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Training Camp Moves – Week 2

This post is a compilation of additions NFL teams made during the second full week of camps. The timetable for this post opens on August 1 and continues through August 6. You can read a summary of the first week of training camp moves here, and follow past offseason moves from there. Because moves will be coming fast and furious throughout training camp, we’re going to use quick analysis of moves each week during this time instead of creating a massive Football Relativity comparison.

Additions

Seahawks (add CB Travis Fisher and OGs Cory Withrow and Grey Ruegamer) – After cutting ’08 starter Mike Wahle, the Seahawks went looking for interior offensive line depth. Withrow and Ruegamer are both veteran hands, and it apepars that they’ll be fighting it out for one job (at best). Fisher provides depth at an already-deep position, but with Marcus Trufant battling a back injury, Seattle went for some insurance.

Eagles (add LBs Matt Wilhelm and Jason Babin) – When starting MLB Stewart Bradley went out, the Eagles faced a huge gap in the middle. They were fortunate that Wilhelm, a starter in San Diego, was on the market. Wilhelm isn’t an impact guy, but he’s big and can at least help stuff the run. He’ll be moving from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3, which could cause some problems, but it’s worth a shot for Philly to see if Wilhelm can adjust and contribute as a two-down player. There probably wasn’t anybody else on the market as good as Wilhelm, so props to Philly for getting this deal done immediately after Bradley’s injury. Babin, a former first-round pick in Houston, has potential as a pass rusher but has never really realized it. Still, he’s worth a look – especially in Philly’s attacking D.

Falcons (add LB Jamie Winborn and WRs Robert Ferguson and Marty Booker) – After losing Keith Brooking to free agency in the offseason, the Falcons wanted a veteran hand in their LB corps. That’s what Winborn brings, along with Mike Peterson. Winborn probably fits in best as Curtis Lofton’s backup at middle linebacker, but he could step into the strong-side role if Peterson were to get hurt. This is a move designed to bring depth, and it should do just that. Ferguson never really broke out as a receiver in Green Bay or Minnesota, but he’s a veteran who can slip into the No. 3 or No. 4 spot in the ATL now that Harry Douglas is out for the year. With Douglas out and Roddy White holding out, the Falcons desperately needed depth, and Ferguson can provide that. The fact that Ferguson can help on special teams as well should help secure him a spot on the regular-season roster. Booker has had a more accomplished career than Ferguson, but his size and lack of speed makes him a lot like current Falcons wideout Brian Finneran. So unless Booker shows a burst he hasn’t featured in recent years, he’s a long shot to make it.

Chiefs (add WR Amani Toomer and QB Matt Gutierrez) – Toomer, the long-time Giant, no longer has any kind of breakaway speed, but he catches the ball when it’s thrown to him. It seems a little strange to have both Toomer and Bobby Engram on the same roster, which could lead to a release down the line. But if Mark Bradley doesn’t continue to emerge, then Toomer is a solid insurance policy. Probably the best-case scenario for the Chiefs is to have Toomer as their No. 4 receiver who can fill in outside if Bradley or Dwayne Bowe has to miss time. Relying on Toomer for more than that could prove to be a mistake. Gutierrez is good enough to be on a roster, but it didn’t make much sense for the Patriots to have two inexperienced backups behind Tom Brady. That appears to be why Gutierrez lost his spot there to Andrew Walter. The Chiefs claimed Gutierrez on waivers to be their third quarterback, which makes sense because he’s coming from the same system as starter Matt Cassel. Gutierrez still has potential, and the fact that new Chiefs GM Scott Pioli knows him reveals the logic behind the move. He’ll upgrade the Chiefs at the No. 3 QB spot and could even make trading promising backup Tyler Thigpen an option at some point before 2010.

Patriots (add DE Derrick Burgess and QB Andrew Walter) – Burgess, who had 38.5 sacks in his four years in Oakland but only 3.5 last year, had become disgruntled as a Raider, and so he’s been seeking a trade all offseason and into training camp. He finally landed in New England (as had long been rumored) in exchange for 3rd- and 5th-round draft picks in 2011 (according to Mike Lombardi). Burgess fits in New England as a situational pass rusher but not much more. Still, given the veteran nature of the Pats’ roster, and given the luck New England has had with Raiders castoffs like Randy Moss, we can count on Burgess finding a nice niche and filling his role well. Walter is a former third-round pick, but his potential never revealed itself during his starts in Oakland. Still, he has a good arm, and his experience provides a better balance to backup Kevin O’Connell than Matt Gutierrez’ raw ability did.

Texans (add CB Deltha O’Neal and RB Andre Hall) – With Dunta Robinson holding out and Jacque Reeves out for more than a month, the Texans were in dire need of cornerback help. O’Neal is a veteran who can attack the ball but also gets burned at times. Still, he can help enough to be worth a look in Houston’s hour of need. Hall has shown flashes of ability in the past, and he has played in a system like Houston’s in Denver, so he could get noticed in the preseason.

Cardinals (add C Melvin Fowler) – Fowler, a center who was most recently with the Bills, is an experienced hand who should provide some stability as a backup. He won’t beat out Lyle Sendelein, but he is a better insurance policy than Donovan Raiola would have been.

Bengals (keep CB Jamar Fletcher) – Fletcher, who played 11 games for Cincinnati last year, was on the outside looking in until David Jones’ injury opened a roster spot for him. The former first-round pick and 8-year veteran faces an uphill battle to make the roster, but at least he’s in a camp now.

Redskins (add WR D.J. Hackett) – Hackett, who showed potential in Seattle but busted out as a big free-agent addition in Carolina last year, hooked on with the Redskins after offseason import Roydell Williams was released because he broke a pinkie finger and would miss the next month. Hackett is big and has shown the ability to get downfield regularly, but his lack of consistency hampers him from being a regular rotation player. Hackett is the kind of veteran who can make a roster and help in case of injury – or in case of slow development of young receivers that are plentiful in Washington. But even if Hackett makes the team, he’ll probably be a game-day inactive until an injury or demotion opens the door for him.

Jets (add WR Aundrae Allison and TE Kevin Brock) – Allison, a former fifth-round pick, had just 18 catches in two seasons, and he was passed by youngsters Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin. So the Vikings cut Allison, and then the Jets quickly grabbed him off waivers. He has average size but above-average speed, and that’s the reason he’s work a look. Allison could also figure in as a return specialist at a cheap price. Brock, an undrafted rookie who spent OTAs in Carolina, is a pass-catching tight end from Rutgers. He does what Dustin Keller can do, which should at least make it easier for the Jets to run their regular offensive sets with Mark Sanchez and the No. 2s. He’s a useful camp body, which shows the Jets are actually thinking as they try to prep Sanchez for the season.

Subtractions

Seahawks (cut OG Mike Wahle) – Wahle, a big-time free-agent signing last year who started all season, failed his physical before camp, and he was released. The 12-year veteran is reportedly considering retirement. The main upshot of Wahle’s release could be that second-round pick Max Unger has an easier path to a starting spot as a rookie.

Redskins (cut WR Roydell Williams) – Williams, who looked to be a fifth receiver, was waived/injured after suffering a broken pinkie that will sideline him until just before the regular season. Once he gets healthy, he could land somewhere as a backup receiver. He’s the kind of guy who could also go to the UFL and be a standout to try to enhance his value.

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RP: Draft boom and bust by position – Defense

This is part two of our research project examining which positions in the NFL draft have yielded the most hits and the most misses this decade. We did the offensive side of the ball yesterday in this post, and now it’s time to start in on the defense.

Here’s the methodology: We looked at the top 16 of every draft this decade. We categorized each player as a positive, a negative, or a neutral. We only allowed neutrals for the past three drafts so that we didn’t straddle the fence over and over. We combined defensive ends and outside linebackers because of the proliferation of rush ‘backers in the 3-4 in the draft the last four years.

We then counted the positives as completions and negatives as incompletions to create a percentage of sorts. Neutrals did not count as attempts so that they don’t skew the rankings.

So here are the results. Feel free to quibble with the positive/negative/neutral ratings, because that would obviously change percentages. I’ve tried to be fair, and if there is a debate, I leaned toward the positive. (That’s the kind of guy I am.) Even with that, there are some pretty clear distinctions by position. Hopefully you’ll find the results are pretty insightful.

Defensive tackles: 13 of 20 positives (65 percent)
Positives: Sedrick Ellis, Amobi Okoye, Haloti Ngata, Broderick Bunkley, Tommie Harris, Kevin Williams, Ty Warren, John Henderson, Albert Haynesworth, Richard Seymour, Damione Lewis, Marcus Stroud
Negatives: Travis Johnson, Dewayne Robertson, Johnathan Sullivan, Jimmy Kennedy, Ryan Sims, Wendell Bryant, Gerard Warren
Neutrals: Glenn Dorsey, Justin Harrell
Thoughts: This is one of the positions with the highest bust rates. When a player hits, they often hit big — Haynesworth, Seymour, Williams, and Ngata are (or have been) terrific, while even Harris, Henderson, and Stroud are among those who have been game changers. But there are also some big-time busts here in Robertson and Gerard Warren. Some of the busts (Sims, Kennedy) are still in the league, but they have settled into reserve roles. I’ve put Okoye and Ellis on the positives list based on single good years. For Ellis it was his rookie year; Okoye was good as a rookie but stepped back last year. Dorsey is also leaning positive, based on a solid first season. But Harrell has been so banged up that he’s headed for negative land as well. All in all, this is a dangerous position to draft.
This year’s candidates: B.J. Raji, Peria Jerry

Defensive ends and pass rushers: 13 of 17 positives (76 percent)
Positives: Gaines Adams, Adam Carriker, Mario Williams, Kamerion Wimbley, DeMarcus Ware, Shawne Merriman, Terrell Suggs, Julius Peppers, Dwight Freeney, Justin Smith, Greg Ellis, Andre Carter, John Abraham
Negatives: Michael Haynes, Jerome McDougle, Jamal Reynolds, Courtney Brown
Neutrals: Chris Long, Vernon Gholston, Derrick Harvey, Jamaal Anderson
Thoughts: I used to consider pass rusher a premium position (along with quarterback, left tackle, and cornerback), but with the proliferation of 3-4 defenses, the job description has changed. Now guys like Suggs, Ware, and Merriman (and to a lesser extent Wimbley) rush from a standing outside linebacker position. While they pile up huge sack numbers, they don’t strike me as quite as dominating as a more traditional end. I guess that makes me a 4-3 guy. So I would lean toward the more traditional end like Williams who can rush the passer but also can do other things. Peppers is in that camp too, although he wants to move to a 3-4 now. That’s what the Bucs are hoping Adams will do as well. Freeney and Abraham are interesting because they are 3-4 style guys who have fit in beautifully as 4-3 rush ends. There haven’t been a ton of busts, although Brown was the No. 1 overall pick, but the jury is still out on Long, Gholston, and Harvey from last year. Still, this position has a better hit rate than I expected, largely because teams have been able to successfully find guys who can be productive in a 3-4 scheme since Ware and Merriman opened the floodgates in the ’05 draft. This year’s top candidates – Orakpo, Maybin, Ayers, and Brown – all fit that mold as well.
This year’s candidates: Brian Orakpo, Aaron Maybin, Robert Ayers, Everette Brown, Tyson Jackson

Linebackers: 12 of 12 positives (100 percent)
Positives: Keith Rivers, Jerod Mayo, Patrick Willis, Lawrence Timmons, A.J. Hawk, Ernie Sims, Thomas Davis, Derrick Johnson, Jonathan Vilma, Dan Morgan, LaVar Arrington, Brian Urlacher, Mike Peterson
Negatives: None
Thoughts: Linebacker typically aren’t valued at the very top of the draft, but the research shows that the first-round candidates are usually players. Willis and Mayo have been defensive rookies of the year the last two years, and many of these guys are stalwarts of their teams. The problem is that while these guys are productive, few are game-changers. On this list, only Urlacher and Arrington early in his career truly fit that description. So while linebacker is a safe pick, it’s not always the best pick when you’re trying to build a superstar club. Still, especially around the 10th pick and beyond, it makes a lot of sense to pick a linebacker. It stands to reason that this year’s candidates – Curry and the three USC starters from ’08 – will continue the trend of linebackers being good selections. None of the four has the most upside of any pick on the board, but my guess is that all of them will be productive.
This year’s candidates: Aaron Curry, Rey Maualuga, Clay Matthews, Brian Cushing, James Laurinaitis

Cornerbacks: 10 of 11 positives (91 percent)
Positives: Leodis McKelvin, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Darrelle Revis, Carlos Rogers, DeAngelo Hall, Dunta Robinson, Terrance Newman, Marcus Trufant, Quentin Jammer, Deltha O’Neal
Negatives: Adam “Pacman” Jones
Neutrals: Tye Hill
Thoughts: I traditionally consider cornerback a marquee position and a building block, but this decade the draft hasn’t produced a Champ Bailey/Deion Sanders/Chris McAllister elite guy in the top 10. There are some good players on this list – Revis, Newman, Jammer, and Trufant have probably had the best single seasons of these guys – but none of them are true shut-down guys. Revis is probably closest at the present moment. Maybe those guys don’t exist as much anymore, because the Tampa-2 defense emphasized zone coverage and tackling, while the 3-4 also usually features a zone behind it. Again this year, there is no all-time elite kind of corner. Malcolm Jenkins should be a good player, but he’s Newman-level good instead of Champ Bailey-level good. Still, the new defensive systems have meant that most of these corners have panned out. Even the negative, Jones, showed flashes of great ability, but his off-field issues ruined his career and relegated him to the negative category.
This year’s candidates: Malcolm Jenkins, Vontae Davis, Darius Butler

Safeties: 6 of 6 positives (100 percent)
Positives: LaRon Landry, Donte Whitner, Antrel Rolle, Sean Taylor, Troy Polamalu, Roy Williams
Negatives: none
Neutrals: Michael Huff, Jason Allen
Thoughts: Not many safeties reach this stratosphere, but the ones that do typically are at least good players. The late Sean Taylor was by far the best of this bunch, while Landry (another Redskin) is the one of the best of these players at this point. The top current safety, of course, is Polamalu, who is a game-changer at a level that most safeties never even think about reaching. Roy Williams was a standout early in his career, but when Dallas switched defensive systems he lost all effectiveness. Allen and to a lesser extent Huff are leaning toward the negative category, but we’ll leave the jury out on them for now. Most of the time (including this year), there aren’t safeties worth this kind of investment. That makes this position like linebacker, only taken to the extreme.
This year’s candidates: Louis Delmas

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