Tag Archive | "draft"

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Blaine Gabbert is Best QB in QB Needy Draft

Posted on 19 April 2011 by Brian Billick

Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert is the best quarterback in an Alex Smith like draft.  He may not be a franchise quarterback from the very first start, but because of the lack of overall quarterback talent in the draft, and with free agency being delayed, teams may be forced into drafting Gabbert as the savior of their franchise.

Gabbert is an outstanding athlete that shows great leadership and intelligence on the field, but he is inconsistent in his mechanics and doesn’t throw an overly impressive deep ball.  I do like the fact that he can make plays with his legs and doesn’t have to have both feet set to get good zip on the ball, but in todays NFL with teams stretching the field vertically, having a better deep ball would definitely make him even more attractive.  He does have a slight hitch in his throwing motion that if removed, would allow for a much quicker release of the ball.

Coming from the spread offense, many times, a quarterback is only given a single read or, at the most, two routes to read before pulling it down and running.  This is true for Gabbert as well, so him being able to read the defense and go all the way through his route progressions and even dumping the ball off to a check down tight end or running back will be a great maturation in his game.  When compared to Cam Newton, who is also drawing attention as the first quarterback to be selected, Gabbert has a total of 933 passing attempts to evaluate on tape to Newton’s 292 (12 of them coming from his time at Florida in 2007 and 2008).  Having that bigger body of work, makes me more comfortable in determining how his game will translate to the NFL and deciding if he can make all the NFL style throws.

I have heard other comparing Gabbert to Matt Ryan, but I struggle to crown him franchise ready from day 1 like Matt Ryan was.  I think he can get there, but there will be much more of a transition period.  Specific to this year’s draft, I do think he is worthy of consideration for the first overall pick, but I think Carolina would be better off going with a defensive stalwart.  To me, Gabbert makes most sense at three overall to Buffalo or five to Arizona.

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Alabama’s Mark Ingram is Best RB in 2011

Posted on 12 April 2011 by Brian Billick

Alabama’s Mark Ingram is considered by many as the top running back in this year’s draft.  He isn’t going to wow anyone with his size, speed, and physical skill-set, but he runs hard and with a purpose.  His running style is actually very comparable to Emmit Smith.

Ingram is a patient runner that shows great vision, staying behind his blockers before shooting through an opening.  He has nifty footwork and change of direction in tight spaces that make it very difficult to get a clean hit on him.  He uses jukes and cutback lanes well to set up blocks and creates running lanes down the field.  Ingram runs “angry” and stays behind his pads, ensuring that he falls forward for a couple more yards after contact.  His uses his low enter of gravity to run with a strong base and a powerful stride.  Even when watching him run the forty-yard dash, he runs with high knees and uses his big powerful thighs.  Throughout the rest of this month, he will be on a mission to prove to teams that he can protect the passer in the backfield, and also have the hands to check out in the flat and be a threat in the passing game as well.

While Mark Ingram may be the best overall running back prospect available in the draft, teams will be evaluating his against the “value” they could get in later rounds.  With passing systems becoming much more prevalent in the NFL, the value of the first round running back may becoming extinct.

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How will the Ravens Approach 2011 NFL Draft?

Posted on 08 April 2011 by Brian Billick

Nobody does a better job assembling personnel than Ozzie Newsome and the Baltimore Ravens.  Their record, particularly in the early rounds, is nearly perfect even though they are typically choosing in the bottom half of the first round.  Players like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Ben Grubbs and Todd Heap all were acquired in this familiar territory.  As is normal, they have the 26th pick of the 2011 NFL Draft.

Outside of the fact that they are an aging team, they’re only a couple of areas that need to be addressed heading into the draft.  Haloti Ngata is the most dominant inside defensive linemen in the league and has already been franchised.  They also would like to keep unrestricted free agent defensive back Chris Carr and safety Dawan Landry.

Even with that, new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano would probably like to shore up his secondary and find an edge pass rusher to compliment Pro-Bowler Terrell Suggs.

Offensively, the Ravens biggest need is one that has typically been a bust in Ravens’ draft history.  Their top four outside receivers, Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Donte Stallworth have all been acquired outside of the draft.

Those two rare first round busts were Travis Taylor, the tenth pick in 2000, and Mark Clayton, who was the 22nd pick in 2005. Third rounders Yamon Figurs and Devard Darling have not faired any better. The Ravens have been among the leagues worst at generating explosive plays and need to find some.

They might also consider drafting a center to eventually replace Matt Birk or should they lose fullback LeRon McClain to free agency, they may need to address that position in later rounds.

The Ravens get a scheduling break this season with their NFC Divisional foes coming out of the West, but do have to face the dangerous AFC South along with games versus the Jets and on the road against the Chargers.

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Luke Stocker is Well-Rounded TE Prospect

Posted on 07 April 2011 by Brian Billick

Tennessee’s Luke Stocker reminds me of another former Volunteer, Jason Witten.  Witten may be a better athlete overall, but they have similar body types and playing styles.

Stocker isn’t ever going to run by a defender on the field, but he is an effective short yardage, move the chains type of receiver.  He has surprisingly soft hands and is a reliable target.  Similar to Witten, his routes aren’t always going to be crisp with a snap in and out of the break, but he will use his body positioning to get the defender on his back and box him out for the catch.  He is a smart player that knows when he is the “hot” receiver and needs to turn quickly for the ball, he also picks up stunts and blitz packages well in pass protection on the line of scrimmage.  Stocker will make his money securing the edge and being a sixth lineman, but in turn, will be a huge factor in the play action game.

Stocker is probably the best all around tight-end in this draft, but isn’t going to give you explosive plays like Kyle Rudolph.  He isn’t a down field threat in the passing game, but will be a consistent performer in all phases of the game.  I look for him to be the second tight end selected at the NFL draft – most likely in the late second or early third round.

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Kyle Rudolph is Best TE Draft Prospect

Posted on 07 April 2011 by Brian Billick

Despite Kyle Rudolph’s injury plagued 2010 season, he is still the best available tight end is this year’s draft.  At the NFL Combine, he measured in at 6’6 1/8 and 259 pounds, but those same injuries limited his participation the remainder of the week.

Rudolph was a three year starter at Notre Dame and holds the single-game receiving yards record, gaining 164 yards against Michigan.  On tape, he shows soft hands with a natural ability to come down with the catch on a consistent basis.  He goes up and battles for jump balls at their highest point and uses his 6’6 frame to shield out defenders.  He is an excellent route runner for his size and makes sharp cuts to create separation from man-to-man coverage.  Rudolph has the versatility to line up on the line of scrimmage, in the slot, or even in the backfield to create mismatch opportunities for the offense.  He will need to continue to work on his inline blocking technique to stay balanced and hold the point of attack, but I do like the effort and competitive nature he brings to the blocking aspect of his game.

Overall, Rudolph is the best tight end in a fairly decent year of talent.  He will give teams more of a well rounded option rather than a scheme specific tight end such as D.J. Williams or Lance Kendricks.  I compare the potential and playing style of Kyle Rudolph to John Carlson or Rob Gronkowski, both of which are the future of the tight end position.

For more analysis, be sure to follow me on Twitter: @coachbillick

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Titus Young is an Explosive Playmaker

Posted on 06 April 2011 by Brian Billick

Titus Young out of Boise State has had two back to back seasons of 70 plus receptions and 1,000 plus yards.  Last year, Young broke Boise’s singe season receiving yards mark with 1,215 and finished his career as the all-time receiving yards leader with 3,063.  His production numbers could be a little inflated based on the passing system the Broncos utilize, but I think he has the skill-set to be a fine receiver in the NFL.

Young has good top end speed (4.53 forty-yard dash), but his quickness and ability to snap in and out of breaks is what sets him apart.  He may have been the best route runner at the Senior Bowl, easily breaking off routes and creating instant separation from the defensive backs in one-on-one drills.  He has great hips and head motion out of his plant and drives his body back to the ball.  He is a little undersized (5’11 3/4, 174 pounds) for a prototypical outside receiver in the NFL, but he could be a DeSean Jackson type if plugged into the right system.  He has the similar ability to stretch the field and break games wide open.  With 71 receptions last year, it is hard to suggest he could have more consistent hands, but he appears to have some concentration lapses which lead to drops on what should be easy catches.

I had the chance to do an on-field demo with Titus about a week ago, and he proved to me that he was an intelligent receiver that studies defenses and techniques.  He was an impressive young man (especially for someone that has some maturity concerns coming into the draft).   I look for him to go somewhere in the middle of the second round.

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Don’t Forget About UNC’s Greg Little

Posted on 06 April 2011 by Brian Billick

UNC’s Greg Little is often forgot about in this year’s crop of wide recover prospects, but he has a skill-set and body type that could make him very memorable player in the NFL.  Like many other Tarheels, Little was suspended for the entire 2010 college football season.

During the NFL Scouting Combine and North Carolina’s pro-day, Little showed off his very well put together 6’2 1/2 231 pound frame.  He is a very smooth and fluid athlete that display very natural hands.  Mike Mayock even suggests that he has the best hands in the draft.  He doesn’t have an elite burst and acceleration off the ball, but he does get in and out of his breaks efficiently and has the body type to seal defenders away from the ball.  While he won’t be a consistent deep threat, he is physical enough to get tough yardage and runs through tacklers once the ball is in his hands.  He also shows the threat to be a great jump ball recover threat in the redone as he adjusts well to the ball in the air and attacks it at it highest point.

Greg Little has the prototypical NFL size that will make him an attractive prospect on the draft board, but not having an entire year’s worth of tape are going to make some teams nervous.  I think he will fall into the late 2nd or possibly early third round, and whoever gets him that late, may be getting a huge value.  I liken him to Andre Johnson with his physical playing style and body type.

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Randall Cobb is “do it all” Percy Harvin Type

Posted on 06 April 2011 by Brian Billick

Kentucky’s Randall Cobb has a similar skill-set to Percy Harvin when he was coming out a couple years ago.  in 2010, Cobb broke the SEC single-season record for all-purpose yardage with 2,396 including 1,017 receiving and 424 rushing.  Last season, he scored at least one touchdown as a receiver, running back, quarterback, and returner…accounting for 16 touchdowns overall.

As expected, when watching him on the field, you see an extremely versatile athlete that displays very natal movements on the field.  He catches the ball with ease, extending his arms out fully to catch the ball away from his body and the defender.  He runs crisp routes and adjusts and tracks the ball in the air extremely well.  He shows the skill to play either outside or as a slot receiver, but I think he would be best suited inside.  This way, he can get the ball quickly and use his run after catch ability to make big plays in the passing game.  He has great acceleration in short bursts that make him tough to tackle in the open field.  Outside of his playmaking ability, I really like the fact that he is a tough and willing blocker to help spring his teammates for bigger gains.  He also will be a special teams contributor from day one on the return teams.

With the “wildcat” offense still being prevalent in today’s NFL, this former Kentucky Wildcat will give his future team a ton of versatility and productivity.  Most teams will be looking for him as the fifth best receiver in this draft.

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Concerns about Maryland’s Torrey Smith

Posted on 05 April 2011 by Brian Billick

Maryland’s Torrey Smith reminds me of another speedy Terrapin, Darrius Heyward Bey, and not just because of their college roots.  They are both straight-line speedsters that can be explosive playmakers, but inconsistently taints their overall ability.

On tape, Smith appears to be a little tight in his routes and struggles maintaining his elite speed in and out of his breaks.  Additionally, he shows a lack of flexibility when trying to adjust to poorly thrown balls.  On a field stretching “go” route, his best, he seems uncomfortable adjusting to balls thrown over his outside shoulder, losing track of the ball when rolling his head inside out.  Also on deeper routes, he has a tendency to attack the ball with just on arm, he will need to reach out with two to consistently bring balls down in the NFL.

I do like how Smith eats up cushion off the snap, but he will need to prove he can snap off a comeback route for the deep threat to be more meaningful.  He is better at running by defenders in man coverage, but has shown the awareness to throttle down in zone coverage.  After the catch, he is a major threat, as it was very difficult for tacklers to bring him down with just an arm tackle.  Once in the open field, there won’t be many that can chase him down.

Some talent evaluators have Smith as the third best wide receiver int he draft, but I hesitate to give him such a high grade.  HIs speed with be enticing, but I would encourage teams to look at the full tape before using a first round pick on him.

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Hankerson may be Third Best WR in Draft

Posted on 05 April 2011 by Brian Billick

Miami’s Leonard Hankerson has been a budding prospect since his 2009 season of 45 receptions for 801 yards and six touchdowns.  He followed that up with a senior year campaign in which he broke the single season records for receptions (72), receiving yards (1,156), and receiving touchdowns (13).  Hankerson is a two-year starter for the Hurricanes and a team captain.

On the field, he is surprisingly quick in and out of breaks and catches the football with his hands rather than in hid body.  He is a big frame target that has a nice long arms to make for a big catch radius for the quarterback to throw into.  Additionally, he uses those long arms to get off press coverage by holding the corner off his pads.  He wasn’t just a one trick pony that caught deep jump balls over and over, he ran routes of the passing tree, very similar to what NFL teams will ask of him.

Hankerson backed up his very productive final year, with a stellar performance at the Senior Bowl in Mobile.  He quickly became one of the more trusted receivers and was targeted frequently in practice and in the game.

The biggest question mark for Hankerson was his top end speed, but he quickly dissolved those doubts by running a 4.43 forty-yard dash at the Scouting Combine.  4.43 was the exact time of Maryland’s Torrey Smith, the supposed burner of the draft.  In comparison, Hankerson gives an NFL team much more diversity and consistency at the wide receiver position.

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