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» Scramble for the Ball: The Best Losers

Tom and Mike perform the ritual "complimenting of the Loser League team names," pile on Marty Mornhinweg, and actually find a scenario where starting Geno Smith is a good idea.

04 May 2010

Four Downs: AFC West

by Bill Barnwell

Denver Broncos

Biggest Post-Draft Hole: Inside Linebacker

After releasing starting inside linebacker Andra Davis early in the offseason, the Broncos took their sweet time in finding a replacement. The guy they ended up signing, Akin Ayodele, was the only veteran left on the market, and there's a reason why he was the last item left on the shelf. His final year with the Dolphins exposed how painful he is in coverage and how teams can exploit him with passes up the field. He was the primary offender during Dallas Clark's 183-yard game against the Fins in Week 2. The FO game charting project listed Ayodele with 12 broken tackles in 2009, second to Corey Mays among NFL linebackers.

The hope in Denver is that Ayodele can handle the run-heavy situations and that reserve linebacker Wesley Woodyard, an undrafted free agent in 2008, can come in as part of the team's nickel package to join fellow inside linebacker D.J. Williams in coverage. The Broncos didn't use any of their picks to nab an inside linebacker -- or any linebacker -- in the draft, which leaves them perilously thin at the position. If Ayodele has lost another step in the offseason, if Williams gets hurt, or if Woodyard can't handle the nickel responsibilities ... let's just say that the Broncos needed depth at inside linebacker more than they needed two centers.

(Postscript: The wonderful commenters on the ESPN article noted that the Broncos are suggesting that they'll move Mario Haggan inside and start Robert Ayers on the outside. I should've mentioned that in the article, but let's just say I'm skeptical of that switch sticking.)

Important Undrafted Free Agents

I thought it might be interesting, before discussing undrafted free agents, to look at which undrafted free agents are likeliest to get a gig. The table below compares the percentage of players on rosters at a given position that were undrafted free agents to all other players from 2004 through 2009. As an example, seven quarterbacks got onto active rosters as rookie undrafted free agents over the time frame, which is just about 1 percent of the 703 instances of rookie UDFAs hitting the big time.

UDFAs on Rosters vs. All Others, 2004-2009
Pos UDFA % All Other %
QB 1.0% 5.1%
RB 15.1% 9.3%
WR 12.4% 10.6%
TE 7.3% 5.7%
OL 11.4% 16.2%
DL 13.8% 15.9%
LB 13.8% 13.2%
DB 18.2% 18.2%
ST 7.1% 5.7%

This suggests coaches look at their undrafted free agents a lot like fantasy players look at real football -- they have an irrational affection for adding skill position guys. Maybe it's because their play is more likely to stand out, or because it's easier for them to fill a specific niche for a few plays a game. Hard to say.

The Broncos did add an inside linebacker in undrafted free agency, Cal product Devin Bishop. Bishop was a JuCo transfer from San Francisco City College that only started one year at Cal, following a similar path to his older brother, the Packers' Desmond. Denver also made a point of adding depth at safety in its class, bringing in three big-school products: Marcellus Bowman (Boston College), Kyle McCarthy (Notre Dame), and Cassius Vaughn (Mississippi). McCarthy has the best shot of making the team, but he'll have to compete with another Notre Dame product -- second-year special teams dynamo David Bruton -- for a roster spot.

Kansas City Chiefs

Biggest Post-Draft Hole: Nose Tackle

There are two things we know for sure about the Chiefs and their 3-4 defense: You need a very good nose tackle to succeed in the NFL while playing a 3-4 scheme, and the Chiefs don't have one. Veteran Ron Edwards is a stopgap, and while he's game to try, he just can't handle the responsibilities that your excellent nose tackles need to take care of so that the linebackers behind him can make plays.

Another thing we know is that a good nose tackle is hard to find. When teams get one, they tend to hold onto him until he either gets hurt or falls out of favor with the organization. Think about the careers of Jamal Williams in San Diego or Kris Jenkins in Carolina as reasonable examples.

So, with three of the first 50 picks in the draft, how did a team that ranked 31st in run defense DVOA a year ago fail to upgrade its front seven? Taking Eric Berry will help, but the team's two second-round picks were a running back (Dexter McCluster) the team plans on converting to wide receiver, and a cornerback (Javier Arenas) who will play behind two young starters at corner, Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers.

Meanwhile, who was left on the board for each of those picks? Mammoth Alabama lineman Terrence Cody. At 354 pounds, Cody would have been the ideal two-gap space-filler the Chiefs need to clog running lanes and create opportunities for defensive playmakers like, coincidentally, Eric Berry. Instead, the Chiefs passed on him. Cody went to Baltimore, where he'll help Haloti Ngata create those opportunities for Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs. Oh boy.

Important Undrafted Free Agents

The Chiefs were able to get a player at their spot of need, Minnesota nose tackle Garrett Brown, in the undrafted period. At 303 pounds, Brown will need to put on some weight to play the nose. To the dismal KC wideout corps arrives UMass wideout Jeremy Horne, who only had 22 catches for 297 yards in his senior season, while starting seven of 11 contests. You might wonder why a guy who couldn't stay in the starting lineup for UMass is heading to an NFL team; the answer is that he's 6-foot-3 and ran a 4.42 40-yard dash during Boston College's Pro Day.

Oakland Raiders

Biggest Post-Draft Hole: Free Safety

Writing about the Raiders after a draft is usually like shooting fish in a barrel. But after a draft that focused on the offensive line and netted linebacker Rolando McClain along with quarterback Jason Campbell (via trade), it's not so easy this year.

This year, we couldn't write that Oakland's biggest post-draft need was "logic." Still, there are a fair amount of questions about how the Raiders' defense will hold up in 2010. While there are some elite parts -- namely cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and defensive lineman Richard Seymour -- there were enough holes last year to cause trouble. The primary offenders were at safety. Young Tyvon Branch has shown some promise at the strong safety spot, but free safety has been a hole. Michael Huff, the seventh overall selection in 2006, has been a total bust who represents the risk in taking a player like Eric Berry that high -- there's no safety net, ironically, for safeties. Corners can move to safety, like Antrel Rolle did in Arizona, but the next spot for safeties is the UFL. Huff can't cover anyone, and backup Hiram Eugene was last seen receiving the biggest stiff-arm of the decade by Willis McGahee.

Despite all that, the Raiders failed to take a safety until the 251st pick of the draft, adding Michigan strong safety Stevie Brown. Corners Walter McFadden and Jeremy Ware are too small to move over to safety, but are instead typical Raiders' selections based solely on speed. Hey, maybe we can still make fun of them after all.

Important Undrafted Free Agents

Considering how poor the bottom of its roster is, it's remarkable that Oakland could only manage to bring in seven undrafted free agents. Fullback Manase Tonga is probably the pick of the litter, an excellent run-blocker at BYU who should benefit from the release of Oren O'Neal, which coincided with Tonga's arrival. If any undrafted free agent is a bet to be starting in Week 1, Tonga might be that guy. Tonga also grew up in San Mateo.

San Diego Chargers

Biggest Post-Draft Hole: Wide Receiver

It seems strange that the league's best passing offense would need to add a wide receiver in the draft, but it's true. Philip Rivers has two elite players he can throw to -- wideout Vincent Jackson and tight end Antonio Gates -- but there's a huge drop off from those guys and the next tier of Chargers receivers. Malcom Floyd inherited the starting job after Chris Chambers was released, but Floyd is a complementary target that doesn't have the "possession receiver" skill set the Chargers would love to add to their system. He's basically Vincent Jackson-lite. The role would be an ideal spot for 2007 first-round pick Craig Davis to squeeze into, but Davis hasn't developed whatsoever during his first three seasons as a pro, and he will likely be competing for a roster spot this summer.

San Diego would've benefited from adding a possession receiver to take some of the heat off of Jackson and Gates and push Floyd back into a part-time role. That's the role Eric Parker played in this offense a few years ago before suffering a career-ending hip injury. Eric Decker -- who went off the board at 87 to the Broncos -- would have been a great fit here. He runs excellent routes and does an effective job of going over the middle. He would have had an impact on next year's team far more quickly than project linebacker Donald Butler, who the Chargers nabbed at 79.

Important Undrafted Free Agents

The Chargers added 20 undrafted free agents, including seven wide receivers. It seems reasonable to suggest that one of them will make the roster. A quick run through them all ...

Marty Schottenheimer compared Seyi Ajirotutu of Fresno State to Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd after coaching Ajirotutu in the East-West Shrine Game. That's probably not a selling point for this organization. Florida State's Richard Goodman has 27 catches during the past two years, thanks to a fractured fibula in 2007. He finished his five-year career with 54 catches, 602 receiving yards, and three touchdowns. Jordyn Jackson is out of Eastern Oregon and can be a running back or a wide receiver if you ask nicely. If that makes him the poor man's Dexter McCluster, you can only imagine how many pay brackets away he is from Wes Welker. Here's his highlight reel. Baylor's Ernest Smith is 6-foot-3 and ranked 204th on NFL Draft Scout's list of wideout prospects. He averaged 9.2 yards per catch last year, so if Loser League teams have practice squads ... Marcel Thompson hails from Lindenwood University in Missouri, which is attempting to move from the NAIA to Division II in football. He's 6-foot-3 as well. I know, shocking. Cornell's Bryan Walters is shorter at 6-foot-1, but he started for three years, caught 144 passes in school, and also served as the team's return man. He's from Bothell, Washington, which is the home of our very own Vince Verhei. Finally, Jeremy Williams saw significant playing time all four years for Tulane, and had a huge senior season, catching 84 passes for 1,113 yards and seven touchdowns. Universal Draft has a highlight clip of him on Youtube.

(Portions of this article previous appeared on ESPN.com Insider.)

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 04 May 2010

63 comments, Last at 14 May 2010, 4:38pm by j-man2

Comments

1
by dryheat :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 12:40pm

Oddly enough, I thought that Rolando McClain to the Broncos and Terrence Cody to the Chiefs were the two easiest projections to make in the draft. Okay, so the Raiders took McClain before Denver was on the clock (although that was widely rumored, so Denver could have attempted to trade up, or take a guy like Weatherspoon instead), but that's two teams that ended up taking luxury picks and didn't attempt to upgrade their weakest point...and important ones in the 3-4.

2
by Sjt (not verified) :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 12:47pm
  • Davis hasn't developed whatsoever during his first three seasons as a pro, and he will likely be competing for a roster spot this summer
  • Not totally accurate. Davis had a small impact as a rookie, then missed an entire year with injury. He was a victim of numbers last year, but when he did see the field he was productive. If he makes the team this year he'll likely see more action since there's actually a spot for him now. The idea that he hasn't developed is wrong, there have just been other guys who stepped up more.

  • He would have had an impact on next year's team far more quickly than project linebacker Donald Butler, who the Chargers nabbed at 79.
  • So a mid round receiver would have more success getting through a crowded depth chart than a guy who some think could start for them by mid season?

  • That's probably not a selling point for this organization.
  • And yet he was their biggest free agent pickup. Just because Smith hates Marty doesn't mean he would discount the opinion of a guy who has coached Jackson and Floyd and probably knows what he's talking about.

    5
    by roguerouge :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 2:27pm

    I think the point was that when you already have Floyd and Jackson, you don't need an undrafted free agent to mimic their skill set.

    10
    by Sjt (not verified) :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 3:14pm

    If that is the case, then its a weird argument, especially considering that one or both of them will be gone after this year. That's the biggest reason the Chargers would want a new WR. Not to do something new, but to replace their current ones once they leave.

    26
    by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 8:17pm

    This. They're both UFA next year. I doubt that either will be franchised. One will probably be signed, but which? Jackson will be expensive and has a penchant for getting into trouble. Floyd doesn't have DUI problems, but he is an injury risk, which is similar in a lot of ways. And even the best WRs aren't the game-changers they're made out to be.

    3
    by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 1:59pm

    I'm not sure why the Chargers need a possession receiver to complement Gates and Jackson. I don't think they have an issue moving the sticks with those guys. With them, Floyd, Naane (weird, I know, but I love his athleticism and think he can make plays), and Sproles catching balls out of the backfield, Rivers has plenty of targets.
    Much bigger and more obvious holes to me would be all over that defense, like NT and DB.

    9
    by chemical burn :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 3:02pm

    Well, that's Barnwell for you: constantly wrong.

    It should be onviously to everyone else in the world that they still don't have clear answers at NT and DB. That their passinf offense was #1 in DVOA so there's not a lot of room for improvement and that their defense was #23. But I guess a 5th round NT tackle solves their problems on defense and losing their best CB and not replacing him... solves that problem? SD is a team with gaping holes and he picked literally the one spot where undrafted free agents would be the least use. Well... maybe other than QB.

    But at least we're treated to a typically pleasant aside in the Broncos write-up dismissing all the commentors who corrected him. (and, you know, knew what they were talking about.)

    19
    by langsty :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 5:53pm

    owned

    23
    by Richard :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 7:51pm

    I hope the irony of calling someone else "constantly wrong" then referring to Antonio Cromartie as the Chargers' "best CB" in the same comment isn't lost on you.

    51
    by chemical burn :: Thu, 05/06/2010 - 2:56pm

    Hey, you can argue that SD has their CB situation all set, but they were ranked #21 in DVOA against the pass last year, being notably bad against #2 & #3 receivers* - that hardly screams depth and quality at CB. Even if Cromartie wasn't their best, they lost a player from a position where they are notably weak and did almost nothing to address it, other than promote players who didn't play well last year.

    *and worst in the league against RB's - but that doesn't have anything to do with my point

    (and this comment is responding to Bolthead below just as much)

    27
    by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 8:25pm

    It's occurred to me, if Barnwell is just saying that WR is the one place for a UDFA in SD, he's probably right. It's not a weak point.

    SD doesn't have holes at DB. Three of the four starting positions are settled. They have Nathan Vasher and Donald Strickland as backup CBs. They have Eric Weddle at starting FS. They have a camp competition between a rookie and a sophomore at SS; the sophomore played okay last year, but doesn't have great foot-speed. They have good backup FS/nickel CB players.

    SD has three weak points, but two of them are big ones. None of them speak to any hope for UDFAs.

    1) Backup RB. Not a rotational or COP back; a benchwarmer. Boring, but true. After the final cuts, they'll get their man. He was probably drafted, whoever he is.

    2) NT. They have their rotation and their prospect, so this is a wait-and-see kind of thing. Planet theory isn't kind to undrafted 325-lbers anyaway.

    3) 5-Tech. They've cast their net already; all that remains is to reel it in.

    24
    by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 8:08pm

    No mention of Legedu Naanee. What's up with that? He's not a bad short-range target at all; even though he was picked in the 5th round of the same draft as 1st-rounder Buster Davis, he's been a much more productive player.

    If he means the Chargers will carry an undrafted WR on their 53, yeah, probably. Two names to consider: Seyi Ajerotutu from Fresno State, or last year's PS acquisition, Gary Banks. If Ajerotutu can get a spot as a gunner, he may even be activated on game days.

    The truth is the Chargers have a major hole. Barnwell is ludicrously off-the-mark when he points to WR, gesturing wildly that there's a drop-off after Gates and Jackson. Duh. Yeah, they only have two demigods; after that, they gotta settle for a decent TE (Wilson), a 1st-round pick who's way better than Barnwell thinks if he can stay healthy, and two guys who had to beat that first-rounder for their jobs.

    The real problem the Chargers have is the DL. They have a plethora of 2nd-rate D-linemen and question-mark projects, but only one guy that they can point to as an absolute starter. I don't think their DL will suck, but they took clear action on their S, ILB and CB spots, and I think that it's possible that the front line will be the weak link again this year.

    25
    by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 8:12pm

    Oh, and their last-encounter record against teams they face this season: 12-1. Not that this means anything... just sayin'.

    28
    by Big Johnson :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 8:26pm

    agreed. d-line scares the daylights out of me although bill might be onto something. If vincent or gates gets injured..... ouch. The wide receiver corp is thinner than jenny craig.

    46
    by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Thu, 05/06/2010 - 12:33pm

    Totally disagree on that. Behind Gates and Jackson they have a good starting #1 WR, a quality dedicated #3, a and marginal starting #2 who couldn't even get active last year because the other WRs were too valuable. For TEs, they have Kris Wilson, who would be a starter if he weren't behind Gates. There will be only two unproven WR/TEs on the roster this season. Not at all thin in any way, man. Barnwell is just wrong, except that there will be an undrafted WR on the roster (two if you count Floyd).

    52
    by dryheat :: Thu, 05/06/2010 - 2:59pm

    I would call this "overly optimistic exhibit A". Who are these "quality" people you are referring to? A #1 behind Jackson? Who's that -- Floyd? They've got a starting calibre WR inactive? A quality dedicated #3? Blocking specialist Kris Wilson, who probably would be a starter without Gates there, by the same token that Curtis Painter would be a starting QB if Peyton Manning weren't there?

    53
    by chemical burn :: Thu, 05/06/2010 - 4:05pm

    Floyd ranked #7 in DVOA and had a high DYAR considered how productive both Jackson and Gates were. Naane didn't have enough targets to get a DVOA rank, but his number was 32%, which would've been good enough for 4th in the league if he had enough targets.

    Both of those receiver were incredibly productive in their limited roles. Granted, WR DVOA functions in a way that big threats like Gates and Jackson draw the attention, so the #2 and #3 guys can more easily post a high DVOA. Of course. But what other evidence can we work from?

    And how many teams have multiple inarguably #1 caliber receivers? What team wouldn't be hurt by losing a player like Jackson or Gates? Or just losing their starting tight end or #1 receiver? The fact that Floyd and Naane aren't as good as Jackson and Gates doesn't mean they are bad - the DVOA numbers suggest the opposite...

    59
    by mrh :: Fri, 05/07/2010 - 10:13am

    I don't think Kris Wilson is that good but he has been #2 on the depth chart behind awfully good TEs since he came into the league.

    4
    by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 2:24pm

    I like this kind of analysis. It's hard to find it past the first two rounds of the draft. Most people either "liked" or "didn't like" some 3-7th round pick, and there's almost never any discussion of scheme. I mean, people will argue if they know the team well, but that's cool, too.

    A nice exception to this rule: after the 49ers drafted Anthony Dixon (233 pounds) to play with Glen Coffee and Frank Gore, Tim Kawakami wondered why we'd draft a back that's so much like the two we already have. "The Giants had Earth, Wind, and Fire. The 49ers have Earth, Earth, and Earth."

    6
    by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 2:28pm

    Earth, Mud and Sand

    17
    by tuluse :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 5:19pm

    Nice.

    Rock always wins, right?

    7
    by *Legion* (not verified) :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 2:33pm

    As an example, seven quarterbacks got onto active rosters as rookie undrafted free agents over the time frame, which is just about 1 percent of the 703 instances of rookie UDFAs hitting the big time.

    Quarterbacks don't play special teams.

    8
    by Dean :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 2:45pm

    I have Crash Jensen holding for you on line 11.

    12
    by The Ninjalectual :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 3:53pm

    Cody Pickett was a 49ers QB who played on special teams this decade.

    "Just look at that pumpkin."
    -John Madden, looking at the moon.

    41
    by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 05/06/2010 - 11:36am

    Not only played, but rocked special teams. I guess he's been off playing in the CFL. I hope they enjoy him -- he was a hoot to watch.

    42
    by dryheat :: Thu, 05/06/2010 - 11:55am

    At that point, I don't think he qualified as a 49ers QB anymore. He was a 49ers depth WR and ST player.

    47
    by jimbohead :: Thu, 05/06/2010 - 12:34pm

    Hey now, don't be forgetting that horrible run in 2005 when he was slotted as QB3, then Alex Smith and Ken Dorsey went down in a single game, only to have Cody Pickett "lead" the team to a 4th quarter victory on a field goal (actually, I think the field goal put them ahead by 5, icing the game) over Tampa. The next game, he was the starter, and if memory serves, they had him run some form of option offense. It failed. But still, he was a 49ers QB, not just a ST player, and certainly not a depth WR.

    11
    by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 3:15pm

    Quarterbacks don't play special teams.

    1) Yeah, but there's an extra active roster spot for them, so it evens out.

    2) I'm sure that Tony Romo wishes the above statement were actually true.

    The more likely issue is that there are fewer QBs on a roster than any other high-value position, and quarterbacks don't play any other position (yes, including special teams) except maybe holder. So there's just nothing a UDFA QB can do to gain a roster spot except impress at QB, and, well, if that were likely, they wouldn't be UDFAs.

    16
    by Nathan :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 5:16pm

    Belichick had Matt Gutierrez, 3rd sting QB at the time, covering kicks at a certain point. I'm sure Seneca Wallace has played some special teams. Joe Theismann returned punts.

    20
    by Theo :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 6:15pm

    Exceptions to the rule.

    QB is the most important position, and there are only 3 or 4 QB spots on the roster.
    So the chance of a street QB making the team is very very unlikely. Even Kurt Warner's story includes him being in the NFL Europe and the Arena League.

    43
    by Tim Gerheim :: Thu, 05/06/2010 - 11:56am

    Anybody remember Bucky Richardson from the early-90s Warren Moon-Cody Carlson run-and-shoot Oilers? He was the third stringer and a fan favorite because he was a former Texas A&M quarterback, a bit of a "he's just a better athlete than everyone" type college QB, and he was the first guy down on kickoff coverage.

    56
    by Bobman :: Fri, 05/07/2010 - 1:30am

    Tim,
    I LOVED Bucky, if only for one reason. He was a RH QB but in a preseason game his rookie year, while flushed out of the pocket to his left, at the last second before going OB, he transferred the ball to his left hand and threw a beautiful completion 10-15 yards downfield.

    As a guy who is hopelessly one-sided (my left hand might as well be a club), this stuck in my mind and I didn't see its like until Peyton Manning did it vs the Vikes in 2004, but that was more of a shovel pass to James in heavy mid-field traffic, not an honest-to-goodness overhand delivery while running for one's life.

    I hope Jake Locker at UW develops past this "best athlete on the field" phase. Sarkisian sure got a lot out him as an actual QB last year.

    61
    by Led :: Fri, 05/07/2010 - 12:21pm

    Bobman: If you are aware of any video of that play (Bucky not Peyton), I'd love to see it. Sounds pretty cool.

    13
    by Dave0 :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 3:53pm

    It's fair criticism to say Malcom Floyd is not very durable but the dude was top 20 in several innovative statistics I know of last year. Good grief, if he needs replacing more than any other position on the starting unit, what would an actual good player do in his role--be Larry Fitzgerald?

    The Chargers love Floyd and as a fan I do too.

    14
    by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 3:58pm

    This suggests coaches look at their undrafted free agents a lot like fantasy players look at real football -- they have an irrational affection for adding skill position guys. Maybe it's because their play is more likely to stand out, or because it's easier for them to fill a specific niche for a few plays a game. Hard to say.

    Wouldn't Bill Parcells'"Planet Theory" explain this? There's only so many very large, athletic, and skilled lineman in the world, so it's more likely that they'd be drafted than unlikely. The guys on the outside - wrs, cbs, rbs - are easier to find because athletic 6'/190 lb guys are a dime a dozen in college.

    Also, I don't know that they have an "irrational affection" for skill position players even if the above isn't true. Wouldn't these numbers suggest that coaches view these positions as replaceable? It seems that coaches view positions like RB and DB to be the most overrated, and then look to the undrafted market to find low cost contributors.

    15
    by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 3:59pm

    Sorry, meant to italicize Bill's quote in the first graph.

    36
    by Xeynon (not verified) :: Thu, 05/06/2010 - 12:02am

    Wouldn't Bill Parcells'"Planet Theory" explain this? There's only so many very large, athletic, and skilled lineman in the world, so it's more likely that they'd be drafted than unlikely.

    Note entirely. There are plenty of large, athletic men who haven't had the coaching necessary to be top NFL prospects, but definitely have the talent. This is particularly true of players at positions considered to be of low draft value - e.g., C, OG.

    Some teams do very well developing UDFA linemen - the Eagles and Colts, to name two.

    48
    by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Thu, 05/06/2010 - 12:42pm

    The Chargers have two undrafted OL and two bottom picks. They're not picking up OL, 'cause there's no room at the inn unless you can beat Jeromey Clary or Brandyn Dombrowski for the RT job; even the backups are all young and tested. The Chiefs are good for interior linemen; the Raiders could use competition at C, but otherwise they're pretty much set on the inside of the line. Their problem is tackles, and they've got their rookies in the draft. The Broncos could probably have been served well by weeding through a ton of guards and centers....

    57
    by Bobman :: Fri, 05/07/2010 - 1:35am

    Yeah, but the Colts tend to take smaller, more cerebral guys for OL and smaller/faster guys on DL. I think they had a DT under 270 two years ago (and he did okay), although he's filled out some since then.

    These days, being 275 lbs does not qualify you for "big" status in the NFL or even NCAA. If not a dime a dozen, they are maybe... a buck a dozen?

    Big is guys at 300+ in college and 325+ in the pros. Lord only knows how it will be defined in 20 years... maybe add 25 lbs to each? (shudder)

    18
    by ChicagoRaider :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 5:50pm

    Why the hate on Michael Huff last year? He had 11 passes defensed, no touchdowns allowed, and 3 interceptions. According to Pro Football Focus, QBs had a passer rating of 34.2 when picking on him. They rate him as bad against the run, which I would have to agree with.

    And I watched a lot of Raider games. I thought last year was a real turn-around for Huff. Do the game charters here say different?

    21
    by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 6:17pm

    I too, thought Huff took a major step forward in 2009.

    22
    by langsty :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 7:44pm

    Yeah, everything I've heard from people who watched the Raiders regularly indicates that Huff improved in 09.

    29
    by Sifter :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 9:06pm

    And also didn't the Raiders draft a noteworthy safety last year - Mr Mike Mitchell was it?... Anyway that mega-reach guy. Why not give him a chance to work into the safety spot before branding it the biggest hole? Between Huff and Mitchell they might get some decent production - it's only safety after all.

    34
    by justanothersteve :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 11:16pm

    Only a safety? As a Packers fan I only have two words for you: Atari Bigby.

    38
    by ammek :: Thu, 05/06/2010 - 3:00am

    And I have two more: Aaron Rouse.

    40
    by Dean :: Thu, 05/06/2010 - 9:08am

    I'll see your Aaron Rouse and raise you (Nacho) Macho Harris.

    49
    by Mr Shush :: Thu, 05/06/2010 - 12:52pm

    As a fan of the only team to have run out both CC Brown and Brian Russell, I think I'm all in.

    55
    by Sifter :: Thu, 05/06/2010 - 7:49pm

    Well those examples confirm my point. Where did Green Bay and Philly rank in defensive DVOA last season? 2nd and 6th - both with awful safeties. If your biggest hole is safety, your defense is probably pretty good, that's what I'm saying. Otherwise safeties would be the highest paid players wouldn't they? But they are probably the cheapest defenders you can buy along with your 4-3 OLBs.

    60
    by Mr Shush :: Fri, 05/07/2010 - 11:31am

    The CC Brown-era Texans, on the other hand, ranked 32nd, 31st and 30th, and Brown was by far the worst player on those God-awful units. These northern, green jersey wearing NFC types just don't know what crappy safety play is.

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    by AlanSP :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 9:33pm

    I still don't really buy the notion that you need complimentary types of receivers (i.e. a possession receiver to go along with a speed guy). I remember last year Barnwell was criticizing the Eagles and Vikings for drafting Maclin and Harvin on the grounds that they already had DeSean Jackson and Bernard Berrian, respectively.

    I'm more of the opinion that if having one DeSean Jackson-type receiver is good, having another one is also good. Ditto with Vincent Jackson. It's perfectly possible to have success with two speed guys (e.g. Holt & Bruce) or two possession guys (e.g. Fitzgerald & Boldin). The overall quality matters far more than the particular style.

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    by jimbohead :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 10:54pm

    Agreed, with one qualification. You have to have a coach willing and flexible enough to scheme around that, and a QB able to execute. With the Chargers, Norv likes to spread the field, using play action to draw safeties in, while burning them deep. I could easily see him using two speed receivers, though I can't remember a time when he had more than one. Plus, Rivers is Rivers; not a huge limiting factor.

    Also, as much flak as Norv gets around here, he's a pretty darned good offensive coach. His main weakness in that regard is midgame adjustments. If he gets quality receivers of any type, he'll probably be able to use them effectively. Until January. Then, we can expect miserable failure.

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    by justanothersteve :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 11:13pm

    When the Rams were at their best, they also had Ricky Proehl for a possession WR. You may remember him? He's the guy who went deep to beat Tampa in the NFC Championship to get them to the Super Bowl in 1999.

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    by AlanSP :: Thu, 05/06/2010 - 7:30pm

    They also had Az Hakim as another speed WR. Proehl was a valuable player to have, but I think the "greatest show on turf" would have been just fine with another equally talented speed guy.

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    by dmstorm22 :: Fri, 05/07/2010 - 3:25am

    Faulk was pretty much the possession receiver, or even Bruce, who didn't run as deep routes as Az or Torry.

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    by Mr Shush :: Thu, 05/06/2010 - 12:56pm

    Having multiple elite receivers is obviously great regardless of style, but when the talent is more middling I do think complementary skill sets are a bonus. When Andre Johnson went down in 2007, I'm pretty sure the Texans were better off with Kevin Walter and Andre Davis than they would have been with two Walters or two Davises.

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    by tunesmith :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 9:57pm

    RE Denver: Not sure getting a linebacker in round 6 would have softened the criticism here. And if a linebacker had been picked instead of Zane Beadles, then the criticism would have been on the failure to address the offensive line. Ah well. Can't fill every hole in a draft. I think the working theory is that the upgraded defensive line will reduce pressure on the linebackers.

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    by tornadot :: Wed, 05/05/2010 - 11:50pm

    Kirlew doesn't fit as a LB?

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    by tunesmith :: Thu, 05/06/2010 - 4:29am

    good point. so the objection is apparently that denver should have taken a LB in round 6, but that round 7 doesn't count.

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    by dmstorm22 :: Thu, 05/06/2010 - 12:22pm

    Don't worry. McDaniels is making Tebow fill that hole too.

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    by HAHA (not verified) :: Thu, 05/06/2010 - 2:03am

    Apparently SD's biggest hole is a "possession' receiver because Floyd is too much like V Jack? Wait what? Chargers have a Pro Bowl "possession receiver" his name is Antonio Gates. Oh and Floyd started 9 games and had like 750 yards, just saying. The Chargers remaining questions are corner and nose tackle, but they have little to no undrafted players at those positions because they already have scrub vets instead of scrub undrafted players to attempt to fill those holes. Almost all of the undrafted players SD has are WRs, LBs, TEs, or OL because if you havent been paying attention there's room at the back of the roster at some positions, AND those are the positions the Chargers actually are successful w/ in the UDFAncy

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    by Theo :: Thu, 05/06/2010 - 12:21pm

    "I should've mentioned that in the article, but let's just say I'm skeptical of that switch sticking"

    What do you see differently than the Broncos coaching staff then, to conclude this switch won't stick?

    Spencer Larsen is also still in there, the last player to start on both offense and defense. In 2008 he played MLB and FB vs the Falcons.

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    by Random comment (not verified) :: Sun, 05/09/2010 - 8:13pm

    The Chargers receiving core could be comprised of five scarecrows and Philip Rivers would still beat the world in DVOA.

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    by j-man2 :: Fri, 05/14/2010 - 4:38pm

    i am j-man of sbn big football fan i am disbaled can not type well denver biggest weakness is G-C we were pushed off the ball over and over again hey bolthead