New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees take the ball up the middle for 8 yards and a touchdown during second half action against the New York Giants at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome November 28, 2011. UPI/A.J. Sisco
Eagles @ Seahawks, 8:20PM ET, Thursday
Philadelphia is just the latest example of what usually happens to everyone’s preseason chic pick. Granted, there’s still time for the Eagles to turn things around and if they win out, there’s a chance they could sneak in the back door of the postseason. But I’m not so sure they’ll even win tonight against the Seahawks. Although they lost to Washington last Sunday, Seattle is usually tough to beat at home and the Eagles have been sleepwalking all year. That’s a very undisciplined, unfocused team that Andy Reid is running these days.
Raiders @ Dolphins, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
Just when positive things start to happen in Miami, Brandon Marshall finds himself in handcuffs. Apparently police in Broward County, Florida briefly detained the receiver after he was accused of fleeing a $142 cab fee around 5:00AM on November 14. The rest of the details are fantastic. The cab driver said that Marshall “didn’t know where he wanted to go” and “When I woke him up and told him he had to pay, he said he wasn’t and started arguing for me to take him home.” Get this, Marshall blamed the “misunderstanding” on the cab driver’s “accent,” although it sounds as if he wouldn’t have understood anyone given the condition he was in. How good of shape are you when you’re falling asleep in the back of cabs at 5:00AM?
Broncos @ Vikings, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
Von Miller underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair torn ligaments in his thumb and may not play on Sunday for the Broncos. That’s bad news for a Denver team that has had to rely on its defense and the one-quarter of magic from Tim Tebow every week. Miller is a runaway candidate for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and if he can’t go, the Broncos defense will be down one of its biggest playmakers (if not the biggest playmaker). Of course, if Adrian Peterson doesn’t suit up for Minnesota then Denver only really has to worry about Percy Harvin.
Falcons @ Texans, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
Don’t be surprised if T.J. Yates surprises this Sunday. First and foremost, he played in a pro-style offense under John Shoop and Butch Davis at North Carolina and Atlanta will be down two of its top three corners (Brent Grimes and Kelvin Hayden). Christopher Owens, who will start for Grimes (knee), was the poor lad that was repeatedly torched by Aaron Rodgers in the NFC Divisional Round last January and Dominique Franks (who will start at nickel in place of Hayden), has received very little PT the past two years.
Titans @ Bills, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
While I think the Texans can survive thanks to their running game and defense, this is the time for the Titans to take the governor off and amp things up. Tennessee has a legitimate shot of catching Houston in the AFC South because of T.J. Yates’ inexperience. But the Titans need to win, including this weekend against a struggling Buffalo team. The Bills are without Fred Jackson and Ryan Fitzpatrick is reeling right now. Tennessee has to take advantage.
Bengals @ Steelers, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
It’s put up or shut up time for the Bengals this weekend in Pittsburgh. If they can’t prove that they can beat the Steelers, then nobody is going to consider them legit contenders. On the flip side, if Andy Dalton and Co. pull off the upset then Cincinnati will very much remain in the thick of things in the AFC North. This game could provide a very clear picture of how the rest of the season will play out for the Bengals.
Panthers @ Bucs, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
What a complete role reversal for Tampa Bay. While the Saints and on a smaller scale, the Falcons, improved their rosters this offseason, the Bucs rested on their laurels outside of signing a punter (Michael Koenen). The Tampa front office, which has always been cheap anyway, figured it didn’t need to make any upgrades after the team won 10 games last year and now the Bucs are paying for it. They’re clearly overmatched and lack playmakers to compete with New Orleans and Atlanta in the division. If they lose at home to the upstart Panthers this Sunday, it’ll officially be the lowest point of the season for the Bucs.
Colts @ Patriots, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
There’s really not any point in breaking this game down, right? I mean, not even a little bit. The Colts haven’t played well all season and while a quarterback change may bring a little optimism to Indy’s locker room, the switch is Curtis Painter for Dan Orlovsky. That’s only about a droplet of optimism right there.
This is it: This is the nasty wench that I’m putting all my money on. Anything less than 32 out of 32 correct picks and I consider this a failure.
All right, so I’ll take 10 of 32 correct picks – especially this year where the draft is the ultimate mystery. Thanks to the ongoing CBA fiasco, teams haven’t had the opportunity to address needs in free agency, meaning there are countless scenarios that we could see play out Thursday night in the first round.
Feel free to poke, prod and criticize – just make sure you do it before the draft. Don’t be like this clown, who told me how dumb I was two years after I compiled my 2009 mock draft. (I know how dumb I am, so just be up front with me at the start.)
As a bonus, my colleague at TSR, John Paulsen, spent some time crunching the numbers in order to provide scouting combine comparisons for every player. I’ll let him describe the method behind his madness.
John: I compared each prospect’s combine scores with players from the last six combines to determine the best athletic comparison. There are eight categories: height, weight, 40-yard dash, shuttle, 3-cone, vertical leap, broad jump and bench press. Not all prospects compete in all six tests, so certain comparisons are more confident than others.
Realize that we’re not suggesting that these players will turn into their comparisons – we’re simply saying that athletically, this is whom each prospect compares to based on their combine numbers.
All right – let’s get nasty, Ricky.
Quarterback Cam Newton of the Auburn University Tigers celebrates before the start of his game against the University of South Carolina Gamecocks in the NCAA SEC Championship college football game in Atlanta, Georgia, December 4, 2010. REUTERS/Chris Keane (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
No. 1 Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus is a possibility at this pick, but I think when it comes down to it Ron Rivera will want to kick off his tenure in Carolina by taking a franchise quarterback. Newton is the ultimate boom or bust selection. Combine Comparisons: Vince Young; Tim Tebow.
No. 2 Denver Broncos: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
There has been a lot of talk the last two days that the Broncos are considering Von Miller with this pick. But he’s not the ideal fit for the 4-3 in my eyes and I think in the end, Dareus is too good to pass up here. Combine Comparisons: Marcus Thomas; Corvey Irvin; Red Bryant.
No. 3 Buffalo Bills: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
The Bills may flirt with the idea of taking a quarterback with this pick and they could certainly use an upgrade on the defensive line. But in the end, I think GM Buddy Nix will take the unquestioned best player in the draft. Combine Comparisons: Brandon Ghee, Malcom Jenkins, Myron Lewis, Aquib Talib. As John notes, Peterson is faster than all four, although Talib is the best comparison in terms of size/speed. Another interesting comparison is Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who has the speed, but Peterson is almost 40 lbs heavier. Based on his 40, we really haven’t seen anyone with Peterson’s size/speed combination in the last six years.
No. 4 Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
The Bengals need to figure out their quarterback situation in regards to Carson Palmer but I don’t think they’ll pull the trigger on Blaine Gabbert here. With T.O. not expected back and Chad Ochocinco’s status up in the air, I like the Bengals to go receiver at this spot. Julio Jones is definitely a possibility (a lot of mocks have Cincy taking him), but Green is still the better overall prospect. Combine Comparisons: Malcom Kelly; Limas Sweed; Hank Baskett.
No. 5 Arizona Cardinals: Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
Miller might not slip past Buffalo at No. 3 but if he does, I think Arizona would love to pair him with O’Brien Schofield at outside linebacker. Miller is viewed as the best pass-rushing OLB in the draft, which is certainly a need for the Cardinals (especially after they release Joey Porter and his $5.75 million salary in 2011). Combine Comparisons: Aaron Curry; Clay Matthews.
NFL Network’s Kara Henderson is reporting that Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller may have surpassed Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus as the favorite for the Broncos at No. 2 overall.
“What we’re hearing right now,” said Henderson, “(is) the room may be shifting” toward Miller. According to Henderson, the Broncos believe Miller “can be a four-down player,” contributing on all three defensive downs as well as on special teams. Frankly, we’re not buying it. As good as Miller projects to be, he’s not a particularly good scheme fit for Denver’s new 4-3 defense. They also have much bigger needs inside.
Scouts have pointed out that Miller has trouble stacking up in the run game and lacks power to shed blocks. Thus, Rotoworld would be correct in their assessment that Miller wouldn’t be a fit for Denver in a 4-3 alignment. He would arguably be a better fit as a pass rushing outside linebacker in a 3-4.
I’m going to compile my final mock on Thursday morning (I know most of you can’t stand the anticipation, but try to get some sleep tonight…) but I like Dareus to Denver at No. 2 and Miller to Arizona at No. 5. Miller would seemingly be a great fit in the Cardinals’ 3-4 multiple front and they could certainly use a pass-rusher.
It’s dangerous to put too much stock in combine workouts.
The 40-yard dash may measure straight-line speed but it won’t tell you if a running back has great vision or instincts. The bench press might be a good indication of how strong a player is, but people with long arms tend to struggle with the exercise and isn’t having long arms one of the qualities that scouts look for in an offensive tackle prospect?
That said: Forget what I just wrote. The combine numbers mean everything, which makes this post so worth your time. Listen to me, I’m not one of those idiots who sets up an article by telling you how combine numbers mean nothing and then compiles a list of prospects that improved their draft stocks based off their combine numbers. That would just be foolish and counterproductive.
Below are 10 prospects that may have improved their draft stock with their performance at the combine this week. I know there were more than just 10, so feel free to share whom you thought raised their stock in the comments section below (which is way more productive than calling me a flippin’ moron for not listing a player, and then smugly asking, “Did you even watch football last year?” which is one of my all-time favorite comments from readers).
Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
I’d be shocked if Miller weren’t selected in the top 6 after running a 4.53 forty at the combine. He was unofficially clocked at 4.46 and I don’t see him getting past Cleveland at No. 6. (I actually think he won’t get past Arizona at No. 5, but if the Cardinals take a quarterback I could see the Browns nabbing him at No. 6.) Miller put on nearly 10 pounds since the Senior Bowl and is already drawing comparisons to DeMarcus Ware. He’s the most NFL-ready pass rusher in the draft.
Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
Everybody is loving themselves some Christian Ponder right now. After displaying great accuracy and decent arm strength over the weekend, some believe Ponder may now go in the first round. I think that’s a stretch but I wouldn’t be shocked if he went to the Bengals at the top of the second round. He’s viewed as the best West Coast Offense quarterback in the draft and may have been the signal caller that improved his draft stock the most this week.
It’s difficult to gauge whether or not a prospect is NFL-ready heading into the draft because we have no idea where he’ll end up. I may like Ryan Mallett as a prospect, but if his best fit is in a vertical offense and he winds up in the West Coast, well then he might not pan out. And that’s not my fault if he doesn’t. It’s your fault, NFL Team.
But based on their physical skills and strengths as they apply to the next level, here are the top 5 most NFL-ready prospects in my eyes.
1. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Hands down, Green is the most NFL-ready prospect in this year’s draft. What I like most about him is his body control and balance. When he runs routes, he’s fluid getting out of his breaks and he uses his quickness to separate from coverage. He could stand to be more physical at the line of scrimmage and when the ball is in the air, but that’s not to suggest he doesn’t have great leaping ability or he doesn’t locate the ball well (because he does). He also catches passes away from his body, is good about getting up field after he secures the catch and he uses his hips incredibly well (an important trait that all players must have at the next level). Best Fit: Cincinnati or Cleveland. Both teams run a version of the West Coast Offense, which relies on receivers to run a lot of horizontal routes (think sideline to sideline) and force defenses to stretch itself across the field. I would love to see Green wind up with the Browns because I think he would fit in well with the receivers they already have on the roster (i.e. Mohamed Massaquoi, Josh Cribbs, Chansi Stuckey and Brian Robiskie) and he would give Colt McCoy a true No. 1. But if the Bengals release Chad Ochocinco, I could see them pulling the trigger on Green at No. 4.