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Posts Tagged ‘NFL Draft Prospects’

2012 Draft Prospects: All Underrated Team

Posted by detroitsportsandmore on April 10, 2012

There are so many mock drafts out there, I didn’t think another one was needed. I did think it would be both fun and challenging to sift through the hundreds of NFL hopefuls and build a team of players that are generally undervalued by most mock drafters. My goal is to fill out a starting roster of guys choosing the most undervalued and underrated prospects that I think deserve to be more highly thought of.

Starting Offense:

  • QuarterbackRyan Lindley, SDSU – Lindley has an NFL arm and experience in a pro-style offence. He needs to work on accuracy and dealing with pressure. He can make the throws but he has been inconsistent at times. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him much higher than the late round projections he mainly receives.
  • Running BackLaMichael James, Oregon – James was such an electric college player but his short stature really drags his stock down. He has burst, wiggle, and a low center of gravity. Although not a prototypical feature back, James may surprise many with his ability to make people miss and pick up extra yards. In an NFL weight program, he needs to add lower body mass and power to help break more tackles.  With added power, think Ray Rice, without it, Darren Sproles. Either way, I’ll take it and work with it.
  • Full BackTerrance Ganaway, Baylor – Ganaway was considered a running back prospect at one time but I think he is a better fit at full back. At over 240 pounds and with 4.6 speed, he could turn into a valuable lead blocker and has the skill to catch the occasional pass or get carries in short yardage situations.
  • CenterBen Jones, Georgia – Jones is usually predicted in the middle rounds. I think that he is slightly undervalued, not majorly undervalued. That fits the bill though. Worthy of a second round pick, Jones is a good technician that plays smart and seems to have a good grasp on the game. He doesn’t jump off the screen but he knows how to play the position and has the size and strength to transition to the NFL. He very well may end up being a starter in the future.
  • Left GuardKevin Zeitler, Wisconsin – Zeitler should be a first round pick in my opinion. He consistently beat NFL level defensive tackles with his combination of size, strength, and smarts. He plays blocking angles well and already has NFL level power. If it wasn’t for the DeCastro love-fest, Zeitler would be talked about as a first round guard.
  • Right GuardBrandon Brooks, Miami of Ohio – Brooks was a combine snub. It’s a shame because his physical size is his most impressive asset at first glance. The 6-5, 345 pound Brooks is a mauler in the making. He has good feet for his size and I think he will settle in on a team that likes some beef in their lineup.
  • Right TackleKelechi Osemele, Iowa State – Osemele is so big that many think he must be a Guard at the next level. Not so. He compares in stature to players like Phil Loadholt, who struggles mightily with speed rushers. Osemele is much lighter on his feet, however, and has great length. I think he will start at right tackle for many, many years in the NFL.
  • Left TackleBobbie Massey, Ole Miss – Let me say, left tackles are usually overrated so finding an underrated one is quite difficult. Massey is my pick because I think he can stay at left tackle and probably deserves a first round grade. He simply beat defenders in the run game, and is a superb run blocker. He is surprisingly athletic and has the potential to stay on the left side. I don’t see him as a pro-bowl candidate but I do think he could settle in as a serviceable to good left tackle or a very good to pro-bowl caliber right tackle.
  • Wide Receiver (1)Tommie Streeter, Miami – Streeter has the size and speed you need from your top wideout. He needs some development but is mostly an afterthought in the draft. He has the things you can’t coach and needs the things that can be taught. I think he is worth a shot in the third round although I usually see him in round 5 and on.
  • Wide Receiver (2)Greg Childs, Arkansas – A bit of a gamble, Childs had injury issues that slowed production but appears to be getting healthier again. He has good measurables and when healthy he was highly productive. I don’t think he is going to be an elite NFL player but he could be a good number 2 wide out.
  • Tight EndOrsen Charles, Georgia – He has character concerns, no question, but he has great potential. He is a very impressive tight end prospect that will make plays, not just block. He can really stress a defense and make plays. Hopefully he keeps his nose clean, works hard, and realizes his potential.

Starting Defense:

  • Defensive Tackle/Nose tackleJosh Chapman, Alabama – Chapman played hurt most of the year but strikes me as a blue-collar defensive tackle. he’s not going to make a lot of splash plays but I think he could be a consistent run stuffer that is capable of anchoring against double teams.
  • Defensive Tackle /Under TackleMike Martin, Michigan – Martin was constantly double teamed and still managed to make an impact on games. he had a great post season and has the potential to be a solid starter as an under tackle in a 4-3 defense. I don’t think he has the size to play on the nose in the NFL.
  • Defensive End (Left)Jake Bequette, Arkansas – Bequette is not a double digit sack guy in the NFL but he could play defensive end on a 4-3 or 3-4 team. He is a capable run stopper that has the strength and speed to get to the quarterback and force him to step up into the pocket. He is another solid player that isn’t as flashy but will make plays consistently with his motor, strength, and deceptive speed.
  • Defensive End (Right)Vinny Curry, Marshall – Curry is typically a second round pick but I think he is a late first round talent. He’s still underrated and could be one of the big draft surprises next year.
  • Outside Linebacker (Strong/Rush) – Bruce Irvin, West Virginia – I’m sure this will raise some eyebrows but the kid knows how to rush the quarterback and is highly gifted athletically speaking. He is raw and slightly undersized but I think a year or two of development and he could be a pro-bowl caliber player, he’s that talented. He projects well to rush linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. I really think this kid is going to be a mid round steal if he keeps his head on straight.
  • Middle Linebacker (Inside)Mychal Kendricks, Cal – Kendricks has slowly moved up draft boards but this kid should challenge Luke Kuechely for the top middle backer in the draft. He was underrated going into the combine and turned heads wth his outstanding athleticism and speed. He is powerful, has great vision, good instincts, and I think he will be a starting middle line backer next season.
  • Outside Linebacker (Weakside)Lavonte David, Nebraska – First round talent all the way. The kid can play, he’s all over the field, reading defenses, tackling anything with a ball. I think he’s a perfect 4-3 WLB in the pass happy NFL. He has elite speed for a linebacker and is as multi-dimensional as it gets. He’s not undersized like some reports say. I feel very strongly that Lavonte David will be turning heads in the NFL next year.
  • Corner (1)Jayron Hosley, VaTech – Hosley was once considered a first round prospect but he has just sort of slid down draft boards with no real reasoning. He is a good athlete, he has the speed and instincts to be a solid corner at the next level. I think Hosley should be drafted in the top 45 picks although he will probably fall further than that.
  • Corner (2)Brandon Boykin, Georgia – Boykin is one of the best athletes in the entire draft. He would do well to add some size and strength but he is the same size as many NFL corners. Boykin is an explosive return man and with his exceptional athletic ability he has the potential to be a true number 1 corner in a few years.
  • Strong SafetyAntonio Allen, South Carolina – Allen is a solid athlete who has teh versatility you need at teh safety position. He has real starting potential and belongs in the second round.
  • Free SafetyBlake Gideon, Texas – Gideon has been a solid playmaker for Texas. He is an afterthought on many draft boards but he reminds me of the typical solid, but unspectacular prospect. He will play consistent, make occasional plays, tackle well, and be a solid addition to any team looking for quality depth with starting potential.

Posted in 2012 Mock Draft, NFL Draft Prospects | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Thoughts About the Detroit Lions Off Season and Adding Safety Erik Coleman via Free Agency

Posted by detroitsportsandmore on February 19, 2011

I know he’s not Atogwe or Asomugha or Sanders but I think the addition of Erik Coleman is a smart and savvy move for our Lions. Coleman isn’t a throw away guy. He was a starter and a decent one at that until he hurt his knee. Once he recovered he had been replaced by a second round pick that was playing well enough to make his contract expendable. I think all Falcons fans seemed pleased to have him as a quality back up at safety and even when he was a back up he managed to be the captain of the special teams unit. To me that shows character. He could have taken it easy or got an attitude about not getting his starting spot back but instead he went out and performed at a high level.

This has been a trend in Detroit, bad character guys have been removed and replaced with guys that are willing to work hard and give their best. Maurice Morris, Stephan Logan, Kyle Van Den Bosch, Ndamukong Suh, and even some lesser known guys like John Wendling have all been sought out because they are professionals and bring character to the team.

Coleman also gives me even more insight into the Lions plan in the secondary. I have a strong feeling that Chris Houston will be back next year with a multi-year deal.Coleman and Houston played together in Atlanta and should be able to play together quite quickly. An upgrade could still be had at the other side but if the season started today with the combination of Nathan Vasher, Alphonso Smith, Prince Miller, Brandon McDonald, and Tye Hill as you rotational corners I think the team’s pass defense would be in better shape than most people give them credit for.

The Lions finished last year as the 16th ranked pass defense in the league. That’s a major improvement over the past years. Especially when you consider the amount of injuries and rotations they made. Remember Jonathan Wade? The starter? Ya, I don’t really either. Both Vasher and Smith played better than I think anyone anticipated. So much is made of continuity and chemistry. This unit should have a chance to gel this off-season. I still think a rookie defensive back is a real possibility in the draft but if they only get another mid round developmental guy like Devon House, Jalil Brown, or Johnny Patrick then I think they will still be in good shape.

I hope they focus more on bringing in two solid line backers. One in the draft, one in free agency, and another late round developmental guy with speed that can be a special teamer. Obviously Von Miller in the first round if he falls. I think he will but not sure if he falls that far. One of my favorites that has gone under the radar somewhat is Chris Carter from Fresno State. He’s played at defensive end but is a true athlete and can make the transition to backer. He’s around 230 pounds which isn’t bad but you’d like to see him around 240-245 in a year or two. If he can keep his speed and athleticism and gain some size in a developmental year then I think he’s a guy that could take over a starting spot inside in a 3-4 defense or outside in a 4-3 will be where he is best suited.

Dontay Moch in the second round along with Mason Foster are guys to watch. I like Adrian Molten from Maryland as a developmental third day prospect so watch for them. All in all the run defense was much more of an issue last season than the pass defense, ranking only 24th. That’s actually an improvement over recent seasons but nowhere near good enough to contend for a playoff spot. With the talent and skill that is on the defensive line the Lions should be a top 15 defense in both the run and pass game.

The back seven really only needs 3 players at this point from what I’m seeing. A quality starting corner, a quality starting line backer, and Chris Houston. With Coleman in the mix the depth is good. With guys like Palmer, Dizon, and Carpenter the line backer depth is solid and one of those guys could start.

If I was in charge, which I’m definitely not, I would go after one of the top line backers available out there that will fit in as an upgrade where Julian Peterson used to be. There will be up to 10 solid possibilities to look at. Find the best scheme fit and bring him in to start. Then I would try to get my hands on whomever the best weak side prospect is in the second round. In the first I’d strictly go best available and build the talent level on the team.

After fixing the line backing core with a guy like Chad Greenway and drafting a weak side prospect like Dontay Moch in the second, I would resign Chris Houston and hope to get a good corner prospect in the first round like Jimmy Smith or Brandon Harris. That would fill every perceived hole on this team. In the third round I would look at another offensive play maker like Randall Cobb or Lester Jean(one of my sleeper prospects). A center prospect has to be high on the list as well. The trouble Dominic Raiola keeps finding himself in as well as his questionable abilities combined with Dylan Gandy being a free agent make the need for a developmental center significant. I haven’t found a solid mid round prospect that I like yet though.

Thanks for reading, leave questions or comments if you’re so inclined. Martin, if you’re listening, I like the move and what I think the plan is.

David

Posted in 2011 NFL Draft, Detroit, Detroit Lions, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

2011 NFL Mock Draft Second Round

Posted by detroitsportsandmore on February 13, 2011

Welcome to the second round. If you came straight here and missed the first round then click here to see the first round.

33 New England Patriots – Titus Young WR – Deep threat who needs to work on his hands and attitude. New England can straighten things out.

34 Buffalo Bills – Blaine Gabbert QB – Developmental QB that could compete for the job with Fitzpatrick.I’m not convinced he is a franchise player but the hype gets him drafted here.

35 Cincinnati Bengals – Torrey Smith WR – Some outside speed to help replace Terrell.T.Ocho.Cinco. Owen .Johnson. I think you get some instant addition by subtraction there, if Cincy lets at least one of them move on.

36 Denver Broncos – Cameron Heyward DE – Denver needs to build up its defense, especially in the front seven.

37 Cleveland Browns – Kyle Rudolph TE – A real target for Colt. Good value, the top rated TE in the draft will create match up issues and provide a nice relief valve.

38 Arizona Cardinals – Ryan Kerrigan DE – Probably becomes an OLB but is versatile enough that he could add weight and play DE.  AZ gets outstanding  value from a  sliding prospect.

39 Tennessee Titans – Ryan Mallett QB – Tennessee hopes they’ve landed a developmental franchise QB.

40 Dallas Cowboys – Rahim Moore FS – Secondary help is big in big D. More is needed.

41 Washington Redskins – Rodney Hudson OG – Shanahan passes on a QB (and by QB I mean Newton) and builds the trenches in typical Shanahan fashion. Snyder is probably going to be trying to get Newton here.

42 Houston Texans – Marvin Austin DT – More beef for the D Line. Austin’s stock has fallen but is back on the rise. He’s a really nice second round prospect, especially for Texans D featuring former Matt Millen pick Shaun Cody in a starting spot.

43 Minnesota Vikings – Cam Newton QB – Maybe a surprise but the talent in Minnesota allows Newton a chance to turn into a real QB.

44 Detroit Lions – Curtis Brown CB – Top CB on the board to bolster Detroit’s secondary.

45 San Fran 49ers – Mason Foster LB – Versatile LB that can play in space.

46 Denver Broncos – Bruce Carter LB – The defensive upgrades continue.

47 St. Louis Rams – Luke Stocker TE – More help for Bradford.

48 Oakland Raiders – Rashad Carmichael CB – The Raiders find themselves needing secondary help.

49 Jacksonville Jaguars – Deunta Williams FS – Good value for a position of need.

50 San Diego Chargers – Stephen Paea DT – Potential DE to bolster an already strong defensive in SD.

51 Tampa Bay Bucs – Ryan Williams RB – Upgrade for FA Cadillac Williams. Great combo with Blount in the backfield.

52 New York Giants – Drake Nevis DT – Giants get solid value here.

53 Indianapolis Colts – Mikel Leshoure RB  – Powerful runner the Colts have lacked.

54 Philadelphia Eagles – Martez Wilson LB – Big ILB to strengthen an average run defense.

55 Kansas City Chiefs – Leonard Hankerson WR – KC has to address the WR position. Hankerson is having a good off season.

56 New Orleans Saints – Ras-I Dowling DB – Not the biggest need but Dowling has good value here.

57 Seattle Seahawks – Brandon Burton CB – Depth and talent for the secondary.

58 Baltimore Ravens – John Moffit OG – Some interior strength to bolster the run game.

59 Atlanta Falcons – Marcus Cannon OT/G – Versatile lineman that can fill in on the right side and bring some size/power.

60 New England Patriots – Brooks Reed OLB – More help for the young Patriots D.

61 San Diego Chargers – Quinton Carter S – Hard hitting safety for the Bolts.

62 Chicago Bears – Randall Cobb WR – Quick slot receiver for Martz’s system.

63 Pittsburgh Steelers – Danny Watkins OG – Interior help for the run game.

64 Green Bay Packers – Johnny Patrick CB – CB depth remains important at Lambeau.

The third round is coming soon.

When you finish viewing this draft check out my friend’s mock drafts over at Walterfootball.com. Walt, Greg, and Matt do a great job putting together mock drafts, prospect information, and more.

Posted in 2011 NFL Draft, Detroit Lions, Mock Draft, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

2011 NFL Mock Draft First Round

Posted by detroitsportsandmore on February 13, 2011

Thank you for stopping by to look at my mock. This is round one. I will be posting round 2 and 3 soon. I may have some surprises but I base my mock on what I think will happen at the draft, not today. The hype machines are going crazy but I think the more you look into thing the more you realize that it’s all smoke, no fire, in most cases. Enjoy, let me know what you think, and leave feedback or questions.

1 Carolina Panthers – AJ Green WR – Fairley or Green are options. Bowers would need amazing combine/interview/workouts.

2 Denver Broncos – Patrick Peterson CB – Obvious need combined with top talent on the board.

3 Buffalo Bills – Nick Fairley DT/E – Have to fix run defense and Fairley does that and gets pressure up field on the QB.

4 Cincinnati Bengals – DaQuan Bowers DE – With Green off the board, getting pressure up front becomes next biggest need.

5 Arizona Cardinals – Jake Locker QB – Workouts, combine, and interviews reveal Locker can be a franchise QB.

6 Cleveland Browns – Robert Quinn DE – I expect Dick Jauron to implement a 4-3 defense or transition to one. Quinn could play in either.

7 San Fran 49ers – Marcel Dareus DT – Dareus is a good backside 3-4 DE or UT if they switched to a 4-3. QB is in play.

8 Tennessee Titans – Aldon Smith DE – QB is a need but the D was not good this year. More pressure up front is desperately needed.

9 Dallas Cowboys – Nate Solder OT – I think the Cowboys look like the Raiders last year and surprise with some logical picks. OT is an obvious need.

10 Washington Redskins – Prince Amukamara CB – Too many needs in Washington. Hall and Rogers need contracts and a Safety upgrade could be had. Amukamara could fill whichever hole is left.

11 Houston Texans – Cameron Jordan DE – Have to get pressure in Houston. Jordan adds size and speed across from Williams. DT should be next.

12 Minnesota Vikings – Corey Liuget DT – An aging DL and Edwards hitting FA means DL fits.

13 Detroit Lions – Von Miller LB – Miller is getting hype now but his stock should level off as others impress in workouts. He falls based on positional value.

14 St. Louis Rams – Julio Jones WR – Talent and need meet nicely.

15 Miami Dolphins – Mark Ingram RB – Talent and need meet nicely again.

16 Jacksonville Jaguars – Brandon Harris CB – Corner or end are likely. I say Harris is the best option and gets the nod.

17 New England Patriots – Phil Taylor NT – The NT for the future.

18 San Diego Chargers – Gabe Carimi OT – Improving the run game with a mauluing RT is a good start.

19 New York Giants – Justin Houston OLB – Houston helps maintain the vaunted pass rush of the Giants.

20 Tampa Bay Bucs – JJ Watt DE – Pass rush has to be the top priority in Tampa. Watt is a solid prospect next McCoy or price he should do well.

21 Kansas City Chiefs – Stefen Wisniewski OC/G – OC, NT, and WR are major needs. Pending Casey Wiegmann’s retirement.

22 Indianapolis Colts – Tyron Smith OT – Give Peyton time and they’ll be back in the hunt for the division title.

23 Philadelphia Eagles – Jimmy Smith CB – Philly upgrades the No. 2 corner spot.

24 New Orleans Saints – Akeem Ayers LB – Need and value combine nicely yet again.

25 Seattle Seahawks – Mike Pouncey OC/G – Seattle struggles almost everywhere, opening up run lanes is very important. 89 ypg won’t cut it.

26 Baltimore Ravens – Aaron Williams CB – Upgrade at the biggest weak point on the defense.

27 Atlanta Falcons – Adrian Clayborn DE – Another team that has to find a way to pressure the QB.

28 New England Patriots – Benjamin Ijalana OG/T – OL depth and potential starter with excellent upside.

29 Chicago Bears – Anthony Castonzo OT – Best OL available is what the Bears need.

30 NY Jets – Jonathan Baldwin WR – It’s nto bad, but the passing game is the weak link in NY and 3 major players are hitting FA.

31 Pittsburgh Steelers – Derek Sherrod OT – The OT spot is still a concern in Pittsburgh. Relatively speaking.

32 Green Bay Packers – Muhammad Wilkerson DT/E – Good fit for the 3-4 provides needed depth. He could be a starter.

Click here to view the second round.

When you finish viewing this draft check out my friend’s mock drafts over at Walterfootball.com. Walt, Greg, and Matt do a great job putting together mock drafts, prospect information, and more.

I’ll be adding links to the next rounds in the next few days. I have round 3 complete and will be moving into round 4 as well.

Dave

Posted in 2011 NFL Draft, Detroit Lions, Mock Draft, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

2011 NFL Draft – Detroit Lions Prospects Round One

Posted by detroitsportsandmore on February 8, 2011

Obviously the Lions can go with any position at any point on draft day. We’ve watched some surprise picks over the years, Pettigrew, Delmas, Levy, Spievey, and Best are all solid examples. When you consider that list comprises 5 out of the 8 picks the Lions have had in the first three rounds under Martin Mayhew, I think it’s fair to make that assumption. I think the other fair assumption is that talent has been valued over perceived need.

Currently by my last count the Lions have picks in every round but the 6th. The 7th round it isn’t sure whether it’s an original pick or the Jet’s pick. That’s pretty much a non-factor though.

Let’s look at some of the players that may be available and options in each round. Guys to be mindful of for draft followers. I think it’s safe to say a QB is highly unlikely so I won’t be looking at any QB prospects. Every other position is fair game.

First Round:

The first round all depends on what happens before your pick. The Lions will take the best player they can get within reason.

Von Miller and Akeem Ayers are the most likely linebacker prospects at this point but Ayers is high risk and may fall. Miller may not be around when the Lions pick.

Nate Solder is a real possibility to take over as a future franchise left tackle. He has bust concerns but is physically impressive. His draft position is somewhat unpredictable. I say he ends up in the top 10 because of the position he plays. I just expect a team to fall for him, so to speak. It is almost Valentine’s Day.

The corner class is impressive this year and there are 5 first round candidates in my opinion. Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara headline the class but Aaron Williams, Jimmy Smith, and Brandon Harris are all first round prospects. One or two of them could fall into the second round thanks to the need for Quarterbacks and the strength of the defensive line prospects.  If any one of those 5 guys were available in the second round I would consider them to be the best available for the Lions most likely. The thing about corners is that they are highly unpredictable and without looking up the numbers, I would guess the bust rate to be high. The draft stock of a corner is greatly influenced by raw combine numbers so many of  these guys could rise or fall and a few other  second round guys could fly up the board like a Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

I don’t see a center or interior lineman worthy of a top 15 pick. Yes, that includes guys like Pouncey. He is a second round prospect that is being buoyed somewhat by his big brother. He may be a really good guard or center but has a way to go, most likely. I don’t see defensive lineman being a consideration unless an elite talent like Bowers is still there for some crazy reason. I would hope to trade down if that was the case.

There are 2 high level wide receivers and 1 high level running back in Mark Ingram. I see several other wide outs and backs being mocked in the first but I think many of them are overrated including the Virginia Tech running backs, Torrey Smith from Maryland, and Mikel Leshoure from Illinois. Good players but second to fourth round guys in my opinion.

Ingram is a possibility. He is underrated in my opinion. Ingram is a great running back prospect who could be a real, every down running back. I think he will be in the hunt for rookie of the year if he gets on the right team.

A.J. Green would be a steal outside of the top ten and is one of the top 5 prospects in the entire draft. Julio Jones is a solid talent, I don’t know that I would spend a top 15 pick on him in Detroit but they could do worse.

All in all this year has some perceived strengths and weaknesses but as evaluations occur the true first round guys will emerge. I think there are several players that are still somewhat unknown and will move significantly. Nate Solder and Cameron Jordan have already begun the process. Jimmy Smith, Robert Quinn, Ryan Mallett, and Adrian Clayborne are all on my watch list to move around a lot.

I’ll look into some of the guys I see in the second round next. Thank you for reading and for your feedback.

Dave

Posted in 2011 NFL Draft, Detroit, Detroit Lions, Michigan, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Senior Bowl – Von Miller Looking Like a Potential Draft Pick for the Detroit Lions

Posted by detroitsportsandmore on January 28, 2011

The Senior Bowl has been good for several players. I’ve been doing my best to pay attention to the reports and stock of players in attendance this year.

The Lions like to take the Best Available. That could be the best tackle, or backer, or running back. If they have a need and can get the best player at that position then I consider them to be a real prospect to consider. I don’t think they will go for a corner this year unless they truly feel they are getting an elite talent. That leaves a player like Prince Amukamara in consideration but if they could get the top line backer prospect in the entire draft then history tells me that they will go that direction.

Von Miller is emerging as that guy. Anyone that has seen Von play knows he can rush the quarterback from almost anywhere on the field. At 6’2″ and 237 pounds he is not a realistic defensive end or outside line backer prospect. He just doesn’t possess the size he would need in the NFL.

His college numbers are impressive but it is obvious that he must transition to the line backer spot if he wants to be a starter in the NFL. Transitioning from a rush specialist to a strong side line backer in a 4-3 scheme is a very significant transition for most players. The athletic skill set is very different. There is no doubt Von is an athlete and that he is a real football player but being able to move laterally and have the instincts and quickness to play in space takes different skills.

The Senior Bowl has given Von the chance to give line backer a try. His size is ideal for a 4-3 scheme and his athletic ability and strength appear to be translating. Reports are that Von has made the transition and has far exceeded expectations. He has shown the ability to cover underneath and the instincts to read and respond. He has also proven two other important things. Most importantly, he has the physical skills to play the position. The next most important thing you look for in a player is whether or not they can respond to coaching. I think it’s safe to say Von has shown he is capable in both regards and that makes him a very real prospect for Detroit. He fits a need, has elite skills, has elite intangibles it appears, and will likely be one of the best available players when Detroit is drafting. If he lasts that long.

I’ve talked about Akeem Ayers, mainly because I had two major questions about Miller. Whether he could play line backer and whether he’d be available when they pick. Right now it looks like it’s a matter of whether or not he’ll be on the board. If not, maybe that makes Prince fall to Detroit.

Nate Solder is another guy that I think will be a top 5 pick before it’s all said and done. I know the four letter network wants to call him a mid first round selection but the best left tackle in the draft with impressive physical attributes will turn into a top 8 pick. You can bet on that. If he keeps up his impressive play and does decent at the combine he’ll be a top 8 lock, probably even a top 5 pick.

I’m rooting heavily for Solder, the better he does the more likely a player of greater need will drop. It’s also nice to know that a really good tackle prospect could be there in the mid first round. The positional value would make him an interesting pick if it came to that. I highly doubt it will but it’s something to keep in the back of your mind.

The coverage of Cameron Jordan may help the Lions as well. He is moving up the draft and becoming one of the best 3-4 end prospects in the draft. That may make him a top 10 pick if he continues to show well. I think his strength numbers at the combine will be the deciding factor for many teams. If he has the strength he could sneak up to the top 10.

Two other players to watch in the middle rounds are Demarco Murray and Terrence Tolliver. Murray is underrated  in my opinion. I have him as a sleeper prospect right now. I think he can be a feature back. He has the ability. He has had some injury concerns that are costing him in draft status. I think he could be a nice player in the third or fourth rounds if available. I could see him getting drafted in the second though.

Tolliver is interesting because the opportunities weren’t really there in LSU for him to make a big name for himself so he’s tougher to judge. Character concerns are significant as well. Again, in the middle rounds Tolliver strikes me as one of those receivers that could turn into a real starter or a solid rotational receiver that you have to account for. He has the physical tools and has shown he can turn it on. I would be very interested in him in the third or fourth rounds as a No. 3 receiver in Detroit.

So Von Miller in the first followed by Murray and Tolliver in the third and fourth respectively. Second round, I would hope one of the next level corners are there. Aaron Williams and Jimmy Smith are guys I’m keeping my eye on. Williams is a bit under the radar and Smith is very raw. His coach-ability and workout/combine numbers will have a significant effect on his draft position.

David

Posted in 2011 NFL Draft, Detroit Lions, Sports | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Detroit Lions 2011 Off Season Preview and 2011 Draft

Posted by detroitsportsandmore on January 7, 2011

For the purposes of the article I am not going to concern myself with the potential lockout and I’ll assume that money will talk and an agreement will happen in time. That said, the annual Lions super bowl has taken less meaning in some respects, no longer is Detroit the talk of the nation after the #1 and #2 picks. Obviously as a fan, this is a good thing. It means we actually won some games.

There are several common lines of thinking for the Lions draft, most of which I disagree with so let’s address them first. Misconception numero uno: The Lions are targeting a corner or line-backer in the first. Misconception numero dos: The Lions need to get an elite left tackle so Stafford doesn’t get hurt again. Misconception 3: The pass defense was the biggest problem this season. Misconception 4: Millen’s biggest problem was drafting players with no talent. There are more but those are the top ones it seems like.

As far as drafting is concerned, the Lions DO NOT target positions. They may see a player they like and align themselves to get that player ( see Javhid Best) but they will not reach or gamble on a player because of the position they play. They employ an almost strict Best Player Available strategy. There are general rules, they won’t draft a kicker in high rounds and they won’t draft a QB in high rounds, but most standard positions are fair game. The idea in the NFL is to gather talent. A great LG is worth as much on the field as a great safety. The financials aren’t equal but the impact on the game is similar. Point being, an elite RG would have a significant impact just like an elite corner would. In the draft, you have to try to get elite players almost regardless of position. Even though we may be set, in some peoples minds, on the defensive line doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t draft a player you believe will be an elite defensive end because there is a good corner sitting there. We saw this with Pettigrew, many felt Oher should have been the pick but the Lions weren’t sold on him being an elite player and they believed pettigrew was an elite prospect. Oher has played well and was a good pick up for Baltimore but Pettigrew has the makings of a true Pro Bowl caliber tight end. You may want to value a tackle more but the truth is that a tight end like Jason Witten or Dallas Clark have immense values to their teams.

I said all that to say that needs are secondary come draft time, as they should be. Get talent and worry about holes later. The more talent you bring in the less holes you will have down the road. It’s the best long term solution. You can use trades and free agents to plug holes on the roster. If we’ve learned anything this year it should be that you can never have a team that is too deep.

As for Backus, he’s not one of the top left tackles but he had another great year, he was consistent, and he shut down many of the best pass rushers in the game. Just because Peppers made one play doesn’t mean Backus is garbage. Peppers gets paid for a reason too. If that’s your logic than Suh is garbage and it was really just the offensive lines he faced that were no good. Give credit where credit is due. He had a good year and probably has a few more left.

The pass defense graded much higher than expected. This is a team that has statistically ranked at or near the bottom in both run and pass defense the past several years. A testament to how truly awful things were at one time. This year the pass defense was actually better then the run defense and outside of a few big plays earlier in the season, they held together decent. Coverage was tighter and there was an emphasis on keeping plays in front them in the last 6 games.

As for Millen, who admitted recently how horrible a job he did, there was a bigger problem than his drafting blunders. You can find that article over on Detnews.com by the way. Millen’s biggest problem in my mind wasn’t just drafting the wrong guy. I think the lack of development is what destroyed so many draft picks here. Run down the list of guys he brought in and they all had skill, maybe less than he thought they did at times, but they had potential. The obvious choices are Calvin Johnson and Cliff Avril. Avril is a great example. They talked a lot about how they thought he could be a really good DE. You didn’t see it with previous coaching staffs but the jump from last year to this year has been outstanding. Despite being slowed by injuries Cliff has had an outstanding season. Statistically speaking, he had a better season than Julius Peppers, Mario Williams, Brian Orakpo,  and Ray Edwards. 33 tackles and 8.5 sacks while battling an injury mid-season is a solid effort. I think he will be even better next year.

Another example, this one from a different view was my favorite prospect from 2009. Sammie Lee Hill was one of the rawest prospects in the entire draft but he had strength, size, and athletic ability that you can’t teach or coach. When you have players that have the natural ability, those are the players that you have to look at in the draft. The natural abilities are the start, what you are able to get them to do with it, that determines how good they can become. I truly believe SLH is good enough to start on any 4-3 team in the league. He still has significant upside and the way he can collapse the pocket and still get after a QB is impressive. His development throughout the year last year and heading into this year has gone unnoticed by some. He picked up 2.5 sacks and 30 tackles by being a back up the entire season. That’s a quality rotation guy. He could have gone downhill after having some issues in the off season but the coaching staff woke him up and got him heading back in the right direction.

When all is said and done the Lions have the most significant need at LB. The system Detroit runs calls for very versatile guys that can cover the pass just as well as play the run. I think the LB play is the crucial piece to the Lions defense. The run defense was the weakest link on defense based on stats.

What happened late in the season, after Suh’s injury, the Lions went to a 3 man rush with Suh playing like he did at Nebraska. He would read and respond. I think this was a big reason for the improvement in run defense. It also was smart because teams were double teaming Suh and by staying back he allowed for true one on one match ups for his teammates. They were able to keep the pressure on and Suh is amazing in space for a DT. It was a great scheme. It took some pressure of of the backers who could focus on receivers and reading plays more than worrying about a QB stepping up or a run in the middle.

Teams will notice this and adjust by blocking him one on one more next season and the scheme will not be as effective. The Lions really need to target a guy that can move really well in space, has the size to knock the bigger backs backwards, and has the speed to go sideline to sideline. We need a big time player on the strong side. That will make all the difference in the world. For everything Julian Peterson has done in the NFL, this scheme didn’t fit his strengths. It was still a decent trade but Julian is better when blitzing and playing the run. He’s probably best suited in a 3-4 at this point. Less reading and reacting and more going will show his true abilities.

The weak side spot is also a concern, we have several guys that might fit the bill but on a really good defense, they should be relegated to back up duty. I like the potential of Carpenter, he did well in pass coverage which was a big boost down the stretch and he did decent against the run. He wasn’t dominant and he didn’t necessarily stand out but he gave good production. Ashlee Palmer showed some good hitting ability, decent speed, and he made some plays against the run that made you think the potential is there and it very well may be. Landon Johnson was better against the run than the pass but I can’t see him being an everyday starter if the Lions want to take the jump to playoff contender. Dizon looked good to start the pre-season and I think he is a very solid depth player as well.

So looking forward at the draft I see one player in the first round that has the kind of potential that warrants consideration. I’m not sold on a lot of the prospects this year and I’m not sold on this prospect but the raw talent is there. He just looks like an under developed kid who is still growing into his body to me. That man is Akeem Ayers. He has the size/speed combination and is a decent natural athlete. He needs to develop an aggressiveness towards attacking the ball and he needs to work very hard on his ability to function in space. He shows flashes that he can move and change direction but he wasn’t asked to cover screens or backs out of the backfield like he will if he ends up in Detroit. His combine and workouts will be very telling. He’s the top OLB prospect so he fits Detroit’s drafting criteria. The best at his position, and he will grade out high enough to warrant a 1st round pick. The only problem with Ayers is I have to wonder if he can make a difference right away or will we have to wait a year or two? But again, you draft talent, not production, not need. I think he fits a nice combination of need, production, talent, and potential. He’s a good fit.

Some other LB prospects on my radar that aren’t talked about as much would be Nate Irving over at NC State. He had injury problems but has flashed some really good potential, if he’s around in the round 4 I would be very interested in him. He is more of a run stopper but plays a very aggressive, hard hitting, style of football. He has decent size and shows the ability to drive ball carriers back. I like his instincts and speed to the ball. Colin McCarthy, although he doesn’t jump off the screen, he has plenty of potential as well. He is well rounded and has decent size. If he’s in position he seems to make the play. I would look at him later in the draft as well.

As for the secondary concerns, I think they need two pieces to take that leap forward. A nice CB prospect will be available in multiple rounds of the draft. It’s a matter of what you are looking for. Aaron Williams is a really nice round 2 prospect. I like the potential of Devon House and Jimmy Smith as well. They may be available in round 3 or 4. Ras-I-Dowling has potential as a number 2 corner in the league or he could role back to a safety role with his size. Same goes for Jimmy Smith. The thing about Smith is that he is kind of like Sammie Hill. Gifted but very raw. There is lots of potential there but he needs some time to develop his talent.

Another thing I can see this team doing in the middle rounds is going after one of the big raw tackles. Ben Ijalana and Marcus Cannon are the kind of players that can be real road graders on your offensive line. Cannon could be a Phil Loadholt type right tackle but I think Ijalana is the guy that can move into guard and make a difference if coached up right. The potential is definitely there. Both guys have that size and athletic ability that only God can give.

So, as we move into the off season, watch for Mayhew to get to work finding a player or two in Free Agency to plug known holes while using the draft to stock talent, regardless of position.

 

– Dave

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