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Two NFC teams were hit hardest by injuries last year. One already set the AGL record in 2016, while the other has a coach with the worst AGL since 2002. Also: the Rams' incredible bill of health in L.A., and Tampa Bay's questionable injury reporting.

06 Apr 2010

Four Downs: NFC West

by Doug Farrar

Arizona Cardinals

Biggest Hole: Interior Defense

Perhaps no team was as gutted in the offseason as the Cardinals. Between retirement, trades, and the vagaries of free agency, the 2008 NFC champs lost their starting quarterback (Kurt Warner), possession receiver (Anquan Boldin), star inside linebacker (Karlos Dansby), and free safety (Antrel Rolle). Still, with replacements on the way for most positions, the primary needs now reside on the interior of Bill Davis' gap-control defense.

The Cardinals ranked 10th in Defensive Adjusted Line Yards last season, but starting nose tackle Bryan Robinson and backup Gabe Watson proved to be inconsistent holding the point. Alan Branch hasn't been a factor. Darnell Dockett could be even more dynamic if Arizona could get a reliable big man to soak up blockers. That big man is the mainstay of any great 3-4 defense, and he's still crucial when the Cards bring a fourth man to the line and move Dockett from end to 3-technique. FO measures Stop Rate, the percentage of a player's tackles that stop the offense short of a successful play. Watson's Stop Rate was 75 percent, Robinson's 74 percent -- both decidedly average for defensive tackles. Robinson is an unrestricted free agent and will be 36 in June.

The Cards can use this deep draft of defensive tackles to find their next gap-plugger. Replacing Dansby will prove more problematic. Right now, they've got Reggie Walker and Ali Highsmith, two former undrafted free agents, as their stopgap solutions. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt, who used to serve as Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator, tried to sign Larry Foote, but he chose to return to the Steelers after a year with the Lions. It's not a great draft for inside linebackers, especially three-down players, which is why the Miami Dolphins went so hard after Dansby in the first place, signing him to a five-year, $43-million contract.

Free Agency Recap

Arizona's strategy was more about patching holes than improving, at least in the short term. They traded a fourth-round pick in 2010 and a seventh-round pick in 2011 for Jets safety Kerry Rhodes, who will replace Rolle. Rhodes was benched by Rex Ryan last season, and he's already taken parting shots at his former team. He may not be Rolle, but the Cards didn't have to sign him to a $37-million contract, as the Giants did with Rolle. To push Matt Leinart, they signed former Browns Pro Bowler Derek Anderson, who has more recently combined his big arm with woeful inconsistency. Anderson will cost the team $3.25 million guaranteed over two years, with incentives in place if he starts a bunch of games.

The acquisition of edge-rusher Joey Porter was questionable in that a three-year, $17.50-million deal for a 33-year-old pass rusher is an iffy proposition at best. Replacing Dansby is the major issue, but at least the Anderson deal took the Cards off the list of 25 possible destinations for Donovan McNabb (which seemed to change whenever the guys on NFL Network tired of talking about Brett Favre and Tim Tebow).

St. Louis Rams

Biggest Hole: Wide Receiver (unless it's Quarterback)

When a team wins a total of six games in three seasons, and the win total decreases every year, it's safe to say that personnel needs are going to pop up just about everywhere. Veteran quarterback Marc Bulger was set to make $8.5 million in base salary in 2010, and that's a lot of money for a guy who hasn't played all 16 games in a season since 2006. Now that Bulger has been released, and Sam Bradford impressed America with a private workout in which 62 of 63 passes were completed, conventional wisdom has the Oklahoma quarterback going to St. Louis with the first overall pick.

On the off-chance that the Ndamukong Suh/Gerald McCoy choice proves too tempting for head coach (and former Giants defensive coordinator) Steve Spagnuolo, Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (or a Vick type in the draft, like Appalachian State's Armanti Edwards) would be an interesting option. Tackle Jason Smith is still more comfortable in a two-point stance and blocks better out of the shotgun, and the Rams could use a backup who knows how to run an option offense with the quarterback and running back as its primary weapons.

The next question: Who will the Rams' 2010 quarterback throw to? In 2009, no Rams receiver ranked higher than 80th in our DYAR metric. That will happen when your wideouts are catching balls from Kyle Boller and Keith Null for half a season, but the problems transcend backup quarterbacks. Donnie Avery and Brandon Gibson each caught less than half of the passes thrown to them, and Danny Amendola impressed more as a return man than a receiver. It's amazing what Jackson has been able to do on the ground during the last few years with major offensive line transitions and few complementary playmakers, but it's time to get him (and the quarterback du jour) some help.

Free Agency Recap

All along, GM Billy Devaney strenuously denied rumors of a trade that would have sent the 33rd overall pick in 2010 and safety Oshiomogho Atogwe to Philly for Donovan McNabb. Initial versions of that rumor had McNabb going to St. Louis in a hurry, which made little sense -- why would the Rams do anything until they saw Bradford throw? Overall, the team hasn't made too much of a splash in free agency -- between changing owners and the specter of paying Bradford or someone else $30 million to $40 million guaranteed for the first overall pick, the franchise has other things to think about.

In a case of addition by subtraction, guard Richie Incognito left for Miami, taking his sometimes addle-minded and penalty-prone play with him. Veteran Hank Fraley was added to the line as a depth replacement. Likewise, quarterback A.J. Feeley and defensive tackle Fred Robbins are rotation/depth guys at best.

San Francisco 49ers

Biggest Hole: Offensive Line

It's been a dramatic offseason in San Francisco, with longtime general manager Scot McCloughan reaching a "mutual agreement" to leave the team on March 18. With two first-round picks and less than a month before the draft, the 49ers will turn to director of player personnel Trent Baalke to run the draft board.

Targeting San Francisco's primary personnel need is far less complicated than the recent front office issues. In 2009, the team finished dead last in the NFL in Adjusted Line Yards, Stuffed ranking, and 2nd Level Yards. Barry Sims, who re-signed with the team as a backup, started seven games at left tackle last year after Joe Staley suffered a knee injury. With a long line of good-but-not-great tackles in this draft class, expect the 49ers to spend one of those early picks at that position.

Another graphic deficiency is in the return game. Last season, San Francisco's punt returns were worth an estimated 17.5 points of field position worse than NFL average -- the worst figure by our measurements since the 2002 Green Bay Packers. Arnaz Battle managed an unbelievable 2.9 yards per return -- a grand total of 61 yards on 21 returns, and 10 fair catches. His longest return was 18 yards, which left him with a 2.15 YPR on the other 20.

Free Agency Recap

Going into free agency, the 49ers made all the right noises about staying the course with the current roster, believing that they have what it takes to unseat the Cardinals as division champs. After trading backup quarterback Shaun Hill to the Lions for a seventh-round pick in 2011, the team signed David Carr to replace him. The biggest move the team made was to franchise tackle Aubrayo Franklin, proving the worth of true 3-4 nose tackles in the modern NFL. Battle signed a three-year, $3.9-million contract with the Steelers, which could put Pittsburgh's slapstick special teams on an entirely new comedic path.

Seattle Seahawks

Biggest Hole: Defensive Backfield

Last year, Seattle's defense ranked 30th against the pass in Football Outsiders' DVOA ratings. You would expect more from a general manager who never hesitated to draft cornerbacks high, not to mention a head coach whose supposed specialty was the secondary. Then again, that pass defense is one very big reason for the departures of that GM (Tim Ruskell) and head coach (Jim Mora).

The problems went from top to bottom, starting with veteran cornerback Marcus Trufant. Even at his best, Trufant was never a true lockdown -- he was more of a quality zone corner. This season, Trufant was absolutely torched after coming off the Physically Unable to Perform list with a back injury. He led the league with seven pass interference penalties in only 10 games, and he was brutally embarrassed by Texans receiver Andre Johnson in a December loss. After signing him to a $50-million contract in 2008, the Seahawks can only hope that 2009 was an outlier season based on a lingering injury.

Veteran safety Deon Grant, who has reached the point in his career where he seems to be more interested in appearing at the end of tackles than actually making them, was released and signed with the Giants. Jordan Babineaux, Seattle's other starting safety in 2009, is more of a valuable corner/safety 'tweener than a pure playmaker at his position. Ruskell's predilection for smallish cornerbacks netted the Seahawks Josh Wilson, who has some potential, and Kelly Jennings, who appears to be destined for a future as a nickel corner. That would be fine had the Seahawks not drafted Jennings in the first round in 2006. The Seahawks have many offensive needs as well, but it's a scathing indictment of the Ruskell era that the biggest hole still exists after so much attention.

Free Agency Recap

In perhaps the most curious move of the 2010 offseason, the Seahawks dropped 20 picks in the second round and sent a third-round pick in 2011 to San Diego for quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, whom they signed to a two-year, $8-million contract with $2 million more available in incentives. While this probably speaks to the uncertainty many teams share about the quarterback draft class after Bradford, it's still a strange transaction. Whitehurst has never thrown a pass in a regular-season NFL game, and there were questions about him coming out of college. Guard Rob Sims doesn't fit the profile for Alex Gibbs' blocking scheme, and thus was traded to the Lions for a fifth-round pick.

The other major Seahawks acquisition is the one they haven’t made yet. They are by far the team most interested in the services of Denver receiver Brandon Marshall, who currently has a first-round tender on his head. The likely scenario has Denver and Seattle playing chicken right up to draft day, and Denver lowering its price for a player it doesn’t seem to want anymore.

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

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 06 Apr 2010

65 comments, Last at 12 Apr 2010, 6:35pm by commissionerleaf


by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 12:47pm

"Most curious move". An artful understatement!

The most brutal quarterback division in the NFL actually gets worse in the offseason, unless Seattle or SF smartens up and nab Clausen. All spread QBs struggle early regardless of true talent. So don't expect Bradford to make a competent impression until at least three years down the line.

by Dean :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 2:23pm

"unless Seattle or SF smartens up and nab Clausen"

This assumes, of course, that Clausen will actually pan out. An opinion which is hardly unanimous.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 2:52pm

Unanimous or not, he has a better chance to pan out today than Alex Smith has after five bumbling years, not to mention Charlie freaking Whitehurst.

by Dean :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 4:19pm

What does putting down Bradford at the expense of Clausen have anthing to do with Alex Smith or David Whitehurst?

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 4:48pm

It has something to do with the overall sorry state of quarterbacking in the NFC West.

This is a division with zero long term solutions at QB and six picks in the first round. And the teams are only looking for very dubious additions like SD's third string, AJ Feely, a injured sophormore out of the spread, the worse Cleveland QB, and David Carr.

by Jimmy Oz (not verified) :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 7:53pm

We get you don't like the QB's, but if Rams pick up Bradford then all 4 have long term solutions. They might be average, but its not lake wobegon where every QB is above average. Its just a fact that everyone can't have a top 10 QB. Sad that NFL rule changes have altered the value of the position so much, but that's done.

So you must think that Clausen will be a top 10 NFL QB. Which team and what are they going to invest in their o-line?

by Brendan Scolari :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 8:36pm

Carr was signed to be Smith's backup. And I'd rather give Smith another shot, which would be his first in a non-disaster situation really, then grab the overrated Clausen. Being considered a first round pick in an incredibly weak QB class does not a QB solution make.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 9:48pm

Even if Smith sucks wind next year, San Fran would still go to the playoffs (and be one and done) because how sorry the rest of the division is. Then what? Next year's class right now consists of Mallett and Locker. Either one could go Snead and crater. Or both could go top 5. What if Smith doesn't exactly suck but proves to be mediocre? Do you commit to him and give him an extension?

Do you try to emulate the Vikings and wait for Peyton to whine his way off the Colts?

Do you follow the Jaguars and waste Willis and company's in prime and under contract years on a mediocrity under center?

Or do you, like the Jets, send Singletary deep undercover to swingdle a top 5 pick from some hapless franchise for trinkets?

by Brendan Scolari :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 10:28pm

There's no right answer to that question. It all depends on the options available. Obviously you have to go with what optimizes your chances of building a good team. Sticking with Smith might be the best option (other than praying Nate Davis develops into something), if no one else is available for a reasonable price in trade and the top QB's are gone in the draft. I definitely would not give Smith an extension unless he can improve substantially on his previous play, although perhaps some Niner fans would disagree with me there as I'm more pessimistic about Smith than most of them.

The Vikings model is not smart, either way the Vikings will be in the same situation they were before by 2011. And I don't think the Jags ever really had a great roster did they? They aren't really a great comp for the Niners because they have Garrard, who's quite a bit better than Smith.

But I do think next year's QB class could be very deep. Mallett and Locker could both go top 5, although who knows at this point. But there's also guys like Christian Ponder, Andrew Luck (my personal favorite), Terrelle Pryor, and Pat Devlin, who all have the potential to go in the first round. Any of them could pull a Snead too but I think there will be QB talent outside of the top 5, which would probably be very beneficial for the Niners.

by jimbohead :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 11:40pm

My feeling is, is there's really a franchise-worthy qb next year, or two that are close, there's a good chance that one of the teams in the top 5 is going to be the lions, or the rams, or the Seahawks, or someone else with a "solution" at qb that won't be gunning for that guy. If Alex Smith is still mediocre (big if, I know), trade the bank to get into that spot. The raiders were willing to give the old baltimore colts 3 1st round draft picks for Elway in '83, and they weren't wrong.

by Jimmy Oz (not verified) :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 3:12am

So LoneWeasel - you rank Clausen really highly. That's pretty much your entire point, yes?

by Sean McCormick :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 8:09am

Pretty much. I know Matt McGuire over at Walter Football loves Clausen to death and has him rated as the #1 prospect overall, but he's pretty much the only one riding that particular train. Most people are wary of Clausen's arm strength (as they should be--he has no zip on his deep or intermediate passes) or his attitude or both.

I happen to like Bradford quite a bit--he reminds me very much of Philip Rivers, though obviously his start total is way below what Rivers compiled at NC State. Bradford has tremendous accuracy with his ball placement at pretty much every level, and more than anything else, accuracy translates to the pros. I don't mind the Rams taking him at all, although I wouldn't expect much of him early on (nor would I expect much of anyone else considering the dearth of talent in St. Louis). But I'm not enamored with any of the other quarterbacks in this class. Clausen is a decent prospect, but I'm not sure where he's going to end up--the Raiders won't take him, the Bills shouldn't take him (you want a quarterback with a plus arm to play in Buffalo) and after that, I just don't see where the market for him is. He might be someone the Vikings should be interested in, but they'd probably have to slide up a little bit to get him, as there figures to be interest from teams in the top of the second trading up should Clausen slide too far.

But I don't see any reason why Jimmy Clausen is definitely going to be a better solution than, say, Matt Leinart or Alex Smith, or even Charlie Whitehurst. He might be for all I know, but I wouldn't have that kind of confidence. I know I've seen some people comparing him to Mark Sanchez based on their similar size and the fact that they both came out of a pro style offense, but I think that's just nuts. Sanchez had much, much better feet and a better feel for the passing game, and his attitude was a major plus, not a red flag.

by Dean :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 9:06am

There was a time when I thought Walter Football was the best draft site on the web, bar none.

This year, though, it's almost like they have different people writing the stuff. They've gotten so full of themselves that they're unreadable. Even when I agree with their opinions, I still cringe at the childish, talk-radio-style bend the writing has taken. One of the things I used to like about the site was that it gave me insights, not insults. Now? Just so much noise.

Walter went so far out on a limb with his hardon for Clausen that I seriously question his objectivity. I wonder what agenda he has, at this point. Did he go to Notre Dame or something? Is he being paid to trumpet Clausen? He's gone so far beyond unprofessional that its embarassing to read.

by Sean McCormick :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 9:56am

There's nothing wrong with having a strong opinion on a player even when that doesn't match up with everyone else--Mike Mayock had Matt Ryan #1 on his board for the entire pre-draft period in 2008, while just about everyone else in the world had him no better than fifth or sixth late in the draft process and a middle first-rounder early in the process. In that case, Mayock was 100% correct. So I have no problem with someone banging the table over a player. I'm not sure Jimmy Clausen is the guy I would be doing it over, though. (Then again, I wasn't a Matt Ryan guy.)

by Dean :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 11:39am

I completely agree. There's nothing wrong with going out on a limb. Lets give credit where it's due - he was the only one projecting DHB to the Raiders all along.

It's not the opinion, the limb, or the analysis that bothers me. It's the perpetual axe-grinding. And not just on Clausen. Read anything he's written about the Raiders, Bengals, Eagles, Rams. Instead of pointing out why a team will do what they do, and respectfully offering analysis as to why he disagrees with their course of action, he's phrasing it as "these idiots don't know what they're doing, and this guy with a website does." Sadly, Walter has become talk-radio, and I'd rather not bother filtering out all the white noise that passes for analysis anymore. Even when I agree with him, he's grating anymore.

The Dude said it best. "It's not that you're wrong, Walter. It's that you're an asshole."

by Eddo :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 11:21am

I agree with you, Dean. Walter Football used to be an excellent draft site (though nothing special in general NFL analysis); now, the draft analysis is still pretty good*, but the writing has taken on a Gregg Doyel-esque tone, reveling in hate mail and overall dickishness.

* Walter Football is one of the few sites correctly pointing out that drafting a DT first overall (or even in the top three) is not a good idea; it's not a "safe" pick, like many writers seem to say, and you're getting terrible positional value. I actually get the impression that Walter would take Okung first overall, but since the Rams just drafted Jason Smith last year and a LT is out of the picture, he's focused on the quarterbacks. And since he's skeptical of Bradford, he's been over-the-top on Clausen.

Personally, I like Clausen better than Bradford, but neither one as much as Stafford last year. It's a bad year for QBs, which is amusing, since last year the general consensus was that this year would be a banner year for QBs.

by Brendan Scolari :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 2:04pm

I agre with both of you guys. I don't know what's up with Walter Football, because I think Walter himself is a very smart guy, but the writing has become so childish and filled with personal insults and all that, it's a bit of a shame.

by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 12:12pm

Also, Sanchez is awful.

by Sean McCormick :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 12:40pm

Did you watch the playoffs?

by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 1:07pm

I know, I know. I did. But it's three games, and in the other sixteen he posted a 13-20 TD-INT ratio despite playing in the most friendly, run heavy offense in the NFL. And let's be honest, were the Chargers and Bengals defenses scaring anyone this year (okay, maybe the Bengals before half their starters were hurt, but this was the end of the year)?

I could forgive Sanchez (as I forgive Stafford) if he played for an awful team and didn't have any support. But Sanchez has the best offensive line in the NFL, competent receivers, and teams stacking against the run. And he had a bad season as a quarterback, bailed out by the defense and running game.

Quarterbacks with better DVOA: Marc Bulger, Jake DelHomme, Matt Hasselbeck, and Kerry Collins in a half year of work. All of whom lost their jobs for playing better football for worse teams than Mark Sanchez.

Sure, he's a rookie, but:

Joey Harrington's rookie season in Detroit: 1% better DVOA, 5 fewer interceptions
Cade McNown's rookie half-season: 10% better DVOA, over 500 passes would have thrown about as many INT's and about six more touchdowns, positive DYAR.

I'm not saying Matt Sanchez won't be a good NFL quarterback, but this is a guy who couldn't beat out John David Booty for a starting job in college, doesn't have amazing arm strength, and played badly most of the year despite a great situation. He hasn't shown us much yet except inconsistency.

by tuluse :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 4:50pm

He had good games during the season as well. He just had a couple stretches where he played really bad. I bet the standard deviation on his DVOA would be much higher than the other QBs you mentioned.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 5:20pm

An argument constructed from DVOA cannot start by calling the Jets line "best in the NFL". It's a prevalent misconception that because the Jets ran a ton, it must be a QB-friendly offense. In fact the run game frequently got stuck on the first two downs to force Sanchez to convert third and longs. The Jets had no speed running game after Washington went down. Jones probably had the lowest percentage of yards after contact in the whole league last year. The only games in which the run game truely dominated were against ghastly teams that gave up after the first snap (Raiders and Bucs).

In the grand scheme of things, nobody cares whether you "forgive" Sanchez or not.

by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 5:51pm

Heh, I didn't mean "forgive" in that sense. I mean that expectations are high when you play for a good team. And Sanchez was the worst starter on the Jets, period. There were ten guys on offense and eleven on defense that were better at doing their jobs than he was. That wasn't true or Stafford.

What I meant by a QB friendly situation wasn't just a competent offensive line and running game (although it helps). It also helps that Sanchez was rarely playing from behind (which is how good QB's get interceptions), and could always check down without losing the game (and generally did, especially before Braylon). He was essentially playing Jason Campbell; except with 20 interceptions and a running game that opposing defensive ends and OLBs had to respect.

I'm open to the idea that Sanchez might be an NFL quarterback, but I think he's a lot more likely to end up being Joey Harrington than Carson Palmer, let alone Drew Brees.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 7:21pm

He threw 20 picks precisely because he wasn't playing Jason Campbell, who was notorious for 3-yard dumpoffs on 3rd and long. Sanchez was expected to go for first downs in those situations. You can question Brian Schottenheimer's philosophy in handling quarterbacks in those situations. (He would have been fired had the team not made the playoffs.) But it shows nothing but ignorance to cite "20 interceptions" without looking at the context and comparing him to Campbell. When the team asked him to take care of the ball, he's good at it. 15 of his interceptions came in four games.

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 6:13pm

I'm for giving Smith a chance this year. This'll be the first year he hasn't had to spend his time learning a new offensive system. The 49ers knew that about him when they drafted him -- until he learned a new system, he was non-functional. And yet, he's never had the chance to start the year playing a system he knows. It's worth it to see how much he imporoves.

(For some reason, the success of the 49er offense has caused other teams to snatch their OCs away to be HCs.)

It's not like there are a lot of good QBs in the draft this year, anyway. Next year's crop looks to be much better, and in the meantime the 49ers can finally see if Smith is the guy they thought they drafted.

by PHn (not verified) :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 3:53pm

I'd rather see Seattle look at Colt McCoy, who seems to me a more consistent threat than Clausen.

by Doug Farrar :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 2:55pm

I dunno. As much as I've watched Clausen, I'm not really sold. He reminds me of Matt Hasselbeck and Jeff Garcia -- smart, determined, good rollout, relatively unimpressive arm -- and I think he will be a bit overdrafted due to his experience in a pro-style offense. The question is whether a team needs that kind of quarterback sooner or later. Clausen would be a better fit in an offense I don't think the Seahawks are going to run anymore -- one of the reasons they got Whitehurst in the first place was that he has the arm to make more deep throws, which fits what Jeremy Bates wants to do. In my last Yahoo mock, I had Clausen going to SF with their second pick, but in no way do I look at him and think, "Yeah -- that's a top-10 pick-worthy quarterback."

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 3:15pm

All of which makes the low trade value for McNabb even more annoying.

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 4:11pm

I don't think Clausen is necessarily going to be even that good. Hasselbeck and Garcia had going for them the really critical element; willingness to play as part of a team and work hard to be good. Garcia was a great quarterback in San Francisco, but he was -amazing- as a backup in Philly and a starter in Tampa, because he walked into non-Terrell Owens situations and played great football. A consummate pro. Clausen has a real RyanLeafNess about him; the arrogance, the attitude, that makes me think he's more of a Matt Leinart/Alex Smith/Trent Edwards than a Garcia, Hasselbeck, or Pennington.

If nothing else, I think that a top 10 salary would turn him into JaMarcus Russell. Without the need to prove he's able to play to get rich, Clausen might be a total bust. His arm isn't great, and "playing in a pro-style offense" isn't "playing professional football". I'd trade the pick I took Clausen with for Kevin Kolb, Chad Henne, or Matt Stafford in a heartbeat.

by Dean :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 4:22pm

I'm actually not sold on any of the QBs in this class.

Maybe there's some developmental kid out there who will some day become a starter, but as far as the guys who are projected as "first 2 rounds," I'm really not sold on any of them. Not that the guys match up, but it reminds me of 2002, where none of the top prospects really panned out.

To me, if you need to draft a starting QB this year, you're screwed.

by drobviousso :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 4:47pm

If I had to a QB that will end up with a long and successful career from this class, it would probably have to be McCoy, and only if he gets drafted by a team with an O-Line that might be able to keep him upright.
The list of teams like that that might want a QB are:
Arizona, and I think Arizona's OLine stats are affected by Warner's ability to get rid of the ball.

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 4:54pm

I'm not saying you're all wrong, and I'm a huge Warner fan, but getting rid of the ball quickly has never been something he was accused of; in fact one of the knocks on him was his willingness to keep looking for receivers - also one of the reasons he's been so successful.

McCoy looks to have a decent shot at a Jeff Garcia type career if he can get his accuracy up to NFL levels. Spread QB's usually aren't asked to do that much really accurate passing, so we'll see. We -know- Clausen isn't that accurate.

by Spielman :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 5:41pm

Heh. I get to repeat something I just said in another thread.

Warner did hold the ball, but he also had an extremely quick release, which I think is more what drobviousso was referring to. He'd risk taking the hit to try to make a play downfield, but he also avoided having bad sack rates most of the time by getting rid of the ball quickly once he'd decided to throw it.

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 8:00pm

No argument with that here. Also meant a lot of strip-sacks, though. Of course, I am the guy who keeps arguing that he's been better than Drew Brees and Philip Rivers the past few years, so...

by drobviousso :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 11:17am

Yes, this was exactly what I was getting at, and his sack rates were indeed low. I haven't watched him much, but I got the feel that when he took a sack, he chose to do so, and when he didn't have something worth fighting for, he'd get rid of the ball. Compare this to say Big Ben, who fights, for better or worse, for every single down.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 5:50pm

If you "know" Clausen is not that accurate, then you should be horrified by McCoy. Every pass of his longer than five yards flutters. Forget Pennington or Garcia, his upside is Todd Collins.

I don't get the sudden McCoy love. As a passer he's not much better than Tebow. He doesn't have that windup, but he has significant other mechanical issues. For a fifth round pick who could be reasonably expected to develop into a backup, sure he can be your man. Second round is nuts.

by Brendan Scolari :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 8:41pm

I actually agree with you on this one. I don't know what people like about McCoy, perhaps just that he's better than most of the other options because the class is so weak at QB.

by Dean :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 9:08am

Funny, I was thinking the same thing. I agree, too.

I think the McCoy love comes from people, like myself, who aren't sold on Bradford, Clausen, or Tebow, so they come to McCoy by process of elimination. They figure there's less risk, because he won't go as high, so maybe he represents value.

But I'm not sold on any of the four.

by Jimmy :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 10:28pm

If you mean that you want to start the QB next year then yes I agree but I am not sure that isn't true for just about every year of the draft. The guys who play well as rookies are just teams getting lucky really. If anyone had found the magical formula that tells you which rookie QBs are going to play like vets they would be in charge of an NFL franchise right now. However I do know what you mean.

Anyhoo, here are my two cents on the current crop. (I want to stick it up somewhere)

I don't really see why Bradford is raised above the glass ceiling of every other college spread QB. I would say the guy seems to be very accurate but every route I see him complete a pass on is designed for an easy throw for the QB against insubstantial coverage. I can see why some folk really like him as he is very accurate most of the time but I can't shake the image in my head that a lot of this is practice plays working to a very high degree of certainty which will never exist in the NFL.

As for the others I am hesitant to give a call on Clausen as I have never seen the guy play but his much vaunted deep throw seems awfully Grossmanesque, which to my mind would make it somewhat unreliable. Tebow I would fully understand a team taking somewhere in the first round (say after ten). I dislike the windmill action as much as or more than the next guy but I do believe that with time to re-model his throwing motion he could be a very dangerous QB in the NFL. I would hate to make that kind of projection for most college players but for my mind there are three factors that make me more sure about him; firstly, his old throwing motion was junk any improvement will result in an immediate increase in productivity. Secondly no team is going to draft him with the intention of starting him next year so he will have time to work on his game and will probably not end up throwing the ball like he did in college when he eventually ends up playing in the NFL. I get that everyone else disagrees with me but I am way past caring. The guy who intrigues me most is McCoy. In his physical makeup and throwing motion he reminds me a lot of Aaron Rodgers but I would say that like Rodgers he might be best served spending time on the bench (although we will never know about Rodgers in that regard due to the presence of Mr Favre).

I wouldn't be particularly happy if I were a fan of any team looking to play one of these guys next year.

by Sean McCormick :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 10:16am

Bradford made a few throws in the first quarter of last year's championship game that were clearly pro throws; they weren't all completed (one was a deep sideline throw that was broken up but was on the money into tight coverage). There's no question that the style of offense is a concern, but Bradford's ability to place the ball exactly where he wants on the receiver is a pro attribute. He's a strange prospect--as I said, he reminds me of Philip Rivers, who was sort of an ugly duck of a quarterback at NC State--and he doesn't have the physical skills of Matthew Stafford, but I think his game will translate well. I would certainly take him over Suh or McCoy if I were the Rams.

Interesting comparison between McCoy and Rodgers. The things about Rodgers is that he is another player who was extremely accurate with his ball placement and was able to throw short and intermediate stuff with good velocity. I got to see him live several times when he was at Cal, and it was stunning how every throw he made was right on the hands of his receivers. I'm not sure McCoy can do that.

by Led :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 7:40pm

Could you be more specific about what is it about Clausen that gives you a Ryan Leaf vibe? Some examples of his arrogance or attitude? I'm not arguing with you, just honestly curious.

by ChaosOnion (not verified) :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 8:41pm

If only there had been a Pro Bowl QB with a great deep pass available in free agency...

by Spielman :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 3:14pm

"In a case of addition by subtraction, guard Richie Incognito left for Miami, taking his sometimes addle-minded and penalty-prone play with him."

Technically, Incognito left for Buffalo in December when he was waived. I'm just relieved they didn't bring him back.

by t.d. :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 3:39pm

Bradford is going to be great if there aren't any pass rushers

by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 4:53pm

He'll be in the NFC West. It's not like there are exactly a host of supreme pass rushers in that division.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 5:01pm

There's no need for supreme pass rushers to knock him out for a year.

BYU pass rushers will do.

by Brendan Scolari :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 8:44pm

Divisions can change pretty quickly. And it's not like he'll face easy defenses, he'll be on the Rams so 4 of his 6 divisional games are against the Niners and Rams, two strong defenses (3rd and 11th last year). Seattle was pretty bad, but they have a some good front seven talent at least.

by JasonK :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 8:58pm

The Rams play the Rams?

(Presumably, you meant the Cardinals.)

by Brendan Scolari :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 9:06pm

I did indeed. It was the Cards who were 11th in defensive DVOA.

And for some more numbers the Niners, Cards, and Seahawks were 3rd, 9th, and 29th in adjusted sack rate respectively. Definitely not what I would call a weak group of pass rushing defenses.

by jimbohead :: Tue, 04/06/2010 - 11:47pm

I think they did have some good front seven talent. A couple years ago, with Hill, Peterson and Tatupu, they had of, if not the best LB corps in the NFL. With Peterson gone, Hill and Tatupu aging badly, and Aaron Curry not living up to expectations, I don't know how many people actually fear that front 7. Plus, their linemen are not a lot better than a bunch of scrubs at this point.

by jody (not verified) :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 8:41am

great discussion that got hijacked by the spam @!#$, posts 38-40. I know the proecss stops most of this, but I wish there were some consequence to prevent this crap from cloggin up a great site. Perhaps like the yahoo thumbs, where too many down thumbs hide the comment from view.

by Dean :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 9:10am

Somehow, I suspect it drives Aaron just as nuts as us. I'd bet they're working on something, even if they don't have a solution ready to go. Thing is, every time you upgrade, the spammers in turn upgrade their spam. Just once, I'd like to find those guys and kick them in the nuts.

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 9:21am

The spambots are evolving at an increasing pace, there may only be a few days remaining.

by Sean McCormick :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 9:57am

Spam removed.

by t.d. :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 3:17pm

The thing that kills me about the Rams is that they took a project with the #2 pick in the draft last year, and a reach in the top 5 the year before. They need a sure thing.

by Dean :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 4:01pm

There's no such thing as a sure thing.

by tuluse :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 4:53pm

Why? They're not likely to make the playoffs either way.

by Brendan Scolari :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 11:59pm

I thought Chris Long was supposed to be a sure thing. It's funny how those guys don't usually work out.

by commissionerleaf :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 6:01pm

I don't know that Chris Long is a failure at this point. He's still starting, I believe, and pass rushers often fail to make an impact in the first couple of years of their careers. I don't think he'll ever be Jared Allen at this point, but a competent starter for another six or eight years isn't out of the question, and that's not awful for a high pick. I mean, St. Louis is happier about that draft than New York (Jets) right?

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 9:47pm

This is curious coming from you.

So Chris Long shouldn't be considered a bust yet because two years isn't long enough time to judge a position that's hard to transition in the NFL. But Sanchez is a bust because he had bad rookie stats. Because quarterbacks should be expected to "make an impact" sooner?

by jimbohead :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 11:12pm

I think the argument is more, Chris Long has performed well enough to start at DE, though he hasn't put up huge numbers. Similarly, other DEs who are drafted highly and start early also do not put up great sack numbers (I don't actually know if this is true or not, I'm just following the argument), but then go on to have good careers. Whereas QBs who struggle as much as Sanchez did in their rookie years, despite being in just about the best situation for a QB possible, rarely become good QBs later. Now, I can't point to lists, or any evidence at all really, to verify this line of reasoning, so apply salt liberally.

But the real question is degree of suckiness. How much has Chris Long sucked, and how much of that was do to the defense around him? And how much has Sanchez sucked, despite the quality of the team around him?

by Dean :: Fri, 04/09/2010 - 9:14am

Long has been underwhelming, but that should not be confused with being bad.

He's an every down DE who (by reputation and by the eyeball test anyway) holds up well against the run. However, he doesn't seem to be explosive off the ball in pass rushing situations and hasn't developed an arstenal of different moves. There's no reason at this point to think he will ever be a 10 sack guy. He looks like he'll be a guy who has a 10 year career as an average starting DE. Steady, but unspectacular.

That's not a bad guy to have on your team. But he was a high first round pick, and the expectations were higher. He's supposed to be more than a plugger. And when you're making what Chris Long is making as a result of his draft position, being a plugger isn't good enough.

by Jimmy :: Fri, 04/09/2010 - 9:32am

I think Chris Long needs to be used like Justin Smith is (finally getting used). Smith was the fourth pick in the draft, taken with the pick before Tomlinson. He was a solid right end for the Bengals for years but wasn't the edge rusher they hoped he would become but held up extremely well against the run. Then he goes to the Niners, everyone says they have overpaid to get him and for the first half of the season he was played out of position at rush linebacker and looked like a free agency bust. Then Singletary came in and moved him to 3-4 end and he has been one of the best players in the league at that particular position since then and was fantastic last year. When Smith got drafted hardly anyone in the league used a 30 front but every scout must have been able to spot that he was an elite player so he gets taken high but used poorly for seven and a half years.

Chris Long seems to fit a similar mold to me. I do think he could play well enough to justify his draft position but he is best suited to a 30 front and will seem to underachieve until he does. It isn't a player's fault if the team that drafted him doesn't figure out how to use them correctly.

by jimbohead :: Fri, 04/09/2010 - 10:49am

Why not bump Long inside then? If Long is like Smith, then it seems like Spags would like to have a powerful guy with some penetration ability inside, instead of a starting a guy outside who's mediocre at playing 7 technique.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 04/12/2010 - 6:35pm

The demands and statistical production of the positions are different. Sanchez was flipping awful his rookie season, but I have not, and won't until at least 2011, call him a bust. He looks like a potential bust, certainly. But he isn't one yet.

And neither is Chris Long. Like quarterbacks, who generally reach maturity only a few years in (especially in terms of sacks and interception rates, respectively) pass rushing OLB's/DE's don't necessarily develop immediately and make an impact. I don't know that Chris Long was ever a good pick, and certainly he hasn't earned his salary yet, but there isn't any particular reason to think he won't, any more than there was with Mario Williams early on.