Eagles Draft – The Draft the Fans Hated

So the Eagles draft is in the books and a lot of fans aren’t happen because they don’t think the Eagles took the best player available when they were on the clock on several occasions. I do agree that some of the players may have been slightly over-drafted in terms of the common perception, but the Eagles identified players they wanted and moved around to get them. At 22, their 6 targets were reportedly off the board already, so they moved back to 26, adding a 3rd round pick in the process, and took the next player on their list, Marcus Smith. Smith is the player most fans are mad about because they don’t think he was the 26th best player available, but he was obviously the best player left on the Eagles board. If they wanted either of the cornerbacks, Verrett or Dennard, they would have had their pick at 22, and Roby and safeties Deone Bucannon and Jimmy Ward were still available when they picked at 26, so fans have to take those names out of their heads. I did like Marqise Lee, but with dozens of solid wide receivers and only a handful of solid pass rushers left (really just Jeremiah Attaochu after Smith), its easy to see why Smith was so valuable. Add to that, the Patriots were rumored to be interested in Smith at 29 and the Redskins reportedly traded out of pick 34 when their top choice Smith wasn’t available and you can see that Smith wasn’t really ‘over-drafted’ at all, and it was actually genius that the Eagles could get him and add the 3rd round pick.

Moving on to a look at each of the players the Eagles picked:

Marcus Smith – While Smith doesn’t have quite the same upside of a guy like Barr, he is possibly the most NFL ready 3-4 outside linebacker thanks to his experience as both a LB and a DE. Smith is 6’3″, 250 and can rush the passer (2nd in the nation in sacks last year) and drop back in coverage effectively and could fill a variety of roles for the Eagles defense. Over his college career Smith had a knack for batting passes and for forcing fumbles, both of which are coveted plays on an NFL defense and he even caught a couple 2-point conversions in his career. All said and done, this looks like a great pick that fits need and value.

Jordan Matthews – No one is arguing the Eagles 2nd round pick, as they got a 6’3″, 212 pound wide receiver who runs a 4.46 40 and is the all time leader in receptions and receiving yards in the SEC. Oh and he is related to Jerry Rice. Sure he dropped a few passes in college and isn’t adept at getting of the press just yet, but hey, no one is perfect and Matthews is a hard worker and a student of the game. He will only get better.

Josh Huff – Huff is a bit undersized, was banged up a lot in college and isn’t a burner, but he is a former running back who can make things happen after the catch and can return kicks. Chip Kelly would know him better than anyone, and will know how to use him better than anyone. At worst, Kelly gets the most out of him as a 4th wide receiver and a return man. At best he gets a player similar to Victor Cruz, who finds ways to get open and create big plays.

Jaylen Watkins – I love Matthews, but Watkins is right there with him for my love as a pick, and one I must admit I didn’t think I would like as much pre-draft. Watkins, the brother of 4th overall pick Sammy Watkins, is a big, fast and strong defensive back. Watkins has experience in the slot, on the outside and as a safety, so he brings versatility to the defense that will get him on the field sooner rather than later, and he is a capable press coverage corner. Watkins will play in the sub-packages initially, as a slot corner, backup on the outside and as a reserve safety in some sets.

Taylor Hart – I know, I know, another Duck. It is a bit frustrating but at the same time, Hart is a huge defensive end at 6’6″ 281, played both DE and DT in college, is a clear cut, hard worker and like Smith, has a tendency to force fumbles and bat passes. Hart isn’t just another Kelly player, he is a perfect fit as a DE for the Eagles defense.

Ed Reynolds – The least exciting of the Eagles draft picks, Reynolds isn’t exceptionally fast or strong, but he has solid size, has experience and some ball-hawking and return ability (6 interceptions, 301 yards, 3 touchdowns as a junior), and isn’t a terrible athlete (44′ triple jumper, for the non-track people that’s a big jump). I don’t think Reynolds will ever be a starter, but he is the kind of guy you love as a backup and one you don’t worry about if they have to fill in for a game or two.

Beau Allen – I think Eagles fans are going to love Allen. Allen is a big farm boy who is a massive 6’2″ 333 pounds and benched 225 pounds 30 times, and can squat over 700 pounds. He also has some lower body explosion as evidenced by his 31″ vertical, a crazy number for a man his size. Allen never missed a game in college, and has experience as a 3-4 nose tackle. He doesn’t have much push as a pass rusher, only totaling 8 career sacks, but along with Taylor Hart, he gives the Eagles a couple of good young run-stopping defensive linemen.

 

 

All said and done, I like the draft class a lot. The only thing that is a let down to me is that we couldn’t find a way to get any more picks in such a deep draft class.  Regardless, the Eagles added a lot of talent to their roster and filled in young players at several spots where they needed to upgrade their depth.  Once the Eagles fans can get over where the players were drafted and see them in action I think they will come around.

 

 

Rookie Free Agents: The Eagles have signed several rookie free agents. Among them are a handful of backup offensive line men and a kicker who’s best attribute is his hit power (seriously, look up Carey Spear, his nickname is murderleg). One intriguing prospect is a super athletic tight end from Cincinnati, Blake Annen, who ran a 4.41 40 and comes in at 6’4″, 247. Annen wasn’t drafted because he was a one year starter and only caught a total of 15 passes as a senior. Also interesting are productive Toledo running back David Fluellen, LSU reserve receiver Kadron Boone and Flordia utility man Trey Burton and feel good story and talented running back Henry Josey.

AWOL

I wanted to apologize to anyone who is a reader of my blog, I’m sorry I have been missing lately. I am finishing up my last semester of school and doing some blogging for some other sites, so I haven’t had the chance to post much of anything on here lately. I’ve had some ideas for posts, but I don’t want to just throw ideas out there, I like put enough time and research into my posts to make the informative to anyone who reads them.

With that said, you can find stuff from me at http://marylandsportsinsider.com/wordpress1/ where I cover the Stevenson Men’s Lacrosse team. You can also find me at http://cover2scouting.wordpress.com/ where my friend Tim and I write about the NFL draft prospects.

I hope you enjoy my other writing and I hope to get time to get back on here soon!

Ryan

Playoff predictions

Back in week 1, Tim and I made our playoff predictions for this season and I am pleased to say I only got 2 teams right, one in each conference. Tim on the other hand missed on 5 of his teams. Here is what we predicted:

AFC Division Winners:  Tim – Patriots, Bengals, Texans, Broncos    Ryan – Patriots, Bengals, Colts, Broncos

AFC Wild Cards:  Tim – Bills, Ravens    Ryan – Titans, Chiefs

NFC Division Winners:  Tim – Niners, Saints, Packers, Cowboys  Ryan – Niners, Falcons, Packers, Eagles

NFC Wild Cards:  Tim – Seahawks, Falcons  Ryan – Seahawks, Saints

 

In the AFC I almost nailed things all the way down, and had Jake Locker stayed healthy I think the Titans could have nabbed that last spot that I missed. Tim kept the Texans, a team I was down on, in the playoffs from last year, same with the Ravens and then took a gamble with the Bills but missed.

In the NFC I had 5 teams right but only got two of the division winners right. Both Tim and I had the Niners winning the division with the Seahawks in the wildcard spot but that was flipped. We also both had the Falcons and Saints getting in. The Falcons melted down this year and the Panthers replaced them as the division winner. I am also happy to see my Eagles division title prediction pan out.

 

On to this weekends games. For the wild card round I’m taking Philadelphia, San Francisco, Kansas City and Cincinnati.  Tim is taking the Colts, Bengals, Niners and Saints.

All-World NFL Team

A few years ago Jimmy Kempski wrote an article called The NFL vs the Marklars, in which the planet Earth has to play a game of football against an alien race in a Space Jam style confrontation for the fate of our planet.  I’ve decided to update that team with my personal preference for a 53 man roster that could make the trip for this game.  I attempted to build a roster that is full of talent, while also keeping special teams and schemes in mind.  There are a lot of good players who did not make my roster for one reason or another and please feel free to comment on the players you would include or remove.  Additionally, my friend Tim, who contributes to this blog from time to time, has included his 53 man roster as well.

The Offense

QBs:  Peyton Manning is my starter, Tom Brady is the backup and I am bringing Cam Newton as well.  Cam’s size and running ability could come in handy.  (Aaron Rodgers is the obvious guy missing here and if Manning or Brady can’t make it he obviously comes along.)

Running Backs:  I’d like to see any planet compete with a backfield rotation of Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles and Marshawn Lynch.  I’m also bringing Marcel Reece as a fullback.  Reece can catch like a wide out and run like a back and is a solid blocker, adding another weapon to the offense.  (A true run blocking fullback like Vonta Leach is the other option if the coaches deem that more important.)

Wide Receivers:  Calvin Johnson is a lock as the #1 guy.  My other starter is a bit of a surprise, but I’m taking Alshon Jeffery.  His size and penchant for insane catches will be valuable.  Wes Welker and Antonio Brown are coming to man the slots and Welker’s experience with both Manning and Brady will be invaluable.  I also want to bring coverage busters Desean Jackson and Josh Gordon.  Lastly, rookie Cordarrelle Patterson makes the roster as a kick returner but he could be used as a runner and receiver if needed.  Desean and Antonio are in the mix to return punts.  Dez Bryant can stay at home and sulk, he’s not getting on my space ship.  (Brandon Marshall and Andre Johnson would be the alternates.)

Tight Ends:  Jimmy Graham is the obvious starter here, he is a match nightmare on any planet.  Vernon Davis comes along for his run blocking abilities at the position and breakout star Julius Thomas makes the team as the third guy for his chemistry with Manning.  I don’t trust Gronk to stay healthy or out of the space cantinas, so he can stay home with Dez.  (Jason Witten is the next in line here.)

Offensive Line:  This is the hardest part, as chemistry will be important, but my starting line is Tyron Smith-Evan Mathis-Nick Mangold-Carl Nicks-Nate Solder Joe Staley is my swing tackle and the tight end in the big set.  Marshal Yanda is the extra guard and Jason Kelce and his beard are the backup at center.  I chose athletic blockers who can move in space, take your pick on the other options as there are several.

The Defense

I wanted a defense that could be multiple and effective from any formation.  This team will be able to play 3-4, 4-3, 5-2, nickel, dime, you name it.  The front seven for the 3-4 base defense would be:

Aldon Smith – Luke Kuechly  -  NaVorro Bowman - Robert Mathis

Cameron Jordan   -   Dontari Poe       -        JJ Watt

In the 4-3 the team would line up like this (the nickel and dime defensive line would look the same):

Vontaze Burfict – Luke Kuechly – Lavonte David

Jordan/Watt - Geno Atkins - Ndamukong Suh – Robert Quinn/Mathis

My thoughts here are that Jordan and Watt are versatile enough to play anywhere and generate pass rush.  Aldon Smith, Robert Mathis and Robert Quinn provide a ton of outside pass rush to compliment Poe, Atkins and Suh (apparently Quinn has redefined the word sack and his own name as synonyms).  Kuechly is natural leader at MLB.  Bowman is a great ILB in the 3-4 and was a beast on special teams as a rookie.  Burfict is simply a tackling machine and Lavonte David is a playmaker with 5 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles and 6 sacks this season already.  I wanted to find space for Justin Smith and considering him over Suh, but ultimately I felt like this group fit best together and kept a true DT over him.

In the secondary I have a lot of depth with the idea of staying fresh and playing special teams.  At cornerback I want to start Richard Sherman and Alterraun Verner, but a Darrelle Revis could take a starting spot as well.  Patrick Peterson comes along as the most athletic member of the secondary and will also be in the mix as a return man.  Joe Haden is another strong player with starting potential, but he will be limited to playing a spell role.  The same for Charles ‘Peanut’ Tillman.  Tillman’s knack for forcing fumbles and veteran leadership will be important though.  I’m bringing a 7th corner back in Buster Skrine primarily for his special teams experience and strong tackling abilities.  Skrine is strong enough in coverage to play on defense as well, which is an added bonus.

At Safety the starters are Earl Thomas and Eric Berry.  I’m going to bring TJ Ward and Eric Weddle as the backups.  Weddle is a very strong tackler and has special teams experience and Ward can flat out hit.  I’m also taking a gamble and bringing Troy Polamalu for depth.  He can be used in some special packages to take advantage of his playmaking abilities.  If anyone here is a no go (I’m looking at you Polamalu), rookie Tyrann Mathieu is my next choice.

Special Teams

My kicker is Matt Prater.  He leads the league in kick offs, has made 95% of his kicks on the season and kicked an NFL record 64 yarder the other week.

My kicker is Brandon Fields.  Not an obvious choice but I went for one of the strongest legs in the league.  While my special teams has some experience, I felt like kicking as deep as possible would help.  For the season Fields has a 48.6 yard average and has kicked 27 inside the 20 with only 2 touchbacks.

Jon Dorenbos is the team’s long snapper because 1) name another one and 2) because he can do magic and we could use the entertainment on a cross universe trip.

 

 

Tim’s roster comes out similar to mine but also has several key differences.

All World 53 Man Roster:

QB: Peyton Manning (Off Captain), Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson

RB: Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy

FB: Marcel Reece

WR: Calvin Johnson, Josh Gordon, Wes Welker, Brandon Marshall

OT: Joe Thomas, Duane Brown, David Stewart

OG: Evan Mathis, Marshall Yanda, Jahri Evans, Louis Vasquez

C: Nick Mangold, Alex Mack, Max Unger

TE: Jimmy Graham, Julius Thomas, Rob Gronkowski

DE: JJ Watt (Def Captain), Robert Mathis, Justin Smith, Muhammad Wilkerson

DT: Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, Geno Atkins, Jurrell Casey

OLB: Von Miller, Aldon Smith, Justin Houston, Wesley Woodyard (ST Captain)

ILB: Navarro Bowman, Luke Kuechly, Kiko Alonso

CB: Richard Sherman, Joe Haden, Alterran Verner, Aqib Talib

FS: Earl Thomas, Tyrann Mathieu

SS: Eric Berry, TJ Ward, Eric Weddle

K: Matt Prater

P: Jon Ryan

PR: DeSean Jackson

KR: Patrick Peterson

LS: Jon Dorenbos

Let us know what you think!

A rough week in the NFL for injuries and some stats talk

It was a really bad week for injuries in the NFL this weekend.  Not only were there several season ending injuries, but they were to big time players and key starters.  I’ll start the post by running down the list as well as their likely replacements.

  • Arian Foster is banged up again, seems like a recurring theme lately.  Ben Tate is a capable backup.
  • Brian Cushing, Foster’s teammate had a much worse injury, tearing the LCL and breaking the same leg he just tore an ACL in last year.  His road to rehab could be very long and difficult.  A few guys like Darryl Sharpton and Tim Dobbins could fill in.
  • Nick Foles suffered a concussion last in the loss to the Cowboys and looks like he is out this week.  Michael Vick will probably start but it is possible Matt Barkley starts if Vick’s hamstring isn’t 100%.
  • Jermichael Finley suffered a very scary and serious concussion/head injury that left him in the hospital overnight.  I wouldn’t expect or condone his presence on the field anytime soon.  The Packers are running low on receiving options with Randall Cobb already out and James Jones banged up so Jarrett Boykin is still in line for an increased load.  Andrew Quarless is the best receiving tight end on the roster but Ryan Taylor make take away snaps as he is the better run blocker.
  • Sam Bradford, who was in the mist of his best NFL season and who had earned the Rams trust as their long term QB tore his ACL, leaving the Rams without any real options at the position.  For now Kellen Clemens is the starter so expect the Rams season to be over.
  • Jay Cutler seems to get banged up each season, missing 7 games over the last 3 years.  He generally can play through some minor injuries but a groin tear is expected to keep him out 4-6 weeks.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he is a bit off even when he does come back as groin injuries can really effect the way a quarterback steps into their throw.  Josh McCown, who I recently commented that I couldn’t believe was still in the league, will start in Cutler’s absence and Jordan Palmer was brought up off of the practice squad.
  • Cutler’s Bears teammate Lance Briggs injured his shoulder and could be out the same amount of time, leaving the team very young at the position with DJ Williams already on IR.  Rookies Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene figure to start alongside veteran James Anderson.
  • Doug Martin also suffered a shoulder injury, reportedly tearing his labrum.  Initially it was believe he would be done for the season but now it sounds like the Bucs aren’t willing to say that and will try to get him back on the field this season.  Either way it is a big blow to the already shaky offense.  6th round rookie Mike James figures to start with veteran Brian Leonard and track star Jeff Demps in the mix for touches.  The team also added Bobby Rainey who couldn’t even stay on the roster in Cleveland after Trent Richardson was traded.
  • Bengals cornerback Leon Hall suffered a torn Achilles tendon, a big blow to the team’s secondary.  Ideally ‘Dre Kirkpatrick will be ready to start so that Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones can remain the nickelback.
  • Probably the most upsetting injury, not that any injury is good to see, was to Reggie Wayne.  Late in the Colts win over the Broncos Wayne came back for a pass and twisted and came down on his knee awkwardly, tearing his ACL.  The 34 year old Wayne hasn’t missed a game since his rookie season in 2001 and the injury will end his streak of 189 consecutive games, the 3rd longest ever by a wide receiver.  Wayne is 8th all time in receptions and 11th in receiving yards and the NFL is better with him in it.  Hopefully he can get back to full strength and continue to play for a few more seasons.  In the meantime, Darrius Heyward-Bey and T.Y. Hilton are the starters and LaVon Brazill and David Reed will gain playing time.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the Colts are in the mix for another receiver as they look to make a deep playoff run.

 

 

Outside of all of this, the playoff contenders are beginning to separate from the pack and some teams are starting surge after slow starts (49ers 4 straight wins, Panthers 2 straight impressive wins, Packers and Bengals each 3 straight) while other teams are falling apart (The Dolphins have lost 3 in a row, the Titans dropped 3 with Jake Locker out and the Texans have lost their last 5).  The Steelers picked up their second win, being the first of the bottom dealers to turn some things around.  The Giants finally got their first win over the 1 win Vikings in quite possibly the worst Monday Night Football game ever.  Both teams could be in the running with the winless Jags and Bucs for the first overall pick.  The Chiefs, meanwhile, are the last remaining unbeaten team at 7-0.  Their situation looks good moving ahead as well as they play the Browns at home and then head to Buffalo before getting a bye week to prepare for their game at Denver.  Andy Reid has done an outstanding job in turning this team around and in using the talent on the roster in the right ways and looks like he is having a ton of fun coaching again.  If you haven’t seen it yet, this might be the funniest GIF of Andy Reid ever.  I saw this tweet the other day that puts the Chiefs start in context:

Jeff Darlington     ‏@JeffDarlington 21 Oct

Here’s your odds, Chiefs fans: In Super Bowl era, 31 teams started season 7-0. All 31 made playoffs. 15 went to Super Bowl. Nine won it all.

 

 

Some quick hits on statistical leaders:

  • Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense are on an insane pace.

Manning:  5863 yards, 57 touchdowns, 7 interceptions

Welker:  100 catches for 1083 yards and 18 scores

Decker:  96 for 1433 and 7

D Thomas:  94 for 1394 and 11

J Thomas:  82 for 965 and 18

Moreno:  973 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns

 

  • Torrey Smith leads the league in receiving so far with 629 yards (on pace for 1437 yards) and has an insane 20.3 yards per catch.  For comparison, the second best number (for someone with 20 or more catches) is 17.9 yards per catch by Vernon Davis.

 

  • Vontaze Burfict, the controversial linebacker who managed to go from sure-fire 1st round pick and the next Ray Lewis to undrafted rookie in the NFL thanks to his disappointing college finish followed by a poor combine and poor interview and apparent lack of accountability and work ethic, currently leads the NFL in tackles with 74 after finishing with 127 last year, good for 15th in the league as a rookie (per NFL.com).

 

  • Meanwhile rookie 2nd round pick Kiko Alonso, who apparently doesn’t speak or show emotion, is taking the league by storm.  Alonso is currently 3rd in tackles, only 4 behind Burfict, and is also tied for the league lead in interceptions with 4 to go with a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

 

  • Veterans are still producing defensively though.  Look no further than the league leader in sacks, Robert Mathis, who already has 11.5 to go with 3 forced fumbles.

 

  • The turnover machines at cornerback for the Bears, Charles ‘Peanut’ Tillman and Tim Jennings continue to do their thing as well with 3 interceptions and 2 fumbles forced each.  NFL.com now credits Tillman for career numbers of 36 interceptions and 41 forced fumbles.  To put that in perspective, strip sack king Mathis, also an 11 year veteran, is credited with 43 forced fumbles and he plays defensive end.

Former teammates predictions game – Review

Last summer I put together a list of former teammates (give or take a few stretches) and some predictions regarding their stats for the season but never took the time to go back and review my results so here they are:

 

First off I pitted former Crimson Tide running backs Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson against each other, predicting Richardson would total more rushing yards and I was correct.

 

My second prediction was way off as I said former Arizona Wildcat Brooks Reed would register more sacks and college teammate Rob Gronkowski would tally touchdown receptions.  I thought there was no way Gronk could catch another 17 and I felt Reed was on the rise after 6 sacks as a rookie.  Gronk won this one 11 to 2.5 though.

 

Third I took the old Arkansas backfield of Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis and predicted that of all these injury prone running backs, Hillis would be the one to stay healthiest.  I was wrong again as Hillis only played 13 games and only rushed for 309 yards.  McFadden managed 707 in only 12 games but somehow Felix Jones made it through all 16 games last year!

 

My 4th prediction was really just a shot at Tony Romo and the Cowboys as I said fellow Eastern Illinois quarterback Sean Payton, despite being suspended for the season, would coach more games than Romo would win playoff games.  The Cowboys went 8-8 and failed to make the playoffs while Payton reportedly coached games for his sons 6th grade team.  I say win, or at least a push.

 

Next up was the trio of freak athlete wide outs to come from Georgia Tech.  I picked Calvin Johnson to have more receiving yards than both Demaryius Thomas and Stephen Hill combined.  Specifically I predicted 150 more yards for Calvin.  The final tally was an incredible 1964 for Megatron, 1434 for Thomas and only 252 for Hill.  That is a 278 yard advantage for Calvin and a win for me, although I’d be lying if I claimed I thought he would have that many yards.

 

Another prediction I was way off on, former LSU cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne’s total interceptions.  I really undervalued Peterson’s ball-hawking abilities and thought too highly of Claiborne, who is continuing to struggle this year.  Peterson grabbed 7 interceptions and Claiborne only 1, making me wrong.

 

My next prediction was based on a former Michigan Wolverines hookup, Chad Henne to Mario Manningham.  I predicted that, while Manningham got a big contract in San Fran and Henne was signed to be a backup quarterback, Henne would actually start more games and Manningham would catch touchdowns.  I was right as Mario only caught 43 balls for 449 yards and 1 score while Henne ended up starting 6 games.

 

The next group was Penn State/Linebacker U based.  I said that the group of Tamba Hali, Cameron Wake, Navarro Bowman and Sean Lee would make an outstanding set of starters in a 3-4 defense, and then predicted Bowman to lead in tackles by a decent amount, and for Hali to lead in sacks by at least 2.  Going off of ProFootballReference.com, Bowman lead in tackles by a lot, finishing 10th in the league in solo tackles (just a note, another former Penn State-er Paul Posluszny was 5th in solo tackles).  Wake, meanwhile, went off finished 4th in the league with 15 sacks while Hali only tallied 9.  1/2 credit?

 

I took former USC and starting Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez versus current USC quarterback Matt Barkley in total wins and picked Barkley by 3, despite the fact that the college season is shorter.  Both players had bad years and Barkley did get more wins, just not 3 more (7 to 6 by my count).

 

Next was another outstanding hookup in college.  Notre Dame’s Brady Quinn to Jeff Samardzija.  Quinn had been a failure as an NFL quarterback to date and Samardzija chose to go to baseball instead, so I gambled saying that Quinn, with 10 career passing touchdowns, would throw at least a couple more that season and finished with more career passing touchdowns than Samardzija would tally wins that season in baseball.  Quinn threw 2 more scores, bringing him to 12 total, while Jeff only went 9-13 over 28 starts.  I also predicted that Matt Cassel, the quarterback starting over Quinn, would not last the season and, like fellow USC alum Mark Sanchez, would win less games than Matt Barkley.  Cassel and Quinn ended up splitting the season, each going 1-7.

 

I then looked at a group of under-achieving former defensive players from UNC.  I said out of Robert Quinn, Marvin Austin, Quinton Couples, Bruce Carter and Zach Brown, Quinn would be the only true ‘starter’ for their NFL team and added that Quinn would register 10 sacks that season.  Marvin Austin was terrible, only playing in 7 games with 0 starts.  Couples looked like a future starter, playing in all 16 games, but only got credit for 2 starts despite having 5.5 sacks.  Bruce Carter was solid for the Cowboys, playing in and starting 11 games, thanks in part to an injury to Sean Lee.  Zach Brown was a pleasant surprise for the Titans, starting 12 games and piling up 5.5 sacks and 3 interceptions.  Quinn ended up leading in starts with 14 and met my prediction with 10.5 sacks.  While I got the sack number right for Quinn and while he did start the most games, I would argue that Brown was also a true ‘starter’ and that both Carter and Couples look to be soon.  1/2 credit again.

 

My last prediction was around former Bengals Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco, but Chad never made it back into the NFL so while I technically was right, it was a moot point.  In this prediction I added that Palmer and Matt Leinart were yet two more USC quarterbacks who would win less games than Matt Barkley.  Palmer went 4-11 as a starter and Leinart only played in 2 game, both losses.  Running tally that puts Barkley with more wins in one college season than Palmer, Leinart and Cassel combined, as well as more than Mark Sanchez heads-up.

 

 

Overall I didn’t do that well, I would call it even when it was all said and done.  With that said though, it was really fun for me to look back at players who went to the same colleges or played together at some point.

NFL Trades – Its like Christmas!

Let me start by saying that, while I love NFL trades during the season, I really hope it does not become the NBA or MLB in terms of trades, with teams looking to acquire expiring contracts or dump salary once they are no longer contenders.  In-season NFL trades rarely involve starters and typically don’t have a long-term impact on rosters outside of providing depth or a change of scenery for under-performing players.  This season that has certainly changed, however, and we have gotten to see several big names on the move already.  Last year the only ‘big’ trade happened when Tampa Bay got rid of troubled cornerback Aqib Talib, who was in his final year with the team and serving a suspension.   New England took a chance and was able to grab Talib for only a 4th round pick, something they have been known to do with troubled veteran players.  Talib had several legal issues and the Patriots gambled on him, but that has really paid off this year as they re-signed him in the offseason and he has stayed out of trouble and played at an elite level.

Jumping back to this season, there have been 4 trades that occurred in the last 3 weeks, and each of them included a former 1st round pick, with 3 of these players being top-10 overall picks in recent drafts.  I want to take a quick look at each of these deals, then highlight a few other deals that may yet happen, or would make sense over the coming weeks.

 

 

The Indianapolis Colts get last year’s 3rd overall pick, Trent Richardson.  The Cleveland Browns get the Colts 1st round pick in the coming 2014 draft.

-  This trade blew up the football world.  Teams don’t trade the 3rd overall pick after only one season.  It became clear that the Browns are in rebuilding mode though, and with a very strong draft projected for 2014, it will help the current front office and coaching staff to start over with their players.  There were rumors around Cleveland that some people no longer viewed Richardson as a special talent, and therefore he was expendable.  While it is incredibly bad if admit you messed up the 3rd overall pick only one year later, it takes a lot of courage to move on that quickly.  For the Colts, they hope these reports were overstated and that Richardson can, at the very least, force opponents to focus more on the run game and free up Andrew Luck in the passing game.  This deal was absolutely a win-win for both of the teams involved.

The Baltimore Ravens get Eugene Monroe, the 8th overall pick of the 2009 draft.  The Jacksonville Jaguars get a 4th and a 5th round pick in 2014.

-  Monroe is a talented offensive linemen and has been the Jags starting left tackle for all four years that he has been there.  The Jags took Luke Joeckel 1st overall this past offseason, after finishing with only 2 wins, and it appears as though they hoped he will eventually become the left tackle.  Apparently the team decided there was not enough room for both players, or felt they would not be able to resign Monroe, and so they gave him away for two mid-round picks.  Ironically,  Joeckel was lost for the season with an injury the very next game, so now they don’t have either player.  The Ravens, meanwhile, desperately needed help on the offensive line, and acquiring an above average starter for only a 4th and 5th round pick was a no brainer.  The Ravens win this trade in theory, but if the Jags truly weren’t going to be able to re-sign Monroe, at least they got something for him and with that considered, it is a win-win.

The Pittsburgh Steelers get Levi Brown, the 5th overall pick of the 2007 draft.  The Arizona Cardinals get, umm, get rid of Levi Brown?

-  Ok so there are no particulars for this trade outside of conditional considerations being exchanged.  This sounds like a NBA/MLB deal where there are future considerations/players or salary exemptions involved.  In essence, the Cardinals re-worked Brown’s contract into a signing bonus, so that the Steelers could afford him, then gave him away.  Brown was most likely going to be cut by the Cards in the coming offseason anyway, and the Steelers offensive line, despite featuring a 1st rounder and 2 2nd rounders, was a mess.  While Brown is no star player, he at least brings 79 career starts with him.  The Cards might get a draft pick back later, or they might even get Brown back at a discount rate next offseason, who knows.  I don’t come away impressed with the Cards offensive line without Brown, but its not much better with him so I guess this is a win-win as well.

The New York Giants get Jon Beason, the 25th overall pick in the 2007 draft.  The Carolina Panthers get a conditional late round draft pick.

-  The Giants desperately needed help on defense and, for the first 4 years of his career, Beason was considered one of the best.  Sadly, he only managed 1 game in 2011 and 4 games in 2012 due to injuries.  The Panthers were ready to move on with Luke Kuechly in the middle and replaced Beason on the outside with former Giant Chase Blackburn.  If Beason can stay healthy and display even some of his former athleticism, this trade could work out for the Giants, as Beason is considered a vocal leader as well.  For the Panthers, they might get something in return for a player that was no longer in their plans.  Win-Win.

 

Now on to some trades that could still happen:

  • Everyone thinks the Browns should trade Josh Gordon, but I just don’t see it happening.  He is worth at least a 2nd round pick to the Browns, but the risk of a suspension will prevent another team from offering that much compensation.  I just don’t see it happening.
  • Another rumored trade is Kenny Britt, and I’m sure the Titans would love to get something in return for a player they are done with, but again I just don’t see it happening.  Britt just hasn’t been good outside of some occasional flashes, and can’t be expected to be an upgrade for any contending teams.  Unless more injuries occur and he can be had for a 7th rounder, I just don’t see this one either.
  • The big name on the trade market for a while now has been Maurice Jones-Drew, and I really thought he was the one headed to Indy last month.  I question if MJD has anything left after a few injuries last year, but its impossible to tell while he is on the worst team in the league.  There aren’t many contending teams that would be willing to deal for him though, but I could see him as a fit in Miami as I am not a Lamar Miller fan.  Another Blount or Ridley fumble could have New England picking up the phone too.  I guess the same could be said for New England receivers and drops and the Kenny Britt call though, you just never know with Bill Belichick.
  • I read earlier that Chiefs fans are speculating a trade to bring Tony Gonzalez back to Kansas City.  Mike Smith is already on record saying that the idea is ‘preposterous’ but in reality it makes all the sense in the world.  Thomas Dimitroff is a very smart GM.  The Falcons have little incentive to resign Gonzalez to a contract extension, 37 year old NFL players just don’t get them, even if they are 1st ballot Hall-Of-Famers having outstanding seasons.  On top of that, Julio Jones is done for the season, Roddy White is banged up and the team is already in a 1-4 hole, 4 games behind the Saints for the division lead.  4th round pick Levine Toilolo is 6’8″ and already has 2 touchdown grabs this season.  The team also has former 3rd rounder Chase Coffman on the roster and needs to see if either can replace Gonzalez long term anyway, why not find out now?  The Chiefs, meanwhile, are 5-0 and look like real contenders for the postseason, but are using an assortment of sub-par tight ends.  Gonzalez spent the first 12 years of his career in Kansas City, and seemingly never gets to experience post-season victory, so a reunion tour complete with a playoff appearance (and hopefully a win or two) would be great to see.  I don’t see it happening but Chiefs fans can hope.  Maybe next year.
  • I also expect some Giants players to be on the market soon.  Specifically, Hakeem Nicks and Justin Tuck, who are each in the final years of their contracts.  Unless the Giants can right the ship soon, which is entirely possible, they will need to shift to re-build mode and will start cleaning house.  I expect this to be Tom Coughlin’s last season (again, barring an insane comeback and playoff run).  Coughlin should have enough respect built up to be allowed to retire at the end of the year and not to be fired even if the team drops to 0-7 or 1-6.  There is a core of talent in place to re-build on, but the Giants do need a lot of pieces moving forward, so trading some veterans for draft picks makes sense.  I’m not sure what kind of value Tuck may draw after a few down seasons, but he is an experienced, respected player, so I’m sure someone would listen if he was on the table.  Trading Tuck would also open up playing time for rookie Damontre Moore.  Nicks on the other hand, could absolutely draw a mid-round pick to a team desperate for receiver help such as San Francisco, Baltimore or even the New York Jets if they continue to play well.  Nicks always seems hurt, but had back to back 1000 yard seasons in 2010 and 2011, and is on pace for almost 1200 yards this year.  The Giants would still have Victor Cruz and Rueben Randal in place moving forward, so if they lose a couple more games, this trade would make a ton of sense.

 

A few other players in the last year of their contracts who potentially could be had for the right offer:

Darren McFadden (doubtful though with his injury history)

Emmanuel Sanders (reportedly working on a contract extension but if the Steelers fear they can’t get it done, teams would absolutely make an offer)