Monthly Archives: April 2011

2011 Draft first thoughts

Here are some first thoughts on the first round of the 2011 NFL draft. We’ll do a review of every team after the entire draft is complete.

New Falcon Julio Jones, via

*The Panthers did what they had to do in taking Cam Newton. I never understood the national questions about whether the team would actually take Newton; it became clear early on that Newton was Carolina’s guy. Yes, there is some bust potential, but there is also tremendous upside. The other thing that has shocked me about Newton is how many fans simply don’t like him. He is very divisive among the Panthers’ fanbase. Still, that’s nothing a few wins won’t cure.
*Cleveland was a big winner as it traded down from 6 to 27 so that the Falcons could take WR Julio Jones. The Browns added an extra second-round pick and fourth-round pick this year, plus 2012 first- and fourth-rounders. That’s a huge haul – especially when you compare it to the piddling return the Browns got for moving from 5 to 22 just two years ago. Cleveland ended up picking NT Phil Taylor of Baylor at 21 (giving up a third-rounder in the process), but they’re still well-equipped to make a big splash in Day 2 of the draft.
*Atlanta, meanwhile, takes a big risk on Jones. But there wasn’t another receiver on the board anywhere close to Jones, and that kind of offensive explosiveness across from Roddy White is one of Atlanta’s few gaping holes. The Falcons are gambling that they’ll be contenders once again, which will limit the value of their 2012 first-rounder. But you have to admire a contender that goes for it in this fashion.
*It looked as though the quarterback class would get incredibly crazy in this draft when the Titans took Jake Locker at No. 8. (Who would have seen that coming?) Blaine Gabbert’s draft freefall ended when the Jaguars gave up their second-rounder to move up to 10 to get him. The Vikings then were left to take the best QB on their board, Christian Ponder, at 12. We like Jacksonville’s move the best. Gabbert may never be a great quarterback, but he can be an above-average one, and top-12 signal callers are hard to find. Incumbent David Garrard is basically a league average quarterback, and Gabbert can be better. When he fell into the neighborhood of their pick, the Jaguars had to act. Locker is a great leader and the anti-Vince Young in Tennessee, but we’re still concerned about whether he can turn his potential into production. Ponder is a system-specific quarterback, and the Vikings had to reach to get him because their trade-down attempts failed. We prefer Andy Dalton (still on the board) to Ponder, but the Vikings had to get an answer at quarterback, and Ponder could be that.
*Found it funny that the 49ers took another Al Smith in the first round. As we posted on Twitter, they can only hope Aldon (a pass-rusher out of Missouri) turns out to be a better investment than Alex was.
*The Patriots once again used their draft currency to add a future first-round pick. The thing about trading for future first-rounders is that once you start down the path, it’s easy to stay on that path. The reverse is also true – when you start trading away future picks, it’s hard to stop. That’s the hole that the Panthers are in right now. New England now has five picks today, including the first pick of the second round – which could become the Andy Dalton sweepstakes for teams like the Bengals, 49ers, and Bills who didn’t get a quarterback in the first round. And with so many picks, the Patriots are perfectly positioned to take a chance on DaQuan Bowers, the defensive end with major knee questions and also major talent. The Pats need a pass rush, and Bowers would fit the bill – even if he can only play a few years. We did like the Patriots’ first pick, OT Nate Solder. He has incredible talent, and the Patriots will give him top-flight coaching.
*I didn’t love the fact that the Saints gave up a future first-rounder to get Mark Ingram. Ingram strikes us as a good, not great, back, and if New Orleans’ pick is in the top 20 next year, they will have overpaid to get him. But the Saints consider themselves contenders, and like the Falcons they added one of the few rookies who can make an offensive impact right away. Adding Cameron Jordan when they did was a better move, especially if Jordan can grow into a 4-3 defensive end while maintaining some pass-rush presence.


Filed under Football Relativity, NFL draft

Deja Vu – Evaluating the 2011 Football Relativity mock draft

Before we evaluate our a mock draft, a few notes:
*Check out the first-round draft thoughts for a division-by-division and team-by-team roundup of the first round, and the Football Relativity Twitter feed for initial thoughts on the weekend events. We’ll wrap everything draft-wise up next week.

Now that the preliminaries are out of the way, here are the first-round results, compared to what we predicted. As you can see, we hit seven picks dead on, including the Jake Locker longshot. We also had 29 of the 32 first-rounders correct.

1. QB Cam Newton, Panthers – as predicted

2. OLB Von Miller, Broncos – predicted 3rd, off 1

3. DT Marcell Dareus, Bills – predicted 2nd, off 1

4. WR A.J. Green, Bengals – as predicted

5. CB Patrick Peterson, Cardinals – predicted 7th, off 2

6. WR Julio Jones, Falcons – predicted 14th, off 8

7. OLB Aldon Smith, 49ers – predicted 17th, off 10

8. QB Jake Locker, Titans – as predicted

9. OT Tyron Smith, Cowboys – as predicted

10. QB Blaine Gabbert, Jaguars – predicted 5th, off 5

11. DE J.J. Watt, Texans – predicted 18th, off 7

12. QB Christian Ponder, Vikings – predicted 25th, off 13

13. DT Nick Fairley, Lions – predicted 6th, off 7

14. DE Robert Quinn, Rams – predicted 10th, off 4

15. C Mike Pouncey, Dolphins – as predicted

16. DE Ryan Kerrigan, Redskins – predicted 23rd, off 7

17. OT Nate Solder, Patriots – predicted 19th, off 2

18. DE Corey Liuget, Chargers – predicted 22nd, off 4

19. CB Prince Amukamara, Giants – predicted 13th, off 6

20. DE Adrian Clayborn, Buccaneers – as predicted

21. DT Phil Taylor, Browns – predicted 28th, off 7

22. OT Anthony Castonzo, Colts – predicted 12th, off 10

23. OG Danny Watkins, Eagles – predicted 27th, off 4

24. DE Cameron Jordan, Saints – predicted 11th, off 13

25. OT James Carpenter, Seahawks – not predicted in first round

26. WR Jonathan Baldwin, Chiefs – not predicted in first round

27. CB Jimmy Smith, Ravens – predicted 26th, off 1

28. RB Mark Ingram, Saints – not predicted in first round

29. OT Gabe Carimi, Bears – predicted 21st, off 8

30. DE Muhammad Wilkerson, Jets – as predicted

31. DE Cameron Heyward, Steelers – predicted 32nd, off 1

32. OT Derek Sherrod, Packers – predicted 31st, off 1

Had in first round, but still on the board: DaQuan Bowers (16th), Andy Dalton (24th), Akeem Ayers (29th)

So there you go. We had direct hits at 1, 4, 8, 9, 15, 20, and 30, (for a total of 87 points under our scoring system) and also correctly matched Jimmy Smith with the Ravens (which would have been 26 more points if not for the Ravens’ passing on a pick). We missed five more players by single spots.

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Preja Vu – The Football Relativity 2011 Mock Draft

Since the lockout has made a mockery of the NFL offseason, posts have been sporadic this month. But now it’s time to make up for all that with our 2011 mock draft.

Don’t forget to enter the Football Relativity draft contest to match wits with all of our readers. As we break down the 32 first-round picks, remember that we’ve written extensively on many top the draft prospects in our draft category.

1. Carolina Panthers – QB Cam Newton, Auburn
No matter whom the draft experts have slotted first – DaQuan Bowers, Marcell Dareus, or Blaine Gabbert – we’ve always believed that Newton is the guy for the Panthers to take as long as they held onto this pick. Of course, there are many non-complimentary rumors about Newton’s personality and genuineness, but those rumors can’t disguise the fact that Newton has been a big-time winner in college. He is, as 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh said, “plutonium-grade raw material.” And because of that, the Panthers have to take a shot on him. Yes, that means throwing off 2010 second-rounder Jimmy Clausen, and yes, it means developing a guy who hasn’t played a pro style offense. But if Newton hits, he can be the next Ben Roethlisberger/Josh Freeman type of quarterback. That’s major upside that the Panthers have frankly never had at quarterback in franchise history.

2. Denver Broncos – DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama
This is a tricky spot in the draft. New Broncos team president John Elway doesn’t seem sold on Tim Tebow, and so Blaine Gabbert is in play. Plus, we bet the Broncos would be happy to trade down a spot or two or three if the Bills, Bengals, or Cards covets Gabbert. But our hunch is that eventually the Broncos will settle into taking the best defensive front-seven player in the draft, and that’s Dareus. Perhaps Patrick Peterson is a better overall player, but Dareus is the top defensive lineman in the draft, and he can play either tackle in a 4-3 or end in a 3-4. At his best, he can be a destructive interior force a la Kevin Williams, and the Broncos desperately need that kind of up-front player. The fact that Dareus can help speed their transition to a 4-3 defense only makes things better. This isn’t the sexiest pick, but Dareus will be an impact player at a position of dire need. That’s enough for the Broncos to pull the trigger.

3. Buffalo Bills – DE Von Miller, Texas A&M
Miller isn’t a perfect fit for the Bills’ 4-3 system, but he’s so good that it’s worth tweaking the system to feature his talents. Buffalo hasn’t had an elite pass rusher in ages – since the Bruce Smith years – so Miller certainly will fit in well there. The question is whether the Bills will pass on Blaine Gabbert to pick Miller. With Ryan Fitzpatrick around, the Bills have the flexibility to wait if they’re not head over heels in love with Gabbert, and our sense is that they’d far prefer Newton to the Missouri product. So instead of trying to make it work with a quarterback they don’t lust after, picking the best pass rusher in the draft (and one of the draft’s sure things) is more appealing option.

4. Cincinnati Bengals – WR A.J. Green, Georgia
The Bengals are another team in the quarterback hunt, although Mike Brown may be too stubborn to admit to himself that Carson Palmer really is going to sit out rather than play another year in Cincinnati. So Gabbert would be in play here, at least for a team that has a good grasp on reality. But given the fact that Brown refuses to even consider trading Palmer, the self-delusion seems to indicate that the Bengals may try to appease him by drafting Green. The motivation behind that move would be wrong, but the pick itself will work. Green is a phenomenal receiver with good size and speed and ridiculously great hands. With Chad Ochocinco likely headed out of town (for nothing, two years after the Bengals could have had two first-rounders for him) and Terrell Owens as a free agent, Green also fits a need area. Teaming Green with young receivers Jordan Shipley, Jermaine Gresham, and Jerome Simpson would give the Bengals a true No. 1 wideout with the complimentary pieces already in place. Picking the sure-thing Green will work well for the Bengals, regardless of how they come to the decision.

5. Arizona Cardinals – QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
Gabbert was the trendy top pick a few weeks ago, but his stock has slipped in recent weeks, to the point that there are even rumors that the Cards would pass on him. Gabbert seems to fit the cookie-cutter mold for a franchise quarterback, which is great until you realize there is no mold. But Gabbert has nice tools, and he was generally productive in college. Maybe he doesn’t have the upside to be great, but he could be good, and that would be a major upgrade for the Cardinals. Arizona fell apart last year in large part because of horrific quarterback play. So we just can’t imagine Arizona not taking Gabbert if the opportunity presents itself.

6. Cleveland Browns – DT Nick Fairley, Auburn
The Browns are in a weird position in this draft. Because there are seven elite players, picking sixth guarantees a good result. But the natural pick at this point – Patrick Peterson – duplicates Cleveland’s first-rounder from last year, Joe Haden. Of course, a team can never have too many corners, but for a team as bereft of game-breaking talent as the Browns, picking Peterson would be a misallocation of resources. So for Cleveland, the decision comes down to taking Julio Jones, who’s not among the top 7 players; reaching for a pass-rusher with injury questions in DaQuan Bowers or Robert Quinn, or taking Fairley. Most people have dropped Fairley lower than this, but there aren’t many impact defensive tackles on earth, and Fairley can be one. He had a Warren Sapp type of impact for Auburn last year, and so he brings the kind of disruption to a defense that we normally associate with defensive ends. Fairley has some character questions, but those questions aren’t any more damaging than what Bowers or Quinn faces. If the Browns go with the best player available here, Fairley should be the selection.

7. San Francisco 49ers – CB Patrick Peterson, LSU
We’ve dubbed Peterson as the third sure-thing player in this draft, and he fits a need area for the Niners. San Fran has been looking for cornerbacks for a while, but the high-dollar Nate Clements isn’t living up to the price. So the chance to add Peterson and lock down one side of the defensive backfield will be too tempting to pass up. Peterson has unusual size for a corner, yet he still has good speed and cover skills. And if he ever gets the ball in his hands, look out. The Niners will be thrilled if the draft falls this way.

8. Tennessee Titans – QB Jake Locker, Washington
This is where things get crazy. I’m not a huge fan of Locker (as detailed here), but he is a major physical talent and a great kid. So you can see a team throwing its weight behind Locker as a potential franchise quarterback. And with Fairley off the board, a defensive end like Robert Quinn or DaQuan Bowers would be just as much of a risk as Locker at this point. Yes, taking Locker would be a reach, but our sense is that with so many QB-needy teams, Tennessee won’t have the option to take Locker in the second round, and it may actually cost less (in draft pick cost) to take him here than it would to trade back into the end of the first round to get him. Reports say that Tennessee has gotten comfortable with Locker as a future starting quarterback, and if that’s the case this is where they would have to get him. So while it’s a reach, we’re putting Locker here as the successor to the disappointing Vince Young era.

9. Dallas Cowboys – OT Tyron Smith, USC
It seems like every mock draft out there has the Cowboys taking Smith, the most talented of the offensive line group. It makes sense. Other than CB Prince Amukamara, none of the top players left on the board really fits a need, and it seems like the second-round DB options will be a little better than the O-line choices. Smith should be able to immediately step into the starting right tackle role, and he has a chance to develop into a top-flight left tackle if the Cowboys lose Doug Free via free agency.

10. Washington Redskins – OLB Robert Quinn, North Carolina
The Redskins are really in a dilemma in this year’s draft. The trades for Donovan McNabb and Jammal Brown last year cost them third- and fourth-round picks in this year’s draft, which will really make it difficult for Washington to address all of its needs. Washington has so few playmakers that they need an impact guy with their first pick. That points to two guys among the available options – WR Julio Jones and OLB Robert Quinn. Given the fact that Mike Shanahan’s best receivers in Denver – Rod Smith, Ed McCaffrey, and even Brandon Marshall – were all mid-to-late draft picks or scrap-heap pickups, we’ll go the defensive route and give them Quinn as a counterpart to Brian Orakpo.

11. Houston Texans – DE Cameron Jordan, California
Once again, the Texans simply have to spend their first-round pick on defense. While they reportedly covet Patrick Peterson, he won’t be around without a trade-up. Prince Amukamara would make sense, but after spending a first-rounder on CB Kareem Jackson last year, picking a cornerback isn’t the best move unless it’s an exceptional prospect like Peterson. So the Texans need to turn their attention to the front seven and especially to the front line of their reworked 3-4 defense. With Mario Williams already in place as a pass-rushing fiend, the Texans need a two-way defensive end who can provide some push but also hold up well against the run. Two available players – Wisconsin’s J.J. Watt and Cal’s Cameron Jordan. We like Jordan’s upside better, so he’s the pick here.

12. Minnesota Vikings – OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College
The Vikings have a glaring quarterback need, but unless they’re head over heels in love with Andy Dalton or Christian Ponder or Ryan Mallett, pulling the trigger on a QB here would be foolhardy. It seems like Colin Kaepernick in the second round might be a nice fit as a long-term answer at the position. So if not a quarterback, who should they draft? Our sense is that this is a line pick. Maybe an offensive tackle like Anthony Castonzo to replace Bryant McKinnie, or maybe a defensive end like DaQuan Bowers to replace departing free agent Ray Edwards. Bowers has more upside, but Castonzo could be a Steve Hutchinson-type of player for the Vikings, which would be a welcome change from McKinnie, who has been less than an ideal effort guy in recent years. That’s more of a need for the Vikes than defensive end, so we’ll point this pick toward Castonzo.

13. Detroit Lions – CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska
The Lions’ rebuilding process is going well, and last year’s first-rounder Ndamukong Suh is an elite talent. Now they try to build onto their defense with another prime player. The secondary was a big-time weak spot last year, and so having Amukamara fall into their laps would be serendipitous. Amukamara is a quality cover man who will immediately become a No. 1 cover man, and his presence would help guys like Alphonso Smith slide down the ladder to spots better befitting their talents. He would be another nice piece for a team that should be making a playoff push soon.

14. St. Louis Rams – WR Julio Jones, Alabama
The Rams would be doing backflips if Jones slipped this far. He will be in play as early as pick 6 in Cleveland, and preeminent wideouts are hard to find. The position certainly has been troublesome for the Rams since the departures of Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, and Jones would immediately become Sam Bradford’s top target. And getting Jones would let Mark Clayton (who’s expected to return) and Danny Amendola slip into better roles. The Rams could also spend a pick on a defensive linemen, and Mike Pouncey would also fit nicely, but Jones would be simply too appealing to pass up.

15. Miami Dolphins – C/OG Mike Pouncey, Florida
The Dolphins are in an interesting position in this draft. They need a quarterback of the future, but unless they fall in love with Ryan Mallett or another prospect, it would be a reach to take one here. They need a running back, but spending their only pick in the first two rounds on Mark Ingram wouldn’t really address needs long term. There are tons of defensive linemen and pass rushers on the board here, but with guys like Paul Soliai, Cameron Wake, Koa Misi, and Jared Odrick, the Dolphins have lots of good young players in the front seven. Ultimately, a trade down is probably in their best interest. But if they stay in place, Pouncey would be a nice addition. Miami has solid terrific tackles in Jake Long and Vernon Carey, so they’re more likely to pull the trigger not on a tackle like Nate Solder or Gabe Carimi but on Pouncey, who is versatile enough to play any of the three interior positions and talented enough to step right in and make a difference.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars – DE DaQuan Bowers, Clemson
Bowers was once considered a potential first overall pick, and with good reason. But questions about his knee’s long-term health have dropped him down the board. But at some point, a contender who falls in love with Bowers’ massive potential will take the risk. Jacksonville seems like a good spot for that risk. The Jaguars have been building their lines in the last two drafts successfully, with OTs Eugene Monroe and Eben Britten two years ago and DTs Tyson Alualu and D’Anthony Smith last year. But while those moves have worked, defensive end has been a trouble spot, as former first-rounder Derrick Harvey hasn’t panned out, and free-agent Aaron Kampman didn’t make a huge splash either. Bowers would add elite talent and would ratchet up the scare factor for the Jags D several notches.

17. New England Patriots (via Oakland Raiders) – OLB Aldon Smith, Missouri
The Patriots rarely make the trendy pick, but the fact that they’ve had to rely on Tully Banta-Cain for outside pass rush in recent years highlights the fact that an impact pass rusher is a big-time need. Smith played as a smallish defensive end in college, but he could move to outside linebacker in the 3-4 to be a bigger, Willie McGinest-sized rusher for the Pats. The Pats could also take a five-technique defensive end like J.J. Watt or Ryan Kerrigan, but they have other options at those positions. Smith would add a unique element that’s not currently on the roster, and that’s why he’s the pick here.

18. San Diego Chargers – DE J.J. Watt, Wisconsin
It’s hard for a fan base to get excited about their favorite team picking a five-technique defensive end, but it’s imperative that teams pick them when they get a chance because they’re so hard to find. Watt fits the profile of that position to a T. He can provide the kind of stability up front that helps pass-rushers like Shaun Phillips and Larry English create havoc. That’s why Watt, more than outside players like Ryan Kerrigan or Adrian Clayborn, makes sense here. Note that the Chargers have been very aggressive about moving up to get their guy recently – with English, Ryan Mathews, and Eric Weddle, to name a few – so a trade up makes sense if A.J. Smith falls in love with a certain guy.

19. New York Giants – OT Nate Solder, Colorado
The Giants have long been strong in the trenches under head coach Tom Coughlin, but the offensive line is starting to show the cracks that come with age. Young OT William Beatty hasn’t really emerged as a difference-maker, so adding one of this year’s top tackles makes sense here. Solder is a big, physical specimen who has the potential to play either side, and his physical style makes him a better fit for Big Blue than Gabe Carimi.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa
Clayborn’s stock has slipped because of a injury that occurred at birth that still impacts the strength in his right arm. As a result, Clayborn will have to lock in on one side of the defense. That lack of versatility is a drawback, but Clayborn can still provide a ton of pass-rush pop. After investing in Gerald McCoy and Bryan Price last year, the Bucs need to step up their outside threats on defense, and Clayborn is the best option at this point to do that. Tampa Bay could also use a cornerback, but given the legal problems Aqib Talib and Tanard Jackson are facing, the Bucs can’t afford to gamble on Jimmy Smith at this point.

21. Kansas City Chiefs – OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
This is a popular pick, since it’s clear to see the Chiefs’ gaping hole at right tackle, and Carimi seems to be around at this spot on just about every mock draft you see. But the pick makes a ton of sense. Branden Albert is a decent starting left tackle, but not dominant, and Carimi could either fill in the RT hole or take Albert’s job and force him to jump over there. Either move should help to stabilize the Chiefs’ front line.

22. Indianapolis Colts – DT Corey Liuget, Illinois
The Colts usually spend their top pick on offense. That strategy worked well as Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark became stars playing with Peyton Manning, but more recent picks like Anthony Gonzalez and Donald Brown haven’t panned out. Last year, the Colts picked DE Jerry Hughes, who didn’t make much of an impact as a rookie. We see them going defense this year, in part because the top group of offensive linemen has been picked through in our mock draft, and in part because there’s such value along the defensive line, which is another huge need area. Liuget would be a three-technique, penetrating tackle; a widebody like Phil Taylor or Muhammad Wilkerson would also be an option.

23. Philadelphia Eagles – DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
Under Andy Reid, the Eagles always, always, always spend their first-round pick on a lineman. Given how the offensive line crew has been picked through a bit at this point, instead of taking guard Danny Watkins or OT Danny Sherrod, we’ll point the Eagles toward defense. Kerrigan is a nice player with a high motor who makes some plays but may not have the punch of some other prospects. Still, he seems like he could develop into a Kyle Vanden Bosch type of end, and that would be a terrific addition at this point. The fact that the Eagles hired Jim Washburn, the league’s best D-line coach, in the offseason makes picking a guy like Kerrigan even more attractive – because they can trust Washburn will get the best out of him.

24. New Orleans Saints – QB Andy Dalton, TCU
Dalton is the flavor-of-the-month West Coast offense quarterback, and there have been enough rumors linking him to the Seahawks at 25 that some team will trade back into the first round to pick him. The Saints should get a premium to trade out of this spot so that Cincinnati or San Francisco – or another team that has kept its Dalton love quiet – can beat Seattle to the punch. We’ve already discussed how Dalton is our choice as the No. 3 QB in the draft.

25. Seattle Seahawks – QB Christian Ponder, Florida State
The Seahawks still need a quarterback, given the fact that Matt Hasselbeck is hitting the open market. Ponder is also a West Coast style quarterback, but he has a little more elusiveness and a stronger arm than Dalton. Ponder’s big question (as we detailed before) will be durability. But with OL cornerstones center Max Unger and OT Russell Okung in place, the Seahawks are better positioned to protect Ponder than many other teams.

26. Baltimore Ravens – CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado
It seems like the Ravens have a strong roster with two continually glaring holes in recent years – wide receiver and cornerback. Given the way the draft board breaks down, receiver isn’t going to be an option this year. So while the cornerback play was a bit better last year, Josh Wilson’s free agency leaves it as a need. Smith would really help in that area. Smith is an ubertalented cover man with a rough reputation, but Baltimore seems to have the veterans like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed in place to help Smith grow up more quickly. But he could end up being a home run pick, which would be a coup this late in the first round.

27. Atlanta Falcons – OG Danny Watkins, Baylor
The Falcons are solid across the board, and so they can afford to spend a first-rounder on a less premium position like guard to get a premium player. That’s what Watkins, an ex-firefighter, can be. With OGs Justin Blalock and Harvey Dahl and OT Tyson Clabo all facing free agency, adding depth up front is crucial for the Dirty Birds. Watkins could step in and start at a guard spot, which would give the Falcons some financial flexibility without losing performance.

28. New England Patriots – NT Phil Taylor, Baylor
The Pats are, as always, prime targets to trade out of the first round, especially if a team is gaga over Ryan Mallett (bad idea) or Colin Kaepernick. But if they stay put, they can add to their defensive line once again either with Muhammad Wilkerson, who would play defensive end in their system, or with Taylor, who would apprentice under Vince Wilfork on the nose. Given the fact that the Pats had success with Wilfork playing end last year, Taylor would be a better fit. Adding a sturdy defensive lineman and a pass rusher would make for a terrific first-round haul for the Pats – especially with the first pick in the second round in their pocket.

29. Chicago Bears – OLB Akeem Ayers, UCLA
The Bears could use an offensive lineman, but they don’t seem too high on Derek Sherrod, the one first-round-level prospect left on the board. So we have them turning to Ayers, a versatile outside linebacker who’s big enough to play on the strong side in the Bears’ 4-3 scheme. Ayers would add youth to a linebacking corps held down by linchpins Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, and Ayers seems to have the skills to play on the strong side instead of sitting behind one of the stars. Ayers is a physical freak whose performance on the field wasn’t always consistent, but his ability could be too much to ignore at this point.

30. New York Jets – DE Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple
The Jets need to add some depth in their front line on defense, given the departure of Kris Jenkins and the age of Shaun Ellis. Wilkerson, who has the skills to play as a defensive end in the 3-4 and also play inside in 4-3 sets, would add a nice piece for Rex Ryan’s attacking defense. The Jets could also look at Cameron Heyward in a similiar role, but Wilkerson’s a higher rated prospect.

31. Pittsburgh Steelers – OT Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State
The Steelers have been beset by offensive line injuries in recent years, and it would be wise to add a first-round talent like Sherrod instead of having to depend on a fill-in like Flozell Adams again. The other spot they could address is at cornerback, where big, physical Aaron Williams of Texas may be tempting as well.

32. Green Bay Packers – DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State
The Packers are loaded on the defensive line because they have invested so heavily there in the draft. But with Johnny Jolly’s career likely over and Cullen Jenkins looking to hit the jackpot via free agency, adding a player at the position would be wise. Heyward can play as a defensive end and add a little bit of pass rush push at the position. He’s a better fit than Marvin Austin, more of a 4-3 defensive tackle.

Guys who we considered for first-round spots:

QB Colin Kaepernick
QB Ryan Mallett
RB Mark Ingram
DT Marvin Austin
CB/S Aaron Williams


Filed under Football Relativity, NFL draft, preja vu

Thanks but no thanks

Mark Ingram, via

One of the most difficult positions to evaluate in the NFL draft is running back. Some backs seem to have such outstanding skills that they must be taken in the top 5. But backs like this – Reggie Bush, Cadillac Williams, Ronnie Brown, and Cedric Benson in recent years – rarely deliver fully on their promise. Add that to the fact that running backs take so many hits that their careers are short, and it’s hard to spend an early pick on a back.

But sometimes, a late first-rounder is worth it for a back. The Rams have gotten great return on their investment in Steven Jackson, for example. So sometimes a running back is worth it.

This year, only one back is even in consideration for a first-round selection – Alabama’s Mark Ingram, a former Heisman Trophy winner.

But we don’t believe Ingram is worth that price. Ingram was incredibly productive in the SEC, proving to be a tough, physical runner with a knack for breaking tackles, especially at key moments. But his other skills – speed, elusiveness, receiving – aren’t exceptional compared against an NFL scale. So the question when evaluating Ingram is whether his power is elite enough to carry him at the pro level. And our belief is that it doesn’t.

Ingram is solidly built, but he isn’t huge, and that’s the deathknell for his NFL ability. He’s not an Earl Campbell type of physical specimen, and that will make it hard for him to carry his bruising style to prolonged success in the NFL. Ingram may have some good NFL moments, but five years from now, we believe his best pro years will be long behind him.

So when it comes to a first-round pick, we’d say thanks but no thanks to Ingram. We’ll have to see if NFL teams say the same thing.

Click on the NFL draft category here on the blog for more draft articles. And don’t forget to join the Football Relativity draft contest.


Filed under Football Relativity, NFL draft

The Football Relativity Draft Contest

For the first time, we’re conducting the Football Relativity Draft Contest. Whoever gets the most answers right to the following 10 draft questions will win a very limited edition Football Relativity T-shirt. We’ll also celebrate our top finishers with a post here on the blog. You can enter by leaving a comment or via an email to

Here are the 10 questions.

1. Which quarterback will be selected first, Blaine Gabbert or Cam Newton?

2. Which quarterback will be selected first, Jake Locker or Ryan Mallett?

3. Which receiver will be selected first, A.J. Green or Julio Jones?

4. Which defensive end will be selected first, DaQuan Bowers or Robert Quinn?

5. Which defensive end will be selected first, J.J. Watt or Muhammad Wilkerson?

6. Which defensive tackle will be selected first, Marcell Dareus or Nick Fairley?

7. Which cornerback will be selected first, Prince Amukamura or Patrick Peterson?

8. Which Smith will be selected first, Tyron Smith or Aldon Smith?

9. How many quarterbacks will be selected in the first round?

10. How many defensive linemen will be selected in the first round?

The fine print: Entries must be received by Wednesday, April 27. T-shirts available in L or XL. Ties broken by: 1) closest answer on question 9 2) closest answer on question 10 3) first entry received


Filed under Football Relativity, NFL draft

Who’s QB No. 3?

Photo of Washington Huskies quarterback Jake L...

Jake Locker has all the tools - or does he? Image via Wikipedia

 We’ve been breaking down the NFL draft here on the blog, and today we come to the question of which quarterback ranks third at the position in this class. We’ve already discussed the top 2, Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert, and we believe both will be off the board by the fifth pick. So which QB is number 3? Let’s break down the prospects…

Ryan Mallett – We’ve already discussed Mallett and why we don’t consider him a first-round prospect. We’ll rest on that analysis and declare that Mallett’s not No. 3 among this year’s QBs.

Jake Locker – Locker, in many ways, is a coach’s dream. By all accounts, he’s an A-plus human being, a team player, and a natural leader. Plus, he has physical gifts that are off the charts. He’s big, strong, and fast. And a year ago, Locker was getting buzz as the potential No. 1 overall pick. But for all of Locker’s great qualities, his performance has never added up to the sum of the parts. He never completed more than 58 percent of his passes in a season at Washington, and when accuracy is missing, quarterbacks fail. It seems strange to say for a four-year college player, but in many ways Locker is a raw prospect. And while it’s fine to be a developmental player, the fact that Locker is so loved by his coaches makes me wonder whether he can truly be coached up. With his good attitude, if he could have improved, shouldn’t he have already? That nagging feeling causes us to drop Locker out of the first-round range as a prospect. He’s not QB No. 3.

Christian Ponder – Ponder, the Florida State product, seems to be the darling of the statitistical community this year. (K.C. Joyner makes the case here; ESPN insider required.) While Ponder is efficient throwing the ball and can also move around well, there’s one stat that bothers me about him. Ponder missed two games last year with an elbow injury and four the year before with a shoulder problem. So can he handle the pounding of a 16-game NFL season? That’s a major red flag to us. When a team invests a second-round pick in Ponder, we’ll likely praise the pick, but moving him into the late first round as the No. 3 quarterback seems to risky for us.

Colin Kaepernick – Kaepernick is the wild card of this QB crew. He played in the Pistol offense in Nevada, and the fact that he wasn’t often under center raises a question. But he has good size, good speed and running ability, and a ton of production at Nevada. He spread the ball around effectively and showed accuracy. And while accuracy doesn’t always translate from college spread offenses to the NFL, Kaepernick is an intriguing prospect. We won’t make him the No. 3 QB, but we’re tempted to do so. He’ll be a strong second-round pick for someone.

Andy Dalton – Finally, we have found our No. 3 quarterback. Dalton was a four-year starter at TCU, and his completion percentage went up every year. He played in big games and delivered, and he has mobility. Really, the biggest drawbacks for Dalton are physical. He’s just 6-2, which is a big small for a quarterback, and his arm strength makes most analysts feel he needs to be in a West Coast style of system to succeed. But Trent Dilfer praised Dalton as a potential late first-round pick, and we agree. (As did scout Frank Cooney.) Like Drew Brees, once the 32nd overall pick, Dalton seems to be a guy who will bring a strong future at a reasonable price. So we’ve slotted Dalton as QB No. 3.


Filed under Football Relativity, NFL draft