Tuesday, March 4, 2008

2007 NFL Draft Preview Redux

(Thanks to Rob for digging this out)

The combine is over and individual workouts are in full-swing. I have yet to receive a job offer from the Browns, Skins, or even ESPN (Merrill Hoge is yelling at me again). A look back at my 2007 draft preview might do the trick. Some hits, some misses, some TBD. Enjoy!

If the flowers are out, the NBA playoffs are down to the best 28 teams, and there's an outdoor drinking advisory in the forecast, it can only mean one thing... it's NFL draft season!

On its face this years draft class seems pretty underwhelming. Further inspection shows that it's not a horrible draft, but looks to be very top-heavy. The usual list of suspects make up the top 10 picks; Lions, and Cardinals, and Browns (oh my!). There also looks to be some cusp teams that with a good draft could really do some damage this coming season. Let's take a look at the best 2007 has to offer:

Top Offensive Players

1) Cal Johnson: a no brainer (Kiperism #1). He's long (#2), has separation speed (#3), is a work-out warrior (#4), and his tears cure cancer. NFL scouts talk about him the way Eastern Europeans talk about blue jeans. (Speaking of which, at what point does a top prospect get a restraining order against Jon Gruden? Every year roughly the same story comes out: Senior Bowl, physical specimen, Gruden gushing. Cadillac Williams hasn't yet recovered). Look at the Cal's college numbers: 1,200 yards and 15 TDs last year, now realize his college QB was Reggie Ball. If you don't follow college football, and therefore don't know how bad Reggie Ball was, just think about how many good QBs historically were named Reggie, and then realize this Reggie was bad even when compared to other QBs named Reggie (I am going to destroy my Reggie over/under this year). The ironic thing is, of course, that the Lions would be fools to pass or trade a player of this ability, even with 26 wide receivers on their roster. But, Matt Millen's involved, so that's, of course, what will happen. It seems likely that the Bucs will move from #4 to #2 and Cal and Caddy can share their "what creeps them out most about Gruden" stories. Oh, they can also share their rookie of the year trophies.

(I'm mad at myself for not making a "So Calvin, you own McDonald's" joke. Seriously, I'm furious.)

2) Joe Thomas: boring pick? Yes. Ridiculously good. Oh yeah. Joe Thomas and Calvin are probably the only two guys in this year's draft that would've been in the top 10 of last year's draft. Two months ago the Cardinals needed everything to play out perfectly for them to get him at pick 5. Well, that now appears a virtual certainty. This pick should immediately make the Cardinals a top 5 offense, and ridiculously good offensively for a ridiculously long time. He also ensures someone in your fantasy football league will take Matt Leinart in round 3. As I said last year with D'Brick, I firmly believe that a franchise left tackle is the cornerstone to a great team. For some reason, the best left tackles are rarely on bad teams. I don't think that's happenstance. I think the Browns would be wise to take him third, even though their offensive line is more cursed than Mark Prior's elbow (or Griffey Jr.'s, um, everything). "Joe Thomas" just seems like a Browns' legend.

3) Adrian Peterson (can someone give this guy a cool nickname already?): ESPN.com recently ran a story that AP could've gone straight to the NFL from high school. For those that saw the U.S. Army All-American Bowl his senior year, you knew this already. He can go the distance on any play. He can run well between the tackles. He can carry an offensive when healthy. This is Peterson's problem. His collarbone is more fragile than Fred Taylor's groin (or Charlie Weiss' chair). This basically is the Cadillac Williams conundrum. Can he play a full-season? When he does, he'll be a star and his team will flourish. When he's hurt, his team will limp to a 5 and 11 season. The best case for AP would be to go to a team with a pretty-good back already in tow. Cleveland with Jamal "Halfway House" Lewis and Houston with Ahman "ruiner of my 2005 fantasy team" Green look like possible destinations. I think both teams could find a way to get this guy the ball, ala Reggie Bush and the Saints, and either would dramatically improve with him on their team. For Houston getting him at 10 would be a coup, and may save some front-office jobs in the wake of the Lamborghini Williams pick. My advice to a team drafting Peterson would be to not put all your eggs in his basket (See the 2007 49ers and Gore, Frank). By the way "ala _________ (player's name)" is Kiperism #5.

4) Too early for Ben Grubbs? Nope. Ben Grubbs: not a household name, unless your household regularly discusses the emergence of offensive guards as a previously undervalued NFL position, in which case, can you adopt me? In my opinion, Ben Grubbs is a guaranteed probowler. Guaranteed probowlers at guard are now worth (at least) $50M for seven years of service (I say at least because Leonard Davis just got this amount and has never sniffed Hawaii). An end of first round pick (where Grubbs is projected to go) typically gets 5 year deal worth about $7M total. Can you say: arbitrage? I should also mention that I've waited roughly twenty years to apply a Teddy Ruxpin themed nickname, and for Ben "Grubby" fits almost too well.

5) Dwayne Jarrett/JaMarcus Russell: I think these guys have gotten unfair treatment from NFL scouts, to JaMarcus' benefit and Dwayne's detriment. Look, I like JaMarcus. Dude's got huge hands (I'm told by everyone). A really cool name (America needs to start adding "Ja" to more names; we're at war people!). He can throw the ball 12 furlongs with his arms cut off. And his poop is considered currency in Argentina. I guess I've been fooled before by guys like JaMarcus. Byron Leftwich is the most obvious comparison, but there have been several physically gifted top picks whose gifts didn't translate to NFL production. But, I like JaMarcus. If I had a top 10 pick and was dead set on a QB, he'd be my guy (since Brian Brohm didn't come out). He was ridiculous in the Sugar Bowl against Notre Dame, but like Dice K's debut against the Royals, let's not put the guy in the Hall of Fame just yet. Dwayne Jarrett has had a much different scouting experience. Scouts look at him and see Mike Williams. They ignore the fact he averaged 70 catches and 14 TDs over his three years at SC. They ignore the fact he went against Leon Hall (supposedly the top CB in the draft) during the Rose Bowl and came away with 203 yards and 2 TDs. Look, the Mike Williams connection isn't a huge stretch, but for Williams it seems to be more of an attitude thing than anything else. If Dwayne falls to the end of the first round to the Chargers or Colts, we might as well pretend it's the NBA draft where the top teams watch bad teams pass over proven players until Dallas takes Josh Howard at pick 29, the Pistons take Tayshaun at pick 23, or Carlos Boozer sticks around till pick 35. So instead of comparing Dwayne Jarrett to Mike Williams, I'm comparing him to Josh Howard. In my mind they're now the same person.

Top Defensive Players

1) LaRon Landry: guys on LSU just have cool names (none cooler than Rohan "Baby Fat" Davey). To describe every impact safety it's mandatory you use the following words: rangy, versatile, ballhawking, and tackler. In fact, if you drink every time Kiper says "ballhawk" on Saturday, you'll be hammered by pick 25. LaRon is just an impact player. He's more in the Ed Reed mold, than the Sean Taylor mold. Although I imagine if he ends up a Redskin, there's an Eastern Motors commercial in his future. LaRon should end up at pick 6 (Skins), 7 (Vikes), or 8 (Falcons). While I love the guy, the Skins selection would be odd, given the aforementioned ATV Taylor. I guess this falls under the "best player available" mentality. I have trouble faulting that strategy, and honestly, I don't know why having two great safeties wouldn't work? I think he ends up a Falcon for some reason, giving them a very solid and young secondary.

2) Amobi Okoye: what you know: the dude is young (born in 1987!). There's a chance he's never even heard of Tecmo Bo Jackson, big league chew, 1986 Topps, or Oregon Trail. He will be a 20 year old NFL rookie with four years of major college football. Besides being young, you know he's an honest kid. Why? Unlike all but two top picks, he actually admitted to smoking the chron. What you may not know: knowing nothing about football his High School coach suggested he go play Madden to learn the game. I bet he loves QB Waggle. He's a bit of a roll of the dice, and I'm a bit confused on how he more than leaped Alan Branch, but Amobi appears to be a wunderkund and a great kid. I just can't see him not succeeding. He seems almost too good to be true, almost like Dwight Howard. Whether he succeeds or not, he's at least the second best Nigerian Okoye to play in the league, and if he's wearing maroon and gold on draft day, I'll finally be able to retire my LaVar jersey.

3) Jarvis Moss: screams classic, overlooked 'tweener'. By the way, we need to start using tweener in everyday speech. Like when you're at that level of good drunk where you shouldn't talk to girls and you know it, but you really don't care because you're too drunk? That's tweener drunk. I've said before that I usually do not like drafting DEs early in the first, just too much variability between the pros and college, however I do not hold tweeners in the same regard. There are too many great NFLers whose positions were questioned at draft time, from LT to Roids Merriman, so I do not view versatility as a bad thing. The guy is nearly 6'7" and officially 251 pounds, although I'm not sure if that was before or after he ate Troy Smith in the championship game? I've seen him falling to the early second round on some mock drafts. To me this is crazy. Regardless, even in the late teens I think this is a possible steal.

4) Patrick Willis: it's safe to say if his name was Willis Patrick he'd be in jail, but he's not so instead he's this year's DeMeco Ryans. A bit undersized, but athletic, instinctive, and ridiculously productive; as in 137 tackles including 12 for a loss his senior year. I see him as a perfect London Fletcher replacement in Buffalo, you know, assuming they don't reach on Marshawn "Thug Cart" Lynch.

5) Gaines Adams/Brandon Meriweather: upon reflection this may be the best "name" draft since the vaunted Quentin Coryatt, Leon Searcy, Eugene Chung all-name draft of '92. So far we've had a LaRon and JaMarcus (that's four capital letters in two first names), an Amobi, and a Gaines (with a Levi on the way). Gaines Adams will probably be great. He'll probably make several probowls and have a lot of sacks. I just see him as very one dimensional at this point. Sack artists tend to ignore the run, and also can get frustrated easily (much like sandwich artists). I think this is true of Gaines. I see him as a guy that has 14 sacks in eight games, and 2 in the other eight. At the end of the season, you'll probably be able to point back on two or three games he dominated, and that's more than can be said of most. As far as Brandon Meriweather, unlike Amobi Okoye, no one's saying good things and him (I'm almost mad he's not BranDon, screw it, he is now). Remember that Miami-Florida International Brawl with the one player stomping another player on the ground? Yeah, that was BranDon. Speaking of Ed Reed, the comparison can be made here too. He's fluid, ballhawking, and makes a lot of tackles from the safety spot (115 his junior year, 91 his senior year). Like it or not "the U" manufactures great pros with questionable attitudes, and BranDon's no exception. Both he and Gaines have no middle ground: they're either gonna be stars or they're gonna be out of the league in three years, I can't tell which.

Other Players:

Levi Brown: This is a tough year for me and Penn Staters. I want Levi to be great, I really do, but I'm not totally sold. The biggest warning sign to me was when Penn State runningback Austin Scott decided to redshirt last year because he thought the line would be better this coming year. While this obviously speaks to Austin's own insecurities, it doesn't say much about Levi. I guess I think Levi will be a good pro, but I've heard that Arizona would consider taking him over Joe Thomas, and to me that's crazy talk. I'm not totally convinced that Levi's fast enough to stay at left tackle in the pros, but I think he would be a great right tackle. Right tackles aren't top 10 picks, it's as simple as that.

Paul Posluszny: Looks and sounds like a linebacker. His junior year he was great. Then he tore his PCL and MCL in the Orange Bowl (PCL the ligament, not the minor league). His senior year his first six games were very average, then he starting playing like the old Paul. He had some trouble shedding blockers, but in the right system with good defensive tackles I think he'll be solid. The Patriots would be a great fit for him as he's probably the surest tackler in the draft.

Brady Quinn: His basement is Rick Mirer, his ceiling is a poor man's Carson Palmer. I'm less than impressed with him, but like it or not he's probably the second best QB in this draft. I really don't have anything else to say about him that hasn't been said. Except I was convinced for two years that he was the kid from Home Improvement, and frankly I'm still not sure that's not true. Shockingly, Wikipedia claims that the other, older kid from Home Improvement is his second cousin, which pretty much confirms he is the Home Improvement kid.

Ted Ginn: If Ted Ginn stayed at cornerback he'd be a top 5 pick. I remember him in the same H.S. All American as Peterson and thinking "this kid could be a faster version of Champ Bailey". Unfortunately for him Ohio State needed receivers and Ginn was a logical fit. I really hope Ginn is a good pro cause I like him, I like his Earl Woods father, and it's a shame when a kid gets put in the wrong position to fill his college team's need. He'll be dangerous on special teams and his ceiling is Steve Smith (plus a couple inches), unfortunately his basement isn't finished, it's used to store a broken ping pong table and bags of clothes, in other words, it's Rocket Ismail.

Jamaal Anderson: the dude looks like Calvin Booth, and guys with only one year of production at DE scare me. Screams bust.

Marshawn Lynch: JJ Arrington on line one. But this might be my favorite play of last year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqMsT_2teus

Reggie Nelson: have you seen this guy? He's a dead ringer for Whoopi. He also was a JUCO transfer and apparently struggled academically at Florida. Can you say Wonderlic? Needless to say, I love this kid.

Joe Staley: 6'6", 4.8 forty, seems like a stud left tackle to me. I could see him creeping into the top 15 picks, and rightfully so. I think I'd rather have him than Levi at left tackle.

Anthony Gonzalez: Will be a deceptively productive pro. I'd compare him to a rich man's Mike Furrey... in a good way.

Dwayne Bowe: Really, really like him. Michael Clayton-like rookie year, but hopefully (for him) he keeps it going.

Greg Olsen: he won't even be the best professional athlete named Greg Olsen, alright it's Greg Olson, close enough.

Adam Carriker: Kiper and others love the guy, but all I see is a poor man's Grant Wistrom. Keep in mind that Grant Wistrom is coaching High School football in Kansas this year, I'm sorry, assistant coaching high school football, thereby making a poor man's Grant Wistrom actually a poor man.

Anyway, that's all for 2007. Let's hope the Redskins don't trade away their next six first rounders for Michael Strahan. Let's also hope the Browns don't subject the good people of Cleveland to the Brady Quinn era. I've said it before, former Abercrombie models have no place near Lake Erie. Let the success of Jim Thome, Bernie Kosar, and Craig Ehlo tell Browns management something...

Hail Victory!


Ryan Smith said...

Even better the second time around. The Whoopi/Reggie Nelson pics are magnifique. Well done.

Ryan Smith said...

A quick google search shows that Reggie Nelson scored a 12 on the Wonderlic, which is double what Frank Gore put up. Seriously. Wow. Is Reggie Nelson twice as smart as Frank Gore? Or is Frank Gore twice as dumb as Reggie Nelson? I just blew my own mind.

And you must look back on that Pat Willis prediction and smile, given what he did for your leagues team this year.

Wilson said...

man, you are a champion jeff. a true champion.