Four Downs
Offseason analysis of the NFL, division by division

Four Downs: NFC North

Four Downs: NFC North
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Bill Barnwell

Chicago Bears

Biggest Hole: Wide Receiver

While Devin Hester improved dramatically over the course of the 2008 season, the Bears are still desperate for a wide receiver to emerge across from him. The only two recognizable wideouts left on the roster are Rashied Davis and 2008 third-round pick Earl Bennett, who didn't catch a single pass as a rookie.

Owing to their experience with big-ticket free agent Muhsin Muhammad, the Bears were never in the T.J. Houshmandzadeh sweepstakes. The free agent market is left with various flotsam of all types, giving the Bears the option to buy in bulk and mix and match parts, but that solution wasn't particularly effective in 2008; Chicago's pass offense was 21st in the league by DVOA.

Wheel Of Receivers!
Type Upside Play WYSIWYG
Ex-Seahawk Third Down Machine D.J. Hackett Bobby Engram
Injury-Prone Big Ten Receivers Joey Galloway Joe Jurevicius
Busted Ninth Overall Picks Reggie Williams Koren Robinson
Ex-College Quarterback Ronald Curry Drew Bennett
Special Teams Demon Mark Jones Kelley Washington
Old Possession Receivers Listed At 5-11, 210 Darrell Jackson Ike Hilliard

What Chicago needs most is a reliable possession receiver across from Hester; that could very well lead them to a player like Hackett or Engram, both of whom have good hands and a knack for picking up third downs. Jurevicius and Hilliard also have the same sort of skillset.

If they go through the draft, Chicago's not likely to spend their first-round pick on one of the receivers on the board, earmarking that pick for help on either side of the line. A logical selection with the 49th overall pick would be Ohio State wide receiver Brian Robiskie, whose balanced set of skills fits well alongside Hester's ability to get downfield.

Free Agency Recap

Chicago has been relatively quiet in free agency, letting John St. Clair go to the Browns and replacing him with former Panthers tackle Frank Omiyale. Omiyale is athletic and 26, so it's pretty clear that the Bears see him as an upside play who they might be able to coach up into a starter. So far, he has just been a depth guy.

Safety Josh Bullocks comes over from New Orleans to replace Mike Brown, who it appears will not be re-signed. Kevin Jones returns, but beyond that, none of the other Bears' free agents have landed anywhere.

Detroit Lions

Biggest Hole: Defensive Line

No, the biggest need is not quarterback, and that's for two reasons. First, our college projection system projects Drew Stanton to be a reasonably successful NFL quarterback, and Daunte Culpepper can hold the fort if he's not ready. Second, it's pretty obvious that no one's sure about Matthew Stafford, and we expressed our doubts in the last round of Four Downs. Making the right decision about a quarterback has little to do with the 2009 Lions; it has a lot to do with the 2012 Lions, and that's the team this organization needs to be focusing on. If the Lions pick Stafford, they'll be trying to find a new quarterback for that team three years from now.

Instead, the Lions should focus on what new head coach Jim Schwartz does as well as anyone: getting pressure with his front four. Although the Lions already have promising pass rusher Clifford Avril, Schwartz loves to rotate his defensive linemen and will want to add two or three more on draft day.

In free agency, that could mean taking a flyer on Vikings end Kenichi Udeze. On draft day, they could go for Georgia Tech's Michael Johnson with the 20th pick, or in later rounds, opt for either a moldable specimen like Stanford's Pannel Egboh or a college star like Oregon's Nick Reed. Either way, adding quality and depth to the defensive line is key for the Lions.

Free Agency Recap

Roster filler! Roster filler! Very emergency! Welcome the Will Hellers, Bryant Johnsons, Eric Kings, and Cody Spencers of the world, Detroit Lions fans! You remember seeing that speedy Titans front four running circles around woebegotten offensive lines? Now you've got ... Grady Jackson?

Detroit also re-signed Jason Hanson, which just seems like punishment at this point.

The big move was a trade of Cory Redding for Julian Peterson; Redding was a poor fit for the scheme the Lions will likely play under Schwartz, and while Peterson's not likely to be part of the next winning Lions team, he gives Schwartz a pair of linebackers (around with Ernie Sims) to build around.

Green Bay Packers

Biggest Hole: Defensive End

The Packers' move into a 3-4 alignment did not require a dramatic shift in personnel. Most of the lineup is already set: Aaron Kampman and Brady Poppinga will be the outside linebackers, with A.J. Hawk and Nick Barnett in the middle; it's also apparent that Cullen Jenkins will start at one defensive end slot, with Ryan Pickett as the nose tackle.

That leaves the other defensive end slot free, with some question as to who will fill it. With the departure of Colin Cole, the team will likely use tackle Johnny Jolly as Pickett's primary backup on the interior; that leaves former first-round pick Justin Harrell as an option. Harrell has the size (6-foot-4, 320 pounds) needed for a 3-4 end, but has been injury-prone since college and has spent his entire career as a defensive tackle. He'd likely need to drop 15 pounds or so to play end.

There's only prominent defensive end in the draft with the size to play end in this sort of system: LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson, who is a great fit for the Packers schematically. He might be a slight overdraft as the ninth overall pick, and the Packers might also choose to upgrade over Poppinga and take linebacker Aaron Maybin, but Jackson's ability at the five-technique is exactly what Green Bay needs to complete their switch to the 3-4. Maybin is a luxury; Jackson's a necessity.

Free Agency Recap

Curiously, the Packers didn't put too much of an effort into resigning 330-pound tackle Colin Cole, who left to replace Rocky Bernard in Seattle. That leaves them thin at nose tackle, with only Jolly to help out. They did re-sign the promising Michael Montgomery, but at 273 pounds, he'll either have to bulk up dramatically to play end or lose 15 pounds to play outside linebacker. He's not a good fit in this scheme.

The Packers have had had rumored interests in quite a few players, but the one player they've been able to acquire so far is Anthony Smith, who is strictly safety depth.

Minnesota Vikings

Biggest Hole: Quarterback

If the apocryphal stories about T.J. Houshmandzadeh not signing with the Vikings after meeting Tarvaris Jackson are true, it should just be another sign of how far gone Jackson's status is, and how imperative it is for the Vikings to improve their situation at quarterback. Furthermore, the fact that it was Jackson meeting with Houshmandzadeh and not the recently-acquired Sage Rosenfels implies that the Vikings don't think Rosenfels is their future starter.

The problem is that the only free agent left on the marketplace who represents a possible upgrade on Jackson is Jeff Garcia, and he has attracted absolutely no interest from anyone. Jay Cutler may or may not be available in trade, but the Vikings won't want to sacrifice their first-round pick to acquire Cutler with depth issues around the lineup to be filled. In addition, when the Vikings traded for Jared Allen and then gave him a $74 million deal last year, owner Zygi Wilf had to put out a cash call to ensure that his team would have cash on hand throughout the offseason. Any team acquiring Cutler would likely be expected to finance a new deal, which Wilf might be loathe to do.

With a team designed to win right now, there are two potentially palatable options in trade. Matt Leinart and Vince Young have become linked as busts from the 2006 draft, but neither has really had much of a chance to prove they were a bust. Leinart has been called a bust because he lost his job to Kurt Warner, but he got that tag before Warner emerged as an MVP candidate this year. Merely being worse than Kurt Warner does not make you a bad quarterback -- plenty of teams would still benefit from your presence. The Vikings would be one.

Young became a much more accurate quarterback in 2007, even as his touchdown-to-interception ratio dropped. He has had all of 31 starts as a pro, and considering the lack of receiving options around him, it's pretty harsh to already place him firmly in the "bust" category.

Buying low on either Young or Leinart gives the Vikings the chance to acquire a potentially elite quarterback on the cheap. Either one should be an upgrade on the devil they already know.

Free Agency Recap

The biggest news was the departure of veteran center Matt Birk, who went east to replace Jason Brown in Baltimore. Darren Sharper is gone to New Orleans to replace Josh Bullocks; they're the only two players who have signed elsewhere.

The Vikings' biggest move was trading a fourth-round pick to the Texans for Rosenfels; although they signed him to a two-year, $9 million deal, he's a borderline starter at best and would still be usurped by a player with the talent of Leinart or Young.

Minnesota has added two players: Glenn Holt comes over from Cincinnati to be the Vikings' third fourth receiver, and Karl Paymah will be corner depth. Cedric Griffin was also signed to a contract extension.


49 comments, Last at 30 Mar 2009, 5:45pm

1 Packers details

Considering the REALLY LARGE contract that Seattle gave Colin Cole to leave Green Bay, it's no wonder they didn't try very hard to keep him.

The other major hole not discussed here is at right tackle, which depends on (a) an aging, recently-injured, and as-yet-unsigned Mark Tauscher, (b) a group of might-be-a-players like Tony Moll, Darren Colledge and Breno Giacomini, or (c) a relatively high-round draft pick with starter skills. Considering the other tackle is Chad Clifton, also aging and not particularly healthy, and the Big Four OTs available in the draft this year...

... yeah. Oh, they probably need DEs too, but it's as difficult to have find good offensive linemen as it is to find good defenders.

13 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

I was just disappointed to only get a table when I was promised a wheel.

If the wheel was figurative they should have said so to avoid getting people's hopes up.

3 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Grady Jackson's quarterback sacking days may be over, but he's still a quality run stuffer. I reckon his play is bound to fall off a cliff one of these years, and that's probably why teams keep releasing him (that and the fact that he's clearly playing at a true weight of somewhere around 400lbs). But if you watch the Falcons last year, he's still as hard to move as he ever was. Amusingly, have him listed as a DE. Can you imagine him trying to provide an edge rushing threat? Still, I like that signing by the Lions.

I'm not sure just how much Schwartz should be trying to build around Ernie Sims though. His play really stank last year. Granted, so did the entire defensive unit, but he got ran over so many times that it's got to be hard to recover from. Fair play to him if he does though, because he looked decent enough in his first two years.

Does anyone know why the Packers didn't try harder to re-sign Cole? He looked pretty handy last year, and he's prototypical 3-4 NT size. Seems strange.

10 Colin Cole

He can't handle double teams. In fact, word out of Green bay is that they were looking at using him as an end just for that reason.

He just wasn't as valuable to them as he was to Seattle.

With the trade for Redding, I wonder if Cole is on the outside looking in yet again.

4 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

I would have thought that the Packers would take the endbacker over a 5 technique end. Personally I'd rather risk Harrell or Montgomery than have to rely on Poppinga.

14 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

It might be a question of depth. Behind Poppinga the Pack have Brandon Chillar, last year's draft choice Jeremy Thompson, maybe the serviceable Jason Hunter, and some flotsam. At DE, it's possible that Jolly will find himself in jail by the time the season starts, leaving the team with two spots to fill from Jenkins, Montgomery (a poor fit as Bill says) and Harrell (with his 17 career tackles). That spells ugly to me.

5 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Ignoring the argument of whether T-Jack is good or not, so that we don't end up debating that - can someone please back up why Leinart or Young is a better option? Especially this year, when they'd have to learn an entirely new offense? Or why they haven't had a chance to prove that they're busts, but T-Jack has? According to pro-football ref, Young has 28 career starts, T-Jack 23, and Leinart 16.

36 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

I'm not a Vikings fan, and I don't watch them particularly closely, but I think I agree with you. Young failed with the same offense and coaching unit that Collins did well with (Chris Johnson excepted). This is pretty much the same situation as T-Jack not doing as well as Frerotte did with basically the same cast.

A similar parallel exists with Leinart, though I think he probably does have more upside. As mentioned, not being as good as Kurt Warner is not particularly a kiss of death, and whilst there is no real cause for optimism that T-Jack will improve, Leinart could benefit from a change of scenery. It would have to be a cheap deal for the Vikes to pull the trigger, though

47 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

The only difference between Tarvaris Jackson and Vince Young is the 2006 Rose Bowl.

Tarvaris Jackson is a better pro quarterback than Vince Young.

6 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Vikings fans, how did your team get itself in this situation? A gross overestimate of Jackson's abilities? A general lack of foresight? Did they bank too much that McNabb would become available and fail to develop a backup plan? Garcia isn't a bad QB, and though he's obviously not a long-term solution, wouldn't the smart play be to sign him, draft a WR or two and gear up for next year when the QB class will be much better?

Hail Hydra!

16 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Basically, your first guess is correct. The Vikings braintrust thought highly enough of Jackson that they traded up in the draft to get him in the second round, despite Jackson being generally rated as a fifth round prospect at best. The other quarterbacks brought in during Jackson's time include Brooks Bollinger, Kelley Holcomb, Gus Frerotte, and now Sage Rosenfels. There hasn't been a real attempt to find an improvement over Jackson.

So, I hear Jay Cutler wants out of Denver...

46 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

As Birdman says, it is mostly the Vikings investing in Jackson. Chilly has been a big believer in him, to the point where many believe he is now wearing blinders to avoid admitting his mistake. I don't think they were ever banking on McNabb. To bank on a guy under contract for several years to another team is silly. People can debate Spielman's ability, but I don't think any reasonable person would accuse him of that.

BB makes a couple of references that might be a bit misleading. First, contrary to an erroneous media report, Jackson did not meet with TJ; they had a phone conversation. According to the Vikings, the conversation was with Jackson, rather than Rosenfels, simply because Sage's schedule did not match up with TJ's. To divine an inside track to the starter's job over a phone call is more the stuff of US Weekly than a credible football journalist.

Also, the story is that the Bronco's approached the Vikings on Cutler but the Vikings had no interest because some in the "inner circle" are not sold on Jay. Let that sink in for a moment. The same people that show unending devotion to TJaxx don't think much of Cutler. If Jay Cutler does not have a gun to his head, it is only because he lacks ammo. At any rate, the Cutler angle has zero legs; it has already been discussed and rejected. Not sure why it was brought up again here.

And, yes, I've gone to great lengths to avoid spelling both "Tarvaris" and "Houshmanzadeh".

7 Vikes QB

Buying low on Leinart or Young might make sense from a Vikes POV, but it's harder to see how selling low makes sense for either the Cards or the Titans. The starters on both teams are very near the end of their careers and injury risk has to be regarded as farily high. Given that both teams are very competitive and neither guy is making himself a nuisance, why would they risk a trade that would leave them an injury (or age related performance decline) from potential disaster?

I think it would take a lot in trade to get either guy.

31 Re: Vikes QB

In reply to by mawbrew

They did both sign top-10 draft contracts for the QB position. If nothing else, their current teams are putting a lot of money into a backup position.

I don't see either making an easy trade, though. Both Warner and Collins are in their last year or so, so the franchises (Arizona and Tennersee) are probably putting a lot into seeing whether these two guys will (respectively) pan out for their teams.

Not a bad setup - Minny could mimic that by signing Garcia, then either keeping T-Jack and S-Rose, or maybe even drafting someone who has a better chance of panning out, like M-Sanch or N-Dav.

8 Lions

Identifying the one biggest hole on the Lions roster is a heck of a challenge. Other than Calving Johnson (a true beast) it's difficult to name with much confidence the NFL starting caliber players they have. I think there probably are a handful more (including Sims), but it's difficult to see it when things are going so badly all around them.

33 Re: Lions

In reply to by mawbrew

Indeed - Johnson must be 'a true beast' if he's calving.

No, I couldn't in good conscience leave that one alone.

9 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Offensive Line is clearly the biggest hole for the Bears.

The Bears' offensive line ranked 11th in pass protection (lots of 3-step drops) and 24th in run blocking. As a result, the Pass Offense (21st) ranked ahead of the Run Offense (24th). Considering that the Bears have arguably a PB-caliber RB in Forte, it's amazing that they ranked so low in the run.

Jerry Angelo won't pull the trigger on a WR in the first. He'll draft a ROT (Eben Britton) and move Omiyale to LG (Omiyale is a huge upgrade over Beekman). Adding Robiskie in the second and a third rd C-G (Mack, Wood, Unger, Caldwell, Levitre) would be icing on the cake.

12 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

I agree with your assessment, the Bears line last year was like a sea anchor on the offense's production. When you have one of the fastest WRs in the league it would have been nice to be able to use five step drops without the QB having to get rid of the ball as soon as he gets to the base of his drop or get flattened by whoever is lined up against John St Clair. Seven step drops would have been sheer lunacy even if you used play action to try to slow down the rush. Wierd as it seems I think the Bears line as it stands would be an improvement over last year even if they don't add anyone else. That doesn't mean it is good enough, but that it was pretty bad last year.

I haven't seen any of Eben Britton's play, is he sufficiently better than the player who would be available in the second round? If you could get Loadholt, Meredith or Beatty in the second, is Britton in the first the correct move? Wouldn't the Bears be better off taking either a WR or FS (ie Jenkins or Vontae Davis) and taking a tackle in the second?

As for the lack of a second receiver, did a poor receiving corps stop the Bears making the playoffs in Orton's rookie year? Or when they got to the Superbowl? If you are going to have to play half your games in Chicago and at least one more in pretty poor weather conditions you need to have a dominant offensive line. Angelo needs to do something to create a dominant blocking unit. The better he does this the better Orton, Forte, Hester and Olsen will perform.

Or he could trade for Jay Cutler.

15 Bears: O-Line vs. WR

The Bears' should limit the bust potential with their first pick. They have too many needs to miss on another high round prospect. To that end, I'd prefer that they pull the trigger on OT (or even FS Davis). Worse case scenario, an OT can slide to the right side or into the interior. Angelo is smart enough not to role the dice on a WR in round 1. He's seemingly even more risk adverse post-Cedric Benson.

Take a look at the list of WRs taken in the 1st or 2nd round over the last two years (19 picks in total). Right now the bust rate is at least 50%. Calvin Johnson, DeSean Jackson, Eddie Royal and Anthony Gonzalez all look like the deal. Malcolm Kelly, Robert Meachem, Limas Sweed, and Dexter Jackson have yet to see the field and should have made the field by now, so they're busts. Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith, Sidney Rice, Craig Davis and Devin Thomas look to be no better than Rashied Davis right now and will likely be busts considering where they were picked. Get's you real excited to pull the trigger on a WR in the first two rounds, huh?

Rushing Receiving
Rk Year Rnd Pick Pos Tm From To AP1 PB St G Att Yds TD Rec Yds TD College/Univ
1 2008 2 33 Donnie Avery WR STL 0 0 0 Houston
2 2008 2 34 Devin Thomas WR WAS 2008 2008 0 0 0 16 3 53 1 15 120 0 Michigan State
3 2008 2 36 Jordy Nelson WR GNB 2008 2008 0 0 0 16 33 366 2 Kansas State
4 2008 2 41 James Hardy WR BUF 0 0 0 Indiana
5 2008 2 42 Eddie Royal WR DEN 2008 2008 0 0 1 15 11 109 0 91 980 5 Virginia Tech
6 2008 2 46 Jerome Simpson WR CIN 0 0 0 Coastal Carolina
7 2008 2 49 DeSean Jackson WR PHI 2008 2008 0 0 1 16 17 96 1 62 912 2 California
8 2008 2 51 Malcolm Kelly WR WAS 0 0 0 Oklahoma
9 2008 2 53 Limas Sweed WR PIT 0 0 0 Texas
10 2008 2 58 Dexter Jackson WR TAM 2008 2008 0 0 0 7 Appalachian State
11 2007 1 2 Calvin Johnson WR DET 2007 2008 0 0 2 31 7 51 1 126 2087 16 Georgia Tech
12 2007 1 9 Ted Ginn Jr. WR MIA 2007 2008 0 0 2 32 9 76 2 90 1210 4 Ohio State
13 2007 1 23 Dwayne Bowe WR KAN 2007 2008 0 0 2 32 156 2017 12 LSU
14 2007 1 27 Robert Meachem WR NOR 0 0 0 Tennessee
15 2007 1 30 Craig Davis WR SDG 2007 2008 0 0 0 18 3 9 0 24 247 1 LSU
16 2007 1 32 Anthony Gonzalez WR IND 2007 2008 0 0 1 29 94 1240 7 Ohio State
17 2007 2 44 Sidney Rice WR MIN 2007 2008 0 0 0 26 46 537 8 South Carolina
18 2007 2 45 Dwayne Jarrett WR CAR 2007 2008 0 0 0 16 1 11 0 16 192 0 USC
19 2007 2 51 Steve Smith WR NYG 2007 2008 0 0 0 21 65 637 1 USC

18 Re: Bears: O-Line vs. WR

The only problem with looking at WRs over the last two years is that they often take longer than that to develop. Of course a WR that only becomes any good after two seasons isn't going to help the Bears win any games next season. The Bears don't need a guy with terrifying deep speed (they already have one and let another leave last offseason), they need a guy who knows how to get open and catch the ball. I would be happy enough if they went after someone like Ramses Barden or Joquin Inglesias in the third.

Obviously if one of the top tackle prospects drop the Bears would have to be all over them, but it probably isn't going to happen. I wouldn't mind the Bears taking Maclin or Harvin, I really don't get the talking heads who say they are too much like Hester. Exactly how 'too much like Hester' can a WR be? Too fast? Too elusive? Too good at breaking tackles? Both players are incredibly productive if a little injury prone, but there aren't any decent reasons to not take them simply because they share some of the same physical attributes of Hester. If lack of height is the problem the Bears line up two big TEs and a 6'2" RB. If they did take Harvin (or Maclin should he be there) they could keep the same personnel on the field and shift formations from 2 RBs, 2 TEs, 1 WR all the way to an empty backfield with four guys split wide and 1 TE and every matchup combination between the two. With a decent line it could pose problems.

22 Re: Bears: O-Line vs. WR

I took a look at the wideouts drafted 19-29 between 1997 and 2006 last year. Doing the same thing for the Bears' pick (+- 5 slots) would have slightly different results, but the general point would be unchanged.

24 Re: Bears: O-Line vs. WR

As much as I want a dynamic playmaker opposite Hester, I can't stomach the thought of another high round flameout.

This team is too thin at too many positions to miss on another high prospect. I picked 1st and 2nd round WRs and OTs from the 2000 & 2001 drafts (I picked 2000 & 2001 simply because they'd have about a decade of service in the league). Three WRs (33%) were their team's primary starter for more than 5 years and 7 (54%) played more than 100 games. 2 Probowlers were included in the crowd (Holt & Boston). Nine OT (75%) were their team's primary starter for more than 5 years and 7 (58%) played more than 100 games. There were three Probowlers (Samuels, Smith, Clifton).

I'd argue that the ratio of average starters to busts is much higher with the OT. Samuels, Smith, Clifton, Tait, Petitgout, Shelton, Terry and Jansen all had generally solid careers. McIntosh and Aaron Gibson (what a blast from the past - do you remember how fat he was?) were clear busts. With the WRs, Holt, Burress, Porter, Taylor and Price had decent careers. Warrick, Morris and Soward (and Boston?) were clear misses.

Mike Mayock has Eben Britton as his #5 OT on the board, so I'd be fine with them taking a chance on a him. A WR in #1 and Jerry is gambling with his own future.

Rk Year Rnd Pick Pos Tm From To AP1 PB St G
1 2000 1 4 Peter Warrick WR CIN 2000 2005 0 0 4 79
2 2000 1 8 Plaxico Burress WR PIT 2000 2008 0 0 9 128
3 2000 1 10 Travis Taylor WR BAL 2000 2007 0 0 7 101
4 2000 1 21 Sylvester Morris WR KAN 2000 2000 0 0 1 15
5 2000 1 29 R. Jay Soward WR JAX 2000 2000 0 0 0 13
6 2000 2 32 Dennis Northcutt WR CLE 2000 2008 0 0 3 128
7 2000 2 36 Todd Pinkston WR PHI 2000 2004 0 0 4 78
8 2000 2 47 Jerry Porter WR OAK 2000 2008 0 0 4 115
9 1999 1 6 Torry Holt WR STL 1999 2008 1 7 10 158
10 1999 1 8 David Boston WR ARI 1999 2005 1 1 3 75
11 1999 1 13 Troy Edwards WR PIT 1999 2005 0 0 1 92
12 1999 2 32 Kevin Johnson WR CLE 1999 2005 0 0 4 101
13 1999 2 53 Peerless Price WR BUF 1999 2007 0 0 6 123

Rk Year Rnd Pick Pos Tm From To AP1 PB St G
1 2000 1 3 Chris Samuels T WAS 2000 2008 0 6 9 136
2 2000 1 20 Stockar McDougle T DET 2000 2006 0 0 3 80
3 2000 1 22 Chris McIntosh T SEA 2000 2001 0 0 1 24
4 2000 2 38 Marvel Smith T PIT 2000 2008 0 1 7 112
5 2000 2 44 Chad Clifton T GNB 2000 2008 0 1 8 131
6 2000 2 53 Todd Wade T MIA 2000 2007 0 0 7 99
7 1999 1 14 John Tait T KAN 1999 2008 0 0 9 148
8 1999 1 19 Luke Petitgout T NYG 1999 2007 0 0 8 118
9 1999 1 21 L.J. Shelton T ARI 1999 2008 0 0 8 146
10 1999 1 27 Aaron Gibson T DET 2000 2004 0 0 2 38
11 1999 2 34 Chris Terry T CAR 1999 2007 0 0 7 100
12 1999 2 37 Jon Jansen T WAS 1999 2008 0 0 8 126

23 Re: Bears: O-Line vs. WR

A few points:
1. Some of those stats are not up to date (e.g. Avery and Meachem)

2. You really can't call WRs busts after 1 year. Take a look at the rookie stats of Herman Moore, Isaac Bruce, Jimmy Smith, Joe Horn, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Brandon Marshall, Amani Toomer, Eric Moulds, Derrick Mason, Hines Ward, Donald Driver, Plaxico Burress, Chad Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Jerricho Cotchery, Vincent Jackson and a whole bunch of others didn't do much their 1st year and went on to become stars. That doesn't mean that that will happen with any of the guys from this year or last year, but it does mean that it's far too early to write them off.

3. All that said, I agree that drafting WRs is a riskier proposition than many other positions.

37 Re: Bears: O-Line vs. WR

3. All that said, I agree that drafting WRs is a riskier proposition than many other positions.

This is one of my personal little hobby-horses. My theory is that drafting WRs in the first two rounds is a riskier proposition. Why that emphasis? Because WRs get into the first two rounds when they have physical skills that "just can't be coached" - speed or size. However, these are just not so important as route-running, ability to catch, reading defenses, etc.

As a result, drafting receivers early is a massive crapshoot, as they are often drafted based on abilities that are not as important to the position that they are going to play. I would further wager that receivers taken in rounds 3-7 have no greater a flame-out rate than you would expect for players taken in those rounds

I will try to get some numbers down during the offseason to support this (hare-brained) theory...

17 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

I'm wondering if it's worth a 1st round pick to find a right tackle. I think it would be better to sign a stop-gap (Orlando Pace), then draft a receiver or defensive end in the first round, and find a tackle later than can be groomed.

19 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Kevin Shaffer playing RT can't possibly be as bad as St Clair was playing LT last year. Why the Browns chose to give so much money to a human turnstile is beyond me.

27 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

It's perfectly reasonable to take a right tackle in the first round if there's a good one available. The difference in importance between the left and right side isn't as big as it's sometimes made out to be, and that makes it possible to get good values on right tackles. Plus, a lot of players that start out on the right side end up on the left (e.g. Jamaal Brown, Jordan Gross). For the Bears, part of what they do depends on what they expect from Chris Williams.

41 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

I'm also against drafting the same position in the first round 2 years in a row, but I can't really back that up with any kind of evidence for it being bad. Except the Lions, but that is kind of an outlier. It just doesn't seem "right" to me.

44 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

with the signing of kevein shaffer the Bears no longer have the same need to take a OT and have options with the #18 pick. But i think they should take a OT anyway. With Forte in the back field there should be an attempt to build an elite offenceive line not just a passable one.

45 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

The Philadelphia Eagles during the 1990s drafted OT in the first round 5 times.

1991 8th pick - Antoine Davis, OT, Tennessee
1993 19th pick - Lester Holmes, OG, Jackson State (played OT in college)
1994 14th pick - Bernard Williams, OT, Georgia
1996 25th pick - Jermane Mayberry, OG, Texas A&M-Kingsville (player OT in college and early in his professional career)
1998 11th pick - Tra Thomas, OT, Florida State

Looking at that list you have a 2 out of 5 success rate. Where Mayberry and Thomas were/are productive NFL starters. Antoine Davis didn't have the drive to be a professional football player (as described in "Bringing the Heat" by Bowden). Lester Holmes didn't have the talent. And according to Wikipeadia Bernard Williams couldn't stop failing drug tests (Life-time suspension for 15 failed drug tests).

11 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

The Vikings won't want to sacrifice their first-round pick to acquire Cutler with depth issues around the lineup to be filled.

I disagree. You can build depth with your 2nd-5th round picks and free agency. A proven 20-something Pro-bowl QB is a rare, rare commodity, and a steal for a late 1st round pick.

34 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

True enough - which is why I doubt that Denver is going to acceded to his trade demands.

Unless the Vikes offer something like, say, their #1 pick AND Purple Jesus.

21 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

*checks time stamp*

Nope, not an old article! Just one that someone forgot to edit: Bobby Engram has been a Kansas City Chief for the past week.

25 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

what would be the point of trading for Rosenfels if you go and trade for Leinart/Young ? I really, don't understand. Frerotte and T.Jackson can be fine backups.

28 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Rosenfels seems pretty iffy as a starter. The guy throws a lot of interceptions, 5.7% of his passes last year and 5.2% for his career. That's absurdly high. For perspective, Rex Grossman is at 3.6% for his career, and the year that Favre threw 29 picks, he was at 4.8%. He won't cut it as a starter unless he learns to take care of the ball.

32 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

If I were a Vikings fan my main concern about Rosenfels would be that he seems to have found ways to lose games that even Rex Grossman hadn't found (if you don't know what I am talking about watch his game against the Colts last year, the way he grasped defeat from the certain jaws of victory was inspired).

42 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Shouldn't that be the jaws of certain victory?

Anyways, given the Packer's meltdown ability, Rosenfels, the Lions, and the Bears terrible coverage on mid-range routes, you can probably expect a lot of late leads blown in NFC North this year.

26 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Really the Lions should depend on Stanton and Culpepper? Stanton has shown one thing that he has shown in college, he cannot stay healthy. Maybe Culpepper has some sort of Kurt Warner resurgence in him, I don't think that is true. But really, I am not seeing Stafford as this crash and burn prospect that others see him as, Lewin projection or not.

29 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

I'm not sure it's whether or not Stafford is a decent prospect as much as it is whether or not he is one of the best prospects in a decade ... because if he's not, he won't make much difference, if any, throwing to Calvin Johnson and Fill-in-the-blank Receiver. Free-agent pickups will probably improve the defense beyond Cumberland College levels, and the offensive line isn't likely to be so terribly bad next year, but I think the Lions, sad to say, currently have more talent at QB than on either line, and certainly help at LB and/or DB would be good too.

I'd like to see them go OL/DL or DL/OL, then LB, and then DB/QB or QB/DB.

35 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

The Lions shouldn't take a QB just for the sake of taking a QB. Stafford won't necessarily be a bust, but there's a big enough risk of it that I'd avoid him. This is one of the worst QB draft classes I've seen in quite a while. The Lions have enough other problems and enough viable options that they can afford to see what they have in Stanton (who's got good athletic ability and had better college numbers than Stafford with a worse supporting cast). I think Monroe or Curry would be much better bets for them (ideally, they'd trade down, but nobody ever actually wants to trade up to #1 anymore). If Stanton can't cut it, next year will be a better QB class anyway.

30 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

I guess, part of me thinks the QB class next season is not any better than this year's (and it depends on what you think of Bradford/McCoy/Tebow/whoever else transitioning to the NFL).

39 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Again, maybe it is just my dislike of the QB class next season-Bradford looks like the only 1st rounder and even then I don't think he is that good of a NFL prospect.

40 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Last year I said that I if I had to roll the dice on a late round sleeper QB that I'd pick John David Booty to pull off what Matt Cassell did. After watching last year, I have to admit that he looked horrible. Then again, I was highly against drafting a 5th round D1AA QB Tavaras Jackson in the 2nd round to the point of comical proportions.

Last year the Lions had one of the worst scoring offenses in the league and the worst run defense in the league. Usually you have a lot of things going wrong when your run D is that bad, but usually run defenses are that bad because they give up big plays.

I'd rather have Matt Cassell than Matt Stafford and so would most football followers, so what does that say about Cassell, what does that say about Stafford, and what does that say about the #1 draft pick. I think the Lions are in a horrible spot but then who is going to give up anything to trade up for that pick? It takes two to tango and the Lions are in a very unenvionable position.

I don't think the Lions offensive Lion LT Backus in particular is as horrible as people mention, I think they have 4 good players on their front 7 ( Simms, Peterson, Cliff Avril and Dwayne White) with a couple other decent ones.

If I am the Lions I am trying to trade out of that #1 spot really hard, I understand that you probably won't be able to get a fair market value but BJ could help out their interior DL, Jenkins can improve the secondary, the Tackles could help the O-Line, I mean any of those guys could help and I am not sold Stafford is the next Pro Bowl QB year after year.

43 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

Bill Barnwell - just curious what do you think it would take in draft picks to land Leinart. Young seems like a headcase to me but Leinart would be very interesting.

There was a rumour last year that the Vikings offered two 1's for Brady Quinn. I find that hard to believe.

48 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

There are a slew of 3-4 Ends available in the second that I actually trust quite a bit more than Tyson Jackson: Ziggy Hood and Jarron Gilbert spring to mind. Everette Brown is the pick that makes the most sense for the Pack as things sit right now (assuming Raji, Curry, Smith, Monroe are off the board). I do agree that 3-4 end is the scariest hole on the roster, but #9 is a reach for one.

49 Re: Four Downs: NFC North

I didn't get any sort of answer the last time around, so I'll post this concerning Lewin's forecast of Matt Stafford, one more time:

Is there any reliable comp to Stafford, and is there any consideration to a player's year when he posted certain numbers? Here's what I see when I look at the 5 players given in the article:
- Patrick Ramsey actually regressed from Sophomore to Senior season in terms of accuracy, going from 60.4% to 58.9% to 57.1%.
- Jake Plummer started 4 years, but never had a high completion %, as he turned in totals of 51.3%, 54.1%, 57.5%, and 57.2%. Note that he also played his SR season.
- You say you weed out the unique system guys, but you include Shaun King, who was drafted thanks to a successful season with Rich Rodriguez as his OC. Rodriguez hardly runs a conventional pro system. King also played his SR season.
- JP Losman as a JR completed 57.4% and as a SR completed 59.8%.
- Matt Ryan topped 60% twice in his career and played 4 years.

The reason I bring these year-by-year stats up is that I think it paints a bit of a different picture. Discounting Shaun King's spread offense stat numbers, we've got just 3 seasons of 60% or better. One was Patrick Ramsey's sophomore effort, and as the team got further removed from the Rich Rodriguez years, his completion rates dwindled. The other two belonged to the one success story in the bunch, Matt Ryan. Not all career 57% rates are the same, in other words. Some players, like Ramsey, regress. Some players, like Plummer, pretty much stay the same. Some players continually get better. Matthew Stafford is in the latter group, and much like Carson Palmer, got thrown into the fire before he was ready and suffered a low career completion % as a result. Stafford, if you compare the two, is actually further along, accuracy-wise, than was Palmer when he was a Junior. Palmer's completion % was 58.7 his JR season and 63.2% as a SR.

Is there really a great comp for Matthew Stafford? You compared him to 5 players who all played their Senior seasons, and of the 5, only Matt Ryan ever had a single season completion % as high as Stafford's 61.5% in 2008. Can you find a QB who started from his true freshman to junior season and consistently improved his completion % each season, culminating in a 60%+ season as a JR, while playing in a pro system? I'm not suggesting he's the first, but I do think it's a bit shortsighted to use raw career completion % as the tool when there seem to be some obvious trends that separate players within that accuracy range (notably the presence of a 60%+ season on their resume).