Monday, February 16, 2009

NFL Combine

Ahh, the NFL Combine, another of those magical events that went from "just another day" to a big event in what has become another segue in the NFL that now has no off-season.

Saturday, Feb. 21
Group 1 (OL, SPECIALISTS), Group 2 (OL), Group 3 (TE)

Sunday, Feb. 22
Group 4 (QB, WR), Group 5 (QB, WR), Group 6 (RB)

Monday, Feb. 23
Group 7 (DL), Group 8 (DL), Group 9 (LB)

Tuesday, Feb. 24
Group 10 (DB), Group 11 (DB)

A random, unordered list of things I'm interested in seeing...

- Stafford and Sanchez both appear to be participating. How much will they do to help/hurt their stock? They already appear to be vastly overvalued (think Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers, though Rodgers fell about where it was initially thought he'd land), will a couple of teams start falling all over themselves over their skills? [Kyle Boller threw it through the uprights on his knee from the 50!]

- I think the combine is going to go a long way in determining if there are 2 or 10 WRs taken in the first round. There are a lot of receivers that look to me like the kind of guys that could hop from the second into the first as a result of their workouts (Derrick Williams, *cough cough*).

- Which of the big three OLs stands out as the best?

- Who starts making plays for the free agents, and/or trade bait? The combine tends to have a lot of this, and there are a lot of big names (Peppers, Ray Lewis, Chad Johnson, etc) in play this year.



  1. It doesn't look like Stafford will throw. It remains to be seen how much he actually works out. This is another point of contention between the pro and anti Stafford contingent. Those opposed think he has much to prove and in no way has earned the same stature of other elite QB prospects who typically do not throw at the combine. The pro crowd think it doesn't matter. I think the latter are crazy. Everything matters and every chance you have to evaluate a prospect is valuable. For him to withhold that evaluation to me is a significant negative. I would hope that some year a proactive team addresses this, simply tells the agents in advance that if they want that team to consider their clients then they better recommend that those clients involve themselves as much as possible at the combine.

  2. Yeah, Stafford would appear to be taking the attitude that he's the #1 overall pick so why bother. Doesn't make sense to me, but who knows what's being whispered in his ear. I will say that pretty much every single mock draft I've seen - and I've seen over a dozen at this point - have Stafford going to Detroit. More than half are using some version of the term "lock." Maybe a guy like that just assumes since that's what's being said, that's what'll happen?

    I agree with your point in general about guys not participating at the combine. But to Stafford specifically, I think it's a HUGE negative. In my mind this guy is at best an upper-mid-first round pick if Bradford came out. He'd be talked about in the #10 range, and Sanchez in the mid to late first round.

    He looks to me to be an Alex Smith type. I don't see at all what makes him so special, and IMO the only reason he's considered to be so high is because he's the only QB in a very weak draft for the position. There are three other guys this reminds me of. Alex Smith as mentioned, Tim Crouch, and Matt Ryan. One of those three panned out, though you have to admit it's still early in Ryan's career to annoint him. The other two were huge busts.

    Teams should be taking the attitude that this guy has a ton to prove. If I'm Detroit and I'd even want to consider him, I think I'd say to his agent "Look pal, there are other QBs we'll consider with our low first and high second round pick. Frankly, there are a lot safer and cheaper picks at the top of this draft. If we don't get a better look at the kid, maybe we'll go that route instead."

  3. There are substantial differences between all of those quarterbacks. Smith was an underclassman with underwhelming tools but very smart and reasonably experienced. Crouch was also an underclassman, a product of Mike Leach's genius. Weak-armed. Carr, like Couch went to an expansion team. A Tedford product but one with more tools and also four years in the program. Ryan was a fifth year senior with a lot of experience, NFL smarts but somewhat questionable production. Someone (elsewhere) made the point that his relatively low completion percentage was considerably a product of the huge number of attempts.

    Stafford, Stafford has more tools than any of those guys. Not quite Elway in arm strength, but he does have a gun and good mobility. Also he comes from starting two and half years in a pro-style offense, a big plus. Knock on him is his absolute experience, he is still 20 years old, questionable decision making and very questionable accuracy. He completed less than 60% for his career and I recently saw a stat that he had something like a 38% completion percentage on the move or when pressured. Mayock likes him #1 overall and even he questioned Stafford's accuracy.

    As to whether the Lions take him ... don't believe anything you read. Right now I'm pretty sure the Lions have no clue who they are going to take. From what Schwartz and Mayhew have said my best guess is that they will focus on the trenches unless they get blown away by a quarterback. On the other hand they have stressed the importance of solving the position. I lean toward them favoring taking a QB with one of the later picks. I could see them taking door number three at #20 or if two QBs are still on the board, waiting til #33 to get whoever is left.

    Personally I think that if all three of these guys had returned that Sanchez would have passed Stafford and would have been the consensus #1 overall. Hard to say between Stafford and Bradford who would have been next. Freeman probably would have been top 20 as well. If this was the good old days we probably would have seen half a dozen QBs go in 2010 first round.


  4. >>...and Matt Ryan. One of those three panned out,
    >> though you have to admit it's still early in
    >> Ryan's career to annoint him.

    I have to admit no such thing. Dude threw 61% for 3400 yds with 16/11 and an 88 rating as a ROOKIE. Most QBs never hit those numbers. For example, Alex Smith, Tim Couch, David Carr (his 2004 season is close), Joey Harrington. Oh, and Kyle Boller. Ryan as a draft choice is already a success.

    The knock on Ryan coming out of college was that, though he was well-prepared to start right away, his upside wasn't very high. So maybe he never becomes much better than he was this season. That's still pretty decent.

  5. The point about Ryan was that he hasn't proven it long term yet. I'm trying to think of another one-year wonder. Ron Dayne maybe? Terrific production his rookie season, awful afterwards. I'm sure there are others.

    I know there are big differences in the types of QBs those four other guys are and Stafford. The point there was all five I think benefitted greatly from being the best QB in a weak QB class. They were picked high in the first round cause they were the top QB on the board, not because they were the top prospect on the board.

    It's one of the things that IMO makes this such a tough position to pick for. At every other position, you're drafted relative to your talent level. If you're the best WR on the board and you are only the 15th-20th best prospect in the draft, you're not getting taken till the mid to late first round. But with QBs, the best on the board is always gonna go very high in the first. In the past ten years, there was one (2000) where a QB was not selected in the top 10, and 15 of those 150 top 10 choices in that ten years were QBs. 7 of those ten were #1 overall, and in all 9 years the first QB was taken #3 or higher. And 2000 was the Pennington year, where it was him who probably would have graded as a 3rd round pick in any other year, and he still went first round.

    Patrick, that's one of the things you and I discussed elsewhere. QB is such an important position that getting a good starter is always worth a top first round pick, and missing on one anywhere in the first two rounds is a big bust. It makes sense, of course. But the result is a lot of teams reaching for these guys simply because of where they're playing.

    I personally don't get it. I understand the importance of getting the position correct, solving that puzzle. But you pay those top guys SO much money, that IMO if there are questions about those prospects, I think you simply can't afford to take that chance. Hitting on the right one plugs a huge hole for a decade, I get that. But missing on one cripples you for several years.

    The question in my mind is, would I rather take someone who's a better fit as a top 3 overall pick, and then draft two or three QBs between the 2nd and 7th round each year until finding the right guy; or would I rather take the shot at the top pick who's got some big question marks around him?

    For me, I think I'd take the former...if I'm Det, I think I draft OL or Curry and then try to get Freeman in the early second, and start looking at drafting one or two of Nate Davis, Rhett Bomar, Nathan Brown, Mike Reilly and David Johnson in any round after that.

  6. Ozzie says that Bill Belichick says to draft one every year with a late-round pick, because every once in a while one of those guys pans out.

    It sucks to be in the position of *having* to get a QB. That leads you to Alex Smith -type errors: desperation, eggs-in-one-basket errors. You're better off if you can deploy the wonder twins patience & opportunism. Anyway: the draft is not a supermarket. It doesn't serve up Peyton Manning or Steve Young every year.

    So: patience first. With good coaching at OC and QB, you can win some games with Jake Delhomme, Derek Anderson, Matt Cassel, Troy Smith, and other late-rd picks. QB talent is out there; Kurt Warner & Jeff Garcia went undrafted, Brady in the 6th rd. Trust your staff, if you have a good one. (And if you don't, get one. Start there first.)

    Opportunism second. Some years, Aaron Rodgers or Brady Quinn or Joe Flacco will fall to you midway thru the first rd. Grab them then. The Broncos didn't "need" a QB in 2006, but when Jay Cutler was there at #11 Shanahan grabbed him. The Packers right now are sitting on Rodgers and Brian Brohm: it doesn't look like they'll be caught short at QB for a few years.

  7. Posted before I meant to.

    Anyway, the point is, you have to know what you're doing, and take what the market gives you.

    Lions should grab a stud OT at #1, and take one of the QBs with their late 1st, if one of those guys grabs them. If none of them do, then go best player available with that pick also, and grab a QB later. And also see what's available in the CFL and Arena League etc.

    Is JT O'Sullivan still on their roster?

  8. I think he is though Patrick can answer that better.

    One factor I'm questioning... How likely are the Lions to go OT when that's what they took last year? I actually think Curry could be the best option for them.

    And honestly, as stupid as it sounds given their recent history, taking Crabtree wouldn't be awful. I doubt they'll do it and he's down my list, but they don't have anyone alongside CJ right now...

  9. O' Sullivan was with San Fran last year... did you guys mean Orlovsky or Stanton instead?

  10. There was an O'something guy, who led NFL Europe in passing one year (ahead of my boy Drew Olson), who I thought was with the Lions. I guess with Mike Martz' Lions: this was a couple seasons ago. O'Shaugnessy? O'Sullivan?

    Didn't the Lions have another QB prospect who was shelved with injury, other than Stanton?

  11. I thought you meant Orlovsky, that was who I was thinking of. I don't think they had anyone other than those two though. Maybe they had an O'something, but he'd have been a practice squad guy...

  12. They had O'Sullivan for a year. He left with Martz.

    I agree with you Jim, but with a But.

    But most teams have first round quarterbacks. A similar percentage of teams make the playoffs. Quarterbacks are first round picks, despite the ability of some teams to occasionally find diamonds in the rough.

    In '08 every AFC team had a first round quarterback. Three of the six NFC teams had one.

    But here's the thing, just because you need a first rounder to get to the playoffs doesn't mean you have to draft one. Collins and Warner and Pennington were all free to whoever wanted them. In recent years Brees, McNair, Bledsoe were free to whoever wanted them and in each case they took their first team to the playoffs. Throw in Frerotte who sucked by got the Vikings in or Derek Anderson who didn't suck but didn't quite get the Browns that far. Anyone outside the NFC North could have had Favre for a song last winter and the Jets were in contention until week 17.

    Those guys are out there, if not every year, almost every year. You think this is a bad winter for free agent quarterbacks? Every winter is a bad winter for free agent quarterbacks, but I'd be willing to wager that either Losman or Kitna or Garcia or Orlovsky or someone else who no-one thinks is worth a damn becomes a key contributor to a playoff team in the next couple of years.

    As for the Lions, I'm really not sure what they should do. I guess I lean toward Curry because he has the highest floor and seems like the guy most likely to become a perrenial Pro Bowler. I doubt the Lions pick him though. My guess is they either pick one of the tackles or Raji or Stafford.

    And don't get me started on Stafford ...


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