Apr 292013
 

Tim TebowIf only someone could have predicted that it would all turn out this way. Oh wait…

The Jets cut Tim Tebow, their sixth string quarterback, early this morning, thus proving that while many fans believe that Tebow can walk on water, he can’t tread it on an NFL roster.

Tebow was getting ready for an early morning workout at the Jets’ facility this morning when GM John Idzik and Head Coach Rex Ryan told him the news. The Jets had held on to Tebow all the way through the draft with the irrational hope that someone would be willing to part with even a seventh round pick for the former University of Florida star, but it was not to be. In a statement released by Ryan, he said, “We have a great deal of respect for Tim Tebow. Unfortunately, things did not work out the way we all had hoped.  Tim is an extremely hard worker, evident by the shape he came back in this offseason.  We wish him the best moving forward.”

Teams are all now lining up to say that they are not interested in Tebow. New England is widely believed to be one possible landing spot, if Patriots’ Head Coach Bill Belichick can convince Tebow to abandon his desire to play quarterback, as the Patriots would be able to put Tebow’s ferocity to use as a hybrid tight end/running back. Belichick scouted Tebow hard prior to the 2010 draft, even taking him out to dinner in Boston, plus Belichick shares a close relationship with Urban Meyer, Tebow’s former coach in Gainesville. Throw in Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels as the guy who drafted Tebow in Denver, and it certainly looks like a possibility. Chicago has also been mentioned as a possible landing spot, though the Bears say they are not interested. However, if Tebow hangs on to the belief that he is a starting quarterback, he will likely have to look north to the CFL in the hopes of establishing himself as a serious quarterback.

Apr 272013
 

Jamie CollinsOnce again, the New England Patriots traded out of the first round in order to secure more picks and then proceeded to baffle the “experts” with their selections, drawing twice from the secondary at Rutgers. The Patriots targeted defense and wide receivers, which was widely expected prior to the raft. Let’s take an early look at the Patriots’ 2013 draft selections.

Second Round

Pick 20 (52nd overall) – Jamie Collins, OLB, Southern Mississippi

The Patriots passed up my fave pass rusher in SMU’s Margus Hunt, who was taken with the next pick by Cincinnati. So what do the Patriots get in Collins? According to Mike Mayock, Collins is “one of the most explosive edge rushers in this draft. He’ll line up, stick his hands in the dirt and get his hands in the quarterback.” If that is true it would certainly be music to Bill Belichick’s ears, as the Pats could use a pass rusher opposite Chandler Jones to apply consistent pressure to the quarterback. However, if the Patriots plan to use Collins as a linebacker, they will need to coach him up on keeping track of his place in coverage. Collins has a lean fame that he is still growing into, and has quick feet, having converted to linebacker from the safety position. Collins smells like a boom or bust candidate for the Pats.

Pick 27 (59th overall) – Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall

Donson is quite possibly the best sleeper receiver of the draft, and is the best wide receiver prospect to come out of Marshall since Randy Moss; not that Dobson has Moss’ talent. Dobson looks more like a cross between Brandon Lloyd and Sidney Rice, and has the potential to fill the Patriots’ glaring need at X receiver.  “He’s big, he’s fast, he’s got good hands, he’s a strong player,” Belichick said of Dobson. “Smart, very smart. He has some position flexibility and versatility. Catches the ball very well.” Like Lloyd, Dobson is not a burner, but will make acrobatic catches. He seems like a better bet than the other second round receivers taken during the Belichick era, but time will tell.

Third Round

Pick 21 (83rd overall) – Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers

Ryan is an aggressive and physical corner with good size. He is not a burner and still needs to work on his technique. Ryan has a habit of not turning his head to find the ball, a flaw that Patriots’ fans are too familiar with. Still, Belichick sees a lot of raw talent in Ryan. “He’s been very productive. He’s one of the most productive corners in the draft,” Belichick said. “He’s been in a very good system. He’s been well-coached, knows his techniques well, he’s an instinctive player. He’s tough, a good tackler.”

Pick 29 (91st overall) – Duron Harmon, S Rutgers

Word is that Belichick and other coaches went to Rutgers looking at Logan Ryan, and then fell in love with Duron Harmon. According to Mike Mayock, “Bill Belichick knows that school like few coaches do. I had him on my board late as a late-priority free agent. I got on him late when I saw some cut-ups. I moved him up my board because I went, ‘Wow.'” Harmon is this year’s annual surprise pick by Belichick, and was not invited to the NFL Combine. Harmon is considered a high character guy, and becomes the third player from Rutgers in the Patriots’ secondary, joining Ryan and safety Devin McCourty. For the moment, he appears to add depth at the strong safety spot.

Fourth Round

Pick 5 (102nd overall) – Josh Boyce, WR, TCU

Boyce will immediately add depth at the slot receiver position, behind Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman. His quickness and strength are reminiscent of both Edelman and Devery Henderson. Boyce has good hands but is not able to bring in balls when extending himself. He cuts well and is good at creating separation. Boyce seems to be a solid fourth round value pick.

Seventh Round

Pick 20 (226th overall) – Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois

Buchanan had a huge junior year for the Illini, then ended up in a fight and had his jaw wired shut, causing him to lose twenty pounds and causing him to have a disappointing senior year. Buchanan is a solid pass rusher who needs to gain weight and improve his technique, but could be a real find in the seventh round.

Pick 29 (235th overall) – Steve Beauharnais, LB, Rutgers

That’s right… the Pats grabbed another defender from Rutgers. Beauharnais is a solid, strong player who can stuff the run. He can cover on short passing plays but will struggle to cover right ends in man coverage, and he lacks the speed to be an edge rusher.

Beyond these players, the Patriots sent a seventh round pick and running back Jeff Demps to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for running back LeGarrette Blount, who failed to produce under Greg Schiano in Tampa. Blount had a solid rookie campaign but has struggled mightily over the past two seasons. If he can regain his form he would be an excellent complement to the Patriots’ backs, but the Patriots are deep at this spot and Blount is not a lock too make the team.

Apr 272013
 

Half MeasuresThe big talk of the second day of the 2013 NFL Draft is the Jets’ baffling selection of quarterback Geno Smith with the 39th pick. That’s right; a team riddled with needs and saddled with four non-starting quarterbacks bypassed all of their need areas to make a terrible quarterback situation even worse.

It was striking to me that immediately after Smith’s name was called, Jets’ fans in attendance at the draft were shown with their hands on their heads in stunned disbelief, while a Patriots’ fan was seen standing and applauding.

The decision to take Smith leads one to question who is calling the shots in New York. Is it owner Woody Johnson? Rookie general manager John Idzik? Or is it lame duck head coach Rex Ryan? It’s likely that fans will never know until all three write tell-all books blaming one another, but what is certain is that the debacle in New York promises to bring continued failure to Jets’ fans for the foreseeable future.

Jets’ fans stubbornly hold on to the fact that, not all that long ago, Head Coach Rex Ryan and quarterback Mark Sanchez led the Jets to two straight AFC Championships. That has fueled the irrational hope in the fan base that the best days were still ahead… that the Jets would regain the glory they had last known with Broadway Joe. Guess again, Jets’ fans.

The cold truth is that those two AFC Championship Games were a fluke, and that the team got there on their defense and in spite of Sanchez, not because of him. As the Jets’ defense began to break down, the pressure built on Sanchez to do more than simply not lose a game, and Sanchez clearly has not been up to the challenge. The bottom fell out last season as Sanchez couldn’t get out of his own way, and the butt-fumble served as the crystallization of not just Sanchez’ 2012 season, but of his entire tenure with the New York Jets.

The half measures began when Woody Johnson ditched Mike Tannenbaum, who created the salary cap hell that the team faced after last season, but held on to Ryan, despite the fact that Ryan had badly mismanaged the Jets for two consecutive seasons. The wiser move would have been to get rid of Ryan as well, and let Idzik work with Johnson to identify a head coach who could help them realize their plan… assuming they had one. Instead, they kept Ryan as a buffer; to have a fall guy when the 2013 season tanks at least as badly as 2012. Enter Idzik, who took on a position that many GM candidates did not want, and Idzik seemed to start out well. He slashed payroll to bring the Jets under the cap and relieve themselves of some over-priced players. He brought in David Garrard as competition for Sanchez, and although Garrard’s best days are behind him, he could at least serve as an interim plan until 2014, when a better crop of quarterback talent is set to hit the draft. The Jets then suffered through a mini-circus with Darrelle Revis, and try as they might to drum up interest in the mercurial corner, only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were interested, netting the additional first round pick this season and a conditional (third round) pick next season. It also seemed odd to me that the Jets stubbornly held on to Tim Tebow, seemingly under the delusion that any NFL team was going to offer anything more than a kicking tee for the personal punt protector. Through all of this the Jets were insisting that Sanchez was their quarterback but that a competition would determine who would play in 2013, when the better move would have been to mirror the approach of the Oakland Raiders; simply cut Sanchez and take the financial hit while planning for a brighter future.

Geno SmithBut that would have been too easy for the Jets. Instead they have stubbornly held on to both Sanchez and Tebow, and then last night threw more gasoline on the fire with the selection of Smith. Is it possible that Smith could be a successful NFL starter? Sure. But is it likely? I’m not thinking so. First, Smith is not NFL-ready. Yes, he has a high percentage rate and few interceptions, but he regressed in his play at West Virginia, and the Mountaineers ran a safe offense that sought to hide Smith’s weaknesses. He locks on to his first read, his ball sails, and he worked almost exclusively from the shotgun. Remember also that the comparable talent level for Smith in West Virginia was better than what he is going to have in New York. This is a kid who needs time to develop with the right mentor, but the current landscape he appears more likely to be starting when the Jets face the Buccaneers on September 8th.

And where is the mentoring of Smith to come from? Marty Mornhinweg?  The Jets’ offensive coordinator came to New York from the Eagles, where they have suffered through a similar drama with Michael Vick and a chorus of backup quarterbacks. Quarterbacks coach David Lee didn’t fare well with Ryan Fitzpatrick, so maybe Smith will have to look towards the other quarterbacks on the roster for some assistance. Sanchez? Probably not a good idea to have arguably the worst starter in the league mentor a guy to take his job, right? Well then, how about Tim Tebow? Yeah, never mind. David Garrrard? He hasn’t played in two years and his best season is seven years into his rear-view mirror. That leaves Greg McElroy and Matt Simms. Once again, the Jets are guilty of taking a player who needs significant development, and they delude themselves into believing that they can maximize his potential. Yet if the best indicator of future performance is past performance, there is zero objective evidence to suggest that the Jets will be successful. On a team loaded with holes, the Jets now have six quarterbacks on their roster, and none of them is a capable NFL starter.

Idzik did make one good move yesterday in trading the Jets’ fourth round pick to the New Orleans Saints to obtain running back Chris Ivory. The Jets’ know that the lack of a running game exposes the teams’ lack of a quarterback, and Ivory is a hard-nosed runner who has done well in limited opportunities with the Saints, rushing for 217 yards and two touchdowns last season. But the Jets still have no receiving corps to speak of, and their offensive line is in need of additional improvement. Throwing another quarterback into the mix is a waste of second round talent that would have been better applied somewhere else on the roster.

While I didn’t particularly like the Milliner pick (a high first round pick on a corner with bad shoulders), the Jets were practical on Day One, grabbing a corner and a defensive tackle. With their second Day Two selection they took a versatile guard, so they are  starting to address their larger needs. But adding Smith to the roster is an unnecessary distraction to trying to do business the right way. It adds to the circus atmosphere that the Jets have created, and squanders a second round draft pick.

Last season I (accurately) predicted that the Jets would collapse, and that both Tannnenbaum and Ryan would be fired (I got that half right). So here is another prediction for Jets’ fans to consider; three years from now, after the Oakland Raiders have completed the task of rebuilding their franchise, they will be on top of the AFC West and will return to being an annual contender. Meanwhile in New York, Ryan will be long gone, Idzik will be out the door, and the Jets will still be at the bottom of the AFC East and in search of their franchise quarterback. And Joe Willie will still want to kiss Suzie.

Apr 262013
 

Margus HuntI am terrible at predicting who Bill Belichick will take in the NFL Draft, but then again who really is good at it? The only thing I could accurately predict last night when it came to the Master of Draft Value was that the Patriots would again trade out of the first round.

So for those of us who are Patriots’ fans, here is a small list of potential players for the second and third rounds. Round Two starts with Jacksonville at the 33rd pick (assuming they don’t trade it to the Jets) and the Patriots are on the clock at Picks 52, 59, 83 and 91. If we could get two of the following players, this Patriots’ fan would be absolutely thrilled.

DE Margus Hunt, SMU – A beast edge rusher who could complement Chandler Jones and move Ninkovich back to the linebacking corps.

DE Tank Carradine, Florida State – Strong defensive end, but not overly versatile.

LB Khaseem Greene, Rutgers – Belichick loves those Scarlet Knights, and Greene is a versatile linebacker who used to play safety. He fits the coverage need for the Pats.

WR Robert Woods, USC – Great route runner who is able to play in traffic; was one of the nation’s top college receivers last season.

WR Terrance Williams, Baylor – Solid outside threat who struggles over the middle of the field, but would fill the void left by Brandon Lloyd.

WR Justin Hunter, Tennessee – Taller than teammate Cordarrelle Patterson with great jumping ability; solid deep threat but needs to bulk up on his 6’4″ frame.

CB Jamar Taylor, Boise State – Fast and strong corner who needs to improve his technique; this is an area where Patriots’ coaching has struggled in recent years.

CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Connecticut – Good cover corner; two year captain of college team.

CB Tyrann Mathieu, LSU – A risky but intriguing and talented pick who could be a steal a la Alfonzo Dennard.

S Don Jones, Arkansas State – Very fast player with good tackling skills.

Apr 262013
 

Meat And PotatoesWell that was quite an interesting first round. One quarterback, one running back, and a whole lot of trench players were taken in last night’s first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.Offensive and defensive linemen were the top targets (nine each), followed by cornerbacks (four), wide receivers (3) and safeties (3). Two linebackers and a tight end were also taken in last night’s action.

Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel came off the board at #1 (Chiefs) and #2 (Jaguars) respectively as predicted, and then the Dolphins threw a monkey wrench in, swapping with Oakland to move up to snag defensive end Dion Jordan. The next trade came at #8, where the Rams moved up to grab wide receiver Tavon Austin to replace Danny Amendola. Oakland used the #12 pick to select the player they were prepared to grab at #3, cornerback DJ Hayden.

The first (and only) quarterback went off the board when Buffalo selected Florida State’s EJ Manuel at #16. The Bills’ smokescreen for the past several weeks was very effective, as just about every quarterback other than Manuel had been associated with the Bills. The 49ers shot up the board to #18 to grab safety Eric Reid to fill out their secondary, and then the Cowboys pulled a bit of a head scratcher at #31 with their decision to take Wisconsin center Travis Frederick, who is widely seen as a late second or early third round pick.

Atlanta swapped with St. Louis to take cornerback Desmond Trufant, a needed addition for the Falcons. The other trade of the first round came when Minnesota, who had already selected defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and cornerback Xavier Rhodes jumped into New England’s 29th spot to pick up wide receiver Cordarrelle Petterson of Tennessee. New England, who was prepared to selected a player, opted for the value of grabbing Minnesota’s second, third, fourth, and seventh round picks.

Finally, former Patriots’ offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi was present to announce the Patriots’ move, and this was accompanied by a moving tribute to the first responders and victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. They also revealed a “Boston Strong” Patriots’ jersey that promises to become a future piece of wardrobe in the Ghost Rat household.

All in all, it was a solid “meat and potatoes” round for teams trying to protect the quarterback, pressure the quarterback, and defend the pass. I thought the Jets’ selection of cornerback Dee Milliner with the 9th pick was a bit dicey, particularly with DJ Hayden, Desmond Trufant, and Xavier Rhodes still available. Milliner is a great talent, but having two bad shoulders seems to be a cause of some concern. Cleveland’s landing of defensive end Barkevious Mongo at #6 was a sold selection, and seemingly safer than the Eagles’ taking defensive end Ziggy Ansah at #5, even if Ansah’s potential upside is greater. The Steelers got their man in linebacker Jarvis Jones at #17, while the Giants made absolutely the right selection at #19 in picking up tackle Justin Pugh. Bears’ fans were not thrilled with the teams’ selection of guard Kyle Long at #20, but Long promises to be a long-term starter for Chicago, who desperately need help on the offensive line.

Here are the first round picks… the ones I got right are in bold face:

1. Kansas City Chiefs – T Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
2. Jacksonville Jaguars – T Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
3. Miami Dolphins (trade) – DE Dion Jordan, Oregon
4. Philadelphia Eagles – T Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
5. Detroit Lions – DE Ziggy Ansah, BYU
6. Cleveland Browns – DE Barkevious Mingo, LSU
7. Arizona Cardinals – G Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
8. St. Louis Rams (trade) – WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia (right team, wrong spot = half credit)
9. New York Jets – CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
10. Tennessee Titans – G Chance Warmack, Alabama
11. San Diego Chargers – T DJ Fluker, Alabama
12. Oakland Raiders (trade) – CB DJ Hayden, Houston
13. New York Jets – DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
14. Carolina Panthers – DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
15. New Orleans Saints – S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
16. Buffalo Bills (trade) – QB EJ Manuel, Florida State
17. Pittsburgh Steelers – LB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
18. San Francisco 49ers (trade) – S Eric Reid, LSU
19. New York Giants – T Justin Pugh, Syracuse
20. Chicago Bears – G Kyle Long, Oregon
21. Cincinnati Bengals – TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
22. Atlanta Falcons (trade) – CB Desmond Trufant, Washington
23. Minnesota Vikings – DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
24. Indianapolis Colts – DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State
25. Minnesota Vikings – CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
26. Green Bay Packers – DE Datone Jones, UCLA
27. Houston Texans – WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
28. Denver Broncos – DT Sylvester Williams, North Carolina
29. Minnesota Vikings (trade) – WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
30. St. Louis Rams (trade) – LB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
31. Dallas Cowboys (trade) – C Travis Frederick, Wisconsin
32. Baltimore Ravens – S Matt Elam, Florida

Apr 252013
 

NFLDraftSo it’s the 11th hour before the draft, and I thought this would be a good time to come out of hibernation and post some predictions for the first round of the NFL Draft, which will be taking place tonight. I should preface with the fact that I am not good at picking drafts, and this year’s draft in particular is wide open. It’s a “meat and potatoes” draft if there ever was one, without sexy picks at quarterback and running back. yet I am certain that will not stops some team (read: Bills or Jets) from going after a quarterback in the first round and blowing up my draft board.

This set of picks also assumes that teams pick in their assigned slots, which is highly unlikely. Look for at least four trades in the first round tonight to add to the chaos. But if nothing else, this will be a highly unpredictable and rather exciting first round. One final note… my pick for the Patriots is entirely an emotional one… I have never accurately guessed a Belichick first round pick!

First Round:

1. Kansas City Chiefs – T Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
2. Jacksonville Jaguars – T Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
3. Oakland Raiders – DL Shariff Floyd, Florida
4. Philadelphia Eagles – DL Dion Jordan, Oregon
5. Detroit Lions – T Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
6. Cleveland Browns – DL Ezekiel Ansah, BYU
7. Arizona Cardinals – G Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
8. Buffalo Bills – G Chance Warmack, Alabama
9. New York Jets – DL Barkevious Mingo, LSU
10. Tennessee Titans – DL Star Lotulelei, Utah
11. San Diego Chargers – CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
12. Miami Dolphins – CB Desmond Trufant, Washington
13. New York Jets – CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
14. Carolina Panthers – LB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
15. New Orleans Saints – DL Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
16. St. Louis Rams – WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
17. Pittsburgh Steelers – WR Keenan Allen, California
18. Dallas Cowboys – S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
19. New York Giants – T DJ Fluker, Alabama
20. Chicago Bears – LB Manti Te’o, Notre Dame
21. Cincinnati Bengals – S Eric Reid, LSU
22. St. Louis Rams – LB Arthur Brown, Kansas State
23. Minnesota Vikings – WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
24. Indianapolis Colts – DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
25. Minnesota Vikings – DL Bjoern Werner, Florida State
26. Green Bay Packers – DL John Jenkins, Georgia
27. Houston Texans – WR Robert Woods, USC
28. Denver Broncos – DL Tank Carradine, Florida State
29. New England Patriots – DL Margus Hunt, SMU
30. Atlanta Falcons – DL Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
31. San Francisco 49ers – DL Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
32. Baltimore Ravens – S John Cyprien, Florida International