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Thursday, April 26, 2012

2012 NFL Draft Blog, Part II

Welcome to the 2012 NFL Draft Blog everyone. Make sure to send me a question on Twitter @DoctorFootball, and I'll answer it here. Or, you can simply enter it below.

The last two picks are for my third (Martin) and second (Wilson) ranked running backs. Both of them are very good additions. Martin is a three-down back who will probably replace Blount when Schiano gets tired of dealing with him. Wilson will be the perfect complement to Bradshaw and will eventually take over as the lead back. Personally, I think he has all the tools to be a premier back in this league.

And now, we're hit with another reach. Don't get me wrong, A.J. Jenkins is a really good receiver, but that's pretty high. I have four other receivers ranked ahead of him, and I didn't hear anyone saying he'd be taken before the late second.

Wow, seeing Minnesota trading back into the first for Harrison Smith was questionable at best. I've never seen anything special about him - in my opinion, he's just a guy.

I'm not overly impressed with Nick Perry pick by the Pats. I still don't think he has the bend to transition to 3-4 outside linebacker.

Bengals did a nice job of addressing needs and getting picks. It might have been a little early for Zeitler, but not by much.

I take back what I said earlier, the Chargers and Texans now share the title of biggest steal in the draft. Mercilus at 26 is spectacular.

DeCastro for Steelers and Hightower for Pats are great selections. Pittsburgh needed offensive line help to keep Big Ben alive. I love Hightower - will work really well with Mayo in the middle.

At 23, Riley Reiff is a great example of value and need. Awesome pick by the Lions.

Well, one out of two ain't bad - Tennessee takes Kendall Wright and the Pats go with Chandler Jones.

Tennessee will take DeCastro and the Pats (after the trade) have to take a pass rusher (Mercilus, Curry, Perry).

Wow, Shea McClellin goes to the Bears - he really did shoot up draft boards. I thought he would go in the 26-31 range. Great pick, though. I really like what McClellin brings to the table - motor, natural pass rusher, high football IQ.

I thought the Chargers would go with Melvin Ingram - can't believe he lasted as long as he did. Chargers just got the steal of this draft.

I had the Bengals taking Dre Kirkpatrick at 21, but with Michael Floyd gone, I think they go Kirkpatrick here and Wright at 21.

Two of the next five picks with all of this talent slipping (Ingram, Mercilus, DeCastro, Reiff, Wright, etc.), not even the Bengals can screw this up...can they?

I'm really surprised on this - I thought Ingram was a lock for the Jets if he lasted that long.

The Jets have to take Ingram here. Rex Ryan loves him - thinks he's Adalius Thomas who he had a lot of succes with in Baltimore. Versatility is a premium for him.

Wow, Seahawks take Bruce Irvin. I had him rated in the second round at best. I like him, but he's got issues off the field and he can only rush the passer.

Still not convinced about Brockers - amazing talent, but looked to have a problem with motivation. Fisher can get it out of him, though.

Like the pick for Floyd and Chiefs more than one for Blackmon and Jacksonville. They didn't have to give up anything and they got a receiver that's only slightly less talented than Blackmon.

Wow, that was one uncomfortable hug between Roger Goodell and Fletcher Cox.

2012 NFL Draft Blog, Part I

Welcome to the 2012 NFL Draft Blog everyone. Make sure to send me a question on Twitter @DoctorFootball, and I'll answer it here. Or, you can simply enter it below.

Love the pick for Philadelphia. Even though he was slated to go in the top 10, I still think he was underrated.

My guess is it's Fletcher Cox for Philadelphia, Michael Floyd for Arizona, not sure about the Rams, and Melvin Ingram for Seattle.

Well, the Chiefs needed a nose tackle, and they got one - Dontari Poe. If you're a Chiefs fan, you hope he lives he plays up to his Combine numbers.

Still don't understand the uproar over Chandler Jones. I saw a tight athlete who made a lot of "clean-up" sacks.

Is it me, or does Stephon Gilmore not look happy to be going to Buffalo?

I really wasn't expecting Kuechly going to Carolina. To restate what I said in my rankings, I like him, but I don't think he's a top-10 pick. To justify that spot, he better be Patrick Willis or Ray Lewis.

Wow, Carolina and Buffalo have already made their picks - we might be done by 9:30.

With Cox probably going to Carolina and Buffalo, Kansas City, and Seattle not needing cornerbacks, Detroit may start thinking about moving up to snag Stephon Gilmore.

And now, Stephen Ross will get his quarterback. Welcome to Miami, Ryan Tannehill. I still question this pick because I think this is a helluva risk at this position. Teams in the top 10 can't take chances. These picks have to hit.

OK, this is going to have to slow down or I'm going to have to bust out the Mavis Beacon CD. By the way Beacon was the fastest typist in the world.

With the Bucs taking Mark Barron, Greg Schiano gets his quarterback for the secondary. They did a great job trading back and still getting their man.

Well, the Cowboys have the best corner and the third best player in the draft. This will help their awful pass defense immensely.

Cowboys trading up for Cox or Claiborne?

Love the pick by the Vikings. In order to find out if a quarterback is "the guy", you have to protect him.

And now it appears that the Jags are trading up for Blackmon...interesting because I'm not sure Blackmon is good enough to make a move like that. Value for receivers is in the 15 to 40 range.

Well, I guessed right - it appears the Vikings have selected Matt Kalil.

Now we find out which was the smokescreen over the past couple of days for the Vikings...Kalil or Claiborne.

The Browns select Trent Richardson - great choice. I'm don't know if Colt McCoy is the answer, but they'll never know if they don't give him some weapons. And even if they decide he's not the answer, they'll have the supporting cast for the next guy.

The Redskins select Robert Griffin III - man, the shockers just keep coming. Let me guess, the Browns are going to select Trent Richardson.

Can't state this enough - both Washington and Indianapolis are getting great quarterbacks. It doesn't matter who went first or second, they're both going to be Pro Bowl players.

And the Indianapolis Colts are now on the clock. I wonder who they'll pick...

The Colts select Andrew Luck - wow, who saw that coming? Seriously, the Colts could not have asked for a better situation when parting with a franchise quarterback. Luck is the best NFL-prepared quarterback I've ever seen. The previous one...Peyton Manning.

Doctor Football's 2012 NFL Mock Draft

While I intend for this to be the final version of the mock draft, make sure to check back before Thursday night to see if any changes have been made. Also, check out my draft day blog at

Well, once again it's time for the annual flogging that's known as the the mock draft. I love doing them, but the second that a general manager has a different opinion about who the eighth best player in the draft is, I find myself cursing at the television. Yep, it's always that six to eight range that totally blasts my mock to smithereens.

Just so you know, I try to blend a combination of everything into my choices - my own evaluations, team needs, and rumors that I've heard and feel confident in. I do not factor in trades.
This year could be really hectic with all of the misinformation and teams trying to trade out of their positions. The good news is that I should get at least two right...

1. Indianapolis: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
This just makes sense. The Colts get the only quarterback I know of that's more prepared coming into the NFL than Peyton Manning was in 1998.

2. Washington: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Mike Shanahan finally gets the play caller he needs to run his offense. With his mobility, arm strength, and accuracy, he's the ultimate weapon for the West Coast system.

3. Minnesota: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
The temptation to take Morris Claiborne to deal with the passing offenses in their division is outweighed by the need to protect their first round quarterback, Christian Ponder. Also, don't be surprised if Buffalo trades up to take Kalil here.

4. Cleveland: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
I'm hearing they're considering Morris Claiborne here, but I just can't see them passing on the best, and safest, player in this draft. Richardson immediately takes some of the pressure off of Colt McCoy.

5. Tampa Bay: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
This could not have worked out better for Greg Schiano in his first draft. He satisfies his team's biggest need with their first pick with a player who can make an immediate impact.

6. St. Louis: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi St.
I know that Sam Bradford will be upset that they pass on Justin Blackmon, but this is a deep wide receiver draft, and they get the best player at another position of need.

7. Jacksonville: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma St.
The Jaguars are desperately trying to trade down, but I'm not sure they'll have any takers without one of those top five sliding. However, getting the best receiver in the draft to help Blaine Gabbert isn't a bad consolation prize.

8. Miami: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
The front office can deny it all they want, but their owner is going to "help" them make this pick. It's way too high for Tannehill, but the Dolphins are looking for someone to rejuvenate the franchise.

9. Carolina: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
They're really hoping that Fletcher Cox falls to them, but after he's gone, they're happy to get a great player in another area of need.

10. Buffalo: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
The Bills need offensive line help, especially at left tackle, in the worst way, and they may fill that need by shocking the draft and moving up to three to take Kalil. If they stay, they'll take Kuechly to aid in their change to the 4-3 defense.

11. Kansas City: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
They need interior line help on both sides of the ball, and DeCastro is the answer with no defensive tackle worth the 11th overall pick available.

12. Seattle: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
This one will come down to Ingram or Quentin Coples, but in the end, Pete Carroll goes with the guy he won't have to worry about motivating or living up to his potential.

13. Arizona: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
I think this is too early for Reiff, but the Cardinals need a left tackle by far more than any other need. They'll try to trade down, but there won't be any takers.

14. Dallas: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Barron is the guy they want, and if history's taught us anything, it's that what Jerry wants, he usually gets.

15. Philadelphia: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
The Eagles have needed bulk in the middle of their defense for a while, and Brockers fits that bill. Quentin Coples could also be a fit here.

16. New York Jets: Courtney Upshaw, DE, Alabama
To be honest, Rex Ryan will be crushed when Melvin Ingram goes to Seattle. He compared him to Adalius Thomas, who he coached in Baltimore. Instead, he gets a less flashy but solid defender who will be his best pass rusher from day one.

17. Cincinnati: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
By this point, the Bengals have been chewing their fingernails for the last four picks hoping that Floyd would fall into their lap. One need down, with another first round pick left to go.

18. San Diego: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
I know that Barron is a target, and they'll hope to get a deal done with Buffalo. But if they stay here, they'll have their pick of a few of the best 3-4 OLB propects in the draft.

19. Chicago: Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse
If you looked at my rankings article, you'll see that I'm nowhere near as impressed with Jones as others are, which is why I have him sliding to the Bears. Personally, I think this is still too high, but his name keeps popping up here.

20. Tennessee: Quentin Coples, DE, North Carolina
And Coples uncomfortable slide ends here. He falls because of a questionable motor, but his talents, and the Titans need for a pass rusher, make this a convenient choice.

21. Cincinnati: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
And once again, the Bengals' war room rejoices!!! Two picks, two needs taken care of, and two coordinators thrilled with their new toys.

22. Cleveland: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
While I don't have Wright listed as my third receiver, I know that most people do. So, I think the Browns go with the "safer" of the remaining first round wideouts in order to bolster their absolutely pathetic offense.

23. Detroit: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Martin Mayhew recently said, and I'm paraphrasing here, that he wouldn't be averse to taking a player who smoked pot. Thats one of the things that's hurt the Lions so far this offseason, but Adams would be a great fit for a team that needs to protect Matt Stafford.

24. Pittsburgh: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama 
It's funny, even if they didn't need him, they might take him just to get under the skin of the Ravens. Seriously, they need help inside with play-caller James Farrior running low on fumes. Also, offensive tackle Bobbie Massie could be in play here.

25. Denver: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
I've seen a lot of people linking Poe to the Steelers, but I don't see it. His game isn't really suited to play the nose, but he is the penetrator that John Fox needs. Jerel Worthy could be their other option.

26. Houston: Andre Branch, OLB, Clemson
I've seen picks all over the map for the Texans, who also need weapons on offense, and depth on the offensive line. But, since it's a deep receiver class and they don't need first round picks for the zone blocking scheme, they take someone who can put pressure on the quarterback.

27. New England: Nick Perry, OLB, USC
The Patriots have had interest in Perry for quite some time, and Belichick loves players that can move around and play in mutiple fronts. Perry is perfect for a 3-4 under look and can move around enough to play outside linbacker.

28. Green Bay Packers: Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise St.Clay Matthews sack total dropped to six last year after his monster year in 2010. The reason: there was nobody on the other side. McClellin is one of the most natural pass rushers in this draft. Now if he can only grow his hair really long.

29. Baltimore Ravens: Peter Konz, C, WisconsinWith Hightower gone to the Steelers, this is one of the easier picks in my mock. Matt Birk is entering his final year, and Konz is the perfect replacement. He'll play guard as a rookie and learn alongside on of the game's best.

30. San Francisco: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
It seems like we say that the 49ers need help at the receiver position every year. Hill is the kind of burner that will take the top off for Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis to work underneath.

31. New England: Vinny Curry, OLB, Marshall
They've been trying to find pass rushers for so long that they'll take two in the first round. Janoris Jenkins may also be an option here. He's a character risk, but Belichick's never let that stop him from taking a good player.

32. New York Giants: Bobbie Massie, OT, Mississippi
The Giants could go several different ways here, but I think they try to beef up an aging offensive line. Running backs Doug Martin of Boise St. and David Wilson of Virginia Tech could also fit here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: Top Five Free and Strong Safeties

Even more than the cornerback class, the safeties this year, whether free or strong, are very disappointing. Outside of Mark Barron from Alabama, I certainly wouldn't put a second round grade on any of them, and I might not even place one in the third round. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Barron went in the first 10 picks of the draft and we didn't hear another go off the board until Saturday morning.

OK, enough of the least for now. Mark Barron is a "do-it-all" safety who can play in the box, cover in zone or man-to-man against tight ends and some slot receivers. He has great ball skills and a slightly below elite level burst to the football. He is an aggressive run defender who arrives at the ball carrier with an attitude. Many general managers wouldn't think of selecting a safety with a top ten pick, but I would beg them to reconsider when it comes to Barron.

Here are the rest of the strong safety rankings:

Rank Name School Height Weight
1 Mark Barron Alabama 6010 213
2 Harrison Smith Notre Dame 6017 213
3 George Iloka Boise St. 6035 225
4 Brandon Taylor LSU 5112 209
5 Antonio Allen South Carolina 6014 210

I'm sure some of you noticed that I have George Iloka listed with the strong safeties, and it's for a good reason...he will be an absolute liability in coverage. He is simply way too tight withe extremely poor change of direction, backpedal, and lateral movement skills. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't be surprised if his new team bulked him up and moved him to linebacker.

As for the free safeties, they're an even more nondescript group. Markelle Martin is the best of the lot, and he'll probably be relegated to special teams duty unless injuries are involved. He plays way too high and stiff, so his movement skills are an issue. Then, on top of all that, he's very aggressive and finds himself often out of position. If you're a team in need of a free safety, this is not your year.

Here are the free safety rankings:

Rank Name School Height Weight
1 Markelle Martin Oklahoma St. 6010 207
2 Trumaine Johnson Montana 6017 204
3 Trent Robinson Michigan St. 5096 195
4 Brandon Hardin Oregon St. 6025 222
5 Aaron Henry Wisconsin 5116 208

2012 NFL Draft: Top Ten Cornerbacks

For several reasons, this is one of the weaker cornerback classes that I can remember. While the top two are really good, I'm not sure if any of the others would go in the first 50 picks in another draft. However, I think that five or six will go in that range and I think it's only because of need.
In my opinion, Morris Claiborne is the best corner coming out this year. The 2011 Thorpe Award winner has all of the tools: smooth feet, very good hip and ankle flexion, and tremendous ball skills. His transitions are seamless and his long arms (33.25 inches) help if he's in the trail position. My only concern is that he might not be able to play as aggressively as he did at LSU. In that regard, I see a lot of Asante Samuel in him, and as we all know, it's usually feast or famine with Samuel.
Next, Stephon Gilmore of South Carolina is a pretty close second. He's an aggressive corner that can play any coverage: man, off-man, zone, etc. He's got great size at just over six feet and 190 pounds. I know there are some people who feel he's better than Claiborne, but I just don't see it. The difference between the two is that Gilmore's footwork isn't quite as smooth, he's slightly tighter in the hips, and his ball skills are nowhere near Claiborne's.
They'll both go in the first 12 to 15 picks, and the teams that get them will be extremely lucky to lock one down.
Here are the rest of the rankings:
Rank Name School Height Weight
1 Morris Claiborne LSU 5110 188
2 Stephen Gilmore South Carolina 6004 190
3 D'Andre "Dre" Kirkpatrick  Alabama 6015 186
4 Janoris Jenkins Northern Alabama 5110 193
5 Josh Robinson Central Florida 5101 199
6 Alfonzo Dennard Nebraska 5111 188
7 Casey Hayward Vanderbilt 5113 192
8 Brandon Boykin Georgia 5090 182
9 Jayron Hosley Virginia Tech 5100 178
10 Rond'trique "Ron" Brooks LSU 5100 190

The real elephant in the room in this group is Janoris Jenkins. His off-the-field issues have been as publicized as his on-the-field inconsistent performances. When he's good, like he was at Florida and Northern Alabama, Jenkins was the best cover corner in college football. However, his play at the Senior Bowl practices were sub par and allowed the "other stuff" to start overshadowing his talent. You name the character issue, Jenkins has it on his resume: failed drug tests (one was at the Combine), arrests, four kids with multiple women. When you add it all up, you get a talented player in a free-fall out of the first round.

2012 NFL Draft: Top Ten Inside Linebackers

Recently, the middle linebacker position has been treated like the red-headed stepchild in the draft (no offense to red-headed stepchildren). Even though they are the quarterback of the defense, their skills have been minimized with the advancement in the passing game. More of an emphasis is now placed on the defensive line, especially exterior pass rushers, and cornerbacks. However, this year will see two Mikes go in the first 32 picks.

The earliest to go will be Luke Kuechly, and while I'm not as high on him as others, I definitely think he's worth a first round pick. If you take a look at his Combine numbers it's hard to say he's not a fantastic athlete, but I am. He plays very tight and his feet look slow when moving laterally or in transition. But, what he lacks in athleticism, he more than makes up for in football IQ and instinct. He knows the game so well that he's able to gain back that split-second that the rest of his body lost him. I know he's going to go in the first 13 picks, but I think his value is more in the late twenties.

Next, Dont'a Hightower of Alabama should go somewhere at the end of the first round. Like Kuechly, at the top of Hightower's strengths is his football IQ, meaning he's very quick to diagnose plays and react accordingly. On the negative side, again like Kuechly, he's very tight in the hips and his lateral movement leaves a lot to be desired. The edge for Kuechly is that he's a bit more functional in the passing game. Hightower can be effective in passing situations, but that's not the strength of his game.

Here are the rest of the rankings:

Rank Name School Height Weight
1 Luke Kuechly Boston College 6032 242
2 Qualin "Don’t'a" Hightower Alabama 6022 265
3 Marvin "Mychal" Kendricks California 5111 239
4 Bobby Wagner Utah St. 6010 241
5 James-Michael Johnson Nevada 6011 241
6 Keenan Robinson Texas 6031 242
7 Ricky "Tank" Carder TCU 6023 236
8 Audie Cole N.C. State 6041 246
9 Najee Goode West Virginia 6001 244
10 Shawn Loiseau Merrimack 6004 246

Usually I like to delve into an under the radar prospect here, but I have to talk about Mychal Kendricks. He is one of the hidden gems in this draft. While he's undersized, he certainly doesn't play like it and he has speed to burn. He is definitely the best athlete in this group. His lateral movement and transitions are at an elite level for a middle linebacker. Of course, the primary concern is whether or not he will be able to shed blocks from professional lineman. In my opinion, they guy's a tough and talented football player and I would certainly be willing to spend a late-second, early-third round pick on him.

2012 NFL Draft: Top Ten Outside Linebackers

I'm sure many of you are looking at these lists and wondering if I have a man-crush on Melvin Ingram. After all, he's my number one prospect on the lists for defensive ends, 3-4 outside linebackers, and 4-3 outside linebackers. Well, I can assure you that I do not, but he really is one of the most versatile players in this draft. In my opinion, he can play almost every position in the front seven (he could also occasionally play tackle in pass rush situations).

I have no idea why he's probably going to go in the mid-teens, except the possibility that many general managers and coaches are not sure where they would play him. Or, they think he's a jack-of-all-trades, but master of none. Either way, any of the teams in the top ten that need a pass rusher and pass on him are making a huge mistake.

If your primary guide to evaluating players is the combine, you will not have Lavonte David ranked second on your list. His lateral movement and footwork looked slow and awkward, and his measurables were some of the worst in his group. However, if you watched him on Saturdays, you know that's not indicative of his talent. David is a sideline-to-sideline Tasmanian devil. He's explosive and his football IQ is at an elite level. He's a little light, without much room to add weight, but he'll be a great pro if he plays in a system that allows him to roam.

Here are the rest of the rankings:

1Melvin IngramSouth Carolina6014264
2Lavonte DavidNebraska6005233
3Shea McClellinBoise St.6033260
4Whitney MercilusIllinois6035261
5Bobby WagnerUtah St.6010241
6Bruce IrvinWest Virginia6030245
7Ronnell LewisOklahoma6016253
8Zach BrownNorth Carolina6012244
9Nigel BradhamFlorida State6017241
10Sean SpenceMiami-Fl.5113231

Everyone might be surprised to see Zach Brown check in at number eight, when so many other people have him ranked higher. There's no doubt that he's a fantastic athlete with world class speed, but when you get labeled and the film shows that you shy away from contact, that's a really big problem for a linebacker. You might think I'm contradicting myself in my comments about David, but there's a big difference: Brown appears to try and avoid contact, whereas David does not.

Bobby Wagner is another player in this group that could sneak up on the average football fan. A relative unknown, he has made a lot of scouts go back to the tape after his play at the Senior Bowl and his performance at his pro day. In addition to good workout numbers and statistics from college, he has a fantastic motor and ability to find the football. His movement skills are well above average as well. I look for him to go somewhere on the second day.

2012 NFL Draft: Top Ten 3-4 Outside Linebackers

Since very few collegiate football teams use the 3-4 defensive scheme, scouts have to project which players can make the transition to its most important position: outside linebacker. This evaluation is one of the job's most difficult tasks, especially when looking at 4-3 defensive ends, simply because you never know how a player will react when you take him out of his comfort zone.

What makes a player a candidate for the switch, or conversion, you ask? Well, there are a few simple traits that they must have. First, you must figure out if they can adapt to rushing from a two-point stance. I know it sounds rudimentary, but there are players that just don't have the same burst when coming from a stand-up position. In addition, guys who usually play from a three-point stance have a tendency to take a false step when making the transition, and that extra step can eliminate any speed advantage that they might have over an offensive tackle.

Second, they have to be able to drop into coverage. Whether the version of the 3-4 centers on the zone blitz or not, the outside backer will have to be able to cover a zone in pass defense some of the time. This is the area that most 4-3 defensive ends struggle with. A prospect must be more flexible and agile than the typical defensive end. In other words, he needs to be able to backpedal and have the lateral movement skills required to move quickly in open space.

Lastly, there is the mental side of the change. When a player is used to pinning his ears back to get after the quarterback in passing situations or penetrate the line of scrimmage on running plays for six to ten years, changing that mindset is easier said than done. You're trying to take someone who's used to aggressive and attacking movements and alter their game to be more passive and cerebral while reading the offense. I've always told people it's like taking the most outgoing person you know and telling them that they have sit in a corner at a party without talking to a single person.

These are just some of the basic aspects of a player's game that must be evaluated when considering a prospect for the 3-4 outside linebacker position. So, the next time your team drafts a bust looking for the next Clay Matthews, maybe you won't be so hard on the GM who made the pick.

Here are the rankings for the 3-4 outside linebackers:

1Melvin IngramSouth Carolina6014264
2Whitney MercilusIllinois6035261
3Andre BranchClemson6042259
4Shea McClellinBoise St.6033260
5Cam JohnsonVirginia6034268
6Nick PerryUSC6026271
7Bruce IrvinWest Virginia6030245
8Vinny CurryMarshall6031266
9Kyle WilberWake Forest6036249
10Olivier VernonMiami-Fl.6021261

Olivier Vernon might be the best prospect on this list. His lateral agility,  burst, and power are exceptional for his size. Everything he does on the football field looks completely natural and effortless. However, the negatives are certainly apparent. He is completely raw and looks to try and get by on his natural ability. He has done very little at Miami to hone his skills. In addition, he was suspended for the first six games of the 2011 season for accepting gifts from a booster. For the most part, I wouldn't hold that against a prospect. But when that booster turns out to be Nevin Shapiro, the most well known illegal booster in the country and a man who is restricted from ever coming onto the Miami campus, I have a hard time giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Tim Fugger of Vanderbilt is another player that falls into this category. He wasn't invited to the combine or either of tha all star games, but his production as a 4-3 defensive end was pretty impressive for someone playing on a bad team in the ultra-talented SEC. In his senior season, he tallied 13.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks. At his pro day, he ran 4.55 in the 40, 6.97 in the 3-cone, and 4.10 in the 20-yard shuttle. All of them would have ranked in the top ten at the Combine. More importantly, he looked very natural in all of the conversion drills. At 6'3" and 248 pounds, I expect him to go in the 4th or 5th round.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: Top Ten Defensive Ends

The defensive end class this year is very interesting because of the versatility in the group. So many of them have the skill set to transition to the 3-4 outside linebacker position that it will be hard to peg down whether they'll be drafted by 4-3 or 3-4 teams. In the next article, we'll cover the conversion prospects, and I will go into more detail into how you can tell the difference between the two.

Melvin Ingram is a perfect example of this, but for this piece, I have him rated as my top defensive end. Rex Ryan recently compared him to Adalius Thomas which may be the best comparison I've heard in this year's draft because, like Thomas, Ingram played end, defensive tackle, and outside linebacker at South Carolina. At just over 6'1" and 264 pounds, you certainly wouldn't want him playing inside much, but having an athlete that versatile would make a defensive coordinator giddy with the number of packages he could install on a weekly basis.

As a 4-3 end, Ingram has all of the abilities a prospect needs. He's got great burst, violent hands (which include a very impressive rip move - something essential for a pass rusher in the league today), and can run the arc with great flexibility and a good angle to the ground. Simply put, he's a natural pass rusher, which is hard to find these days.

My second-ranked end is a bit more of a conundrum. Quinton Coples has gone from a sure-fire top five pick to a guy some people think may slip into the twenties. Unfortunately, none of it has to do with his abilities. Coples has all of the tools to dominate at the end position. He's roughly the same dimensions as Julius Peppers and Mario Williams, but he doesn't have the overall natural ability that they do. I think he fits best as a 3-4 5-technique.

Still, he shows flashes of being a regular double-digit sack machine. However, those flashes don't appear quite often enough. The book on Coples is that he has motivational issues. Watching his film, you can clearly see that he sometimes loses interest in games and, in many cases, simply packs it in. Now, it's simply impossible to ask 270+ pound men to give it 100 percent all the time, but with Coples, you can see there's a real motor issue.

Here are the rest of the rankings:

1Melvin IngramSouth Carolina6014264
2Whitney MercilusIllinois6035261
3Quinton CoplesNorth Carolina6056284
4Courtney UpshawAlabama6015272
5Andre BranchClemson6042259
6Nick PerryUSC6026271
7Vinny CurryMarshall6031266
8Cam JohnsonVirginia6034268
9Chandler JonesSyracuse6053266
10Jared CrickNebraska6040279

One of the guys I really like is not getting any publicity whatsoever leading up the draft: Cam Johnson. His statistics won't "wow" anyone, but you can easily see the explosion coming off the corner. He's played several positions while at Virginia, and has been described as a total "team player", which may be the reason for the lack of stats. The one knock that I can see is that he's raw and will need to be coached up. I think he'll go anywhere from the late second to early fourth, and whoever gets him is going to get a heck of a piece of clay to mold.