Monthly Archives: March 2012

Will Morris Claiborne’s Wrist Surgery Drop His Stock?

LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne dazzled NFL scouts at his Pro Day earlier this week, impressing in both position drills and improving his 40 time from his combine performance, with one scout clocking him at 4.39. seconds.

LSU Cornerback Morris Claiborne

Somewhat lost in the shuffle of his stellar performance was the little tidbit that Claiborne will have surgery prior to the draft to repair a torn ligament in his wrist.  That sentence features quite a few words that trigger red flags for NFL war rooms, which has caused some to believe that Claiborne could see his stock drop, even drastically enough to keep him out of the top five picks of the first round.

We here at TDR are not among those people.

It turns out that Claiborne injured the wrist in the Tigers’ 9-6 overtime victory over Alabama in November, and played through the rest of the season.  Combine that (including the toughness showed by his ability to stay on the field) with the fact that this particular procedure is said to be rather minor as athletic surgeries go, and you’ve got a recipe for a weak argument for keeping the draft’s top cover man out of the top five selections.

Claiborne is head and shoulders above the rest of the cornerback class in this draft.  Don’t expect this non-story to keep the All-American defender from falling past the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at #5 overall.

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OVER/UNDER: Quarterback

“Over/Under” is a glance at a pair of players at each position; one who TDR believes in overrated, and one who we believe is underrated. 

OVER: Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M                                                                                                                                    

Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill

It’s not that Tannehill doesn’t have the potential to develop into a solid starting quarterback; he definitely has the desired size and a strong enough arm to become a successful NFL signal-caller.  It’s his projected draft position that lands him in TDR’s OVER column.  The known fact that Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III will be the first two players off the board has made Tannehill’s stock skyrocket far beyond where his actual skill level should have him drafted.  He put up solid number for the Aggies, but still has enough to work on (deep-ball accuracy, deep outs sailing out-of-bounds, decision-making) that I grade him in very late-first/early-second round area.  Depending on how things shake out, however, he could go as high as #4 to Cleveland, or more realistically, to Miami at #8.  That’s much to high for someone who still needs as much polish as Tannehill does.

UNDER: Russell Wilson, Wisconsin                                                                                                                                         

Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson

I’ve still only heard one single knock on last year’s NCAA leader in passing efficiency: his size.  And I’m well aware that every time there’s an even mildly-successful QB who measures in at less than six feet tall, too many people start clamoring that he’s inevitably the next Drew Brees.  So, I’m not saying his lack of height doesn’t matter, nor am I saying he’s the second coming of St. Drew.  What I’m saying is that he’s got a better-than-average chance of making some NFL team very happy by far outplaying his draft position when they snag him in the later rounds of this draft.  He has all the physical tools you look for in a quarterback, and the biggest statistical deficiency he had heading into his senior season was his completion percentage, which he improved from 58.4 as a junior to 72.8 as a senior, giving him a career average just over 60 percent.  He doesn’t have Matthew Stafford’s cannon, but his arm is strong enough to make all the necessary throws, and his short-to-intermediate accuracy is exceptional.  In limited action as a freshman at N.C. State, Wilson threw 17 TDs and just one pick,  and as a senior at Wisconsin threw for 33 scores and just 4 INTs, giving him 109/30 for his career.  Throw in 1,427 yards and 23 TDs rushing, and you’ve got a recipe for a solid, versatile threat at QB, and a sleeper who could develop into a gem in the right system with the right instruction.

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Why Trent Richardson is Different

You’ve heard it a million times this draft season: no running back is worth taking in the top 5 anymore.

It’s not that statistics don’t make a pretty darn good argument for that.  Look no further than Arian Foster, who was undrafted and led the NFL in rushing yards.  Look at the plethora of other backs who have been drafted outside of the first round and blossomed, while plenty of first-rounders have floundered.

But I’ve been saying it, and I’ll say it again: Trent Richardson is worth a top-5 pick.

Alabama RB Trent Richardson

Experts continue to say that you can get productive runners in later rounds, and I don’t disagree with that.  What I disagree with is passing up a player like Richardson simply because you can get a serviceable option at his position later in the draft.

Richardson has the ideal frame for a RB.  He’s equal parts speed and power.  He is everything Adrian Peterson was coming out of college, except that he doesn’t fumble, doesn’t have a long injury history, and is a terror in the passing game.  He dominated in the toughest conference in college football, is head-and-shoulders above former teammate and Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram.  Don’t believe it?  Ingram has said it himself, even since they were teammates.

Throw in the fact that Richardson has plenty of tread on his tires, considering he backed up Ingram for two years, and when he was finally the lead dog, he shared plenty of carries with other talented Tide underclassmen (and had a few games where he didn’t play beyond the third quarter), and you’ve got a recipe for a truly special player.

Again, I don’t disagree that there’s value at RB late in the draft.  But there is also value at every other position, and history has proved that just as often.  If NFL GM’s can honestly look at tape of Richardson and decide he’s not worth a top-5 pick…then come next season and beyond, there’s going to be plenty of them who wished they had felt differently, and one who is thanking his lucky stars that they did.

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Vikings, Browns Hold Keys to Draft

The entire NFL universe is quite certain who the first two selections in next month’s NFL Draft will be.  To the same degree, we are uncertain about where things will go from there, and the floodgates to it all will be opened by the teams who hold the next two picks: Minnesota and Cleveland.

USC T Matt Kalil

At #3, the Vikings have plenty of options, but also plenty of needs.  They could definitely use an anchor at left tackle to protect sophomore QB Christian Ponder, at USC’s Matt Kalil is clearly deserving of such a high selection.  However, the Vikes also have a glaring need at cornerback and wide receiver, making LSU CB Morris Claiborne and Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon equally viable options.  Who they select will determine the direction the rest of the draft takes.

After the Vikings decide which hole to fill, the Browns will have the same decision to make at #4.  Cleveland would prefer Minnesota to take Kalil, since they Joe Thomas is already entrenched at the left tackle spot for the Browns.  That would leave Claiborne and Blackmon available, and while Cleveland has more of a need at wide receiver, Claiborne’s overall talent will definitely merit consideration at that spot.  Also in the discussion at that point will be Alabama RB Trent Richardson, following Peyton Hillis’ departure from the Dawg Pound.

The following picks (Tampa Bay, St. Louis) will pick up whichever of those players falls to them, which isn’t exactly the worst problem to have.  It’s very likely that those four players (Kalil, Claiborne, Blackmon, Richardson) will be selected 3-6.  The only question will be, in what order?

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