Tag: NFL Draft 2011

Lindberg: New England Patriots Draft Grade

How much will Nate Solder impact the New England Patriots in the future?

By Andy Lindberg 

I feel like I should be yet another tool to give out a draft grade.  Therefore I will grade the Patriots. I have been watching the Patriots since I moved to Connecticut from Alabama in 1992. (Side note, I HATE how the New York Jets drafted Alabama’s former quarterback, Greg McElroy. That made me sad).

I love football, but what the NFL draft has become, a spectacle after the meat-market that is the televised NFL scouting combine, is a flash and flare party which sees men who have never taken a snap in the National Football League take their first steps toward garnering $40 million signing bonus’ who later turn out to be the next Ryan Leaf.

In short, it upsets me. It is unnecessarily exhibited and covered by men who can’t seem to do anything but yell at me over the television screen. I understand the player has great “football smarts,” but you’ve yelled it at me for the past eight picks.  It’s a wonder any of these players ever fails. So “tool upon tool” is screaming letter grades at me like these teams just took an exam. I will be joining the ranks of them, providing you a letter grade at the end of this and oh, by the way, I’m sorry in advance for my weakness.

That said the draft is a necessity for the business of building a football team.  There are a lot of teams who drafted well because they drafted needs. The Patriots last year had an exceptional draft, fixing gaping holes at the tight end and defensive back positions. This past season, both improved exponentially (especially at tight end) and the only glaring hole was the need for a pass rusher and offensive line help.  Before I begin let it be known that even though I may like some of the players New England drafted (as made obvious with my pick by pick coverage) that does not mean I feel they were smart picks in some cases.

The Patriots’ first pick was offensive tackle Nate Solder from Colorado. Given the futures of Matt Light and Logan Mankins with the team, this was a very good pick.  However after that, New England’s draft went downhill. They did nothing at all to address the pass rush, even with several on the board.

With the first overall pick of the second round, they drafted Ras-I Dowling, a cornerback from Virginia. I liked this pick because I thought New England could still add good pass rush depth later in the second round, given the talent still out there.  Even with Leigh Bodden coming back, Dowling could provide very capable help at the lower end of the depth chart in his first year, and could prove to be a very valuable special-teamer immediately.

Will the former Patriots running back core be effected by the 2011 NFL Draft?

After that it got bad. The Patriots drafted two running backs in a row even though BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a fantastic year and Danny Woodhead took over the Kevin Faulk role. Yes, New England needed a little more depth at that position, but one of those picks (preferably the earlier, Shane Vereen pick) should have been a pass-rusher.

Picking Ryan Mallett was a great selection, as I believe New England got a steal.  Mallett could also prove to be great trade bait in a few years if Tom Brady is still racking up great numbers. A guy like Mallett won’t sit as a backup for long, not with his potential.

In the fifth round New England drafted TCU’s Marcus Cannon, an offensive lineman who dropped to round five because of a very recent cancer diagnosis. His prognosis is excellent, and doctors anticipate a recovery very soon. If he can play up to his potential in a year or two, he will have been a good steal.

The Patriots finished the draft with Markell Carter, an outside linebacker from Central Arkansas and Malcolm Williams, a defensive back from TCU. Size-wise, Carter fits the profile of the type of linebacker New England loves. I hope he proves to be a fantastic player down the road, but for now, he’s simply a sixth round pick.

The Patriots had a need, and did not address it, even with all the available needs.  They added more picks for next year via trades, but the time for stockpiling picks is over. This year it was time to cash in and the Patriots didn’t do it. More than likely one of those running back picks is going to turn out to be a wasted pick. There’s only so much playing time for a running back with Ellis and Woodhead playing. There was no reason not to pick a pass rusher in that situation.

I used to give the Pats the benefit of the doubt, but for the past few years, one of the needs has been the same and New England has done little to address it. New York’s Mark Sanchez kept his jersey very clean during the playoff matchup with New England and that’s ultimately what ended up costing Tom Brady and Co. another shot at a title. If the Patriots cannot get to the quarterback, no regular season record is going to change the fact that in the playoffs, they’re going to get burned.

Patriots draft grade (according to me, who’s opinion really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but here at Noontime Sports it does): C

An average grade for an average draft.

I still love them, though. Go Pats!

NFL Draft 2011: Official Winners and Losers

By Dan Rubin 

So there it is – another year of NFL drafting in the books.  From here, we head forward to negotiating so the players can be ready for rookie minicamps and training camp… oh wait a second.

The NFL Draft closed on Saturday with 254 players’ names being read.  Some of those names will become household by the end of the year, some are already household, and some will pass through our lives like a light summer breeze.  From here, the players now have to sit and wait for the labor situation to subside, so they can start making preparations and negotiations to be ready.  The perfect sub story to the draft was when Andy Dalton toured the Cincinnati Bengals facility on Saturday afternoon.  He was shown the locker room, the field, and the offices.  Then he left, without a playbook, and without having met head coach Marvin Lewis.  This is the new NFL.

Here’s a list of the unofficial draft winners and losers, as I see it, of 2011.

Winners:

The Detroit Lions made history in the 2000s when they managed to turn several early first-round picks into wide receivers that helped them to a decade of futility and doormat status.  This year, they were left with no picks in rounds 3, 4, or 6. But they used their final two picks, in the fifth and seventh rounds, to address some needs with some pretty shifty moves. Doug Hogue has good lateral movement at the outside linebacker position, and he should help the Lions in pass coverage.  He could be a guy that, if they have the right coverage scheme, excels at the professional level.  And Johnny Culbreath is an undersized project offensive lineman.  For Detroit, those two picks are sleepers in the later rounds, and they could be breakout stars in the next few years.  A team that historically threw away picks on bad players with no purpose might have won the lottery in the later rounds.

I said a couple of days ago that Atlanta couldn’t fowl the rest of their draft because if they did, Thomas Dimitrioff would put himself in the unemployment line.  They had to make sure each pick the rest of the way was meticulous and perfect.  With the gamble in the first round to move up from the 20s to the top 10, they absolutely couldn’t take flyers.  They took Jacquizz Rodgers in the fifth round.  Rodgers is a guy I was hoping would end up in New England because he has great vision, great balance, and he can be that Kevin Faulk-type running back.  He also can develop nicely over time, worked in to spell Michael Turner and Jason Snelling.  Over the course of this draft, that offense just became one of the best, if not the best, in the NFL.

Before anyone accuses me of being a homer, remember I’m the guy who’s been taking away from UConn’s trip to the Fiesta Bowl because they played in a crappy conference.  So when I say San Diego struck sixth-round gold with Jordan Todman, I mean it.  Todman can return kicks for the Chargers, and he gives them a slashing back for those mid-drive runs that can break open a game.  I don’t think he’s good enough to be a feature back since he got pounded on in college and is bound to break down, but I can see him coming in on 2nd-and-8 in the middle of a drive and busting off a 38-yard run like it’s nobody’s business.

New England grabbed an undersized defensive end that will become a linebacker in their system (a.k.a. Tedy Bruschi) in Markell Carter.  Carter had 19 tackles for a loss last year, and at 6-3, 240, he’s a big boy to be patrolling in the linebacker position.  The Patriots are known for developing these guys very well, and he’ll be the latest in a long line of linebackers that Bill Belichick teaches the conversion too.

Kudos to Trey Wingo for the way ESPN handled the end of the NFL Draft.  With the draft winding down, it became evident that Mark Herzlich would not be drafted.  With the impending labor doom, any player not drafted cannot sign as an undrafted free agent because, well, we have no free agency.  Herzlich was recognized on stage at the start of the draft for being a top prospect, a symbolic gesture given what he’s overcome.  But Wingo went a step further to recap Herzlich’s journey and wish him the best, singling out a player who overcame a very real, very dangerous cancer diagnosis.  By wishing him the best, he put aside the knocks against Herzlich as a player, which are that he can’t rush the passer and his mobility has been wildly affected by the steel rod in his leg (also, durability issues regarding the softness of his bones; that’s one of the vicious side effects of chemotherapy).  And he stood above to recognize someone who’s been in the national spotlight for the past two years.

Losers:

That leads me to what I didn’t like as much.  First off, all picks aside, there are a number of players who weren’t chosen.  In past years, the players down the end of the 7th round would be thrilled to not be picked, since it meant they’d have their pick of teams.  Danny Woodhead said it best last year when he said he hoped he wouldn’t be picked in the 7th round.  During his draft, Rex Ryan called him to say that they weren’t going to draft him, but they wanted him as an undrafted free agent.  Woodhead then responded by saying that, if unselected, the Jets would have to make him a better offer than other teams.  Woodhead was able to jack up the asking price on the Jets by about $15,000 in his signing bonus.  That’s a lot of money for a guy who’s lightly regarded.  Take Woodhead’s scenario and multiply that by about ten players per team, times 32 teams. That’s roughly 320 undrafted free agents who would have their choice of team and have that scenario.

This year, in 2011, that number sharply declines to a goose egg.  That’s right, folks.  There will be zero UFAs signed in the wake of the draft.  Thanks to this stupid labor situation, teams looking at a guy like Herzlich, a guy like a Woodhead, or Derrick Locke (RB, Kentucky) can’t sign.  Arian Foster was a UFA in 2009 who was the rushing champion last year.  There will be zero UFAs until the labor situation is resolved.  Therefore, there are roughly 300 losers in this draft thanks to the NFL.

In the draft, I can’t believe Baltimore drafted Tyrod Taylor (QB, Virginia Tech).  Taylor was the next coming of Michael Vick for four years, except that he had neither the speed, throwing ability, nor talent.  Taylor blew games for the Hokies almost every year, winning the conference because the conference endured some down years.  Twice, he beat Boston College to win the ACC.  Miami was in shambles, as was Florida State.  UNC never made the jump, and it took a Georgia Tech triple option to knock the Hokies off the mantle.  Now, he’s backing up Joe Flacco.  Should Flacco ever be injured, the Ravens can insert a guy who has no experience running an NFL-style offense, has little to no throwing ability, and can’t really do a whole lot in the pocket.  Maybe they’ll convert him to a wide receiver or something, but I honestly haven’t read anything.

New England blew their draft, even though I love the picks they did take.  They didn’t address the major need from last year, which was the pass rush.  The Patriots last year ranked 32nd against the pass, and that was with Devin McCourty playing lock-down corner and a secondary that notched 25 interceptions.  The Pats allowed over 4,000 yards passing against them, and they amassed only 36 sacks on the season.  Their defensive line was so screwed up last year that defensive end positions were played by Vince Wilfork and cornerback Kyle Arrington at times.  Myron Pryor, Ron Brace, Kyle Love, and the high top fade of Brandon Deaderick (see also: Cameo’s Word Up) couldn’t get to the quarterback at all.  The line-backing corps didn’t do a whole lot, and they’re still relying on Tully Banta-Cain as their best pass rusher.  Yes, Jerod Mayo is a tackling beast, but he’s been exposed several times in coverage and on rushing plays.  Maybe they’re hoping the returning Ty Warren and Mike Wright will make a difference.  And maybe they’re thinking that Jermaine Cunningham will develop further along with Brandon Spikes.  And Rob Ninkovich occasionally turns into Mike Vrabel and plays out of his mind.  But you really can’t rely on that and Marcus Stroud for 16 games (maybe 18?).  They need something more on that defensive end, and they didn’t get it.

ESPN didn’t do a great job wrapping up the day’s coverage.   I know they were strapped for time to get to Sportscenter and other contractual commitments, but I would’ve liked a summary of the days’ events.  I mean, this is what Mel Kiper and Todd McShay do all year.  After this, they go back into their collective shell for another year.  They could’ve summarized what each team did a little bit better.  Even though they did talk about it over the course of the day, they didn’t do enough at the end.

Mr. Irrelevant is a little overrated.  I know it’s a tongue-in-cheek thing, but celebrating a guy picked 254th in this labor climate was overstated and overblown.  There are 300 people who want to be picked in that spot, so sitting there and celebrating a guy who won’t be on a roster in five years is a little bit too over-the-top right now.  Maybe next year when things calm down I wouldn’t be as mad about it.

Another year, another draft in the books.  A draft that was supposed to be a deflection from the labor talks became a lightning rod for them instead.  And now we turn our heads to a summer of discontent, where the courtroom drama continues to play out in front of us.  Rookies drafted now sit and continue to wait to wonder if they’ll even play in the NFL this year, or if the photo ops were just that.  And undrafted players now start looking at their lives an wonder if pro football is even an option, or if they’re heading for the Arena League, the CFL, or the UFL.  Somewhere, there is football to played and talked about.  But for now, that isn’t within the NFL, regardless of what the draft, and their R. Kelly montage at the end wants to tell us.

Jeff Howe (NESN) on Noontime Sports the Podcast (4/30/11)

Jeff Howe from NESN.com joined Noontime Sports the Podcast on Saturday morning to discuss the NFL Draft, as well as talk about the picks made by the New England Patriots. 

Make sure to follow Jeff on Twitter (@JeffPHowe).

 

NFL Draft 2011: Day Two Winners and Losers

By Dan Rubin 

Here’s what I liked and didn’t like about the draft’s 2nd and 3rd round selections, goings-on, and overall tomfoolery:

Winners:

The mad genius did it again. Maybe I’m just a wicked homer, but Bill Belichick never disappoints during the NFL Draft. He orchestrated the Patriots to the tune of three second round selections and two third round selections, which he traded into picks and future considerations. When the dust settled, they selected a cornerback, two running backs, and the heir apparent to Tom Brady.

I love the selection of Ryan Mallett. Actually, let me take that back; I really love that pick. I said in my draft preview that the Pats needed a quarterback. Mallett’s the answer. The Patriots are preparing for life after Brady because he won’t play forever. Mallett brings all the coachable tools for the NFL with none of the immediate pressure. He’s going to sit for four years (maybe), learn the system and mature under the tutelage of one of the game’s all time greats. Then, when it’s his time, he’ll be able to step in and seamlessly fill the role. Bill did it again.

I also really liked Cincinnati’s patience with waiting for Andy Dalton. It would’ve been easy to react in the first round and trade up to get Dalton, especially after Minnesota grabbed Christian Ponder. But they waited as long as they could and gambled that Dalton would last through the first two selections of the second round. It doesn’t sound like much, but Buffalo desperately needs a new quarterback (among other things). They passed on Dalton for Aaron Williams, and the rumor of the Bungles trading up to get in front of the Bills to ensure a shot at Dalton was left at just that. With the rumors still swirling regarding the fate and future of Carson Palmer, the Bengals at least made sure they have a contingency plan one way or the other.

Division I-FCS came out on top on Day 2, as well. Usually, the former I-AA doesn’t produce players until the late rounds, when guys from Coppin State start making their appearances. But 2011 is another year where I-AA players went in the first few rounds.  Both players were offensive linemen, but Benjamin Ijalana (Villanova) joined the Colts, and William Rackley (Lehigh) and Kenrick Ellis (Hampton) joined the Jaguars and Jets, respectively, in the second and third rounds, respectively.  It also marks another year where the J-E-T-S dipped into the FCS division, where they took Vlad Ducasse from UMass last year.

ESPN gets a “big thumbs up” for its coverage of the second and third rounds. They trotted out everybody under the sun for the first round, and it seemed like it was too much talking and not enough of the players. Maybe it’s because the later rounds don’t have as much of an opinion, but they had packages for just about everyone on the second round. I saw more blocking package highlight reels for those big daddies getting picked than I’d seen with some players in the first round. And Jon Gruden continued some of the best analysis I’ve heard when it comes to the NFL.  That’s saying something because Gruden is so awesomely bad on Monday Night Football. I’m actually looking forward to hearing what he has to say on the final day of the draft.

Gruden also gets a huge pat on the back for the way he handled the lockout situation. Ok, the lockout is back, thanks to a judge in the middle of the NFL Draft. At least that’s not awful timing or anything, given the events of yesterday’s pre-draft debacle booing at Roger Goodell (more on this later). But Gruden said what we all are thinking – “Look, I have no idea what these four and five-syllable words even mean.  Let’s just get back to the game.”  Thank you, Coach.  Thank you very much.

Kudos to the league for trotting out every dusty alumnus they could find. Seeing Joe Morris the day after I heard about Mark Ingram, Sr. brought me back to memories of Tecmo Bowl on the old Nintendo Entertainment System. I can still envision Mark Bavaro running that outlet pattern to the bottom of my screen, then hitting him for a first down as Phil Simms trotted the Giants up the field. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve lit up the Los Angles Raiders in that game; every time they trotted out somebody, it gave my dad and I something to talk about, usually around him having seen the guys and me asking about them.

Franco Harris’s Beard gets a class by itself. Looks so natural, no one can tell (Just for Men gel!).

The guy who introduced the Lions second round pick is probably the only person willing to be identified as a Lions fan (for now).  They couldn’t even find a decent alumnus. Apparently Scott Mitchell couldn’t be found.  Maybe they could’ve trotted out Wayne Fontes.

Losers: 

The NFL gets a massive black eye with its labor situation. Rich Eisen said before the first round that it would be great to finally get back to football, even if it was influenced by an uneasy labor situation. And now the league is right back in the headlines for the wrong reasons. As name after name was rattled off, it became quickly overshadowed with the reinstitution of a lockout we, as fans, really don’t want. These billion dollar owners and million dollar players are on the verge of ruining something we all desperately are begging them not to.  And yet nobody seems to care.  Did you not hear the fans?  We’re mad as hell, and they’re going to demonize the one thing we all need as an outlet.

I mean, maybe they haven’t figured it out yet.  Football saved New Orleans after Katrina. A team named the Patriots won the Super Bowl the year of 9/11, armed with a guard who had brothers who ran into the Twin Towers (oh by the way, they were underdogs that everyone loved). This game has a way of touching millions of people, and they’re going to destroy it. I hope you can sense the emotion in those last two paragraphs.  I desperately want my NFL, and even if they do figure it out, there’s a sense that this game and league that I love has been irreparably torn in some capacity. The 2011-2012 season will always be marred by the labor situation because the offseason is so affected by it. Thanks a lot guys.

In terms of rosters, I don’t really get what New England was doing with drafting two running backs. Ok, I get that BenJarvis Green-Ellis probably isn’t a long-term solution. But the guy just ran for 1,000 yards in a year where he wasn’t even the feature back during the first third of the season. So they went out and drafted two running backs out of the four picks on Friday. That just doesn’t make any sense to me. I can understand taking one, but now the backfield is going to be stocked with a ton of guys. Only one can carry the ball at a time, and with Tom Brady under center, you’re not running it every play.

I also don’t get why the Patriots didn’t go after a wide receiver or, more importantly, a defensive lineman. Pass rushing is an issue for this team, and they haven’t yet addressed it. Maybe they have confidence in the returning Value Menu of Ron Brace, Myron Pryor, that guy Love, and Vince Wilfork.  Maybe they’re banking on the return of Ty Warren and a steady improvement of the linebacker corps.  But something felt wrong about taking another rookie cornerback that nobody in New England has probably heard of and not even touching that horrendous pass rush.

Offensive position players were big losers on Day 2. 15 out of 32 and 20 out of 33 picks in the second and third rounds, respectively, were for defense. And now take into account that two of the first four picks in the second round were for Dalton and Colin Kaepernick at quarterback. The offenses around the league are clicking at a pace never before seen, and the game is starting to shift its focus to how to stop these high-powered attacks.

Speaking of Kaepernick, congratulations to the San Francisco 49ers for making the “Holy Crap We Need to Press A Panic Button” draft pick of the 2011 NFL Draft. As soon as Dalton went to the Bengals, the Niners immediately traded up from 7th in the second round to 4th to ensure they got Kaepernick. They left Mallett on the board and took a guy who ran a weirdo offense in the WAC last year. He also doesn’t throw the ball like a prototypical NFL-style QB. What does that add up to? A poor man’s Vince Young.  They also made the biggest reactionary move of the draft so far when they did that. They needed a QB since Alex Smith (Welcome to Bustville.  Population – you) is not under contract, and right now their only returning signal caller is David Carr.  But they could’ve waited and had the choice of Mallett in that slot. Or they could’ve traded back and amassed some other picks to get Mallett there. Instead, they traded up to take a guy who I don’t think is a very good quarterback.

One last stat on Kaepernick, who is a guy who threw and ran for thousands of yards, Nevada nearly lost to a weak Boston College team in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl this year. Yes they finished the year ranked #11, and they beat Boise State, and Kaepernick put up ungodly numbers. But take away a punt return for a touchdown on special teams, and Nevada loses that game. That’s right, they lose to a BC team that had an offense ranked something like second from the bottom in passing. A good defense shuts him down. What do you think will happen in the NFL, where defenses are awesome?

I’m personally looking forward to Day 3, when teams start to fill out their rosters with some names you probably haven’t heard of.  But Day 3, and the later rounds for that matter, usually fills out a good chunk of star players over time (like that guy with the sweet looking hair who plays for New England.  Brady, I think his name is?).  And for me personally, I’m hoping Mark Herzlich gets selected somewhere.  The 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year deserves a shot at the pros after all he’s been through coming back from cancer, and it would be one of the final stamps on a comeback that I have taken a true personal interest in.  It would make a lot of us who support the fight against cancer very happy and very hopeful for those who suffer from this horrible disease.

See you tomorrow as we wrap up one of the best weekends in the NFL.

Daily Noontime – April 29, 2011

Mark Ingram is officially a member of the New Orleans Saints, which means Reggie Bush is leaving?

Happy Friday to everyone, especially those Royal Wedding watchers! Here is today’s headlines, news and much more, plus, our video of the day too! 

Headlines: 

*It looks like Reggie Bush‘s time with the New Orleans Saints is officially over, as he tweeted Thursday, “It’s been fun New Orleans.” New Orleans selected Alabama’s running back Mark Ingram, so consider him a possible lock to start.

* Kobe Bryant and the Los Angles Lakers took care of business Thursday, as they officially ended their first round series with the New Orleans Hornets. Now, Los Angles will face Dallas in the NBA Western Conference Quarterfinals, which promises to be a great series.

* If the Dallas Mavericks want to advance to the NBA Western Conference Finals, they must win on the road, but in Los Angles that could be difficult.

* The 2011 NFL Draft featured 32 first round picks, but believe it or not, a good amount of those picks were quarterbacks, which seems quite strange.

* Former Boston Red Sox pitcher and current member of the Atlanta Braves, Derek Lowe was arrested for a DUI.

* Cam Newton is officially a Carolina Panthers, but what exactly are the “naysayers” saying about him and the pick?

Games to Watch: 

* Tampa Bay at Washington (NHL Playoffs) – 7:00pm eastern

* Seattle at Boston (MLB) – 7:10pm eastern

* St. Louis at Atlanta (MLB) – 7:35pm eastern

* San Antonio at Memphis (NBA Playoffs) – 9:00pm eastern

* Detroit at San Jose (NHL Playoffs) – 10:00pm eastern

Video of the Day: 

Remember when this happened? LeBron James and the South Beach Miami Heat take on Boston this Sunday, should be exciting!