Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Why is Chris Carter Not in the HOF Again?

From Peter King's MMQB Tuesday edition:

If Cris Carter can't get in with 1,104 catches (and he's fallen short in his first years of eligibility), how will a man with 603 fewer receptions get in?

But I could easily make the argument that Branch, with three Super Bowl victories, was every bit the impact player (and maybe more so) as Lynn Swann, who was on four Steeler Super Bowl winners. Now I never voted for Swann, but he's in, and he has some eloquent and strong backers.

Swann averaged 2.9 catches and 47.5 receiving yards per game; Branch 2.7 and the identical 47.5. Swann: three Pro Bowls, one All-Pro team made. Branch: four Pro Bowls, three All-Pro teams. Branch averaged a gaudy 17.3 yards per catch, a yard more than Swann, and had 67 touchdowns to Swann's 51. The difference came in Super Bowl impact, with Swann and Branch both catch three touchdown passes in title games but Swann notching 161- and 124-yard games as a crucial element to the Steelers' success.

Chris Carter averaged 4.71 catches and 59.4 yards per game (putting aside how stupid those particular stats might be), averaged 12.3 yards per catch, caught 130 touchdowns, made 8 Pro Bowls and one All-Pro team. Carter made as many Pro Bowls as years Swann played in the NFL.

Honestly, I really don't get the NFL Hall of Fame.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Turning Down Cutler, but not Tahi

Cutler Rumors
If it's true that the Vikings killed a trade that would have brought them Jay Cutler and the Broncos Matt Cassell, because "some elements in the Minnesota coaching staff weren’t entirely sold on Cutler", then I think we've seen the dumbest personnel decision made by the Vikings' since the Herschel Walker trade. And Brad Childress should get fired for it unless combination of Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels lead the Vikings to the Super Bowl. Childress may not have been the member of the staff that wasn't sold on Cutler, but the buck stops with him when it comes to the staff weighing in on personnel decisions, so it shouldn't have mattered if Darrell Bevell or Kevin Rogers had a problem with Cutler. And if it was him that killed the deal, well, then I really hope he gets fired, because he has no idea what a quarterback good enough to win the Super Bowl looks like.

Vikings Re-sign Tahi
Apparently they thought it was necessary after Leonard Weaver signed with the Eagles. Weaver would have been a big upgrade on the awful Tahi. Tahi, well, he's not an upgrade, he's a horrible option as receiver and his blocking wasn't all that great from what I could tell. He's not good, but at least it was only a one year deal, which means the Purple can try and upgrade again last year. Really, it wouldn't be a problem if Adrian Peterson got to play more in passing situations, because then the quarterbacks could use him as an outlet, instead of Tahi, who doesn't quite have Peterson's speed, quickness or game changing ability. But we'll leave that one for another day (though I think you can probably tie it back into my point about how Childress should definitely be fired if the Vikings' don't go to the Super Bowl this year).

Friday, March 27, 2009

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 24th Pick

More on the Childress Killing the Cutler trade rumor later today, but I've gotta get some more work done and flesh out my thoughts a bit more. So while you're waiting, why not continue following along the draft as the writers of the Falcoholic make their selection in the No Logo Needed Mock Draft.

With the 24th pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons select....

LB Clint Sintim, Virginia

Some may consider this pick a slight reach, but Sintim fills the absolute number one need for the Falcons. I would trade my first born son and the draft rights to my third born for a living, breathing pass rush in Atlanta, and Sintim goes a long way toward helping that.

Despite their magical, pixie-dust sprinkled season in 2008, Falcons not named John Abraham proved remarkably terrible at getting to the quarterback. Sintim could immediately contribute because he knows how to make his way into the backfield and has the speed and tackling potency to be one of the better pass-rushing linebackers in the league. He's also no slouch against the run, making him--in my addled brain, at least--a legitimate first round talent.

The Falcons do have a host of needs here, including holes at safety, potentially at cornerback and a real need for a dual threat type of tight end. The first need is the pass rush, though, and Sintim represents a big piece of the puzzle.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 23rd Pick

If you'd like to debate my choice for the Vikings' pick, go right ahead. But the draft stops for no man, which means we're on to the Patriots and the 23rd pick. Selecting for the most feared coach in the business are the folks from Patriots Daily.

With the 23rd Pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots select…..

Before I get to that, let me just say that I am going to get killed for this. And it’s not my fault, honest. I mean, you see how this pretend draft has gone for me, the pretend GM of the pretend Pats. Let’s just say Rey Maualugua wasn’t going to be sliding in this particular selection process. Neither was Clay Matthews or Brian Cushing, the other USC linebackers we also liked, or even Eben Britton, the versatile Arizona tackle who would have been a nice building block for the future of the Pats offensive line.

So what do I do now? I’m too slow witted to try a trade with the very same people who suckered me into this draft in the first place, so that’s out. Do I go BPA (best player available) regardless of position, or CYA with a ‘need’ pick?

Here’s how I figured it. If I’m going to be pretend paying someone pretend first round money for a pretend four years, I’m going to give it to the best football player I can find, and not some linebacker I don’t really like, some DE-OLB tweener that I’m not sure about, or some defensive back I can probably get eleven pretend pay slots later.

So, with the 23rd Pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots select…..

RB Knowshon Moreno, Georgia

Yeah, I know. The Patriots don’t need a running back at the moment, not with a full rotation in place for 2009. Not with Sammy Morris, Fred Taylor and Laurence Maroney tied up through 2010. Not with other needs – in the secondary or the front seven, for example – that will more immediately impact their ability to compete this fall.

I don’t care. Moreno is, by most measurements, a top 15 player in this draft. I’m supposed to ignore that? Did I mention that this draft couldn’t have gone any worse for me?

The strange thing is that this could end up working. Kevin Faulk, the Pats utility knife who is about to turn 33, is entering the final year of his contract. Maroney is teetering on the edge of full-on bust status after a disappointing 2008 season that was marred by injury and ineffectiveness. As great as he’s been in New England, Morris is 32, and if the Pats advance deep into next year’s playoffs, they’ll probably have cake in the break room one afternoon to celebrate Taylor’s 34th birthday.

Best of all, by all accounts, Moreno is a well rounded, consistently productive player. He’s not a burner, but a quick, elusive and tough runner who is well suited to be a focal point, yet does the little things (like blitz pickup) right. He’s a smooth receiver who can get down the field from the backfield, or split wide. He’s got the right classroom and weight room make-up. He’s probably the most Patriot-like running back in the draft.

So despite the fact that I’ll get killed for this, he’s my pick. The Atlanta Falcons are now on the clock. Hopefully, I’ll find out later that they wanted Moreno. Because after all, misery loves company.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 22nd Pick, Minnesota Vikings

The pick you've been waiting for:

With the 22nd Pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings select:

Mark Sanchez, QB, USC

Going into this mock draft, I expected to have to justify why I chose not to draft Josh Freeman, who is generally considered the third best quarterback available. By my count, there were about 9 teams that could reasonably take Mark Sanchez due to the age of their “franchise” QB or due to their lack of a franchise QB (Detroit, St. Louis, Seattle, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Denver, New York Jets, Chicago, Tampa Bay) before the Vikings picked. Instead, it looks like I’m going to have decide whether Mark Sanchez is the answer to the Vikings’ long standing quarterback issue (or is juicy enough to tempt the Broncos to trade Jay Cutler for him) or whether the Vikings should address their needs at cornerback or offensive line. And after thinking back to the last two years, the answer is clear—if Mark Sanchez is available, the Vikings should draft him.

First off, it’s quite clear that the Vikings need a real franchise quarterback. Tarvaris Jackson is never going to be that good and Sage Rosenfels is already 31 years old. Secondly, I believe that Mark Sanchez is the best quarterback available in the draft because he’s got enough arm strength for the pros, he’s more accurate than Matt Stafford and he’s shown the ability to read coverages that Freeman never had to in Kansas State’s spread offense.

Sanchez has the arm strength and the accuracy to succeed in the NFL and he has the background in a Pro-Style offense that will allow him to quickly adapt to the pros. He completed 64.27% of his passes in his 16 games at USC, more than any other first round quarterback. He can throw the ball deep accurately (forcing defenses to only put eight in the box to stop Adrian Peterson) and he has the touch needed for the short throws as well, a necessity in Brad Childress’ West Coast Offense. Also, Sanchez has all the intangibles you’d want in your quarterback, which he showed by getting elected captain last year and when he stuck it out at USC despite getting beat out by John David Booty for the starting position in 2006.

I know there are some doubts about Sanchez due to his lack of starting experience, the talent surrounding him, his height and the fact he was somewhat turnover prone, throwing ten interceptions and fumbling seven times. The doubts are enough for me to hope that he’s taken before the Vikings’ pick, but they aren’t enough to let me pass on him for another player (especially with 5 offensive tackles already off the board). So the Vikings’ finally have their franchise quarterback. Hopefully.

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 21st Pick

One last pick before the Vikings are on the clock. Check back later today to find out who I'm selecting for the Vikings, but first, check out the Eagles choice, made by the folks of the Iggles Blog.

With the 21st pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles select:

Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois

Say what now? A cornerback? And one with character issues to boot?

Yes. Yes, indeed.

Davis is the perfect Andy Reid draft choice:

  1. He plays a high-value position in which first-round athleticism makes a huge difference.
  2. No one sees the pick coming.
  3. On its face, the pick is completely inexplicable.

But what about offensive line (you ask). Or tight end? Or running back? Or all the other places the Eagles have actual needs? Not cornerback, where we have a Pro Bowler, a solid starter, a very wealthy nickel man and a "first-round talent" prospect coming off a knee injury.

Let me explain. First of all, as a cornerback, Davis is very, very good. He's also -- for a cornerback -- very, very big. The brother of Vernon Davis is a physical freak. You don't find many 6-0, 200-pound guys who can turn and run with most wide receivers. Can I get a "Plaxico Burress" anyone?

Secondly, everyone remembers the story of how the Eagles drafted Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown even though they already had Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor locked in as starters. What most people don't realize is that Sheldon Brown is now older than Taylor was when his replacement was drafted (and only one year younger that Vincent was at the same time.)

Cornerbacks don't age well. You can never have enough guys around to keep pushing them.

Now, with that said, the other intriguing thing about Davis is that he may actually project to FS at the next level. He's a born hitter, loves contact, and his "tremendous athleticism" at the cornerback position would translate to "Hall of Fame caliber athleticism" at the safety position.

New SS Sean Jones is a one-year stopgap, we still don't know for sure what we have in Quintin Demps, and Quintin Mikell turns 29 later this year. Another safety prospect would not be a bad thing to have around.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 20th Pick

The Lions continue their rebuilding effort with the pick they received from the Cowboys for Roy Williams (you'll remember it occurred after they fired Matt Millen and not before). So where does Jim Schwartz (in this case, the Wayne Fontes Experience) go with this pick? Let's find out.

With the 20th pick of the 2009 Draft, the Detroit Lions (via the Dallas Cowboys) select:

Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State University

Though offensive tackle could be addressed at the 20 spot, at this point of the draft, the Lions absolutely have to draft for the defensive side of the ball (Plus there has been a run on OT's in this mock). To be blunt, they could draft a player at 20 who plays ANY defensive position, and it would fill a Detroit need. The Lions' defense was truly that bad in 2008. Legendarily, shockingly, regime killing bad.

Middle linebacker is a HUGE need, so tOSU's James Laurientus was heavily considered with this pick. But he could very likely be available with the first pick of the 2nd round, as Laurientus has been dropping on draft boards and mock drafts all across the NFL. I was hoping USC LB Rey Maualuga would be available at 20, but he surprisingly went in the top 5 of this mock.

The Lions also have big time needs on the defensive line, and I was even more surprised to see Aaron Maybin, the DE out of Penn State, still on the board. The Lions desperately need a pass rush, and Maybin is a pure speed rusher, though a bit raw. But he scouts out as a breakout type talent, the best player off the snap in this draft and the best pass rusher available, period.

The Lions have lacked a big time pass rushing end for over 2 decades (Finding an end "Who could block out the sun" was Wayne Fontes' obsession, his white whale, so to speak). The last Lions defensive end to honestly put fear in the the eyes of opposition quarterbacks was Al "Bubba" Baker back in the early-mid 80's. Yes, it's been that long...

Maybin is the sort of talent the Lions can build around. He could be head coach Jim Schwartz's Detroit version of "The Freak", Javon Kearse, whom terrorized offenses from defensive end during Schwartz's first 3 seasons as defensive coordinator (2001-03) in Tennessee. Maybin would also bookend nicely with one of the Lions' few legitimate NFL defenders, end Dewayne White. Add Cliff Averil to the mix, who showed signs of being a solid contributor in his rookie season with 5 sacks, and the Lions would actually have a defensive position which could be considered a strength.

Maybin may have the biggest upside (I know, it's a cliche, but true in his case) of any defensive player in this draft. My only concern is size, as Maybin is on the smallish side, and Schwartz is on record saying he wants a bigger and stronger defense under his watch. But Maybin's a born pass rusher, and is the sort of player who could be a true impact defender in a few years. Impact players have been far and few between in Detroit for quite some time.

The Lions would be THRILLED if a player with Maybin's natural talent is available with the 20th pick.

On Griffin and Holt

Cedric Griffin Extension
The Vikings signed Cedric Griffin to an extension over the weekend, locking him up through the 2015 season for $25 million, $10 million of which is guaranteed. I think it's likely a good deal, so long as the Vikings realize that Griffin has yet to show he can be the #1 cornerback on a good defense.

First off, the money isn't a big deal because most of it is probably going to count against this year's cap, a necessity since the Purple seem to be near the salary floor. Secondly, it assures that the Vikings have at least one of their two starting cornerbacks under contract after this year, which they couldn't have said before. And that means that when they aren't forced to throw money at cornerbacks next year (whether that be Winfield and Griffin or free agents) because they already have a solid one. Now they can choose to cut bait on Winfield if his production drops in the final year of his contract (like they did with Sharper) or they can re-sign him if they feel he's worth bringing back, but they don't have to make the decision while trying to retain or replace their other starting cornerback at the same time.

The only thing that worries me about this contract extension is that the Vikings might decide that Griffin is good enough to be their best cornerback. While Griffin played well at times last year, he wasn't consistently good enough last year to be counted on as the top corner on the roster (you might recall talk of benching him in favor of Charles Gordon before Gordon got hurt). He might take that next step this year, but he might not, which means the Purple have to continue to pursue corners in the draft and in free agency.

Glenn Holt
The Vikings continued to upgrade their special teams by signing Glenn Holt, the kick returner for the Cincinnati Bengals. Holt is a massive upgrade over Maurice Hicks (who isn't?). Unlike Hicks, who, in 185 kick returns prior to joining the Vikings, had returned exactly one kick for more than 60 yards (his career long was 64 yards) and only 8 for more than 40 yards, Holt has shown the ability to break a long one. He's returned one kick for a touchdown already, and has 8 of 122 returns for more than 40 yards and was tied for the 7th most kick returns for more than 40 yards last year.

Now, Holt's not exactly Devin Hester, but he's a solid returner with the ability to break one. He's also going to give the Vikings a better chance of starting with good field position. Last year, the Vikings returners (excluding Jimmy Kleinsasser and Naufahu Tahi) only returned 48% of kick offs (27 of 56) 20 yards or more. Of the 122 kicks that Holt has returned in his career, he's taken 78 of them 20 yards or more (64%). And last year, he returned 61% of the kicks he fielded 20 yards or more.

So while the Holt signing may not be all that sexy (like a Terry Holt signing would be), it definitely upgrades the Vikings' roster and provides a quality veteran kick returner to compete for the position with Darius Reynaud and Aundrae Allison. And upgrading the kick return game will help the Vikings' run first offense score more points (and help the defense prevent points) by giving the Vikings' good starting field position after kickoffs, something they couldn't count on last year.

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 19th Pick

The Vikings are almost on the clock (I should be posting my pick tomorrow afternoon), but first
new head coach Raheem Morris must make the first pick of his head coaching career. Tampa collapsed notably down the stretch, and they need some more positive news. Will they get it with their first pick? The Buccaneers blog, Buc 'Em, is making the pick.

With the 19th Pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select:

Percy Harvin, WR, Florida

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers find themselves with a number of question marks entering the season. Will the new coaching staff succeed? Why couldn't more be done with all that cap space? Are there too many holes in the roster? When it comes to the draft, the Bucs could go in a number of directions, but with this pick, they're going with the best available athlete.

Even during the Super Bowl Championship year, the Bucs offense wasn't explosive. Tampa Bay has had it's moments, but never had an offense that struck fear into the hearts of opponents. By selecting Percy Harvin, they hope that can change. Harvin is a hybrid sort of player, but will most likely fit in as more of a traditional receiver. Sure he'll get the occasional handoff or reverse, but don't think his touches will be split as much as they were at the University of Florida.

At receiver, the Bucs already have their #1 guy - Antonio Bryant - and the player they hope can be their #2 - Michael Clayton. Harvin fits the role of game changer. He might not be an every down guy, but will create matchup problems for the defense and could be used as the motion receiver a lot.

Despite injury problems in college, Harvin was never truly seriously hurt. He didn't miss significant amounts of time and given the fact that he will be used in more of a complimentary role in the NFL, he could be a great pickup at this point in the first round. Based on talent alone, Harvin is one of the top players in this year's draft.

The Bucs offense needs someone that can take it the distance. And that is something Harvin can provide. With a power running game, a clear cut #1 receiver, and a young, but improving offensive line, Harvin will be a welcome change of pace that could keep opponents guessing.

Who knows if this is the route the Bucs will go on Draft Day, we had the opportunity to select QB Mark Sanchez, QB Josh Freeman, or DT Peria Jerry, but we stayed true to our word and went with the Buc ‘Em Community collective choice.

Monday, March 23, 2009

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 18th Pick

Up next is the third of the Vikings' three NFC North Rivals (that's the problem with winning the division--everybody else gets a better draft pick than you do). Da Bears just missed the playoffs last year, but they haven't been very active in the free agency market, which means they're going to need some quality draft picks in order to take that next step and win the Wild Card (what, you thought I'd say division? Ha!). Drafting on behalf of da Bears are the operators of Blog Down Chicago Bears.

With the 18th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears select:

Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland

Which one of these underwhelming receivers do Bears fans want the underwhelming Kyle Orton to throw to? Third-year receiver -- as in he has three years of experience playing the position -- Devin Hester? Rashied Davis? Earl Bennett? Brandon Rideau?


The Bears passed on T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Laveranues Coles, aren't calling the Cardinals about Anquan Boldin, and seem poised to give recently-released Torry Holt the same cold shoulder treatment.

Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey has seen his stock go through the roof after an eye-popping performance at the NFL Combine, including running a 4.30 40-yard dash, the fastest of all receivers. But he isn't just all speed, he has the height too -- 6'2, 210 -- to make him an imposing threat to secondaries everywhere.

All-in-all, Heyward-Bey probably has higher upside than any receiver in the draft, but I know he lacks experience and big-time production. If he denies the urge to go all Troy Williamson, he could finally be -- take a deep breath -- the No. 1 receiver the Bears have been looking for since the beginning of time.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 17th Pick

Brett Favre wasn't the savior the Jets hoped for, leading to a new regime with a new attitude. So which way are the Jets going to go with their first round pick? Fix an offense that fell apart as the season ended? Or strengthen a defense in an attempt to remake the team in the image of its new head coach? Well let's find out what the Jets fans at the Jets Blog think.

With the 17th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the New York Jets select:

Tyson Jackson, Defensive End, LSU

With spots to fill at WR, RB, QB and depth on both lines, it's a shame there's only one pick to be made. Jets fans have had their say on TJB , and it's clear they're conflicted. The folks in the TJB War Room were a little surprised how the ABMD has played out, what with some players like Mark Sanchez, Vontae Davis and Tyson Jackson still on the board.

The Jets have real need to find offensive playmakers and with the elite WRs already off the board, but Chris Wells and Sanchez still in the mix, they are tempting options. Still with a player like Tyson Jackson still on the board at 17, it is impossible to resist taking him here.

Although the Jets have invested heavily in a defense (by acquiring ILB Bart Scott, S Jim Leonhard & CB Lito Sheppard) already this offseason, taking Jackson at #17 isn't too much of a good thing. On offense the Jets are looking at depth players like WRs Chansi Stuckey & David Clowney along with QBs Kellen Clemens or Brett Ratliff to take the reigns. With a deep draft class at WR, I would imagine that the Jets will look to target a player like Brian Robiskie in the second round, and move around if necessary to get him.

By the start of the season, both of the Jets Defensive Ends (Kenyon Coleman & Shaun Ellis) will be over 30. Todd McShay called him the Draft's only "elite five technique in this draft." Jackson could play end on first and second downs, and transition to a tackle in passing situations for the team for the next 5-10 years. True, with solid veterans already on the roster, Jackson might have to fight to get playing time in 2009, but he's a pick that would benefit and energize the Jets defensive line for the long-term, something that new coach Rex Ryan would relish.

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 16th Pick

There's been quite a run on offensive tackles so far in the draft, with four going in the first 15 picks. Any chance the Vikings' might have of picking one up seems to be slowly slipping away. Thankfully, the Vikings have enough holes that they won't have to reach with their pick (thankfully might not be the right word). Selecting next, on behalf of the AFC West Champs are the writers of Bolt Hype.

With the 16th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the San Diego Chargers select:

Eben Britton, Offensive Tackle, University of Arizona

As draft day draws nearer and nearer, speculation as to what position the San Diego Chargers will address in the first round continues to grow. Some feel the Chargers would be best suited to draft a running back with their top pick. Others feel an upgrade at safety is needed, or help along the defensive line. But those who've followed the team closely know how much the Chargers want a top offensive tackle.

Last year, the Chargers were poised to select an offensive tackle with the 27th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Unfortunately for the Bolts, a record eight offensive tackles were selected in the first 26 picks. By the time the Chargers came on to the clock, all the tackles were gone.
This year, the Chargers are in a much better position to acquire an elite tackle.

Chargers GM AJ Smith has made it no secret that he is not happy about the way his team has struggled to run the football, and plans to address the issue:

"I just know we're not good enough. But I will say this, which I've said before: we need to have a solid, consistent running game. We have to."

While four offensive tackles have gone off the board at this point, there are still some options for the Chargers. The Chargers could take a defensive lineman like Tyson Jackson. Or they could draft Merriman's potential replacement, Larry English. And of course many people think the Chargers take a running back like Chris Wells or Knoshown Moreno here. But for the Chargers, who need help at right tackle, Britton could be an easy selection.

The Chargers love experienced players, and while Britton is only a junior, he has started 37 consecutive games in the PAC-10. Britton, a Southern California native, has ideal size, a massive wingspan, a nasty temperment, and leadership abilites. Britton would bring excellent drive blocking skills to the right tackle position and allow the team some flexibility when calling run plays. Britton is also a pretty solid athlete and has the speed to pull.

Overall, I think the Chargers head into the first round looking for an offensive tackle if the right one is there. I think they'd also consider help along the front seven defensively. But in this scenario, I think Britton is a solid selection he could very well end up being a San Diego Charger when it is all said and done.

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 15th Pick

We keep getting closer and closer to the Vikings' pick and things are starting to get interesting in a way that only (mock) drafts can. The folks from Houston Die Hards are making the pick on behalf of the Texans, and, coming in, it seemed clear the players they'd be targeting. But sometimes, things just fall into your lap.

With the 15th pick in the draft, the Houston Texans select:

Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss

Well, this is unexpected. The Texans picked their LT of the future in the first round last year, but with all the players I wanted off the board - and an elite talent like Oher slipping, I have no choice but to take him. Oher will be the LT, Duane Brown can move to RT, and current RT Eric
Winston can move inside, which would be a significant upgrade to an already drastically-improved offensive line.

Quick, nimble, and athletic, Oher weighs 309 and is a great fit for the zone blocking scheme that helped to make RB Steve Slaton a rookie of the year candidate last season.

Houston's two biggest positions of need are OLB and DT. However Oher is an ELITE talent, whereas the best players left at those positions may or may not slip to Houston's 2nd round pick.

This was a difficult choice to make because for weeks now I've been railing against mocks that have the Texans taking ANY offensive players, but since I'm a "build from front to back" guy, I can't help but jump all over a player of Oher's caliber.

If this scenario played out in the real world, the Texans would get a SWEET offer to trade down, and they'd take it... but since there are no trades in this draft, I'll take Oher with no regrets.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 14th Pick

Moving right along, the folks at Canal Street Chronicles have sent in their choice for the Saints' first round pick. Take a wild guess which side of the ball the team with the #1 overall offense in points scored and in yardage drafts.

With the 14th pick in the draft, the New Orleans Saints select:

Brian Cushing, OLB, USC

I can't even believe that Cushing is actually still on the board, particularly following his awesome combine performance, but alas he is. With the re-signing of Jonathan Vilma and the return of Dan Morgan, the Saints are just okay at the linebacker spot but really need some help in the secondary. Because of all the talk surrounding his possible switch to safety, Malcolm Jenkins would have to be the other consideration with this pick but because Cushing appears to be the best player available the Saints just can't pass him up. Scott Shanle, your days are numbered!

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 13th Pick

Next up are the Washington Redskins, who addressed one need by signing a very intriguing (we'll go with that word) defensive tackle. So who are the folks from Curly R going to draft to fill the needs of a team that collapsed in the second half after starting 6-2, finishing 2-6 and putting Jim Zorn squarely on the hot seat.

With the 13th pick in the 2009 NFL draft for blogs, the Washington Redskins select...

Andre Smith, OT, Alabama

The Redskins have fairly simple needs this year, and they are going to take the best player at either of their top two positions of need. On the offensive side of the ball Washington needs a tackle. Thirty-one year old left tackle Chris Samuels ended 2008 on injured reserve, 33 year old right tackle Jon Jansen lost his starting job then got it back and never pass blocked well, all while undrafted rising third year utility tackle Stephon Heyer still is not turning into a full range starter.

On the defensive side, the position of need is defensive end. With the release of Jason Taylor and the inexplicable loss of Demetric Evans who was the Redskins best player at the position in 2008, the Redskins are left with one quality defensive end, Andre Carter, with the next best option an as yet un re signed Phillip Daniels, 36 years old and coming off a torn ACL suffered in 2008 training camp.

Curly R rated the tackles and defensive ends likely to go in the first thirteen picks in this order: OT Jason Smith, OT Eugene Monroe, DE Brian Orakpo aka Brian Oh Crappo, OT Andre Smith, OT Michael Oher, DE Everette Brown, DE Aaron Maybin. With Jason, Eugene and Brian off the board the decision is easy, Andre will challenge at right tackle this summer.

Although this does not necessarily spell the end of either Jon Jansen or Stephon Heyer it does signal the beginning of a new era at offensive tackle in Washington.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 12th Pick

As the No Logo Needed Mock Draft steams along, we reach the team that everyone wants to trade with. Will they signal their desire to trade Jay Cutler by taking one of the two QBs projected in the first round? Probably not, because, unlike Josh McDaniel, the writers of Mile High Report aren't stupid enough to want to trade Jay Cutler.

With the 12th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos select…..

Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State

The Denver Broncos have a lot of needs, all on the defensive side of the ball. IN this draft, however, many of the guys the Broncos are targets have already left the board – Raji, Rey-Rey, Orakpo, even Matthews as a sleeper. For me it came down to Jenkins or Brian Cushing and at this point I gave the slight edge to Jenkins. He has the perfect size to step right in for the Broncos and play the nickel, and should injuries crop up at either corner or safety Jenkins could step right in there too. There are questions about his speed, but having watched 95% of Ohio State’s games during Jenkins career I can honestly say he plays a lot faster than his straight-line 40-time.

The Broncos have a ton of needs, and while some might think that CB isn’t one of them, with Champ Bailey on one side and FA acquisition Andre Goodman on the other, Jenkins is just the type of physical presence that could step in and make an impact Day 1. Playing with Champ and Brian Dawkins every day will do wonders for him and the kid has all the tools to be a star.

It might not be the sexy pick, but with Josh McDaniels and Co. running the show the Broncos are likely to be safe and Jenkins would definitely be the safest pick of those who remain.

Thoughts on the No Logo Needed Mock Draft So Far

We're through eleven picks so far, and, while there haven't been too many surprises so far, the No Logo Needed Mock Draft has been pretty illuminating as to what those who know their teams the best (that's right--I'm talking about us bloggers) think their teams should do this April.

A couple of thoughts:

  • I don't like Matt Stafford as the #1 overall pick and I don't like him for the Lions (well, I do, but that's because I prefer the Lions hapless). He's not accurate enough, he fails the two statistical projection systems and there's no reason to expect a quarterback to improve his bad decision making in the NFL. And sending him to the Lions isn't going to help. How, exactly, is he supposed to make better decisions behind the worst line in the NFL?
  • The choice by the Rams to take Eugene Monroe #2, and the first of all the offensive tackles is a good one. Unlike Andre Smith, he's not crazy. And unlike Jason Smith, he played in a pro style offense, instead of the spread. That means he's played out of a three point stance (Smith never left a two point stance) and the University of Virginia has shown that it can turn out quality linemen in D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Brandon Albert.
  • I don't like taking a wide receiver in the first round. I linked to this article earlier, but its no less true today--first wide receivers are busts way more often then they become great (or even good) players. With the increase in the use of the spread, its going to become even harder for teams to properly evaluate receivers, because the spread doesn't require anywhere near the same attention to routes as the NFL does. Both Jeremy Maclin and Michael Crabtree played in the spread, though Crabtree is supposed to be a good route runner. Of course, he also is having a pin inserted in his foot and isn't quite as tall as advertised (he's closer to 6'1 than 6'3). Maclin is an amazing punt and kick returner, but reminds me too much of Ted Ginn, Jr. to justify taking him in the top 10.
  • The Packers choice of Brian Orakpo is a risky one, but it could pay off quite well in their new 3-4. Orakpo's moved up a lot of draft boards and many of the mock draft sites have him as the best defensive player available in the draft. Of course, he also has missed time the past two years with knee issues and hurt his hamstring at the combine. Nothing like injuries to quickly derail a promising career.
  • I was somewhat surprised to see five linebackers (Aaron Curry, Ray Maualuga, Brian Orakpo, Everette Brown and Clay Matthews) drafted in the first eleven picks. It makes a lot of sense, however, when you consider that all five teams either play a 3-4 defense or are going to play a 3-4 defense. In a 3-4, the linebackers are more important than the defensive line and your linebackers must have the ability to rush the passer as well as play the run and drop into coverage.
We're half way to the Vikings' choice at 22nd. Stay tuned for another choice later this afternoon/evening. And if you need to catch up on the draft so far, there are links to each pick on the sidebar.

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 11th Pick

Next up in the No Needed Mock Draft are the Buffalo Bills, the team that, arguably, made the biggest splash in the off season with their surprise signing of Terrel Owens. How will T.O.'s addition effect their draft strategy? Read on as the writer of Buffalo Rumblings selects for the Bills.

With the eleventh overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills select...

Clay Matthews, OLB, USC

Buffalo is in full-fledged "win now" mode. Let's face it - you're not risking Terrell Owens being on your roster if you're not desperate for a few wins. Unlike the '08 draft, when the Bills took small-school product Leodis McKelvin and unpolished receiver James Hardy with their first two picks, the Bills are going to look past potential for guys that can contribute immediately, particularly in the first three rounds.

Unfortunately, the team is forced to choose between prospects at this stage in the game that either aren't worthy of a selection this high (Brandon Pettigrew) or fill needs but are inexperienced (Matthews, Aaron Maybin). In the end, Matthews - yes, even ahead of USC teammate Brian Cushing - is the best fit. He gives the Bills an outstanding blitz presence right out of the gate, and he adds playmaking ability to the Bills' league-renowned special teams unit as well.

Matthews isn't a perfect fit in Buffalo's zone-based scheme; his coverage skills are severely underdeveloped, and it's unclear whether he'd be a better fit as a linebacker or an end in a 4-3 defense. In Buffalo, he'd have the opportunity to play a little of both. Buffalo desperately needs a physical, hard-hitting presence at linebacker for run downs, and the 6'3", 240-pound Matthews can lay the lumber. But he also opened some eyes at the Combine when he easily recorded the fastest 10-yard split of any pass-rushing prospect; his 1.49-second time was beaten by only nine cornerbacks. He's very explosive in the short area, and given that fact, he also has potential as a pass-rush specialist - either standing or down on the line - for the blitz-happy Bills. His work ethic, intangibles and unbelievable NFL bloodlines make him a safe investment, even if he's a bit of a reach.

Monday, March 16, 2009

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 10th Pick

Next up in the draft are the folks from Niners Nation, one of the better blogs on the internet, even if you're not a 49ers fan. Hopefully I'll have some analysis of the draft so far up tomorrow, but we'll see what my schedule allows (and maybe the Vikings will give me something much better to write about, like, say, a trade for a certain pouting quarterback). Anyway.

With the tenth pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers select

Everette Brown, OLB, Florida State.

The 49ers have various needs this offseason, but unlike what some people are predicting, a first round QB is not one of those needs. The 49ers have a pair of outside linebackers, one of whom turned in a very solid season in 2008. Parys Haralson seems to have a legitimate future going forward as a pass rushing outside linebacker. Manny Lawson is an athletic freak, but he seems less inclined to rush the passer or more likely to be a guy in coverage and in a read position.

Although Everette Brown didn't have a ton of experience (only one season as a fulltime starter), he still racked up 23 sacks for his 3-year career. This pick is a really tough one for the 49ers because it seems like they're too high for guys like Oher, but they're too low for a BJ Raji. Andre Smith is plummeting and seems like too much of a headcase. If the first 9 picks go in the above order, I think the 49ers will battle themselves in trying to decide between Michael Oher and Everette Brown. What wouldn't surprise me is if the 49ers tried to move up from the second round into the late first round to grab the right tackle they need. They've shown no qualms about making those kinds of moves, so we'll see if they do so again.

Killing Time: Cutler, Paymah and the Draft

Jay Cutler
Apparently, Jay Cutler has asked for a trade. I've said it before and I'll say it again--the Vikings should be doing everything they can to acquire Jay Cutler. That includes giving up multiple draft picks. Remember--draft picks are about acquiring good, young talent. Cutler is 25 and he's very good. He's also under contract for three more years, and it's a relatively cheap one for a Pro Bowl quarterback.

More on Cutler:
  • Kevin Seifert at ESPN's NFC North Blog breaks down the NFC North teams that might want Cutler.
Karl Paymah
The Vikings signed Karl Paymah (making it that much easier for Sports Columnists and Bloggers to make puns while writing about the Vikings) over the weekend. (H/T to Chris for the article). It sounds like Paymah is going to end up playing special teams and competing for the nickleback job, though his contract makes me think the Vikings' expect him to win that job, since his contract is worth about million dollars more than Charles Gordon or Benny Sapp's. I like that the Vikings are acquiring depth at corner, which was arguably their weakest position last year, but it doesn't sound like Paymah, Gordon or Sapp are long term answers, and Antoine Winfield Cedric Griffin are unrestricted free agents at the end of the year.

More on Paymah:
  • Access Vikings has a scouting report on Paymah after entering the NFL Draft.
  • The ESPN NFC North Blog has the analysis of Paymah from Scouts, Inc.
The Draft
  • The National Football Post has an interesting article on offensive linemen's reach and hand size and its effect on their performance.
  • New Mock Drafts: NFP has the Vikings taking WR Jeremy Maclin from Missouri in the first round, while SI has the Vikings taking WR/RB Percy Harvin from Florida and Draft Countdown has the Purple taking OT Eben Britton from Arizona with the 22nd pick and CB Sean Smith from Utah with the 54th pick.
  • Stay tuned to find out who I'll be taking for the Vikings in the No Logo Needed Mock Draft, but I can guarantee you it won't be a wide receiver.

No Logo Needed Mock Draft: 8th and 9th Picks

We had our first no show with the Jaguars, which means that the best prospect from Draftcountdown was selected. This may sounds like a bad thing, but just wait until you read the Packers' explanation for their 9th pick.

With the eighth pick, the Jacksonville Jaguars select:

B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College

According to DraftCountdown.com:

The Jags still haven’t adequately replaced Marcus Stroud so B.J. Raji could be an intriguing option at defensive tackle alongside John Henderson.

9th Pick

Since I'm so nice, I'll also include the 9th pick, a talented player who will be cursed to hatred by those that are righteous and to become the enemy of everything that is good in the world. Drafting on behalf of the Packers are the folks from Lombardi Ave.

With the ninth pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers select:

Brian Orakpo, DE/OLB, Texas

With the new 3-4 scheme in town, the Packers desperately need a good outside pass rusher to play opposite Aaron Kampman. Orakpo provides that strong force from the outside to succeed. All of the great 3-4 defenses in the NFL have "that guy" that can make plays, from James Harrison in Pittsburgh to Terrell Suggs in Baltimore. Orakpo will be able to help anchor the Packers linebacking corps for a long, long time.

Most people have the Packers picking Ohio State corner Malcolm Jenkins with this pick, including most "experts." While that makes sense given the age of starters Charles Woodson and Al Harris, there is still youth behind them. Tramon Williams (despite his contract situation) filled in admirably when Harris was out with the spleen injury in 2008 and the Packers drafted Pat Lee in the third round in 2008 as well. If they pick a corner, they'll do it in the second, third, or fourth rounds. We don't want another Ahmad Carroll on our hands.

The player I feel the Packers need the most is B.J. Raji from Boston College. Raji is big and strong, and can move decently. I feel he would provide a great anchor to the 3-4 scheme. None of the tackles the Packers have on the roster currently are the right type for Dom Capers' defense, and Raji could provide a Casey Hampton-like presence in the middle and be the nucleus of that defensive line and defense for years to come. However, I will take a terror from the outside in Orakpo as well.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

No Logo Needed Mock Draft--7th Pick

Next up in the No Logo Needed Mock Draft is Oakland Raiders, looking once again, for a player that can snap them out of their post-Gruden funk. Luckily for the Raiders (at least in this draft) Zombie Al Davis isn't the one making the pick--the folks from Silver and Black Pride are.

With the 7th pick in the No Logo Needed Mock Draft, the Oakland Raiders select:

Jeremy Maclin, Wide Receiver, Missouri

The Oakland Raiders have several needs for which they need to address including the offensive / defensive lines, wide receiver, linebacker and safety. With the two elite offensive tackles already off the board, the Raiders go with what some scouts peg as the top wide receiver in the draft Jeremy Maclin. Though Crabtree possess incredible talent, the Raiders love Maclin's elite speed, better known as "Raider Speed" in Al Davis speak. For the Raiders, with Javon Walker's health and reliability always a concern, they have no true # 1 wide receiver. The Raiders leading wide receiver last season was Johnnie Lee Higgins with 22 receptions for 366 yards. That just isn't going to cut it and opposing defenses are going to know that the Raiders will run first and often which will make them very predictable. Maclin's speed is the perfect antidote for that as he will stretch the field and allow strong-armed quarterback JaMarcus Russell to air it out and keep defenses honest. The Raiders were ranked dead last in passing offense last season and with the youth movement underway in Oakland, Maclin becomes a key piece of the Raiders future.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Solving Our Problems: Leonard Weaver

One of the issues that the Vikings had last year that isn't discussed all that often was their failure to sign a replacement for Tony Richardson at Fullback. It's not a glamorous position, or one that the fans really notice (me included). That being said, it was clear that Thomas Tapeh wasn't good enough (he was cut, if you recall) and Naufahu Tahi was pretty awful (as I said earlier, he's a horrible blocker who gained 37 receiving yards on 21 targets with a -77.4%DVOA and accumulated -77 DYAR).

And it looks like Vikings aren't going to settle on just bringing Tahi back (since he's, you know, bad) as they're interested in fullback Leonard Weaver of the Seahawks.

Weaver was an alternate for the Pro Bowl last year at 26, and he's a big dude, standing 6' tall and weighing 242lbs. In his four year career, he's rushed for 356 yards on 80 attempts, for an average of 4.5 yards per carry. 25 of those carries have gone for first downs, showing his ability to get the short yards (though he wasn't used much in the red zone, only scoring one touchdown in his career). According to Football Outsiders, he had -1 DYAR and a -9.0% DVOA on his 30 carries last year, and 40 DYAR and 16.0% DVOA on 33 carries the year before (not surprising to see fluctuations like that in such a small sample size).

He's a very good pass catcher as well, with 60 catches for 547 yards (9.7 YPC) and two touchdowns. Last year he finished with 45 DYAR and a 15.6% DVOA while catching 63% of the 32 passes thrown his way. The season before his 89 DYAR was 11th among running backs and his 17.3% DVOA was 14th. He also brought in 75% of the 52 passes thrown his way.

He has the statistics of a stud fullback, but in the Vikings offense, that's not enough. I asked the folks at Dave Krieg's Strike Beard for a scouting report and here's what they said:

"Leonard Weaver has been a fan favorite in Seattle since he arrived as an undrafted free agent in 2005 (at least among us football nerds). After
having injury problems in 2006 and nearly getting cut after a
disappointing 2007 preseason, 2008 was his breakout year (he was a Pro
Bowl Alternate). Here's the pros and cons on Weaver:

-Excellent receiver out of the backfield
-Exceptional pass blocker
-Effective rusher on the few carries he gets

CONS (from Seattle's perspective):
-Not an effective lead blocker in the running game
-The Seahawks drafted Owen Schmitt last year, who is more of a traditional
"bruiser" type of fullback
-Seattle has a new offensive coordinator in Greg Knapp, whose system
wouldn't seem to have a place for Weaver.

The vast majority of Seahawks fans want him to remain with the team, but
it's clear the front office only wants him back at a certain price and not
a nickel more.

My take? Leonard Weaver is a unique weapon in today's NFL, and would be a
great pick-up for the Vikings if they utilize him correctly; Just don't
expect him to be a battering ram for Purple Jesus. That just isn't his
skill set."

That assessment seems to match what the Vikings are looking for (though the fact he's not a great lead blocker isn't a good thing--but that's what Jim Kleinsasser is for). He's a solid pass blocker (so Childress will allow him to play in passing downs) that's also a pass catching threat out of the backfield (and we all know how much Childress likes the swing pass--might as well have them go to a player that can gain some yards instead of to Tahi) and who can convert short yardage situations. So he'd be a big upgrade from Tahi. And while that's not necessarily saying too much (though Weaver sounds like a solid player), it's important to try and upgrade your entire roster when you have the chance. Weaver's an upgrade, which means if he's at all reasonable contract wise, he'd be a good acquisition.

No Logo Needed Mock Draft--6th Pick

Next up in the mock draft is Bengal Stripes, picking on behalf of the Cincinnati Bengals. There's still some very interesting players available for a team that bottomed out last season and lost some of their better players during the off season (you may remember something about a T.J. Whoseyourmama visiting the Vikings. So who does the best informed Bengals fan in the Universe want to be the newest Bengal? Read on...

With the sixth pick of the 2009 NFL Draft the Cincinnati Bengals select…

Jason Smith, offensive tackle, Baylor

Don’t expect the phone to ring very much in the Bengals' war room and if it does I don’t expect anyone to answer it.

If Jason Smith falls to Cincinnati at No. 6, there will be no complaints from any coach, player or fan in the Queen City when the Bengals gobble him up.

Ever since the combine, Smith has climbed up draft boards due to his excellent interviews and also because Alabama OT Andre Smith’s early exit from the event last month.

In the 2009 NFL Draft, the Bengals are in a unique position in that they need everything.

However, the team needs an offensive tackle more than ever after cutting longtime starting right tackle Willie Anderson before the start of the 2008 season.

On the other side, Cincinnati’s left tackle Levi Jones hasn’t been the same player fans fell in love with him in the early portion of this decade. Through his first four seasons with the Bengals Jones played in 63 of Cincinnati’s 64 regular season games, including 60 of which he started. The last three seasons, Jones played in 31 of the team’s 48 regular season games and started only 28.

On top of all that, last year’s franchise player Stacy Andrews signed a long-term deal to play with his bro in Philadelphia on the first day of free agency.

If the season would start today, it would appear that 2008 fourth-round pick Anthony Collins would be the starter at left tackle and left guard Andrew Whitworth would probably start at right tackle.

Nate Livings would then take Whitworth’s old spot at guard, with a mystery man filling in at center.

It is pretty obvious that the Bengals o-line is the team’s messiest area.

Getting Smith would instantly would upgrade Cincinnati.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Solving our Problems: Kevin Shaffer

After Jordan Gross and Vernon Carey re-signed with their teams, it seemed like the Vikings were going to have to address the right side of their line through the draft. The tackles available in free agency were either old, had injury issues or both. Any long term answer was going to have to come from the draft. That might not be true anymore, as the Cleveland Browns just released their starting right tackle, Kevin Shaffer. Of course, I might be wasting my time on this post, just like I wasted my time on a post about Vernon Carey, as Shaffer is considering re-signing with the Browns for a smaller contract than before.

If he does decide to enter free agency, however, the Vikings should jump on him. First off, he has a ridiculous beard. Look at it and tell me you don't want him in Purple:

Secondly, he's relatively young, just turning 29 last week. And he can both run and pass block (two skills Ryan Cook doesn't have). He moved from left to right tackle to accommodate #3 pick Joe Thomas in 2007 showed that he was much more effective on the right side. And since then, when the Browns have run to the right, they've been successful. In 2007, they averaged 4.73 Adjusted Line Yards running over the right tackle and 5.03 ALY running to the right end, the 3rd and 2nd most yards in the NFL respectively. In 2008, they averaged 4.64 ALY and 4.59 ALY, the 7th and 6th best totals in the league. In contrast, the Vikings were 21st in ALY to the right tackle and 28th to the right end in 2007 and 28th and 8th to the right end (remember, the tight end is equally important in plays to right end) in 2008.

While its hard to isolate Shaffer's pass blocking from the rest of his linemates, odds are he was a very good pass blocker, because the Browns just did not give up sacks the past two years. In 2007, they were 5th in Adjusted Sack Rate, only allowing 19 sacks all year, and in 2008 they were 8th, allowing only 25 sacks. The Vikings, in contrast were 28th in ASR the past two years, allowing 38 and 43 sacks in 2007 and 2008 respectively.

Kevin Shaffer, like Vernon Carey, would be a very good answer to the Vikings' troubles at right tackle. He'd also free up Ryan Cook to challenge John Sullivan for the starting job at center, give Tarvaris (or Sage) some more time to throw the ball and allow the Vikings to successfully run the ball to the right. If he doesn't re-sign with the Browns, the Vikings need to do everything they can to bring Shaffer to Winter Park and get him signed.

[All statistics courtesy of Football Outsiders]

No Logo Needed Mock Draft--5th Pick

The picks are coming fast and furious now. The Browns never made that next step after a successful 2007, which has them pick in the top ten for the 7th time in the 11th drafts since they returned to Cleveland. Drafting on behalf of the Mangenius are the good folks from No Logo Needed that organized this mock draft.

With the fifth pick in the draft, the Cleveland Browns select:

Rey Maualuga, LB, USC

A big reason behind why we decided to start this mock draft was because we were annoyed at the national media. Most mock drafts on the NFL Network and ESPN has the Browns selecting Malcolm Jenkins.

Sure, the Browns need help on defense and the secondary was inconsistent, but the cornerback position is the least of the team's problems. In 2008, the Browns defense allowed an average of 151.9 yards rushing per game. The Browns lost to the Bengals 14-0 on Dec. 21 as Cedric Benson ran for 171 yards on 38 carries and back-up quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was 5-for-9 passing for 55 yards.

First and foremost, the Browns need to look to trade down and obtain some more draft picks. This will prove impossible since that’s the goal of most teams. The Browns also would be interested in Aaron Curry, but he is long gone.

With new coach Eric Mangini, the Browns will stick with the 3-4. So linebacker is the Browns' biggest need in the draft. The Browns need an edge pass rusher to fill Willie McGinest's position, but outside linebacker is one of the deepest positions in this draft. That brings us to the void in the middle of the defense left by the departure of Andre Davis.

Maualuga is a nasty middle linebacker, the type of player that can bring attitude to a defense that sorely needs an identity. He is built perfectly to line up in the 3-4. Peter King called him Ray Lewis, Jr. and Jon Gruden said Maualuga is the type of player to build a defense around.

Maualuga is known for his big hits and aggressive style of play. That should fit perfectly on the strong side of the Browns 3-4 defense next to D'Qwell Jackson. Pairing Jackson's sideline-to-sideline speed with Maualuga's power behind the mammoth Shaun Rogers, should make the Browns strong up the middle and help them slow down the opposition's rushing attack.

Can you name a Pro Bowl defensive lineman or cornerback from the successful 3-4 defense in Pittsburgh? In Baltimore? No. But you can reel off a list of who's who of linebackers. It's time the Browns start making the some names of their own.

And another highlight video, just because:

No Logo Needed Mock Draft--4th Pick

After a rough year filled with injuries the Seahawks are looking to jump back into contention, something that shouldn't be too hard, considering they play in the NFC West. They've had a good off season, bringing in T.J. Houshmandzadeh and defensive tackle Colin Cole. They have a chance to add yet another quality piece with the fourth pick. Dave Krieg's Strike Beard is making the pick on behalf of Seattle.

With the fourth pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks select:

Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech

I don't really like college football. Any sport that doesn't have a playoff system won't easily win my attention or respect, so I don't follow the game that closely. Under normal circumstances, I'd tell you that blogs like Field Gulls, Seahawk Addicts or Seahawks Draft Blog could give you a
better, more informed opinion than I could.

But these are not normal circumstances, and Michael Crabtree is not a typical player. Even after addressing our desperate need at WR by signing T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seattle will select the best player available: The game-breaking Crabtree.

As an NFC West fan, I get to watch Larry Fitzgerald torch my Seahawks twice a year. In 2008, I got the added bonus of watching Fitz almost carry Arizona to a World Championship. Housh isn't Fitz. Neither is Branch or Burleson... Hell, even Steve Largent wasn't the dominant big-play threat that Fitzgerald is right now.

Even with his foot surgery, and even after being revealed as 6'1" instead of 6'3", drafting Crabtree is the best shot the Seahawks will have over the next few years to get "their Fitzgerald."

Selecting Crabtree isn't just a "build for the future" move, either. With Housh across from him, a (hopefully) healthy Branch in the slot, budding Pro-Bowler John Carlson at TE, and Matt Hasselbeck throwing the ball, Crabtree could make an immediate impact as Seattle's "home run" threat.

The Seahawks aim to return to the top of the NFC West in 2009. Michael Crabtree is the player most likely to help make that happen in this year's draft class.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

No Logo Needed Mock Draft--3rd Pick

The No Logo Draft marches on. With Stafford and Eugene Monroe off the board, the Chiefs are up. They've had a very productive off season, adding new management, a new coach and a new quarterback, but aside from Cassel, the player the Chiefs choose is going to be the center piece of their rebuilding effort. Making the pick on behalf of the Chiefs is The KC Chiefs News.

With the third pick of the 2009 NFL draft, the Kansas City Chiefs select:

Aaron Curry, OLB, Wake Forest

Having addressed their quarterback need in the Matt Cassel trade, look for the Chiefs to address the other side of the ball with the third overall pick. Todd Haley could be tempted to draft a wide receiver (Crabtree) given his coaching history but Linebacker remains their most pressing need on defense, besides defensive end. This being a weak draft for defensive end, linebacker Aaron Curry is the most logical pick for the chiefs.

The chiefs have declined to re-sign starting linebackers Rocky Boiman and Pat Thomas and have released veteran Donnie Edwards making them somewhat thin at the position. They have traded for Mike Vrabel, which would obviously be a great mentor for the young Curry.

The Wake Forest product is an absolute must if the Chiefs plan to move to a 3-4 defense, Curry on one side and Derrick Johnson on the other would provide the necessary pass rushing personnel for a team that set the record for the least amount of sacks in a season.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

No Logo Needed Mock Draft (1st and 2nd Pick)

Due to the insane amount of knowledge that I know about the Vikings, and my amazing draft skillz (yes, that "z" was on purpose, and yes, it was appropriate), the folks at No Logo Needed (an amazing Cleveland Browns blog, for those of you who picked the AFC version of the Vikings as their second favorite team) asked me to participate in a mock draft. Now, I'll be doing my normal previews of the various prospects that the Vikings' might draft, but I couldn't pass up an opportunity to show that I'm smarter than Brad Childress and make the 22nd selection for the Vikings.

Now, due to a really busy day at work (and really, my week is swamped, so having some free content is nice), I wasn't able to post the first selection in the draft yesterday. The picks are going once every 24 hours (but sometimes sooner than that, because all of the folks participating are better at this than Mike Tice), so I'll be posting them as soon as I get them (with some analysis every couple of picks or so). And these guys are good--I mean, you know you care a lot (and therefore likely know a lot) if you're writing about the Lions, or Rams, or any of those other teams that just aren't as good as the Purple (zing!). So, without further ado, the mock draft.

With the first pick of the 2009 NFL draft, on behalf of the Detroit Lions, the Wayne Fontes Experience, a great blog to check out if you want to learn more about our NFC North "competitor", selects:

Matthew Stafford, QB, University of Georgia

Why Stafford? The Lions current quarterback depth chart reads as follows:

1. Daunte Culpepper (Hasn't had a good season in 5 years, played at a weight close to 3 bills in '08)
2. Drew Stanton (Not good enough to outplay Dan "Ran out of the end zone" Orlovsky for the number 2 in '08, is on the cusp of "BUST" status)
3. Drew Henson (Seriously?)

That's why the Lions pick Stafford.

They have needs all over the field, on both sides of the ball. I was tempted to make a "safe" pick, such as an OT like Baylor's Jason Smith or Virginia's Eugene Monroe, or Wake Forest LB Aaron Curry. All project to be first line players, long-time starters. But the need for a quality QB, something the Lions haven't had since the glory days of Bobby Layne, is just too glaring. Stafford is the highest rated quarterback in the draft, and has the skill set to become an impact player.

The fact the Lions have drafted outright 1st round disasters at quarterback like Joey Harrington, Andre Ware and Chuck Long over the past 20 years, and Matt Millen went on a drunken skill player binge during his tenure (only Calvin Johnson remains in Detroit), cannot deter GM Martin Mayhew and head coach Jim Schwartz from addressing their greatest need, that being a franchise player under center.

Plus, the Lions do have the 20th pick of the 1st round, and the 1st pick of the 2nd, so other needs can be easily addressed later in the draft.
With the second pick of the 2009 NFL No Logo Needed Draft, the St. Louis Rams select:

Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia

According to DraftCountdown.com:

It's common knowledge that the Rams have been aching to address their offensive line for a while now and unlike last year, when Jake Long was selected one pick ahead of them, they should have no trouble landing a top blocker in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Orlando Pace has been one of the best in the business for more than a decade but he is now in his mid-30's and injuries have really begun to take their toll. On the other side, former first round pick Alex Barron continues to disappoint and the Rams would like nothing more than to bring in a capable replacement.

Eugene Monroe might not be as flashy as some of the other top offensive tackles in this draft but he has a very good chance to be the first blocker off the board. Not only is Monroe a terrific all-around player who can be effective as both a pass and run blocker but he is also a much safer choice than a guy like Andre Smith because there are no concerns about his size, position or character. Monroe may not have as much upside as Andre Smith or Jason Smith but his floor is a lot higher and that's a good thing when you're talking about giving a guy $30 million in guaranteed money.

Don't discount the value of program pedigree either and Monroe is following in the footsteps of former Cavaliers D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Branden Albert, who have both handled the transition to the next level well.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Sullivan Era Begins (Hopefully)

Matt Birk has signed with the Ravens, which means that next year the Vikings line will be led by second year center John Sullivan. I don't know enough about offensive line play to know how big an effect this will have on the Vikings' line, but everyone seems to agree that Birk played quite well last year. Mike Lombardi thinks it's going to be a big deal for the Purple, but the real question is not whether Birk was let go a year (or two) too early (and it's better to let someone go a year too early than a year too late), but whether John Sullivan can play as well as Birk did.

And yes, he's young, but what people are forgetting is that Birk was once unproven too. He became the Vikings starting center in his third year, replacing Pro Bowler Jeff Christy, who had signed with the Buccaneers. And everyone was worried about the young, unproven Birk taking over for the experienced Christy. Of course, everyone had forgotten that Christy had been unproven when he became the Vikings' starting center in his second season.

And let's not forget--the Vikings' line wasn't that great last year. According to Football Outsiders, they were only 15th in adjusted line yards and 28th in Adjusted Sack Rate. And while Birk played well last year, the Vikings still had trouble running the ball up the middle, finishing 19th in rushing yards on runs between the guards.

So if the Vikings' think Sullivan can step in for Birk and play as well as he did last year, that's good enough reason for me not to be too worried. As Kevin Seifert points out, if they'd wanted to extend him, they would have done so earlier. I'd feel a little better if they had found a better right tackle in free agency (which at this point likely will have to happen through the draft, though there are some short term solutions available) so that Ryan Cook could back up both center and right tackle, rather than start, but that hasn't happened yet. Either way, the Purple were going to have to replace Birk at some point, which is why they drafted Sullivan last year.

More on Birk's signing:
  • John Sullivan speaks with Access Vikings
  • Joe Flacco is excited to play with his new center
  • Randball chronicles the timeline of Birk's free agency

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Killing Time: No Cutler, No Nobody

The Broncos are insisting that Jay Cutler is not available for trade. Not really all that surprising (Let's be honest--there isn't a person in a front office position in any sport willing to take the risk of trading a 25 year old Pro Bowler under contract for three more years), but still disappointing. I guess it was a nice dream while it lasted.

And now that the dream has withered in the sun, the Vikings no longer have a chance to make a significant upgrade to their team via free agency. While they were busy pursuing Housh and Cutler (and resigning Jim Kleinsasser), almost every player they could have pursued signed somewhere else without even visiting Winter Park. And, if they're not careful, they might lose Matt Birk as well (though whether its a good idea to re-sign the 32 year old center is a whole other issue).

I liked that the Vikings' made a play for Housh and that they tried to trade for Cutler. And the Rosenfels trade does upgrade the quarterback position, even if it only brings it up to "slightly-below average". But the Vikings need to upgrade the right side of their offensive line, they need more depth at cornerback and defensive tackle and they need someone to return punts and possibly kicks (if they don't trust Darius Reynaud to stay healthy). And they haven't even hosted a single player that might address those needs.

It was obvious that the Vikings wouldn't be able to address all of their needs via free agency. But it was also obvious that they wouldn't be able to do so via the draft also (they just have too many needs). And at this point, it looks like the draft is the only option they have left, which means that, one year after a hugely successful foray into free agency, the Vikings failed to make any real improvements during free agency because they didn't try hard enough.