Walkthrough: Draft Blender
by Mike Tanier
Draft day is Take Your Child to Work Day. Someone get Janoris Jenkins an SUV!
This happened last year, as well, I think. It is one of the occupational hazards of moving the draft to an April Thursday: it may butt against Take Your Child to Work Day. Unlike Mike Shanahan, I cannot take my sons to work, though the press area would be much more interesting if there were a bunch of tykes running about. With all of that video gaming knowledge, maybe the kids could make the Internet work better.
I will be on a train to New York when this posts, and my sons will be with my wife, because it makes sense to pull them out of a classroom for a day so they can spend a day in the classroom. This week is draft-crunch week, so Walkthrough is a little crunchy, which does not mean there is nothing to talk about.
Some final draft notes
I would only draft Brandon Weeden if I wanted someone my own age to go out for beers with.
Tannehill needs two years of camps and preseason action to learn to do things like find a secondary receiver (or any receiver not named Jeff Fuller), and to not pat the ball every single time he throws more than five yards downfield. He will be very good if he isn’t tossed into the lineup by some team with no weapons and told to "become a franchise quarterback." But alas, take a look at the teams most interested in him. The Eagles rumor fizzled out. Philly would have been a great landing place for Tannehill.
The only other quarterback I would draft is Russell Wilson of Wisconsin, but not as a starter. Teams like the Packers or Steelers should look at him as a designated backup, a "spark off the bench" guy. Come to think of it, he would be the perfect Ben Roethlisberger back up. He would start one or two games per year, run around acting intense and leading field goal drives, win some 19-10 games, then return to the bench before anyone discovered his limitations.
Poe sets off my Junior Siavii alarm. You have a Siavii alarm too, right? Some call it Siavii-dar. Huge man lifts a million tons at the Combine, shoots up the draft board, gets picked too soon, isn’t very good. Poe’s tape is so incredibly uninteresting that it is hard to get pumped up about him after watching Brockers go bronkers and Worthy jump the snap count so effectively that it looks like he left on Friday.
That said, Phil Taylor didn’t do much for me last year, and look at him.
Running backs: Doug Martin is not that far below Trent Richardson. Martin is a tremendous finisher. Chris Polk has everything but speed. We talked about William Andrews last week: Polk is an Andrews type. He is not in Andrews’ class, and offenses have changed, but he is an ace back who can run 20 counter treys per game and catch the ball. There aren’t many teams looking for that now. Maybe the Niners, or the Packers. For the Packers, Polk could be the player they thought Brandon Jackson was going to be.
Friday night will be a fun night for running backs. There is going to be a run on Polk-types in that second round.
My top-five tight ends: Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, Orson Charles, draft another position instead, draft another position instead. The Senior Bowl ruined me for tight ends. The best one in Mobile was probably DeAngelo Peterson, who looked like Jermichael Finley during post-practice interviews but played like one of those guys teams draft in hope of finding "the next Jermichael Finley" during sessions.
Charles is the best "real" tight end, for those of you who are traditionalists from 1973. The Ravens, Giants, and other teams use "real" tight ends, so there is still a call for the services of a guy who lines up next to the right tackle and, you know, blocks occasionally. Allen and Fleener block well enough for current NFL offenses. Allen has a lot of experience going in motion on Wildcat type plays. The Jets and Bills should take a long look. He may be around in the middle of the second round.
This rant does not fit anywhere else, but Charles is famous for shattering the NCAA Championship trophy during a visit to Florida a few years ago. Another NCAA trophy was smashed last week, by some parents taking a tour at University of Alabama. That is going to happen when your trophy is CRYSTAL WITH A ROUNDED BOTTOM. It’s fragile, but it makes up for it by being impossible to easily support. It is usually helped up by what look like three toothpicks of different sizes.
Only the NCAA would think that the best thing for a bunch of sweaty, tired teenagers to gambol around the field with after a championship is an incredibly delicate item that mimics the size and shape of the item they throw and kick for fun and (future) profit. It’s symbolic. The crystal represents purity, the fact that it shatters every few years represent reality, and the rounded base represents something that cannot stand on its own, like the 19th century notion of amateurism.
My top five wide receivers: Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright, Alshon Jeffery, and I don’t know. Mohamed Sanu's tape puzzles me because it is a hundred tunnel screens. Rueben Randle ... please don’t make me watch the LSU offense; I swear I will be good. Stephen Hill plays in the flexbone, so I will punt. Maybe the Jets should draft him.
There are lots and lots of halfway decent receivers. Joe Adams of Arkansas is going to be available in the middle rounds, and he has great quickness and moves. He could be a fine slot guy. Juron Criner is more of an on-the-line receiver: big, smart, can snatch the ball, fast enough. He’s going to be on the board on Saturday. I have no idea about Brian Quick. In Mobile, he looked like his head was spinning, but he is big, fast, gets high marks for effort, and people who have seen good tape of him (I am not swimming in Appalachian State footage here) like him. He will be on the board Saturday. Jeff Fuller ... good heavens, if he could hang onto the ball a little better.
Pass rushers: The guy I like this year is Chandler Jones of Syracuse. The sack totals are not great, but he can beat a blocker with hand fighting while staying in his lane, and he is very athletic.
Sack totals are becoming a boondoggle at the NCAA level. Spread offenses with twenty tunnel screens per game do not leave pass rushers with many opportunities. Spread-option offenses turn quarterbacks into runners, and while it is not hard to find tackle-for-loss data for defenders, top lineman probably have lots of quarterback tackles for one-yard gains. Alan Branch had four sacks against Virginia Tech, but the poor kid blocking him looked like someone who just walked onto campus the previous Tuesday. There is a lot of talent at defensive end and linebacker, but there is every year, and I am starting to wonder what teams are putting a high premium on.
Kickers and punters: Anyone who drafts a specialist this year is completely nutty.
Some Shout Outs
The site NFL Draft Breakdown does something absolutely tremendous: They post dozens and dozens of cutups of prospects. Good cutups. Not highlight reels to a rap beat. Whole games, cut into five-to-12 minute clips, usually with a helpful box around the key player.
Between Draft Breakdown and some other dedicated souls around the web, you might be able to find three or four cutups of the top 50-75 prospects. Since many of the top prospects might play for a school like Alabama, you can use one player’s cutup to watch another player: Courtney Upshaw can be scouted from Mark Barron’s tape. Mix in some taped big games and bowl games from the DVR, some other video available from not-too-illegal sources, and consultations with the good experts around the web, and you can get tons of footage and info on a player without having to go to Mobile or Indy.
So this is game-changing material, and it is all free. I met Mike Daneshgar of Draft Breakdown down in Mobile, and it was clear that scouting is a labor of love for these guys: they hustle and do their homework.
After your favorite team drafts, head to their site and search for your new player. In the first and second round, you are likely to find at least two cutups. The late round guys might have something, too. Watch it all, and you will be ten times more informed than the morning sportstalk guy who is complaining about the pick.
Oh, and let’s not forget Ourlads. I don’t get there much for scouting, but their depth charts are indispensible this time of year. See, you lose track of all the transactions made by a team like the Chiefs. You can find a "comings and goings" list, but if you don’t have detailed knowledge of the Chiefs roster, that can be confusing and misleading. And not many sites are updating their depth charts in mid April.
Ah, but Ourlads does! And they mark new acquisitions with a red font. So you can see Stanford Routt penciled in as a starting cornerback, Peyton Hillis at running back, and Eric Winston at right tackle. Then use that knowledge for an at-a-glance decision that the Chiefs need a cornerback and running back, but not a right tackle, in the draft. Thanks guys!
Credit where credit is due. Depth charts don’t come from nowhere, nor do cutups or high quality scouting reports. These sites make my life easier. Give them a look.
I will be on the New York Times Fifth Down Blog all night for the first round of the draft. If you did not catch Judy Battista and I talking draft on that video conference hangout thing, check it out! We are scheduled to do another one next Monday. Check Extra Points for times.
I plan to be here with the gang on Cover it Live on Friday night for a live chat. Last year I could not make it, because ... well, the lockout ended, then it started again, then I went to an NFLPA event which was all screwed up because no one knew the lockout status, then I took a train home and got really drunk because I was looking ahead to an indeterminate period of football-less ultra-marginal employment. But hey, that won’t happen this year, and I want to stop by the chat room and see you guys!
The crew will be here doing Cover it Live on Thursday, of course, so please join them; you can follow me by keeping both windows open.
Saturday is the town classic car show. I plan to eat funnel cake with my children. You should do something fun, too. All of the picks will be on the Internet when you get home. Years ago, I did "instant analysis" for the third round, when it was still part of the first day of the draft. And you know what? It was silly. Give me two or three days to review the scouting reports, watch some tape at Breakdown, correlate the picks with the Ourlads scouting report, and digest everything, and I will give you an informative interpretation of what a team did, and why. Give me five minutes, and you will get a canned response and a guess.
Anyone willing to pay me for canned responses and guesses can email me, of course. But not this year. Classic cars and funnel cake.
Carolina Panthers Top Five Running Backs
Let’s blast out an expansion team while we are all distracted by draft weekend.
Williams led the league in DYAR in 2008 and is regularly a DVOA darling. He still averages over five yards per carry after almost 1,000 carries. He is an overshadowed player: a committee back (usually) for a small market team that has had some rough seasons, whose biggest stars are a young quarterback and a veteran wide receiver. Someone should start an appreciation society.
It doesn’t seem right that the two best Panthers running backs, after 17 years of history, share the backfield during a just-ending down phase for the franchise. But Williams and Stewart are the two all-time leading rushers, and it is hard to advocate for any of the others on this list to be in second place.
Great in 2003. His other best seasons were with the Redskins.
DVOA hated Foster, who always ended the season with about 850 yards. Foster was intermittently exciting, and would slash and break tackles for a game or two, but then he would suffer some nagging injury or have a 16-carry, 23-yard game that made you wonder why he was out there. Foster lives on as Knowshon Moreno.
5. Brad Hoover
One of the Panthers For Life, a group of role players John Fox kept fielding year after year, with ever-diminishing results. Hoover was a very good, versatile, all-purpose fullback from 2000 until 2005. Then he lost his rushing value, and most of his receiving value, and he became the kind of fullback who is best used in a 20-snap role, though he probably played closer to 40 snaps in many games. Fox kept Nick Goings around for years too, and Goings had a similar skill set, because you cannot have too many all-purpose fullbacks who are not much good at any one thing when DeShaun Foster is your featured back.
Enjoy the draft, folks!