Tag Archives: NFL

FIVE THINGS THAT SCARE ME ABOUT THE 2014 QB CLASS

Fresno State QB Derek Carr still has one glaring mechanical flaw that needs fixing.

Fresno State QB Derek Carr still has one glaring mechanical flaw that needs fixing.

BY LUKE EASTERLING
Senior Writer
@NFLDraftReport

Derek Carr’s feet

Nobody in this year’s QB class made a bigger overall improvement between 2012 and 2013 than Carr, who clearly spent much of the off-season correcting multiple mechanical issues.  The result was a senior season in which he steamrolled the Mountain West Conference to the tune of 5,082 yards, 50 touchdowns and just eight interceptions.  And though there’s still the trusty “inferior competition” argument against his production, it’s not what concerns me most about his ability to translate to the next level.

For all of the mechanical fixes that Carr managed to make heading into his senior campaign, one area that still needs major attention is his footwork.  Carr routinely pulls the trigger without fully setting his base, causing his ball placement to be effected negatively on a consistent basis.  Especially on catch-and-shoot-type throws (screens, quick hitches, etc.), Carr doesn’t even look like he’s trying to set his feet before letting the ball go.  Getting the ball out quick is important, sure, but not at the expense of accuracy.  He may have been able to get away with it in the MWC, but the NFL won’t be nearly as forgiving.

A.J. McCarron’s ability to handle pressure

One of the biggest concerns about a quarterback in McCarron’s situation is, “Would he be as successful if he wasn’t surrounded by such superior talent?”.  Any NFL team looking at McCarron has to be afraid that he’s nothing more than the next Ken Dorsey, a mere shadow of his collegiate self without the best players in the country surrounding him at nearly every position.  Turns out we might have gotten an early peek at what that will look like in Alabama’s disappointing Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma, during which McCarron was pressured early and often, to a degree that he hadn’t seen in maybe his entire collegiate career.

Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo was impressive at the Shrine Game last week, but his small hands might be a concern.

Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo was impressive at the Shrine Game last week, but his small hands might be a concern.

McCarron looked incredibly uncomfortable any time the pocket began to break down, and he lacks the athleticism to make plays outside the pocket.  Even when the pressure came from the edges and the tackles did a decent job of carrying the rusher up the field, McCarron chose to leave the pocket anyway instead of stepping up.  This led to multiple passes being thrown away needlessly, including a costly intentional grounding penalty.  If McCarron is to succeed at the next level, he’ll either have to improve greatly in this area, or hope he gets drafted by a team with a superior offensive line.

Jimmy Garoppolo’s small hands

I love everything else about this guy.  I loved him on tape, loved what I heard coming out of the Shrine Game practices, and I was thrilled to see him earn a late invite to the Senior Bowl.  However, once in Mobile, Garoppolo’s hands measured in at just nine inches, and he reportedly had multiple issues handling the ball during the first day of practices.

His week of work at the Shrine Game had put him in the 2nd-round conversation, but he’ll have to finish out the Senior Bowl week strong, particularly when it comes to ball security, to convince scouts that his hands won’t be an issue.

The ACLs of Zach Mettenberger & Aaron Murray

Is Johnny Football worth the risk?

Is Johnny Football worth the risk?

Two of the most successful passers in the nation’s best conference suffered devastating blows late in the season, as both Mettenberger and Murray each tore an ACL.  They’ll be spending a good portion of the off-season rehabbing, and while players like Adrian Peterson have proved that returning to a high level of play is still possible after such an injury, for every one of him there is an RG3.  Teams will be paying close attention to the medical reports on these two, and depending on the outcome, both could end up being serious steals if a team can grab them late enough without risking too much.  But if a team gambles on Day 2 and gets damaged goods, it’ll be a tough pill to swallow.

The risk of missing – or missing out – on Johnny Manziel

He’s the ultimate risk/reward pick in this entire draft.  We’ve all marveled at his play-making ability over the past two seasons, both as a runner and a passer.  There are a million different reasons why every GM in the NFL should snatch him up as soon as possible, and a million more why doing so could put their head on a platter by season’s end.  Will his passing ability be enough to succeed at the next level?  Will his athleticism not be superior enough to allow him to make the splash plays that were a dime a dozen every Saturday in College Station?  Will any success at the highest level, combined with a huge payday, make him into an even worse off-field monster than we’ve seen so far?  Let’s just say I’m glad my job isn’t on the line when it comes to this decision, one way or the other.

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NEW 2-ROUND MOCK NOW UP!

Is Teddy Bridgewater still a lock to be the top overall pick?

Is Teddy Bridgewater still a lock to be the top overall pick?  Or will another QB unseat him?

 

Luke Easterling’s latest 2-round mock draft is NOW UP!  Take a look at his current projections for your team, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @NFLDraftReport and give us YOUR take!

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UPDATED RANKINGS NOW UP!

Auburn OT Greg Robinson is the high-riser in our latest rankings.

Auburn OT Greg Robinson is the high-riser in our latest rankings.

Now that the declaration deadline for underclassmen has passed, it’s time to unveil our updated rankings!

Go check out the latest TDR Top 50 and Top 5 By Position and give us your take!

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @NFLDraftReport for all the latest news, analysis and analysis!

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Updated 2014 NFL Draft Order

Will Houston pull the trigger on Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater?

Will Houston pull the trigger on Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater?

The first 15 picks of the 2014 NFL Draft order are set!

1. Houston Texans – 2-14 (.559)
2. St. Louis Rams (from WAS) – 3-13 (.516)
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – 4-12 (.504)
4. Cleveland Browns – 4-12 (.516)
5. Oakland Raiders – 4-12 (.524)
6. Atlanta Falcons – 4-12 (.553)
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 4-12 (.573)
8. Minnesota Vikings – 5-10-1 (.512)
9. Buffalo Bills – 6-10 (.520)
10. Detroit Lions – 7-9 (.457)
11. Tennessee Titans – 7-9 (.504)
12. New York Giants – 7-9 (.520)
13. St. Louis Rams – 7-9 (.553)
14. Chicago Bears – 8-8 (.465)
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – 8-8 (.469)

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MID-SEASON LOOK: BEARS DRAFT NEEDS

G Kyle Long has impressed so far in his rookie season.

G Kyle Long has impressed so far in his rookie season.

BY TYLER GROSS
@TJGross13

We are eight games into the Marc Trestman era in the Windy City, and at 5-3, the Bears have had their share of ups and downs. The offense has vastly improved, while the aging defense has been bitten by the injury bug. Injuries and lack of depth at specific positions can be used as a clear indicator as to which positions the Chicago Bears need to draft next May. Lets start with the offensive draft needs.

CENTER
Roberto Garza is the lone returning starter from the 2012 offensive line, and while he has been an effective at points in his career, his age is beginning to show clearer. Two rookies, Kyle Long and Jordan Mills, have held down the right side of the line efficiently, and now it’s time to complete the offensive line remodeling and grab a center through the draft, possibly even an undrafted free agent.

TIGHT END
Don’t be alarmed, I’m just as big a fan of the “Black Unicorn” as everybody else. But Trestman’s offense requires more than one tight end to catch passes. The Bears need a versatile tight end similar to Tyler Eifert; someone that can line up in tight or split out and become a matchup nightmare for the defensive backs. Martellus Bennett has been incredible for the Bears, but adding a tight end that can be somewhat of a Swiss-Army knife would make this offense special.

QUARTERBACK
Jay Cutler will return from a groin tear this week against the Lions, and his performance from this point on will go a long way in the Bears’ decision to extend him, franchise him, or let him walk. No matter what happens, the Bears need to pick up a developmental quarterback in the draft. Spending a mid-round pick on a developmental quarterback will give Trestman options moving forward, and they may not have to pay the market price for Cutler if Trestman can find his guy in the draft. Josh McCown’s performance in Lambeau on Monday night is a testament to the fact that Trestman can work with any QB that is willing to learn.

Now let’s take a look at the draft needs of the Chicago defense. This unit has been decimated by injuries and its lack of depth has been exposed.

Arizona State DT Will Sutton is one of a few solid options the Bears will have at DT in the 2014 Draft.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE
Season-ending injuries to Henry Melton and Nate Collins, along with a nagging turf toe injury to Stephen Paea have revealed the lack of depth on the interior of the defensive line. There are several strong prospects that fit the Bears 4-3 scheme in the college ranks that can be picked up via the draft. Players like Will Sutton (Arizona State), Dominique Easley (Florida), and Ra’Shede Hageman (Minnesota) would all be valuable pieces for this defensive line. The Bears should get Melton back for a bargain, as he was franchise-tagged this season and his market value will be significantly lower due to his injury. Collins will be back as well, but the Bears need depth at the DT position.

SAFETY
Major Wright and Chris Conte were serviceable starters at the safety positions when the Bears defensive line was healthy; the line created enough pressure to cover up their shortcomings. But with the depleted unit the Bears are putting out every Sunday, the safety play has been horrendous. Both have been caught out of position far too many times, and their lack of play-reading instincts has reared its ugly head this season. There will be several potential starters at the safety position available for Chicago through the draft.

CORNERBACK
Charles Tillman is getting old, and while Tim Jennings has been a solid CB, he is not the interception machine that he was in 2012. These two can be successful for maybe another season or two, but the Bears lack of depth at the corner position has been exposed, as well.  An injury to Kelvin Hayden in the preseason placed Isaiah Frey at the nickelback position. Frey has been successful, especially for a player who spent the 2012 season on the practice squad. In the NFL, you can never enough true coverage cornerbacks and the Bears will be in a better position defensively going into the 2014 season if they add another cover corner through the draft.

The Bears offense has made up for the defense’s shortcomings, but the Bears can strengthen that defensive unit and help Mel Tucker next season by adding some young impact players.

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2014 NFL Draft Power-less Rankings: Week 7

"PLEASE GET ME A QUARTERBACK!"

“PLEASE GET ME A QUARTERBACK!”

If the season ended today, your top 10 picks in the 2014 NFL Draft would be:

1. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-7)

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-6)

3. New York Giants (1-6)

4. Minnesota Vikings (1-5)

5. Houston Texans (2-5)

6. St. Louis Rams (from WAS, 2-4)

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-4)

8. Atlanta Falcons (2-4)

9. Oakland Raiders (2-4)

10. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4)

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2014 NFL Draft Power-less Rankings: Week 1

chiefs gabbert

*Each week, TDR ranks the 10 worst teams in the league.  Hey, at least there’s that Clowney guy this year…

1. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) – When scoring a safety is the best thing your team accomplished all day against the team that had the first overall pick in the last draft, it’s really hard for anyone to be worse than you.  Clowney would be tough to pass up, but the Jags need Teddy Bridgewater in the worst way.

2. Oakland Raiders (0-1) – Terrelle Pryor showed flashes, for sure, but this team is who we think they are.  And we think they are very, very bad.  Clowney would look great in Silver & Black, though.

3. Cleveland Browns (0-1) – So much for Norv Turner’s offense being exactly what Brandon Weeden needed to assert himself as the Browns’ rock-solid starting quarterback.  This team has some good pieces to build around, but expect another high pick next year.

4. Buffalo Bills (0-1) – E.J. Manuel looks like he might be the real deal, and there is plenty of young talent around him, but the Bills still need more to truly compete in the AFC East.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1) – Was there an uglier first quarter (and subsequent week of locker-room drama) than what we saw from the Bucs this week?  Schiano & Co. had better right this ship quick, which will be hard to do against the Saints and Pats over the next two weeks.

Josh Freeman, Greg Schiano

6. New York Jets (1-0) – The Bucs made the Jets look surprisingly functional for the most part on Sunday, but don’t let that fool you.  This team still has a slew of issues to sort out before they can get out of the bottom 10.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1) – This team is OLD, and they’re finding it out fast.  A season-opening loss to a seemingly inferior division opponent in the Titans, combined with multiple ACL tears (Pouncey, Stephens-Howling), has the Fighting Rooneys reeling.

8. Arizona Cardinals (0-1) – A lot to like about what Carson Palmer brings to this offense, and the defense has plenty of talent.  But without a solid offensive line or a reliable threat running behind them, this team will get exposed quickly.

9. San Diego Chargers (0-1) – The Chargers were are impressive in the first half as they were unimpressive in the second in their opening loss to Houston.  Rivers’ four touchdowns passes are encouraging, but the Bolts have very little depth and won’t stand for long once injuries start to creep in.

10. Carolina Panthers (0-1) – Seattle had to steal the game late from the Panthers (thanks in large part to a much-improved run defense), but Cam Newton must be more effective if the Black Cats hope to dig themselves out of the NFC South cellar.

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Fantasy Focus: Quarterbacks

Even with a poor offensive line and a banged-up WR corps, Aaron Rodgers put up top QB numbers last year.

Even with a poor offensive line and a banged-up WR corps, Aaron Rodgers put up top QB numbers last year.

By James LoPresti
Lead Fantasy Writer

Who carried owners to fantasy championships last year? If you thought Jamaal Charles, Marshawn Lynch, Ray Rice, or any running back not named Adrian Peterson, I’m afraid you’re mistaken. Quarterbacks win titles. In the NFL, the quarterback position plays a gigantic role in a team’s success. In fantasy football, they are just as important. Having a top-tier fantasy quarterback is almost a must – seasons as amazing as Adrian Peterson’s don’t happen often.

Picking a top  quarterback is safer than a top-tier running back. It’s all about injuries. According to ESPN’s 2012 running back rankings, LeSean McCoy, Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Matt Forte, and DeMarco Murray were ranked as first or second round picks.  Peterson ranked 10th for running backs.  Doug Martin?  27th.  As for quarterbacks, Michael Vick (ranked 7th) and Philip Rivers (ranked 10th) were the only ones who failed to live up to projections.  I’ve been saying this for years, it’s safer drafting a quarterback early.  Drafting a running back in the early rounds is hit-or-miss.  I’d rather get the consistent player first, then worry about running backs who may or may not stay healthy all season.

*These projections are based on standard 12-team leagues.

LoPresti Locks – Can’t go wrong here. Anything less than 30 touchdowns is a disappointment.

Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan: I’d draft Rodgers or Brees in the late first round, early second. No question. Manning and Brady – late second, early third. The hardest one to put on here is Ryan, simply because I absolutely hate the Falcons  (full disclosure: longtime Bucs fan). However, he has probably the best wide receiver, tight end combo in the league – Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez – and now has Steven Jackson, a great pass-catcher, in the backfield. I can’t stand Ryan, but I’d be a fool not to draft him.

On The Cusp – Not quite top-tier, but solid options after the first few rounds.

Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford, Russell Wilson: Outside of Stafford, these quarterbacks add rushing stats which really boost their value. I expect a slight sophomore slump for Luck and Wilson, but what they provide on the ground will make up for any drop in passing stats. If last year was any indication, the Detroit Lions will allow Stafford to throw eleventy-billion times – and not all of them will go to Calvin Johnson! Maybe.

RG3 owners will be praying that his surgically-repaired knee can hold up.

RG3 owners will be praying that his surgically-repaired knee can hold up.

High Risk, High Reward – These guys could be studs…or, they might flop.

Robert Griffin III, Michael Vick, Ryan Tannehill: As I mentioned above, Vick was ranked the 7th best quarterback entering 2012 by ESPN. I see no reason why he can’t be a top-10 quarterback in a Chip Kelly offense. For RGIII, it comes down to how much Coach Mike Shanahan and his staff trust how healthy Griffin’s knee is. I think he’ll be fine, but I’m weary the coaching staff will limit his running considerably, thus hurting his fantasy value. Tannehill is a wildcard. The addition of Mike Wallace is a huge boost to an offense which lacked a true deep-threat last season. I also expect Tannehill to run a bit more as he gets adept to reading coverage. He has a high ceiling, but remember that he’s a converted wide  receiver, still with just 34 career starts between college and the NFL.

The Middle Ground – They’re not flashy, but they get the job done.

Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Josh Freeman, Andy Dalton: I foresee these guys with 20-25 touchdowns and 10-15 interceptions. Despite his late-season disappointments, Romo is the most consistent of the bunch. Outside of an injury-plagued 2010, he’s thrown at least 26 touchdowns every season since 2007.  Flacco and Roethlisberger fall victim to being solid NFL quarterbacks, but inconsistent fantasy ones. They’re merely fantasy backups in my book. Flacco, Freeman, and Dalton are on the up-swing, but I need to see one more solid year before I completely trust them as a QB1.

Best of the Rest – Strictly backups and injury plug-ins.

Carson Palmer, Matt Schaub, Jay Cutler, Sam Bradford, Philip Rivers, Alex Smith, Brandon Weeden.

Draft a quarterback early and save yourself the grief of choosing between two or three running backs who may pan out, or may get injured Week 1.

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TDR Spotlight: Southern Miss WR Francisco Llanos

llanos2

In our first installment of the TDR Spotlight series for the 2014 NFL Draft class, Southern Mississippi WR Francisco Llanos joined TDR’s Luke Easterling to talk about his upcoming senior season, the Golden Eagles’ attempt to rebound from last year’s disappointing season, and what it was like to play for a local legend in high school.

Check out the interview and post your thoughts!

http://www.spreaker.com/user/thedraftreport/tdr_spotlight_usm_wr_francisco_llanos

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Fantasy Focus: Buyer Beware

Injury concerns and goal-line vultures make Matt Forte a risky pick.

Injury concerns and goal-line vultures make Matt Forte a risky pick.

By James LoPresti
Lead Fantasy Writer

Some players have a history of injury problems, which can limit their production and make it really difficult for fantasy owners to trust them on a weekly basis. I’ve found it’s best to stay away from players who frequent injury reports. However,  I realize that some are worth the risk because of their potential to have that “perfect” season – a la owners who took a chance on Adrian Peterson and Peyton Manning, even though they were returning from what would normally be debilitating injuries.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t draft these players — only that you should be prepared to see them on injury reports for the better part of the season.

Matt Forte, RB, Bears: There’s no questioning his talent when he’s on the field. It’s his durability that concerns me. He’s missed six games over the last two seasons, but more frustrating is the amount of time he’s been listed as doubtful and/or questionable on injury reports right before game time. This leaves fantasy owners in a conundrum – play Forte and hope he produces and doesn’t injury himself more, or bench him and risk losing out on big points.  Save yourself some stress and pass on him on draft day, unless you get him at a bargain. Bonus: If you’re interested in a Chicago Bears running back, I suggest Michael Bush in the later rounds. He takes most of the goal-line carries away from Forte, and he’ll benefit the most if Forte succumbs to another injury.

Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants: Nicks practically hobbled through 13 games last year and you can make the argument that he’s never really been able to stay healthy since college. On top of knee issues, he’s also dealt with foot and hamstring problems for much of his career. He’s a hard wide receiver to trust on your fantasy team. He has upside, sure, but the fact that he’s already missed part of training camp with a groin injury worries me. Reuben Randle is already one of my biggest sleepers, and he would get an even bigger boost if Nicks continues to miss time. Diagnosis: Nicks has shown he can provide WR1 upside, but owners are walking on a tight rope if they draft him.

Even if RG3 stays healthy, Pierre Garcon can't be counted on for a full season.

Even if RG3 stays healthy, Pierre Garcon can’t be counted on for a full season.

Pierre Garcon, WR, Redskins: It’s clear he has developed awesome chemistry with quarterback Robert Griffin III, but what isn’t clear to me is if he’s over the foot injuries that plagued him for most of his career. Garcon elected not to have surgery this off-season, and I question if that was the right move for the long term.  He hasn’t exactly been optimistic about his foot problems either. Overall, I think he plays and does okay – assuming RGIII stays healthy himself – but, I just can’t see him being the consistent possession receiver that many fans believe he can be. Projection: 65 catches, 720 yards, five touchdowns – and three missed games.

DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys: Of all the players listed, he’s the one with the most injury history. He has missed nine of 32 career games, rarely goes more than two or three weeks off the injury report, and even had a reputation of missing games in college. I drafted him in the second round last season, foolishly believing he would stay healthy all year. I was wrong. When he plays, he is a serviceable RB2. But, when the first sign of an injury pops up, he is a big headache. New offensive coordinator Bill Callahan loves to run the ball, which bodes well for Murray, but he hasn’t shown me any reason to trust him yet; nor should you. Bold Statement: Murray struggles with foot and hamstring injuries and is shut down with half the season remaining. Joseph Randle, the rookie out of Oklahoma State, benefits from Murray’s injury and becomes one of the hottest waiver wire selections of the season.

Age seems to be catching up to Antonio Gates, and the Bolts' porous pass protection won't help this year.

Age seems to be catching up to Antonio Gates, and the Bolts’ porous pass protection won’t help this year.

Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers: Gates has been arguably the most consistent tight end for the better part of a decade. That is why it’s so hard adding him to this list. I might get burned for this one, but his plantar fasciitis scares me too much to draft him. He’s dealt with it for the past few seasons, and shown exemplary stamina, but I feel like it catches up to him this season. Although he finished 2012 with seven touchdowns, he was a mediocre producer overall, topping 60 yards receiving just once in 15 games.  Prognosis: San Diego’s wide receivers are dropping like flies, so Philip Rivers will lean on Gates more heavily, but he’s getting up there in age – 33 – and just isn’t the same durable machine as years before. Don’t draft him expecting TE1 production.

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