With the rise of dominant tight ends like New England's Rob Gronkowski and the Saints' Jimmy Graham last season, and teams starting to see the position in a new (and very old) light, it was unfortunate to see that the TE pickings remain very limited this year. Yet, there's a chance one or two will surprise people down the road. The main reason is that the advent of the spread offenses in college have diminished the value of the position on that level, and fewer colleges are turning out legitimate TE candidates for the draft. There’s a disconnect there that will have to be worked out eventually, but for right now, all that matters is the options that are going to be available.
Georgia's Orson Charles and Clemson's Dwayne Allen were clearly the class of their group, with Coby Fleener of Stanford not participating. Both are extremely well put together - Allen looks a bit bigger, but Charles is by far the most defined in terms of his musculature. One thing that I look for is the level of muscular development - do they look more like a college kid or an NFL player? Are they at least slightly ripped? Do they have strong calves? Those are essential to anchor and cut well - Charles was the most impressive in that area, and in several others. If they block in line, do they have the bubble for it? How do they hold their hands in the rapid-fire drills? Are they natural receivers, or do they struggle to have their hands in position?
Good Morning, Broncos fans! Pittsburgh's decision not to tag Mike Wallace means any team can ink the 25-year-old wideout to a deal the cap-strapped Steelers are presumably unable to match, with only a first-round pick going back as compensation. Of course, this would be quite the bargain for most teams when considering Wallace's young age and exceptional skills, especially if they happen to pick late in this year's first round, like the Broncos, Patriots, and Niners do.
Mike Tanier thinks Denver's abundance of cap space and their need for a playmaking receiver who gets himself open regardless of scheme makes the Broncos a perfect fit for Wallace. Tanier points to Wallace's terrific numbers on screens and bombs as a perfect complement for Tim Tebow's abilities, and he also envisions Denver utilizing Wallace on plenty of end arounds. Sounds like a no-brainer - who wouldn't be happy with Wallace as Denver's 2012 first-round choice? No matter who the QB is long-term in Denver, Wallace would potentially be his immediate favorite target, with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker suddenly finding a lot more room to roam.
It’s no surprise that the running back group each year tends to garner a lot of attention. Among the skill players, these candidates may be returners, burners, slot receivers, outlet receivers, blockers and, oh yes, guys who carry the ball for you. It’s a pass-oriented league, which means that the ability to block and to catch out of the backfield or off the line in four- and five-wideout sets makes a player that much more interesting to teams.
Shonn Greene showed why this past season - he struggled some in running the ball, and his lack of skills at blocking and receiving left him on the bench more often than he or the Jets would prefer. I like Greene, and enough to write a bio praising the way he’s overcome his background. It’s not a matter of complaining about him, but a fact of life.
Greene had one great year in college and neither blocking nor receiving were a part of it. He’s a powerful, punishing runner, but those missing skills would have benefited both him and his team in 2011. Athletic skills, the ability to make tacklers miss, and the patience to see the lanes open up are the things that you usually get off of tape, but the athletic skill tests are essential to making sure that you have covered the bases of every player that might help you. The more skills a player brings to the table - short yardage, between the tackles, around the edge, blocking and receiving, etc - the more valuable they become. The better they are at each, the more that value ascends.
Free agent QBs for Broncos, Chiefs
Chad Henne: There has been talk Denver will be interested and he could push Tim Tebow. Kansas City could also be interested. He played for new Kansas City offensive coordinator Brian Daboll last season.
Shaun Hill: I could see him being on Denver’s list as a backup.
Josh Johnson: Denver could look at him as a backup to Tebow.
Vince Young: Giving Tebow a similar backup would be compelling and you never know, maybe the light would finally come on for Young in Denver.
How many weasel words (otherwise known as modal auxiliary verbs) can one guy cram into a 338-word blog entry?
I lost count after the 10th "could" and the third "may."
Will Aaron Rodgers decide Tebowmania is too much to bear and try and force his way out of Green Bay so he can come and compete with Tebow? He could, you know. Of course, anything could happen.
According to Adam Schefter, the Broncos will use their franchise tag on kicker Matt Prater. The 27-year-old has been Denver's full-time kicker for four seasons and has made 90 of his 112 field goal attempts, a success rate of 80.4%.
Should Prater sign his franchise tender, he will be assured a $2.6M salary and a raise of $800K over his 2011 figure. Last season was an eventful for Prater, who was arrested in August for crashing his truck into a parked car while drunk and after having picked up an employee at area strip club Shotgun Willie's. It took him only months to find redemption, as several game-saving and -winning kicks had none other than JC singing his praises on national television.
The Broncos and Prater will still have until the beginning of the 2012 season to agree to a long-term contract.
As bounty fallout continues, Goodell to make example of Saints
[Williams is] in the biggest trouble and will likely get a significant suspension, at least half the season. Coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis will be banned for a time too, for not exercising the kind of institutional control they should have.
Vilma is going down, and I suspect other player leaders could be banned for games too. Not that they’re all still Saints, but I have to wonder how the league will manage the suspension if, say, six Saints are banned for a game or more. Will Goodell stagger them? Or will the Saints be missing half their defense for Week 1?
Also worth noting is that Brett Favre was surprised by the severity and timing of the hits the Saints delivered in defeating Favre's Vikings in the 2009 NFC title game, and King expects New Orleans OC Pete Carmichael would likely stand in for Payton if the coach is suspended.
Plus, the Texans have re-signed Arian Foster to a five-year deal.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! Mike Freeman is hearing that Roger Goodell will penalize the Saints for their bounty system with an even heavier hand than he used with the Patriots over Spygate. Freeman suspects that New Orleans GM Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton are likely to face suspensions and hefty fines, and for the team to lose at least a first-round draft choice.
Why such severe punishment when players Freeman spoke to estimated that 30-40% of the league's players (does this mean almost every team, since only defensive players appear to have employed bounties?) were party to a bounty system last season? After all, it's a bit too late to simply make an example of the Saints and pretend the problem doesn't span the league.
However, a current player told Freeman that bounties have been rendered less effective by the rules meant to protect offensive players (Anyone still dismissing the need for those? Didn't think so), and the Saints appear to stand out for having institutionalized the system, as Freeman puts it. That the head coach and general manager were aware of the system and even condoned it is another strike against them.
But the guess here is this scandal will grow bigger and take down more names before the Commish metes out his punishment.
For now, market for STL No. 2 pick is soft
But even before free agency begins, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports, the Rams haven’t found a huge seller’s market.
According to the paper, the Browns, who already hold the No. 4 overall pick and obviously would have to give that up to move up to No. 2, aren’t willing to part with their second first-round pick this year (at No. 22). The idea of St. Louis not getting—at the absolute bare minimum—two first-round picks to give up their No. 2 selection is ridiculous, and if Cleveland sticks to that plan, perhaps the organization feels better about current quarterback Colt McCoy than many people might have guessed.
Adding to the Rams woes, the Redskins apparently are willing to part with their No. 6 pick this year and their first-round pick in 2013 but don’t want to give up their second-round pick this year. As the paper writes, that simply isn’t acceptable to the Rams.
The Post Dispatch also writes that trades won’t be worked out with eiter (sic) the Dolphins (the No. 8 pick) because Miami doesn’t want to deal with the coach in Jeff Fisher who spurned them for a job or the Seahawks (No. 12) because St. Louis doesn’t want to have to face RG3 twice a year for the foreseeable future.
I'm still not in the camp that believes the Broncos can move up to land Robert Griffin III, but if I was, I'd view this bit of news in a positive light.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! As we'd figured, Willis McGahee's firing of agent Drew Rosenhaus served as an indication that the RB is unhappy with his 2012 salary. According to Mike Klis, the Broncos told Rosenhaus they would not renegotiate McGahee's deal, a four-year $9.5M contract signed just last summer. The 30-year-old running back was a bargain by any measure in 2011, racking up 1,250 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns for just a $1M salary and $2M signing bonus. McGahee is due a $2M salary in 2012 and will count for $2.5M against the cap; Klis says Willis has no plans to hold out, but it's also only March. Then again, how much leverage does a 30-year-old back have? Not much.
Meanwhile, the Broncos have until tomorrow to lock up kicker Matt Prater to a new long-term deal or use their franchise tag on him, which would result in a $2.6M salary for 2012. Here's guessing the two sides would still pursue a lengthier contract if Denver ends up tagging the 27-year-old kicker.
Miami (Ohio) OG Brooks make statement at Pro day
Last week, The Sports Xchange documented the regimen of Miami (Ohio) guard Brandon Brooks, arguably the mostly highly regarded prospect—almost certainly the best offensive line candidate—not invited to the Indianapolis combine.
At his pro day on campus Thursday, Brooks may have cemented his status, and perhaps worked his way to as high as the third round, with a very solid audition for NFL scouts.
At 6-feet-5 and 346 pounds, Brooks ran a sub-5.0 time (scouts to whom The Sports Xchange spoke pegged it in the 4.98 range) and performed 36 “reps” in the bench press.
“A lot of people told me they couldn’t believe I wasn’t in Indy,” Brooks told The Sports Xchange, “but who’s fault was it (that) I wasn’t there? Maybe it’s all worked out for the best, though. Like I said before, it just made the chip that much bigger for me. Maybe I worked that much harder.”
Brooks may be drafted yet, but if not he’ll be one of the top valued UDFAs shortly after. Congratulations to a class guy who’s handling this disappointment by channeling it into his craft. It’s a great lesson.