Category Archives: NFL Draft 2014

Poisitinally Speaking

-Chris Schisler

So there I am, eating leftover pepperoni and sausage pizza and waking up watching NFL Network’s NFLAM. There was some intersting football talk, once they got past the mandatory Manziel report. (They called him the new Tebow. This is stupid because he is the anti-Tebow. That’s alright though, as Billy Joel so eloquently sang “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.” Manziel has talent, Tebow’s career died young). The interesting part though was when they discussed Eric Ebron’s comments on hybrid positions. They played a clip where Detroit’s rookie tight end essentially stated that the new age tight ends are receivers than anything else. And that there needs to be a hybrid position for tight ends who can all of the sudden catch.

Tight ends have changed over the years but someone needs to teach Eric Ebron some history. Ozzie Newsome had 662 receptions and 47 touchdowns in his playing career that lasted from 1978-1990. Mike Ditka had 427 receptions and 43 touchdowns in the 60’s and 70’s. John Mackey of the Baltimore Colts had 331 receptions and 38 touchdowns from 1963-1972. While tight ends have evolved into a bigger part of the passing game, tight ends catching passes is nothing new.

However there is a point to Ebron’s comments and as usual it comes down to money. Jimmy Graham of the saints is fighting his franchise tag designation of tight end. He claims that he plays more as a wide receiver. He has a point as he very rarely blocks and catches over 80 passes a season. The Saints have him lined out as a wide receiver routinely and he is usually flexed out like a slot receiver. Graham would make more money designated as a tight end. The wide receiver tag is roughly $12 million dollars, the tight end tag is roughly $7 million dollars. This is a substantial difference.

Tight ends are not alone in this however. Some outside linebackers routinely align as a defensive end. Starting corners are sometimes played in the nickel position. 4-3 defensive ends tend to make mire money than 3-4 defensive ends because they get more sacks. The tight end is not the only position with this problem, rather they are the position that has taken this spot light.

So what should be done? Everything hinges on Jimmy Graham. If Graham’s grievance works and he gets his way, well then its a brand new ball game. If Graham is told to stop whining and be a tight end nothing will change. Graham is more valuable to the Saints than any receiver. He has a point but will likely lose the battle. Tight ends by nature are a jack of all trades. They can block and they can catch. They are allowed to line up next to the offensive tackle, as a receiver, even in the backfield. The definition of tight end is broad in the first place and there are different kinds of tight ends. This does not help Graham’s case. He may be revolutionizing the position but I doubt he changes the way tight ends get paid under a franchise tag.

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A Look at Crockett Gillmore

Chris Schisler

The Ravens drafted Crockett Gillmore in the 3rd round and they got quite a promising player. Besides having an awesome name, Crockett Gillmore has a lot of potential. Gillmore is a physical, big bodied tight end from Colorado State. Many Ravens fans seemed upset by the Gillmore pick. My guess is that they really didn’t know anything about him- people don’t like what they don’t know. If you did not know Gillmore though watching the third round of the draft was probably not for you. Gillmore was on national television a handful of times this past football season, including a bowl game, the East West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl. Gillmore impressed in each of these times in the national spotlight.

With Dennis Pitta and Owen Daniels as established receivers at the tight end position, Gillmore figures to be the prototypical blocking tight end. Instantly Gillmore becomes the best blocker in the Ravens tight end group. He will make a big impact in the Ravens running game. Gary Kubiak will not be afraid to get the 6’6″ rookie involved in the offense as he favors heavy use of tight ends.

Crockett Gillmore may be the designated blocking tight end but don’t let this designation fool you. Gillmore could blossom into quite the playmaker for Baltimore. With solid hands and an ability to go get the football up in the air he will catch his fair share of Joe Flacco passes. His size may make him a great threat in the red zone.

While he is not a speed demon by any stretch of the imagination, Gillmore is hard to bring down in the open field. He is fearless much in the way Todd Heap was in the middle of the field. The biggest strength of Gillmore’s game is in fact his strength. He needs to work on his route running and is not quite a finished product yet.

The Ravens took Crockett Gillmore eyeing the future. Dennis Pitta is the stud of the tight end group, with Daniels being an interesting (and familiar) weapon for Gary Kubiak. The biggest question mark with the Ravens tight end group is the durability of Owen Daniels and Pitta both coming off injury plagued seasons. Gillmore may have to step up if one of the Ravens veteran tight ends gets hurt.

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A Look at Michael Campanaro

The Ravens traded into the seventh round to draft Michael Campanaro. Baltimore got an absolute steal as some considered him a day 2 talent. Campanaro has drawn comparisons to Wes Welker as a crafty slot who excels at gaining yards after the catch. The Ravens may have found a diamond in the rough in Michael Campanaro.

Campanaro has very reliable hands and he was Wake Forest’s go-to-guy.
He was highly productive with 2,506 receptions and 14 touchdown receptions in four years. He was the guy the Wake Forest offense went to on critical third downs. His most impressive statistic is the 10.9 yards per reception. Many of those receptions were on short routes, his knack for YAC cannot be overstated.

Campanaro fell down the draft boards because he is strictly a slot receiver. His 5’11” frame does not make him suited to play out wide. Campanaro has a defined skill-set; if you let him play to that skill-set he can be a dangerous playmaker. The 5’11” 195 pound body is a little deceiving however as he is hard to take down.

Campanaro is a highly intelligent football player. He is great at finding the window of zone coverages and sitting in it. If you play soft coverage against him, Flacco will gladly let him tear your defense apart. Michael Campanaro can make catches in coverage and plays the game with no fear of getting hit.

If the Ravens use him right, he will be a valuable contributor to the offense. If they ask him to do things out of his comfort zone he may struggle to make the team. It seems doubtful the Ravens would trade back into the 7th round to get him if they were not intrigued by his skill-set. The Ravens may have found a crafty difference maker in the slot.

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A Look at Lorenzo Taliaferro

It is not unforeseeable that the Baltimore Ravens will ask Lorenzo Taliaferro to be a big contributor as a rookie. Ray Rice is facing a suspension. Bernard Pierce is coming off an injury and has never been the feature back. Justin Forsett is a decent player but is no superstar. With Baltimore’s backfield, its an all hands on deck mentality. Lets take a look at the Ravens rookie running back.

I’d be lying to say that I watch a lot of Coastal Carolina football. I had to dig up as much video as I could. It was not easy but I found several highlight videos. So here is what I know so far:

Lorenzo Taliaferro has a big 6’2″ 230 pound body. This is both a positive and a negative. His size and strength naturally make him hard to bring down. However he runs too high making it easier for linebackers to tackle him. Taliaferro is a natural runner, he can make defenders miss as if he feels them coming. With great leg drive he can push a pile and is well suited for goal line carries.

Taliaferro played against a lot of weak competition at Coastal Carolina. The defenders almost seemed afraid of him, an advantage he won’t have in the NFL. One thing that will help him is his strengths suit the passing game. He understands his role in pass protection and is a strong blocker. In one highlight I watched, Taliaferro picked up a blitzing linebacker and changed the backer’s direction twice. Now the QB got sacked, he could not seem to get rid of the ball and the line blocked no one. It might have been a negative play for the team but I was impressed with Taliaferro’s ability to pick up the blitz and his ability to stay with the pass rusher without holding losing his footing. Taliaferro is a good receiver out of the backfield. Running backs who can block and catch will always be able to find playing time.

If there is one critique of Taliaferro is that he does not make something out of nothing. If you block it for four yards he will get the four yards, thats what kind of back he is. He is a downhill and inpatient runner, who does not look for the cutback- this will have to change in the Kubiak/Castillo running game. I love his vision in the open field- as I said he is an instinctive runner. This makes me think its mostly a coaching error leading to this lack of backfield vision. This means that it is fixable.

Here are some of the videos I watched to analyze Taliaferro
http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=7q0KQyFxGsE
http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=10137252
http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=10913049

Will The Texans Regret Their Draft

With major questions about their quarterbacks the Texans may regret passing on potential franchise quarterbacks Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater. The Texans may have pick the best overall player with the number one selection; but addressing their need for a QB may have been better for the team. Lets examine the situation and determine the chances Houston ends up regretting their actions in the 2014 NFL Draft.

The Texans drafted the super-freak athlete, Jadeveon Clowney with the first pick of the draft. The dynamic DE/OLB figures to play opposite of the dominant JJ Watt. Watt is one of the best defensive linemen in all off football. The Texans also drafted defensive tackle, Louis Nix III. The Texans may have taken an already good front seven and made it scary good.

Its one thing to draft the best player available, its another thing entirely to ignore your biggest need. Houston draft screamed of arrogance. They must think that they are so uniquely special that they can win without good play from their quarterback.

Right now the Texans quarterback situation is bleak-and that is generous. They can start Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum or their 4th round pick Tom Savage. Fitzpatrick has an average arm and forces late throws- a recipe for disaster. Its hard to have faith in Keenum after a far from pretty 2013 performance. Savage is not even close to ready. Like I said bleak is a generous describer of Houston’s quarterback situation.

It looks like it is really a two horse race for the starting job. They could favor the experience of Ryan Fitzpatrick. That being said, Savage will compete for the job. I did not have a high grade on the Pitt Panther. In fact I did not have him as a draft-able quarterback. To my dismay Savage climbed up draft boards late in the draft process. He has some talent but I was not impressed with his accuracy, footwork or his ability to read defenses and swiftly go through progressions. Savage is a project. Its that simple. If this was Bill O’Brien’s answer at quarterback he was wrong.

To the notion that none of the big three quarterbacks were worth the number 1 selection, I say who cares. I had very high grades on both Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel- it would be hard to call them egregious reaches at pick number 1. The accepted business practice in the NFL is stopping at nothing to find and secure your franchise quarterback. If you learn one thing from Kaepernick’s astronomical contract, its that teams will overpay in the present to secure a stable future under center.

The Texans were not stupid to add to their defensive front. A good way to deal with their secondary problems is to add fuel to their pass rush. Clowney, Watt and company will have a chance to lead the league in sacks. You cannot double team both Clowney and Watt, at least not consistently. The Texans will get great pass rush and stuff the run. Quarterback hurries will lead to turnovers. Long story short, the Texans have a chance to be dominating defensively.

Still the Texans need capable quarterback play. Without a legitimate quarterback is hard to take any team seriously. If the Texans found a quarterback they could win a Super Bowl soon. Clowney will be a great player but will never be able to match the value of a true franchise quarterback.

NFL Draft Steals Part 1

The buzz of the NFL draft has faded some, but there is much more to discuss. Today I want to talk about the steals of the draft. To get a “steal” a team must get a good player who exceeds the value of that draft pick.

1.) Baltimore Ravens: CJ Mosley, Terrance Brooks, Michael Campanaro

The Ravens got a top 10 talent in CJ Mosley at 17. He will start right away, next to Darryl Smith in the Ravens 3-4. Terrance Brooks is probably a day 1 starter, he is an incredible athlete. I had a second round grade on him and was surprised when Baltimore did not take him in the second round. To get him in the third round is simply incredible. Campanaro is a gem in the seventh round. He is a Wes Welker type of player. He has potential and there is time for him to develop in a strong receiving group.

2.) Cincinnati Bengals: Darqueeze Dennard CB Michigan State

I thought Dennard was the best cornerback in this draft class and two went before him. He is a technically sound savvy corner, with ball skills. I think he could be an interception machine in the NFL.

3.) Carolina Panthers: Kony Ealy DE Missouri (60th overall selection)

Ealy might be the second best defensive end in this draft class and was definitely a first round talent. Ealy went in round 1 in just about everyone’s mock draft. The Panthers got him near the end of round 2.

4.) Green Bay Packers: Hasean Clinton-Dix, Devante Adams

I thought Clinton-Dix was a top 15 talent. The Packers got him at pick 21. Devante Adams was a potential first round pick. He is a tall receiver with a good frame and a great vertical jump. With the 53rd selection, Green Bay got an instant red zone threat.

5.) Washington Redskins: Morgan Moses OT Virginia

I considered Moses to be the fourth ranked tackle by a landslide. 8 tackles were taken in front of Moses. Moses could have been a late first round pick in my evaluation but fell to the early third.

Rookie QB’s: Sit em or Start em

-Chris Schisler

When NFL teams draft a quarterback of the future, the question is when do they let the future begin. Starting an unpolished rookie risks making him spoiled goods. The Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings as well as the Oakland Raiders all believe they have just found their savior under center. It is an exciting time in these 4 NFL cities. The decision they make could either pay off big time or haunt them for years to come.

It used to be common for teams to give their rookie QB time to develop. Things started to change in 2008, when Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, led their teams to the playoffs in their rookie season.Teams began to start their quarterbacks right away.

In 2009, the New York Jets started Mark Sanchez right away. The Jets went to back to back AFC championships. The Jets were winning but Sanchez was a very flawed passer. The Jets surrounded their quarterback with a pound it out running offense & the comfort of a dominant defense. The Jets kept believing that Sanchez could be a star, ignoring his shortcomings. Sanchez regressed to a butt fumbling level and the Jets replaced him. The Jets came into the 2013 season at square one with Geno Smith. Geno Smith did so poorly in his rookie season that the Jets signed Michael Vick this offseason.

The league did not realize that Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco were exceptions to the rule. Teams looked for QB’s to get on the field training; they rationalized it by saying “what’s he going to learn on the bench?” There are some success stories such as Cam Newton, Russell Wilson & Andrew Luck but there are just as many Blaine Gabbert like nightmares.

There are less people qualified to be an NFL quarterback than any other job in the world. The physical and cerebral workload is incredible. The quarterback is the leader of the team and ideally is the most football obsessed amongst the players. They get all the credit in victory and all the blame in defeat. Think about the teams that win; they all have good QB’s. Teams have to be picky about who they put under center. If a rookie quarterback is going to start he has to earn it and be capable. Many teams draft a quarterback with a high ceiling in terms of potential and ruin him on the field too early. Everyone looks at the Flacco’s and Matt Ryan’s of the world. Why does nobody look at Aaron Rodgers. He had to sit behind Brett Favre; that worked out pretty good.

No matter how you slice it a rookie quarterback is a project. This years crop is a great example. Blake Bortles has a prototypical QB body and supreme arm talent. That said his footwork is messy at best, this affects the timing and accuracy of his passes-he struggles to read a defense when he is in the pocket and us only comfortable when rolling out. Johnny Football is not without his flaws. He has a lazy drop back, makes bad reads-uses his legs to get him out of the trouble he got himself in and forces late throws in the red zone. These two quarterbacks can make every throw and have an amazing amount of talent but I don’t think either one is ready. It’s not the ability, its the lack of fundamentals in their game.

The Browns would be best suited to sit their rookie passer on the sideline. They must remember the future is what is important. Manziel needs to develop a disciplined approach to football. If he tries the headless chicken-make magic out of nothing routine in the NFL he may get himself killed. Brian Hoyer deserves a chance to at least prove he can start in the league. The future is important to Cleveland they have been bad for a long time.

The Jaguars don’t expect to start Blake Bortles this year. Sure he could win the job, but they will only play him if he is truly ready. This is an organization that went through growing pains with Blaine Gabbert; they have learned from this experience. Chad Henne showed flashes of decent play last season. The Jaguars don’t need to rush things, they don’t expect to be great over night. They are rebuilding not rehashing their past mistakes.

Teddy Bridgewater however could start on day one. Bridgewater ran a savvy offense at Louisville like a well oiled machine. I had him rated as the best quarterback prospect; he was a total steal as the first rounds last pick. Bridgewater read defenses like a pro in college. Like Bortles and Manziel, Bridgewater has the ability to beat you with his legs. However Teddy uses his legs to extend plays, keeping his eyes downfield remaining a passer. Its funny that Bortles gets compared to Ben Roethlisberger based on size. Teddy Bridgewater plays the game mostly comparable to Roethlisberger; extending plays and connecting on deep bombs. The Vikings got a guy who is ready & they have no time to waste. Adrian Peterson is human so he won’t last forever.

I am not high on Derrick Carr, I never really have been. He has a tremendous arm, the physical tools are there. I can’t help but see Kyle Boller in Derrick Carr. I think it is so easy to fall in love with a cannon arm that we overlook signs of trouble. for Oakland’s sake I am wrong. I think Carr was very sheltered at Fresno State. The QB friendly spread offense and lower level of competition concerns me. His mechanics concern me. Getting blown out by USC in Fresno State’s Bowl game concerns me. Carr has the physical tools but I am not convinced he can do it at the next level. I don’t foresee patience for the Oakland Raiders. Matt Schuab is a shell of hus former self and a mere placeholder at quarterback. I predicted Carr to be a bust- an opinion many people have bashed me for. Now that I know he is a Raider, I am even more convinced.

There is no right or wrong approaches here. Everything depends on the situation. A team should absolutely start a rookie if he has earned it and is ready. Sitting your QB does not insure success. However starting him before he is ready is a good way to make him spoiled goods. Its a slippery slope that the respective NFL head coaches must be aware of.

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