Best of the Rest For Day Three

There are a few guys who slipped big time in the draft so far.  There have also been several surprises including how under-valued the running back position has become in the NFL.  Only seven rushers have heard their name called through the first three rounds. Just as many quarterbacks have been selected.  The wide receiver position has almost doubled the amount of running backs selected, showing which direction the league has definitely moved to.

Guys at multiple positions are still holding out hope they are drafted as one of the 158 remaining new hires during day three of the NFL draft.

Here’s a look at some potential landing spots of unclaimed applicants.

QB Kirk Cousins – Michigan State

Philadelphia was a possible landing spot for Cousins.  Denver would have been a good match as well.  Buffalo needs a backup and Kansas City needs a young arm as well.

Best guess

105 – Buffalo Bills  107 – Kansas City Chiefs  110 – San Diego Chargers

RB Lamar Miller – Miami (FL)

I’m a little shocked Miller is still on the board.  For a back who has speed and balance, I would have thought he wouldn’t last until Saturday of the draft.  Whoever decides to select Miller will get someone who can carry effectively at least 240 times a year the next few seasons.

Best guess

102 or 109 – Washington Redskins  116 – Cincinnati Bengals  119 – Pittsburgh Steelers  123 – Green Bay Packers

RB Chris Polk – Washington

Another under-appreciated back so far.  If a team is shopping for a running back in the fourth round and pass on Lamar Miller, Chris Polk should get the call.

Best guess

102 or 109 – Washington Redskins  116 – Cincinnati Bengals  119 – Pittsburgh Steelers  123 – Green Bay Packers

WR Chris Givens – Wake Forest

A speedy record-setting receiver who should go early on Saturday.  Would look good in Minnesota if he lasts that long.

Best guess

98 – Baltimore Ravens  101 – Denver Broncos  103 – Miami Dolphins  118 – Minnesota Vikings

WR Greg Childs – Arkansas

All three of the Hogs wide receivers are still on the board.  Childs may translate to the best pro, but could be the third Arkansas receiver taken this year.  If someone doesn’t roll the dice on Childs in the fourth, I think he’s gone somewhere in the fifth.

Best guess

143 – Carolina Panthers  149 – San Diego Chargers  159 – Pittsburgh Steelers

TE Orson Charles – Georgia

Charles could fit the mold of a former tight end in a Peyton Manning offense.  Would also look good in a Gary Kubiak offense.

Best guess

99 – Houston Texans  101 – Denver Broncos  111 – Chicago Bears

OT Bobby Massie – Ole Miss

Massie must have interviewed worse than Brennan and Dale in Step Brothers.  If you recall the scene with Seth Rogen there is a team symbol of an NFL franchise in the background.  If he continues to fall, why not?

Best guess

96 – St. Louis Rams  99 – Houston Texans  129 – Oakland Raiders

DT Alameda Ta’amu – Washington

Ta’amu almost has to go in the fourth.  Could start next year.

Best guess

102 – Washington Redskins  104 – Carolina Panthers  118 – Minnesota Vikings  119 – Pittsburgh Steelers

OLB Ronnell Lewis – Oklahoma

Lewis can pass-rush and judging by where Bruce Irvin was drafted, one would have thought outside linebackers would have went in a hurry.

Best guess

105 – Buffalo Bills  112 – Arizona Cardinals  117 – Detroit Lions


CB Brandon Boykin – Georgia

Possibly the best cover-corner left on the board who can also return kicks.

Best guess

100 – Cleveland Browns  101 – Denver Broncos  111 – Chicago Bears

CB Ron Brooks – LSU

The other LSU corner can play and has speed at his disposal.

Best guess

99 – Houston Texans  106 – Seattle Seahawks  111 – Chicago Bears  115 – Tennessee Titans

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The No-Huddle Final Mock Draft

An update from my previous mock.  Who I think will go where and a brief reason why.

1. Indianapolis Colts – QB Andrew Luck – Stanford

Done.

2. Washington Redskins – QB Robert Griffin III – Baylor

Also done.

3. Minnesota Vikings – OT Matt Kalil – USC

Steve Hutchinson replacement.

4. Cleveland Browns – RB Trent Richardson – Alabama

Browns have not had consecutive 1,200 yard seasons from a running back since Leroy Kelly in ’67 and ’68.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – CB Morris Claiborne – LSU

Physical corners needed in NFC South.

6. St. Louis Rams – WR Justin Blackmon – Oklahoma St.

Possible piece for a rebirth of the Greatest Show on Turf.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars – WR Michael Floyd – Notre Dame

Tall receivers can make tall quarterbacks with a habit of over-throwing look good.

8. Miami Dolphins – QB Ryan Tannehill – Texas A&M

Mike Sherman, your NFL coaching career could depend on this recommend.

9. Carolina Panthers – DE/OLB Melvin Ingram – South Carolina

Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Josh Freeman would know the name Melvin Ingram in a hurry.

10. Buffalo Bills – OT Riley Reiff – Iowa

Protect your investment, Buffalo.

11. Kansas City Chiefs – NT Dontari Poe – Memphis

Kansas City can keep their linebackers free with a quick plug like Poe in the middle.

12. Seattle Seahawks – LB Luke Kuechly – Boston College

From coast-to-coast and now sideline-to-sideline.

13. Arizona Cardinals – DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw – Alabama

Arizona needs a pass-rusher for their 3-4 defense.

14. Dallas Cowboys – S Mark Barron – Alabama

Does Jerry get the Bama player he really wants?

15. Philadelphia Eagles – DT Fletcher Cox – Mississippi St.

DeMeco Ryans approves this pick.

16. New York Jets – OLB Whitney Mercilus – Illinois

Tom Brady can’t complete passes on his back.

17. Cincinnati Bengals – CB Stephon Gilmore – South Carolina

Secondary reinforcement is on its way.

18. San Diego Chargers – OT Jonathan Martin – Stanford

Phillip Rivers is looking for a new friend to give him more time to throw.

19. Chicago Bears – DE Quinton Coples – UNC

Two former Tar Heels would tandem as NFC North terrors.

20. Tennessee Titans – OL David DeCastro – Stanford

Munchak talks the front office into this pick.

21. Cincinnati Bengals – DE Chandler Jones – Syracuse

Will Mike Brown listen to Lewis or Gruden for this pick?

22. Cleveland Browns – QB Brandon Weeden – Oklahoma St.

Holmgren realizes he needs a big arm with the Colt McCoy experiment seemingly over.

23. Detroit Lions – CB Josh Robinson – UCF

He doesn’t carry a nasty streak but is a need for Detroit.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers – OLB Nick Perry – USC

Something tells me they are ready to groom someone behind James Harrison.

25. Denver Broncos – CB Dre Kirkpatrick – Alabama

Denver added some youth with the signing of Tracy Porter, but they need more because Champ Bailey isn’t getting any younger.

26. Houston Texans – TE Coby Fleener – Stanford

Houston has surprised many this off-season with the trade of Demeco Ryans and release of Eric Winston.  They will continue to surprise with the pick of Coby Fleener.

27. New England Patriots – DT Michael Brockers – LSU

New England needs someone who can disrupt on the line to go along with Vince Wilfork.

28. Green Bay Packers – OLB Vinny Curry – Marshall

Green Bay is shopping for another pass-rusher to team with Clay Matthews.

29. Baltimore Ravens – OL Cordy Glenn – Georgia

Cordy Glenn provides versatility to a line with question marks.

30. San Francisco 49ers – WR Stephen Hill – Georgia Tech

San Francisco adds speed and height to a receiving corps that disappeared in last years NFC Championship game.

31. New England Patriots – OLB Andre Branch – Clemson

New England is lacking a pass-rusher and Branch would fit.

32. New York Giants – OT Bobby Massie – Ole Miss

Eli gets to share stories about The Grove with another former Rebel.

NFL Draft Hype Machine: Kirk Cousins & Nick Foles

Two members of the 2012 NFL draft class were once tied to each other in the same college signing class at Michigan State in 2007.

Kirk Cousins and Nick Foles both competed for a back-up role their freshman season as Spartans.  Cousins used a red-shirt his true freshman season while Foles seen limited action while completing 5-of-8 passes for the year.  Foles was the higher rated prospect in high school out of Westlake, TX., with Cousins seen as more of a local product, graduating from Holland Christian High in Holland, MI.

An incoming transfer in 2008 of another quarterback to East Lansing prompted Foles to then also transfer, landing him in Tucson as an Arizona Wildcat.  The further chance of a depth-chart competition would end.

Cousins has seen his draft stock rise.

They have competed once again though for an opportunity to land their first job out of college.  Most mock draft projections have each of them being drafted on Saturday, rounds four through seven.  Recent consensus shows Cousins as the higher rated prospect.  The combine treated Cousins well while Foles workouts have been deemed lackluster.

Their college passing statistics are very comparable.  Each of them eclipsed 9,000 yards passing for their careers, with Foles reaching the 10,000+ mark.  Foles tossed 67 touchdowns, Cousins tallied 66.  Completion percentage of Foles passes were 66.9% and Cousins completed 64.1%.  They truly differ between their yards-per-attempt where different offensive philosophies most likely came into place.  Cousins averaged almost a full yard more than Foles, but attempted a much lesser amount of passes.  Foles would routinely attempt roughly 50 passes each game.  His lowest totals of passing attempts this past season was 33 against Stanford in a loss and 39 versus UCLA in a winning effort.  Cousins only attempted 30 or more passes in exactly half of his games last year.

College Statistics
Comp-Att Comp % Yards YPA TD Int
Cousins 723 – 1,128 64.1 9,131 8.1 66 30
Foles 938 – 1,403 66.9 10,068 7.2 67 33

How early will Foles go?

Neither has displayed good scrambling ability.  It’s also expected neither will arrive with the expectations of playing right away.  Cousins could fit well into a west-coast offense, possibly thriving from spreading the ball and occasionally taking a chance deep.  Foles will most likely excel in an offense consisting of shotgun formations consisting of out-routes and drag-routes.

Who will most likely hear their name called first on draft weekend?  My guess is Cousins will learn his destination before Foles.  It’s possible both go before the end of round three, but reading the tea leaves involving pre-draft visits, Foles may last until the fourth round or later.

Best Guesses For Potential Landing Spots

Kirk Cousins
67 – Cleveland Browns
71 – Buffalo Bills
74 – Kansas City Chiefs
87 – Denver Broncos
88 – Philadelphia Eagles
90 – Green Bay Packers

Nick Foles
105 – Buffalo Bills
107 – Kansas City Chiefs
108 – Denver Broncos
110 – San Diego Chargers
114 – Philadelphia Eagles
132 or 133 – Green Bay Packers

NFL Draft Hype Machine: Alshon Jeffery

Alshon Jeffery NFL Draft

Once tabbed as a first round talent, Alshon Jeffery has seen his stock drop since being named one of the three finalists for the Fred Biletnikoff Award in 2010.  The perception of his fall by draft experts may not be warranted though.

Inconsistency is the theme when Jeffery’s name is mentioned.  His weight has also been a hot topic as he recently looks leaner compared to last season at South Carolina where his Under Armour garb looked like it was suffocating his upper torso.  Weight aside,  because Jeffery would have been a tight end in the NFL during the 1970’s and early  80’s due to his size, but he has the skill-set and speed to get behind corner backs when split wide.

Jeffery surprised some by weighing in at 216 lbs. during the NFL combine.  If anything, he is just big all-around, and he carries it well enough to also maintain decent speed for someone his size.

In addition to checking out his frame, NFL teams may also look at his decline in production from his sophomore to junior year.  After averaging 108.4 yards per contest in 2010, his average dropped to 51.2 per game in 2011.

A couple of reasons may attribute to why Jeffery’s numbers dropped.  South Carolina experienced quarterback issues last year with the relief effort of Connor Shaw of the now infamous career of Stephen Garcia, who may have had one of the bigger falls from grace of any player at a big-time program in recent years.  Garcia enjoyed a 64.2% completion percentage and 20 touchdowns in 2010 only to follow-up those numbers with 51.4% and four touchdown passes through the first five games before being jettisoned by Coach Steve Spurrier.  If anything, inconsistency is to blame towards the signal callers in Spurrier’s offense.

Another reason Jeffery seen his numbers decline was due to the injury of running back Marcus Lattimore, who was lost in mid-October.  Defensive coaches can scheme a bit easier when a star running back is absent from the lineup.  Their main goal is to then try to stop the pass first to see if the back-up rusher can break through the line.

Alshon Jeffery will most likely hear his named called on Friday night.  Based on draft history, Steve Spurrier coached teams will see a wide receiver likely drafted in the first few rounds.  A few of his former players have gone in the first round with the most productive receivers being round two picks.  I predict a team will take Jeffery early in round two.

Year Round (pick) Player Team
1991 3 (73) Ernie Mills Pittsburgh
1994 5 (138) Harrison Houston Atlanta
1994 4 (109) Willie Jackson Dallas
1995 4 (116) Jack Jackson Chicago
1996 6 (185) Chris Doering Jacksonville
1997 1 (16) Reidel Anthony Tampa Bay
1997 1 (7) Ike Hilliard NY Giants
1998 2 (34) Jacquez Green Tampa Bay
1999 3 (93) Travis McGriff Denver
2000 3 (80) Darrell Jackson Seattle
2000 1 (10) Travis Taylor Baltimore
2001 7 (208) John Capel Chicago
2002 2 (48) Reche Caldwell San Diego
2002 2 (33) Jabar Gaffney Houston
2003 2 (44) Taylor Jacobs Washington
2007 2 (44) Sidney Rice Minnesota
2009 5 (141) Kenny McKinley Denver

Best Guesses of Potential Landing Spot
35 – Minnesota
37 – Cleveland
38 – Jacksonville
41 – Buffalo
47 – New York Jets

50 – Chicago


Possible Anniversary Date With the Immaculate Reception

The NFL has a chance to make a 2012 scheduling headline when the Pittsburgh Steelers travel to face the Oakland Raiders this season.

How fitting would it be to have both teams play on the 40th anniversary, with December 23rd falling on a Sunday this year.  Not sure if the schedule makers will make it happen but fans of the game can only hope.

Franco Harris might even be prompted to make an appearance in Oakland if such an occurrence does happen.  Make sure you stay away from the black hole though Franco, because Al’s patrons still haven’t forgotten the events which still holds lore as the biggest play in NFL history.

NFL Draft Hype Machine: Vontaze Burfict

Vontaze Burfict

Vontaze Burfict made an immediate impact as a freshman at Arizona State.

Not many times do you see a player with a first round grade turn into potential undrafted rookie free agent within a year’s time.  The scenario exists with Vontaze Burfict this year as the 2012 draft is almost set to begin.

Back in the fall of 2009 I traveled to Athens, GA. to watch an SEC football game between the Georgia Bulldogs and Kentucky Wildcats.  If was my first time visiting Athens and the weekend mood was somber because the fans and university had just learned a couple of days earlier the sudden passing of UGA VII, after only serving as the beloved mascot for a total of 23 games.

The mood around town was also dispirited because the football team wasn’t having a good season.  Of the fans I spoke with, most were disappointed with some of the lopsided losses Georgia were involved with.  Besides asking the public opinion of who should replace Mark Richt, as the then hot seat for their head coach was reaching a slow boil, I also asked the local fans how were the opposing teams fans that traveled to Athens during the season.

Responses were almost as entertaining as the actual games played.  LSU took the crown for rowdiest fans, both pre-game and post-game.  South Carolina and Auburn die-hards were explained as their usual selves in terms of mingling with the bulldog faithful.  For some though, the one weekend that stood out the most in terms of a team and fan base was Arizona State.  More than likely it had to do with a non-conference team making a visit, but there was also a rally for a newcomer on their team, Vontaze Burfict.

Bulldog fans were still buzzing over the linebacker.  Burfict totaled 11 tackles during the game by running towards the line of scrimmage with fearless abandon on several plays.  Some of the more elder Georgia fans had even made a comparison to a former fierce linebacker who played for Dennis Erickson when he was at Miami, Ray Lewis.

I had watched the game between Georgia and Arizona State on television and noticed the freshman making plays.  Burfict was intimidating and his frame already looked the part of an NFL player only three games into his collegiate career.

Fast-forward a couple of seasons later and it’s difficult to determine how Burfict’s pro career will turn out.  Going into last year the accolades were there for him on all of the preseason watch lists and he played well enough to garner semifinalist consideration for the Bednarik Award.  Draft experts had him as first round talent until recent months.  The whispers of having a poor attitude on the field along with off-field issues could see him last until the third day of the draft, if he’s drafted at all.  A complete shock for a former Sporting News First Team All-American. For those who witnessed his arrival a few years ago it’s likely they would have never guessed an NFL draft could go completed without his name being called.

With now a little more than a week left before the draft, Burfict hasn’t received a call to make an official visit to any team according to his agent, Charles Price, making the undrafted status a reality.  His sub-par showing at the NFL combine in February may have been a deciding factor for some teams who had his name on their watch list.  Arizona State’s Pro Day produced a better 40-yard dash time but his bench reps were pedestrian.  If NFL teams weren’t already waving a red flag big enough to cover the Grand Canyon, they may have, once Burfict admitted he didn’t prepare well enough for his combine workouts.

A team may take a chance and use a late round pick in hopes of developing a once heralded football player into someone with a chip on their shoulder.  If there was ever a team to take risk on Burfict it could be the team who currently has respected and veteran leaders on defense, in-particular the Baltimore Ravens.  The Ray Lewis comparison could come full-circle if Ozzie Newsome and company want to roll the dice.  Having the voice of another former Sun Devil in his ear, Terrell Suggs, could also help benefit Burfict’s development.

Could Lewis and Suggs mentor Burfict?

Vontaze Burfict is only one of the many chapters waiting to be written next weekend.  My guess is his story will be one of the headliners on the third day, with him being picked somewhere in the 6th or 7th round.

The Still Way Too Early NFL Mock Draft

Opening night for the 2012 NFL Draft is a little over 10 days away.  Teams are beginning to shape their rosters with free agent signings while also conducting interviews for soon to be new hires in the league.  The first two picks are virtually locks so far, with Andrew Luck expected to don a horseshoe on his helmet next year, and Robert Griffin III going to Washington.

The remaining 30 picks are up for grabs and it’s anyone’s guess as to who will go where.  The practice of guessing the first round has now become a contest on some websites, with ESPN offering their contest here.

Here are my best guesses with a little more than a week before Roger Goodell takes the stage in New York.

1. Indianapolis Colts – QB Andrew Luck – Stanford

Colts fans, think Stevie Wonder, circa June 1970.

2. Washington Redskins – QB Robert Griffin III – Baylor

Mike Shanahan relives a hit from his high school days by The Turtles.  So happy together indeed.

3. Minnesota Vikings – OT Matt Kalil – USC

Things tend to get interesting once Minnesota is on the clock.  Anything other than Matt Kalil or Morris Claiborne in this spot is surprising.  Or, if NFL GM’s subscribe to the Jim Irsay draft theory this year, this pick will be traded to a Ryan Tannehill suitor.

4. Cleveland Browns – RB Trent Richardson – Alabama

Cleveland needs offense and Richardson could provide them with some instantly.  Richardson should be the first of many Crimson Tide players selected in the first round.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – CB Morris Claiborne – LSU

If Tampa Bay wants to compete again in the NFC South, they need CB’s who can keep up with the aerial attacks of the other teams in their division.

6. St. Louis Rams – WR Justin Blackmon – Oklahoma St.

If Jeff Fisher truly believes Sam Bradford can become a great quarterback, he will need a potentially great receiver.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars – WR Michael Floyd – Notre Dame

Jacksonville needs more star power along with a game-changer at WR.  Mike Mularkey has also been involved with taking WR’s in the first round.  Last year he was part of an Atlanta staff who traded multiple picks for Julio Jones.  During his first year as Buffalo Head Coach, Lee Evans was selected in the first round.

8. Miami Dolphins – QB Ryan Tannehill – Texas A&M

Miami is still looking for a successor to Dan Marino.  If they had only signed Drew Brees when they had a chance to do so years ago, they wouldn’t still be chasing their tails in regards to a long-term starting quarterback.

9. Carolina Panthers – DE/OLB Melvin Ingram – South Carolina

Ron Rivera needs a pass rusher after witnessing only 33 sacks in 2011 for his first year Panther unit.

10. Buffalo Bills – OT Riley Reiff – Iowa

Buffalo has a chance to add a new left-tackle and hopefully this one will not leave after only a few years to Philadelphia as Jason Peters and Demetress Bell have done.

11. Kansas City Chiefs – NT Dontari Poe – Memphis

Kansas City can keep their linebackers free with a quick plug like Poe in the middle.

12. Seattle Seahawks – LB Luke Kuechly – Boston College

Seattle is currently dealing with short-term answers with some of their linebacker questions.  Kuechly should hopefully provide a long-term resolution

13. Arizona Cardinals – OL David DeCastro – Stanford

Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm looking for a pulling guard similar to what they had in Pittsburgh with Alan Faneca.

14. Dallas Cowboys – DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw – Alabama

Courtney Upshaw could learn from one of the best in the game right now, Demarcus Ware.

15. Philadelphia Eagles – DT Fletcher Cox – Mississippi St.

Philadelphia proved they can get to the quarterback last year, but they need someone on the front line who can help stop the run.

16. New York Jets – DE Quinton Coples – North Carolina

Rex Ryan wants more heat on the opposing team’s quarterback

17. Cincinnati Bengals – S Mark Barron – Alabama

Safety help is needed with the recent release of Chris Crocker.

18. San Diego Chargers – OT Jonathan Martin – Stanford

Phillip Rivers is looking for a new friend to give him more time to throw.

19. Chicago Bears – OT Mike Adams – Ohio State

Jay Cutler needs protection so he’s not running for his life.

20. Tennessee Titans – CB Stephon Gilmore – South Carolina

The departure of Cortland Finnegan creates a void in the secondary and Gilmore can provide some relief.

21. Cincinnati Bengals – RB Lamar Miller – Miami (FL)

Miller may not be considered an every down back but they have other pieces to fill a third-down role.

22. Cleveland Browns – QB Brandon Weeden – Oklahoma St.

Offense is the theme for Cleveland this year as they need help moving the chains.

23. Detroit Lions – CB Josh Robinson – UCF

The Lions were exposed in some games last year because they didn’t have enough speedy corners to keep-up with receivers.  Josh Robinson brings speed and cover skills.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers – LB Dont’a Hightower – Alabama

Fills a need for a team who last long time defensive captain, James Farrior.

25. Denver Broncos – CB Dre Kirkpatrick – Alabama

Denver added some youth with the signing of Tracy Porter, but they need more because Champ Bailey isn’t getting any younger.

26. Houston Texans – TE Coby Fleener – Stanford

Houston has surprised many this off-season with the trade of Demeco Ryans and release of Eric Winston.  They will continue to surprise with the pick of Coby Fleener.

27. New England Patriots – DT Michael Brockers – LSU

New England needs someone who can disrupt on the line to go along with Vince Wilfork.

28. Green Bay Packers – OLB Vinny Curry – Marshall

Green Bay is shopping for another pass-rusher to team with Clay Matthews.

29. Baltimore Ravens – OL Cordy Glenn – Georgia

Cordy Glenn provides versatility to a line with question marks.

30. San Francisco 49ers – WR Stephen Hill – Georgia Tech

San Francisco adds speed and height to a receiving corps that disappeared in last years NFC Championship game.

31. New England Patriots – DE/OLB Nick Perry – USC

New England is lacking a pass-rusher and Perry would fit.

32. New York Giants – DT Kendall Reyes – Connecticut

The defending champs add depth to their front-four tradition of rotating down lineman.