Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

11 Jul 2005

Postseason Repeats Might Hinge on These Guys

Pete Prisco takes a look at twelve players he thinks will play a big part in getting their respective teams to the playoffs this season. He puts New England DT Vince Wilfork first on the list, but I'm not certain that any one player (other than, ahem, Tom Brady) can't be replaced on this team (even Richard Seymour).

In his notes from 'Around the League,' Prisco also discusses the upcoming supplemental draft, the derision with which team scouts refer to the national scouting bureaus, and why the Falcons are giving Peerless Price one more chance to be the go-to guy.

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 11 Jul 2005

20 comments, Last at 29 Apr 2006, 7:03pm by Mr Shush


by Kibbles (not verified) :: Mon, 07/11/2005 - 2:36pm

I disagree with Bell for the Broncos for the same reason that Ryan disagrees with Vince Woolfork. Everyone knows that the Broncos running game is going to be sensational, whether they have use a converted fullback/5th string running back or not. If Bell doesn't step up, then Anderson will, or Griffin will, or Dayne will resurrect his career, or Clarett will be the newest rookie phenom. I think Denver's fortunes are tied a LOT more tightly to the development of Jeb Putzier in his second year as a starter, and the ability of Courtney Brown to stay healthy (although with the depth at D-line, that's not as big of a concern. Putzier is vital, though, because Denver NEEDS a red zone threat).

by thatguy (not verified) :: Mon, 07/11/2005 - 3:13pm


I agree that the Broncos offense will succeed with or without Bell, though I think if Bell can stay healthy and carry a large load they will be better off. I think his potential for big plays is enormous.

I agree too with the importance of consistent and improved d-line play, though it's hard to pin that on any one player. It's hard to predict which player(s) will step up, but if Courtney Brown can realize his potential, well, it will be exciting (especially if Pryce gets back to form).

Also, Putzier's improvement will be huge. I agree with what you've said here and elsewhere, especially regarding his blocking ability.

I think that another key for the Broncos will be in the secondary (of course, I say this with the last two postseason losses in mind, while realizing that the article is about making the playoffs rather than winning in the playoffs). If Lenny Walls can stay healthy, he can be a huge force. He is deceptively fast and very big. I think we've yet to see what he can do. And, with the loss of Herndon, one of the three rookies must step up. The Broncos have been lacking a consistent nickel back for sometime now. Nick Ferguson will need to fill the vacancy left by Kenoy Kennedy as well (his intimidation factor was big, though he seemed to disappear in big games).

It will be interesting to see how D.J. Williams adjusts to the strong side. Given his size and natural ability, I think he'll be fine, though his production, at least on paper, might drop off. I hope this doesn't discourage him.

Lastly, I think it will be important for Darius Watts to step in as a dependable third WR. While the Broncos don't tend to go to their third receiver often, it is huge to have a number three that is consistent and dependable, neither of which Watts was last year.

Well, I've rambled, but if the Broncos can do all of these things, they'll be scary. I guess, IMO, the biggest key to their success (at least as far as a young player stepping up) will be Lenny Walls. If he can stay healthy and start making plays opposite Champ, their defense will be much improved (which is big, considering they were already pretty good).

Kibbles, do you think Cooper Carlisle will be a viable replacement for Neil? I know he filled the hole for most of last season, but like a lot of people who post here, I'm not especially adept at analyzing line play.

Any idea which of the three rookie corners might win the job?

by MDS (not verified) :: Mon, 07/11/2005 - 4:36pm

Prisco labels the National Football Scouting ratings of the top players "a joke." Everyone who thinks Prisco knows more than the guys who work for National about evaluating college talent please raise your hand.

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Mon, 07/11/2005 - 5:39pm

I feel it's about time for a 'why Omar Jacobs is so good' article from MDS, but that's beside the point. I think Priscoe's reasoning behind the statement is flawed.

"National ranks USC quarterback Matt Leinart as the sixth-best prospect. That's a joke. Leinart will be one of the top two or three players picked next April."

In other words, rating him #6 is silly, because he will be drafted no lower than third. The logic is, players are drafted in the order of their ranking, and therefore if he's rated as the sixth-best player he will be drafted sixth.

The biggest problem with this (well, aside from the assumption that he will be in the top three, when we don't know how this year will go for him or anyone else, or who will be picking) is that it ignores everything sane people and Mel Kiper know about the draft, including recent history. Flash back to April - who was drafted first? Alex Smith. Who did Mel have rated first on his Big Board? Not Alex Smith. I think he had Smith somewhere around 7, Rodgers around 12, yet everyone knew Smith was going first, and nobody was the least bit surprised when a QB was taken above a WR with a higher absolute rating. Why? Because that's the way it's always done!

There are always circumstances which cause players to be drafted out of their absolute order. Some teams need that QB of the future, or the 3-technique DT is too good to pass up, or the draft is particularly thin at a position that year, and if we don't get this LB now there's a huuuge dropoff, or it could be Arizona's pick. Also, there could be genuine differences of opinion about a player's talent and ability to play in the NFL - if the consensus says a guy has 3rd-round talent, but one team thinks he has late 1st round skills, and they grab him in the 1st or 2nd, his draft position will be very different from his leaguewide rating. Therefore, this premise that Leinart cannot be rated #6 if he's drafted in the top 3 is simply absurd.

I also loved this quote:
"Jason White won a Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma in 2003 and then had another good year last season. Then he didn't get drafted. Now we might know why."

Um, could it be that he probably never was NFL-quality, and even if he was the two blown knees would make everyone just a little hesitant? Is there anyone else who saw more than two OU games the last few years who wasn't the least bit surprised that he went undrafted? Did anyone ever - EVER - suggest that he had an NFL-style game, a good enough arm, etc? Is there anyone who actually thought he *would* be drafted, other than perhaps as a 7th round 'eh, why not?' pick?

by year of the dolphin (not verified) :: Mon, 07/11/2005 - 5:55pm

who wouldn't love to see randy moss and terrell owens on the same team? can you think of anything with the potential to be so funny and so scary at the same time - i'm talking anna nicole smith proportions of unintentional comedy and gross-out factor. the nfl needs this, get tags on it.

parting shot: ricky williams is going to redeem himself, and the dolphins will have one 1500 yard rusher and one 1000 yard rusher this year, watch out.

by dman (not verified) :: Mon, 07/11/2005 - 7:39pm

There haven't been 2 1000 yard rushers on the same team since 1972. Of course it was the dolphins but regardless I doubt it'll happen this year. Especially with so much emphasis on the pass lately.

by Dired (not verified) :: Mon, 07/11/2005 - 9:01pm

Byner (1002) and Mack (1104) each had 1000 yards for the Browns in '85. Granted, it was a one-and-out playoff exit that year, but I'd bet that's not the only 2x1000 since '72.

by Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 07/11/2005 - 9:17pm

It's been done three times. The other one was Rocky Bleier and Franco Harris in 1976 for Pittsburgh.

by andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 07/11/2005 - 9:29pm

#5 - simple way to make Moss & Owens on same team work - just have Moss do end around options where he throws it to Owens...

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Mon, 07/11/2005 - 10:43pm

Re thatguy: I don't think Lenny Walls is young enough to qualify for that list, since he already had one full season as a starter, and a second season where he was penciled in as the starter but missed a lot of games due to injury. I think the article was trying to pick up guys who were relatively new and hadn't gotten much play yet. I will agree that he's a big key for how this defense does. As for which of the 3 rookies becomes the next nickle CB... my money says none of them. Willie Middlebrooks manned the nickle last year and did a pretty decent job before his season was wiped out due to injury. I expect him to get the nickle again this year. Backing him up, my money is on Roc Alexander, who has already taken his lumps as a rookie and therefore will be more experienced and ready to play now than any of the rookies.

As for Nick Fergeson... I'm not too concerned there. He was a starter 2 years ago, don't you forget, and we still have Sam Brandon, as well, who also used to get starts before Ferguson came on strong and Lynch came to town. I'd be more worried that our safeties are all big hitters who aren't great in coverage, because this is a big reason why we keep getting burned by Indy. We just can't cheat safeties over to help CBs who are getting torched.

As for Cooper Carlisle... I'm in no position to analyze line play, either, other than "Wow, Jake Plummer has loads of time back there" or "Man, I could drive a bread truck through that hole" sort of way. I have trust in Rick Dennison, our O-Line coach, who has been with the team for a long time. For all the talk of how he's not Alex Gibbs, Alex Gibbs hasn't coached the O Line in Denver full time since 2000, iirc, and we've done just fine at developing players as fast as we're losing them. George Foster seems pretty solid, and everyone talks about just how great Ben Hamilton is. All I know is we've lost linemen before, and put new linemen in, and RBs keep on running for 1000 yards and a ridiculous DVOA, so I don't see why this year will be any different.

Re #5: Have you forgotten already that Ricky Williams averaged *3.4* yards per carry in his last stint with you, and that was back when he was in football shape. If you give him 330 carries to get him his 1000 yards, you certainly aren't going to have enough carries left to get Brown to 1500.

by thatguy (not verified) :: Mon, 07/11/2005 - 11:46pm

re: kibbles, I forgot about Middlebrooks. He got arrested, I think shortly after the playoff loss, and I remember automatically discounting any future production from him after hearing about it. Domestic abuse, or something like that. But yeah, you're probably right about him. As for Roc, the thought of him manning the nickel still scares me, at least if we're playing Indy. I'm sure he's come a long way, but that game was painful... I wish we hadn't lost Herndon.

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Wed, 07/13/2005 - 3:16am

I'd rather have Roc manning the Nickle than any of the rookies. At least we know that Roc has gotten experience and gotten his lumps already. With a rookie we'd just have to go through that all over again. Remember, our second round CB was taken more for his return skills than his cover skills, and the other two rookie CBs are 3rd rounders. Getting passed on 80+ times hardly strikes me as a ringing endorsement of a player's ability to step in and contribute right away.

by Björn (not verified) :: Wed, 07/13/2005 - 4:54pm

I am not worried about who plays cornerback. We could have the best 3 guys in the league, and the Colts would still kill us if the D-Line was the same as last year. If the line gets more pressure, we won't have to worry about the secondary. Since they brought in a shwack of new linemen, it seems that Shanny might agree.

by thatguy (not verified) :: Wed, 07/13/2005 - 5:45pm


Yes, Shanny went out and got a lot of new D-linemen, so yeah, we need help there. But he's also drafted five corners in the last two drafts and Roc was an undrafted FA last year, so six if you count him. I'd say he's concerned about the secondary too.

The point is, the loss to the Colts was a complete defensive meltdown. You can't blame it all on the secondary anymore than you can blame it all on the line.

I think Shanny is drafting corners in later rounds because he has a history of drafting corners who are first round busts. He doesn't want to flop again. Instead of drafting one highly touted CB he'd rather draft two or three guys with speed and hope at least one pans out.

by Björn (not verified) :: Wed, 07/13/2005 - 6:26pm

I don't think I made my point clear. I agree completely with what you are saying. I just didn't mention the other side. My bad.

If the secondary is awesome, the line doesn't need to be. If the line is awesome, the secondary doesn't need to be. (With DJ, Gold, and Wilson, the LB's will be awesome anyway). Shanny is counting on one of these things to happen. I think that he has made enough gambles this offseason that at least a few will work out. Like how if you buy enough pro-line tickets, you will eventually win.

by Harris (not verified) :: Thu, 07/14/2005 - 10:11am

If the Eagles and Raiders can't make a deal, Congress should mandate a trade for the good of America and all mankind. Then Moss, Owens and Al Davis should star in the Surreal Life with Corey Feldman, Tara Reid and Grace Jones. That there's Hee-Haw funny.

by thatguy (not verified) :: Thu, 07/14/2005 - 6:43pm


so much for middlebrooks manning the nickel.

by Michael David Smith :: Sat, 04/29/2006 - 3:20pm

So does Prisco still think it's "a joke" to suggest that Leinart might not be a Top 3 pick?

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sat, 04/29/2006 - 4:36pm

Holy digging through the archives, Batman! I thought for sure I'd see an ad for something I'd mention but the filter would probably nab it.

Leinart's situation is one reason Tressel encourages his guys to go pro if they'll be chosen high (15 or above). There's a lot of risk in coming back if you're already a top 5 choice. A big part of being a top choice is potential - not only are you a great player now, you have the ability to develop into an even better one. With Leinart coming back for another year, teams got another full year to look at him, and got a better read on his ceiling, and probably put it lower than they would have last year. There's less mystery with him - teams know more exactly what they would be getting, whereas a year ago there's still be some question as to potential improvement.

About a decade ago, there was a college basketball player (I forget who - from Louisville, I think) that made a similar decision. He would have been a lottery pick, but he stayed for another year. Although he had a good year, he wound up not even being drafted at all. They would have taken him top 10 based on potential, but another year showed them that he was already basically maxed out, and it cost him millions. It looks like Leinart made the same choice. I hope it was worth it for him.

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Sat, 04/29/2006 - 7:03pm

Well, I think he's landed in a nice situation, for what that's worth. And I think the Titans, Jets, Raiders, Bills and maybe more besides are going to regret passing on him.