) continues to gain favor as an all-around DE/OLB prospect. He's a little undersized for an every-down 4-3 DE role, but is an underrated pass rusher from a three point stance. He also showed that he can play a 3-4 OLB or 4-3 SLB role at the Senior Bowl. Jared Crick (Nebraska) hasn't gotten a lot of pre-draft run due to last season's injury, but he could be a less dynamic version of Justin Smith, JJ Watt and Calais Campbell as a 3-4 end with some pass rush upside. Cam Johnson (Virginia) and Malik Jackson (Tennessee) are solid, though not spectacular, all-around DE prospects. Bruce Irvin is undersized and very likely to end up as a situational 3-4 OLB early, but has measurables that better most other first-step pass rushers on the board. Chandler Jones (Syracuse) is going to get looks from lots of teams on the second day. I think he's more of a 4-3 end than 3-4 OLB.
This is an extremely deep defensive tackle class, peppered with guys who could play a swing 4-3 DT / 3-4 DE role in a hybrid scheme. Brandon Thompson (Clemson) was very impressive at the Senior Bowl and will be a strong rotational run defender at worst. Josh Chapman (Alabama) played with a torn ACL last season and could be a steal later in the draft. Mike Martin (Michigan) is a physical specimen with a very high motor that could be a strong penetrating force in any scheme. Opinions vary on guys like Kendall Reyes (Connecticut) and Billy Winn (Boise State) but both have the size and all-around ability to be very attractive to a team with a hybrid front. Both can play arguably any position other than rush DE/OLB or 2-gap NT effectively.
Posted 10 April 2012 - 02:03 PM
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Posted 16 April 2012 - 11:09 AM
The linebackers are next, with the post to be a work in progress all week long as the defensive linemen were.
Posted 18 April 2012 - 11:22 AM
A handful more capsules to come, then quick hitters to follow...
>>><<<Luke Kuechly (6-3, 242) / Boston College // 4-3 MLB / 4-3 WLB / 3-4 ILB -- WATCH
Kuechly may not be an impact inside linebacker in the mold of Ray Lewis or Patrick Willis, but he flashes similar discipline and instincts. He takes very few false steps and usually uses his hands well to shed blockers, but doesn’t make many plays behind the line of scrimmage and can be a half step behind when he tries to dip a block rather than keep an arm free and shed. His athleticism shows in his ability to flow and close quickly from sideline to sideline. Coverage awareness is good, but he makes more tackles than pass breakups and his quicks don’t seem to translate into tight man coverage on deeper routes.
Kuechly has the look of a strong starter for years, but not (yet) the look of a perennial Pro Bowl player. If he can become a better downhill defender, his instincts will allow him to be one of the best ILBs in the league. If not, he’ll just be very good. I expect him to land with a 4-3 team as a MLB, but I think he could be effective in any LB role (ILB in 3-4, all three spots in a 4-3).
Dont’a Hightower (6-2, 265) / Alabama // 3-4 ILB / 4-3 MLB -- WATCH
Hightower moves extremely well for his size, and his combine measurables were even better than what shows on tape. Though he’s billed as an impact downhill defender by some, I don’t notice that consistently and I didn’t see him take as many aggressive angles as I thought I would. When he does diagnose quickly and get downhill, he’s a powerful finisher. He’ll run around blocks, but shows the ability to shed well with his hands. He’s competent in coverage for his size, but won’t be a strong underneath man cover player. He was used as a nickel DE at Alabama and showed a nice first step and good closing speed. Both qualities also showed when used as a blitzer from his ILB position.
I think Hightower is a solid overall ILB prospect, and expect that his pass rush ability will help him find a role on passing downs. There’s lots of pre-draft buzz connecting him to the Steelers, which could evoke memories of Levon Kirkland, but I don’t think Hightower will cover or move as well as Kirkland did.
Mychal Kendricks (5-11, 239) / California // 4-3 MLB / 4-3 WLB / 3-4 ILB -- WATCH
Unlike Kuechly and Hightower, Kendricks often looks like he’s shot from a cannon as he comes decisively downhill. He takes on blockers well and isn’t afraid to deliver a blow and shed despite his height. Is usually under control at speed, but can get turned or bounced by blockers, too. Closes well from sideline to sideline and plays to the whistle. Isn’t a man cover defender, but depth in coverage drops is okay and instincts are at least average. Generally asked to blitz and stunt on passing downs rather than drop into coverage. Also used as a nickel DE at times with some effectiveness.
Despite size limitations, is physical enough to hold up at ILB in either front, though best fit would be in a scheme that keeps him clean of blockers. Could grow into a very good every-down inside linebacker in time.
Lavonte David (6-1, 233) / Nebraska // 4-3 WLB -- WATCH
David looks like a hybrid safety-linebacker in frame, but has flashed the ability to play more physically. Nebraska had him play all over, inside and outside, weak and strong, and in man coverage over the slot. There were times, especially at the Senior Bowl, where David would step up and take on a blocker effectively, but he struggles to hold the point and shed on tape. When he can stay at speed and run around blocks or get skinny, he can be an impact run defender. But he’s a little flat-footed when diagnosing the run sometimes and sometimes struggles to get himself free and in space. His instincts, balance, change of direction and recovery skills make him exceptional in man coverage. He’s effective in zone and comes off his assignment to make plays quickly, too.
His best fit is clearly as a flow and chase Will backer and he’ll unquestionably be a strong subpackage player. If he can learn to more effectively shed blockers and find a way to put another 5-10 pounds on his frame without losing any athleticism, he could become an elite every-down linebacker.
Zach Brown (6-1, 244) / North Carolina // 4-3 WLB -- WATCH
Very fluid player, but has a maddening habit of slowing his momentum before taking on a block, running around a hit or tackling with his shoulder rather than consistently playing with strength. At times, he’ll lower his shoulder into contact and make a fundamental tackling effort and he looked sudden in coming downhill during Senior Bowl drills but his tape is just ugly too often. Excellent in coverage due to athleticism, but instincts in all phases are questionable.
What I saw in Senior Bowl drills (athleticism, suddenness to the point of attack) made me think of guys like Jon Beason and Daryl Washington. But those drills featured some contact but didn’t allow defenders to finish the play. After watching him on tape, he’ll likely need someone in his earhole to get the best of him. Still, his size and athleticism make him an intriguing risk-reward pick with every-down upside.
Bobby Wagner (6-0, 241) / Utah State // 4-3 OLB / 3-4 OLB / 4-3 MLB -- WATCH
I like Wagner -- he's seemingly always around the ball, he flashes good athleticism for his size, he's fluid moving in coverage and he's flashed good blitzing skills both as a stunting ILB and a standup DE. And he showed outstanding special teams ability and effort at the Senior Bowl. But there are issues that rightly keep him out of the discussion as an elite prospect. Though he recovers well, he's routinely flat footed and a step slow to diagnose running plays. Though he tackles well, he's not as physical as he could be when setting the edge, shedding blocks and finishing plays. Though he backpedals well and can run with receivers in man coverage, his ball skills and zone awareness are lacking.
I think Wagner has a chance to be a very good football player, but there's enough issues in all phases of his game to temper an argument that he'll become a slam dunk, all-around, every-down performer. I think I like him best at 4-3 OLB because of his questionable read-and-react speed, but he could project inside in any front, too. There's also some intriguing versatility with his dual coverage and blitzing ability. I'm very interested to see who selects him and how he looks after some NFL coaching.
James-Michael Johnson (6-1, 241) / Nevada // 4-3 MLB / 4-3 WLB / 3-4 ILB -- WATCH
My first exposure to JMJ was during individual drills at the Senior Bowl, where he routinely struggled to keep his pad level low when on the move. That issue shows up on tape at times, too, and costs him when he tries to shed blocks. When he uses his hands well and stays low, he's effective in the box when blocked. Though he frequently takes false steps, when he sees what's in front of him, he comes forward well and finishes plays at speed. His underneath route recognition skills are above-average, but his ball skills are inconsistent. He also has a nice burst when used as a blitzer on passing downs.
I'm worried about the false steps and pad level, especially after seeing him struggle to correct issues when Mike Singletary focused on coaching them in Mobile. But JMJ is yet another guy in this class with every-down upside that should get a chance to prove himself worthy of a starting job. His agent has said on Twitter that some teams may consider him as high as the 2nd round. That seems unlikely to me, due to the current league trend of de-emphasizing ILB play and some of his technical deficiencies, but it only takes one front office/coaching staff to fall in love with a guy (see also Jonas Mouton, Jordon Dizon, etal). I think JMJ will do best in a scheme and surrounding cast able to keep him free to flow to the ball and expect most teams will consider him an ILB first.
Sean Spence (5-11, 231) / Miami // 4-3 WLB -- WATCH
Spence continually impresses with his instincts and in game understanding. He rarely wastes steps when diagnosing plays and I was struck by how quickly he stepped in to help his MLB set the defense at Senior Bowl. He's athletic enough to hang in man coverage and his zone awareness is good enough. But, though he gets downhill quickly and plays more physical than his size suggests, he rarely sheds a block once engaged. He shows good fundamental tackling skills, but sometimes is along for the ride against a more powerful ballcarrier.
Spence has a every-down skill set, but he's likely limited to a flow-and-chase 4-3 Will backer role. It's easy to compare him to players like Bryan Scott, and he might also get looks from defensive coordinators who see him as an elite subpackage defender capable of playing the run and pass against spread offenses.
Demario Davis (6-2, 235) / Arkansas State // 4-3 OLB / 4-3 MLB / 3-4 ILB -- WATCH
I've seen Davis projected to go in the later rounds in many places, but I'm including him here anyway . A late addition to the Senior Bowl roster, Davis was immediately impressive in individual drills, showing good athleticism and power. His practice performance in team drills during Senior Bowl week and what I've been able to find on tape is inconsistent (including the cutup I linked above), but shows flashes of the right mix of instincts, strength and athleticism to project him as a NFL starter with more coaching and refinement. When he does use his hands well, he can shed blocks easily. On those times and when he's not blocked, he's extremely quick to the ball and a violent downhill player and tackler. Those thoughts were echoed by Wes Bunting during a conversation we had about Davis in Mobile.
Most draft observers list Davis as an OLB, and he played at the edges of the box more often than inside in a 4-2-5 front at Arkansas State, but I think he's got the size and strength to hold up inside. I think he has a shot to go early on Day 3 and if he's drafted by a team with a strong DC and LB coach or with a thin depth chart, he could fast track to an every-down role in the next year or two.
Others to watch:
There are quite a few other players that have at least one strong skill or measurable to offer. Ronnell Lewis (who probably belongs in the others to watch section as a OLB pass rushing candidate) should get looks by early on Day 3. Keenan Robinson has better than advertised coverage skills and could be a strong 4-3 OLB prospect. Audie Cole moves well for his size, but his athleticism doesn't always translate to the field. Emmanuel Acho and Nigel Bradham will draw interesting as ILB projects, but both have deficiencies that will probably keep them from impact every-down roles. Terrell Manning and Travis Lewis are undersized and are likely typecast to a 4-3 WLB role. Tank Carder, Jerry Franklin and a handful of others could also work their way up a draft chart but aren't likely to see extended playing time until later in their careers, if at all.
Then there's Vontaze Burfict. Burfict garnered lots of attention as a top ILB prospect earlier this year. Since then, multiple on-field and off-field concerns, less than impressive game tape, and shockingly disappointing performances at the Combine and his pro day workout probably have him off more draft boards than on. Reports are that he's not taken a single visit to a NFL team facility. He might get a look late on Day 3 if a team thinks enough of his potential to take him off the UDFA market. But he's got a lot of rehabilitation to do on and off the field before he'll threaten to crack an NFL lineup.
Posted 18 April 2012 - 12:47 PM
Posted 18 April 2012 - 01:37 PM
NFL expectation before the draft: Willis >> Mayo > McClain > Kuechly > Laurinaitis >>> Foster McClain was widely considered very instinctive and something of a sure bet as an all-around ILB. Laurinaitis carried concerns with athleticism and range. I think Kuechly would probably grade just behind McClain (equally instinctive, without the same predraft upside expectation). Fantasy expectation before the draft: Willis > Mayo > McClain = Kuechly > Laurinaitis >>> Foster I was higher on Mayo than most after the draft, when many thought the NE defensive scheme was a huge drain on his potential. McClain was considered a mid first round fantasy draft pick by many, while Laurinaitis was a late 1st - early 2nd. I expect Kuechly to slot in a similar spot to McClain barring a surprise landing spot and carry a late first round grade and LB2++ expectation.
How does Kuechly compare to top MLB prospects from previous years? Mason Foster 2011 Rolando McClain 2010 James Laurenitis 2009 Jerod Mayo 2008 Patrick Willis 2007 Same category/better/worse?
Posted 18 April 2012 - 02:28 PM
Posted 19 April 2012 - 06:49 AM
I think Zach Brown has some work to do yet, but I agree that this class could be superb if things break well for Wagner, JMJ, Davis or a couple of others.
Fair analysis. Definitely behind Willis, due to a lower ceiling Mayo and McClain should be higher, but I'm very comfortable saying Kuechly is a better prospect than Little Animal and Foster. In fact, I'd say everyone in the above capsule is better than both of them. Bobby Wagner too. Could be a very deep LB class.
Posted 19 April 2012 - 08:14 AM
Posted 20 April 2012 - 03:12 PM
Should have a few more capsules added to the LB post tonight.
Posted 21 April 2012 - 01:39 PM
Linebacker post is mostly complete. May flesh out the others to watch section a little more, but I need to put together some DB thoughts by early this week. Excited to see how the front seven shakes out this week for sure.
Should have a few more capsules added to the LB post tonight. If you haven't seen them yet, both installments of the pre-draft Bloom 100 are now posted to the front page of our site and linked in the first post of this thread.
Posted 21 April 2012 - 11:18 PM
Posted 23 April 2012 - 06:14 AM
Posted 23 April 2012 - 10:44 AM
Barron isn’t special, but he’s the best attacking safety in this year’s class. He’s effective against the run in the box, with a good understanding of support angles and is a physical tackler. His scouting reports remind you of Roman Harper as a coverage player – solid in man, but will get lost at times, okay in zone coverage when the ball is in front of him and decent ball skills. He can likely handle interchangeable responsibilities and he’s smart enough to help align his teammates before the snap, but his best fit is not in deep coverage or in man against tough assignments.
Reports have a handful of teams strongly considering Barron in the middle of the first round. That seems a little high for a very good, but not great, safety prospect. But the ranks thin out quickly behind him and the law of supply and demand probably comes into play here. He’s also a smart fit for teams like Dallas or Cincinnati or the Jets (among others) who could use an instinctive run defender able to coordinate a complicated defensive scheme.
Harrison Smith (6-2, 213) / Notre Dame // SS / FS -- WATCH
George Iloka and Antonio Allen were getting more love early in the pre-draft process, but Smith caught (and very likely passed) both after a solid Senior Bowl week, combine and pro day workout. Smith won’t be a physical presence in the run game, but he’s instinctive, can play downhill and is a willing hitter. He has good coverage instincts, but isn’t a quick twitch, change of direction cover guy.
Smith is closer to an interchangeable type safety than Barron, but still a better fit as a strong safety than cover safety. I thought he was a little underrated earlier in the process, but I’ve seen reports that suggest he could go in the second round. On paper, that’s a reasonable valuation. But he’ll have to play close to his ceiling to make that investment worthwhile.
George Iloka (6-4, 225) / Boise State // FS / SS / 4-3 WLB
Iloka was the rage in Mobile after an impressive first day of practice. His size/speed combination was impressive and he showed quick reactions and good feet in coverage drills and team sessions. Since then, he’s been exposed as more stiff than previously believed and likely unable to handle man-to-man coverage responsibilities against more athletic competition. The pendulum has even swung far enough that observers have gone from seeing Iloka as a freak, jack-of-all-trades safety prospect capable of covering joker tight ends and contributing in deep coverage to a player who might be a better fit as a flow-and-chase WLB.
I think Iloka will still fit best as an interchangeable safety, but he’s a better bracket coverage player than man defender. And I think he’ll be better in run support as a rangy, instinctive FS than a WLB.
Others to watch
The middle ranks of this class don’t have much upside. Markelle Martin has good size and athleticism, but he’s not consistent enough in run support (poor tackler, more of a hunch player than instinctive defender) or coverage to be assured of a starting spot immediately. Antonio Allen defined himself as a box safety, though a good one, after showing limited man coverage skill and zone awareness throughout the pre-draft process. Though he’s not a physical run presence or elite cover safety, I think Brandon Taylor is an underrated all-around safety prospect. Trenton Robinson and Christian Thompson, among many others, are limited, but could get a chance to work their way up depth charts over time.
>>><<<Though there are observers and scouts that may like one far less than the others, I think the consensus is that the elite cornerback group runs four deep this year.
Morris Claiborne (5-11, 188) / LSU
Has all the attributes you want in a press/man corner. He’s physical at the line of scrimmage and good with his hands when jamming receivers. His footwork and route reading skills are often praised by scouts, as are his ball skills. He’s not a dominant run defender, but willing and able to tackle. His zone coverage skills aren’t as refined, but that may be a function of what he was asked to do in college. His footwork, instincts and ball skills would suggest that improvement is likely if he’s asked to play off the ball in the NFL.
Stephon Gilmore (6-0, 190) / South Carolina
Gilmore has sparked a lot of Twitter debate regarding his strong measurables and whether his tape is consistent enough to buy into the argument that they’ll translate well to the next level. In reality, you can probably say that about almost all near-elite CB prospects. Gilmore, like Claiborne, is best suited to press coverage. He’s physical and fluid and able to reroute receivers in the first five yards. He’s not as consistent as Claiborne down the field and his ball skills aren’t as good, but they aren’t disappointing either. Gilmore is likely to be a little more consistent against the run than Claiborne, too.
Janoris Jenkins (5-10, 193) / North Alabama
Jenkins has been even more polarizing than Gilmore. Off field issues got him booted off the Florida team and likely followed him during visits in recent weeks. On the field, there are flashes of physical man coverage ability and elite ball skills mixed with inconsistent footwork and route-reading ability. He’s also just a so-so run defender, though he is physical enough to improve if a team stresses it as a priority.
Dre Kirkpatrick (6-1, 186) / Alabama
Kirkpatrick can play man/press coverage and will be a physical run defender, but most feel he’ll be a better fit in a scheme that uses zone concepts. That’s also driven suggestions that his best position may be free safety, where his ball skills and run support could fit best. I think those suggestions have more to do with his size and length than his ability to succeed at cornerback. He doesn’t have top end recovery speed or agility, but his instincts, balance and footwork help him to play quicker than his time.
Others to watch
Like every other defensive position other than safety, the second and third tier prospects are deep and promising. It won’t be surprising to see nearly all of these “others” come off the board by the end of the third round.
Jamell Fleming is garnering attention as a potential late first rounder. He’s athletic in coverage, but could be stronger in run support for his plus size. Brandon Boykin should be a strong nickel/slot/zone corner, but probably won’t hold up in man coverage or against the run. I liked Casey Hayward a lot at the Senior Bowl, but he’ll likely struggle with consistency in man coverage and his ball skills and run support are potential issues as well. Josh Norman jumped on draft boards after a strong all-star week performance and has great size. He could grow into a very good CB2. Trumaine Johnson is another prospect with size and press corner upside, but his footwork and straight line speed are concerns. Alfonzo Dennard, Dwight Bentley, Jayron Hosley and Ryan Steed also have strong support from some in the draft community.
Posted 23 April 2012 - 01:51 PM
Posted 24 April 2012 - 07:47 AM
Posted 24 April 2012 - 08:09 AM
Watching the 4-5 clips the writer has under "threatening the edge" and I see a player who isn't exploding out of his stance and takes 4-5 steps to engage the offensive lineman instead of 2-3, I see poor offensive tackle play and I see a quarterback holding the ball too long. The fourth clip was the most impressive, but I don't see that regularly on tape. I'm hearing comparisons to JPP and now Aldon Smith from a measurables standpoint, but I'm not seeing that elite first step or closing speed as a pass rusher. To be clear, I like Jones. He's the kind of guy (like Jabaal Sheard last year and Brandon Graham in 2010) I like to get behind -- plays the run very well for his size and has pass rush upside -- so it feels weird for me to be arguing against him. Especially since I can see ranking him very highly among this year's IDP rookie DE if he's drafted to a good situation. It's just curious to me that he's now seen as a clearly better consensus prospect than Nick Perry, Andre Branch, Whitney Mercilus, etal, and one that will be taken in the top 15 picks.
I've been trying to find where I read this, just can't remember. But I read somewhere his arm length is similar if not a bit longer, and most of his combine times were slightly better than JPP's. Obviously that doesn't mean he's JPP 2.0, but if he winds up in a 4-3 instead of a 3-4 I'd take a chance on him. Then again that was when I was thinking I could grab him a little bit later... Not the original one I was talking about, but found this link, it's a pretty good read on him http://igglesnest.co...chandler-jones/
Posted 24 April 2012 - 11:24 AM
Posted 25 April 2012 - 09:52 AM
Posted 25 April 2012 - 11:35 AM
These situations are primarily fantasy focused. Some are situations that will look better in 2013 than 2012. Also, though I’ll not be highlighting defensive tackle or cornerback situations here, I’ll have plenty of comments on those positions after the draft this weekend.
Linebacker – Baltimore Ravens
Jameel McClain was re-signed recently but the Ravens should still be looking for a long-term, dynamic ILB replacement for Ray Lewis. I’ve seen Donta’ Hightower mocked there by some. A high draft pick here wouldn’t be an immediate fantasy difference maker, but worth rostering.
Linebacker – Cincinnati Bengals
Rey Maualuga looked like he’d turned the corner during the 2011 preseason, then flopped badly in the regular season. Though Thomas Howard was solid last year and the Bengals have the kind of pass rushing hybrid players capable of supporting the run (like Manny Lawson, Dontay Moch, etc) at one OLB spot rostered, there’s reason to think that an every-down ILB prospect or Von Miller like upgrade at an OLB spot might be in their thoughts.
Defensive End – Cleveland Browns
The Browns signed Frostee Rucker and Juqua Parker but you can never have enough pass rushers. This class is deep enough that Cleveland could address skill position needs and still find pass rushing value in the middle rounds.
Safety – Denver Broncos
The Broncos have drafted a number of safeties in recent seasons. Quinton Carter was able to earn more playing time than Rahim Moore, but neither have a stranglehold on a starting position. This won’t be an elite role for statistical production, but there could be value here with the right draft pick.
Linebacker – Indianapolis Colts
I’m not convinced that the centerpiece of Chuck Pagano’s hybrid scheme is on the roster yet. Pat Angerer hasn’t shown enough to be considered an elite sideline-to-sideline defender and cover ILB. Kavell Conner is a big question mark. There are lots of other issues to address on the roster, but an every-down ILB prospect would be a very attractive fantasy consideration here.
Defensive End – Jacksonville Jaguars
Jeremy Mincey is back, but no longer playing for a contract and it took him years to develop. Aaron Kampman won’t be what he was, John Chick is injured and Matt Roth is gone. There’s huge opportunity for immediate playing time here.
Defensive End / Safety – Miami Dolphins
Cameron Wake will be solid on one side, but there’s room for more pass rushers in Miami. Yeremiah Bell could still be back at a reduced rate, but if not the current depth chart is flush with replacement level talent at best.
Linebacker – Atlanta Falcons
Akeem Dent will get a chance to earn the starting job inside. If he can’t, Lofa Tatupu is unlikely the answer. Should the Falcons draft a linebacker in the early rounds, it’s likely they’ll be readying him to take over shortly.
Safety – Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys have had good things to say about Gerald Sensabaugh and Brodney Pool at times, but a dynamic, versatile safety capable of executing Rob Ryan’s hybrid defense would start immediately and could have a big statistical impact.
Linebacker / Safety – Minnesota Vikings
EJ Henderson is unlikely to be back, Erin Henderson is only on a one year deal and I think Jasper Brinkley is a limited defender inside. The Vikings have plenty of other needs and I doubt they’ll prioritize ILB highly enough to draft a depth chart threat this year, but a promising prospect should have your attention here.
Defensive End – New Orleans Saints
With Gregg Williams gone and Steve Spagnoulo in, expect the Saints to prioritize more speed off the edge and a deeper DE rotation. Will Smith and Cameron Jordan don’t fit the Robert Quinn, Chris Long, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck type mold. Those players are coming and with the New Orleans’ offense likely to give plenty of pass rush opportunity, will be nice fantasy targets.
Linebacker – Seattle Seahawks
Barrett Ruud isn’t a long term answer inside and it appears Pete Carroll and Gus Bradley like KJ Wright better outside. If that’s the case, expect the Seahawks to take an every-down ILB prospect in the early rounds.
Linebacker / Safety – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I’m not sold on Mason Foster inside and I don’t know that the Bucs are either. A prospect with range in this particular 4-3 front would have monster upside. While I doubt we’ll see one taken highly, the Bucs’ depth chart at safety is beyond ugly. If the linebacker group doesn’t improve, there’s lots of opportunity for the SS here, too.
Posted 26 April 2012 - 09:40 AM
Posted 26 April 2012 - 01:30 PM
Posted 26 April 2012 - 07:11 PM
Posted 26 April 2012 - 10:46 PM
Edited by 5Rings, 26 April 2012 - 10:47 PM.
Posted 26 April 2012 - 11:20 PM
Posted 26 April 2012 - 11:23 PM
Posted 27 April 2012 - 09:17 PM
Posted 28 April 2012 - 08:33 AM
Posted 28 April 2012 - 10:06 AM
That's correct. Can't find a direct quote but there's video out there.
I half-heard an interview with Pete Carroll where I believe he was asked about Bobby Wagner, and he said that Wagner would take Hawthorne's role over. Can anyone else confirm this? I think it was on the ESPN radio coverage with Mark Schlereth.
Wagner to get a chance to compete with Ruud immediately. Liked his speed and coverage ability. Very promising.
Posted 28 April 2012 - 10:36 AM
Posted 28 April 2012 - 12:44 PM
"The future is already here it's just not very evenly distributed" - William Gibson
And yes, I am the Mexican Don Johnson.
Posted 01 May 2012 - 05:49 AM
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