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Make Or Break: Early 2009 Draftees On The Bubble

July 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Training camp is less than a month away and for the draft class of 2009, it’s now or never. The general wisdom is that draft picks get 3 years to establish themselves (though many picks get far less time, if they’re taken outside of the top 2 rounds or happen to get drafted by a team who doesn’t mind cutting high picks early). After 3 years, if a 1st or 2nd rounder hasn’t panned out, they become a training camp casualty. Sometimes a team can find a trade partner who is willing to take on a former high pick for the cost of a very low or conditional draft pick. Such was the case with 2009 4th overall pick Aaron Curry. The former “safest pick in the draft” was unloaded by Seattle after just 35 games and less than 3 full seasons.

Curry isn’t alone in being cast aside as an early 2009 draft pick. Here are some other high picks who have already been dumped:

11th overall – LB Aaron Maybin (Buffalo Bills)
36th overall – WR Brian Robiskie (Cleveland Browns)
37th overall – CB Alphonso Smith (Denver Broncos)
41st overall – CB Darius Butler (New England Patriots)
43rd overall – DE Everette Brown (Carolina Panthers)
44th overall – QB Pat White (Miami Dolphins)
48th overall – DB Darcel McBath (Denver Broncos)
52nd overall – LB David Veikune (Cleveland Browns)
63rd overall – LB Cody Brown (Arizona Cardinals)
64th overall – TE Richard Quinn (Denver Broncos)

11 of the top 64 players have already exited the league or changed teams, and chances are good that there will be at least 10 more guys in that category by the time 53 man rosters are set in early September. Here are some guys who could be joining the list:

2nd overall – OT Jason Smith (St. Louis Rams) – He hasn’t locked down a starting spot on either side of the line and has been inconsistent at best. It would be a mild surprise to see him let go, but Jeff Fisher and Les Snead have no connection to the drafting of Smith and might decide to move on.

12th overall – RB Knowshon Moreno (Denver Broncos)
– The Broncos have already jettisoned 3 Top 64 picks from 2009 and Moreno should make 4. While he has some redeeming qualities, notably his above average blitz blocking, he has shown that he’s a total dud as a feature back. At best, he’s a 3rd down back and rotational guy and one would think his time in Denver is short.

16th overall – OLB Larry English (San Diego Chargers)
– Drafted as a pass rushing specialist, he has just 7 sacks in 3 seasons. With the addition of 2012 first round pick Melvin Ingram, the Chargers are likely ready to move on from English barring a superb training camp.

23rd overall – OT Michael Oher (Baltimore Ravens) – While he is the only 2009 1st rounder to have a Hollywood feature film made about him, Oher has been a big disappointment. At times he flashes the type of talent that made him a 1st round pick. At other times, he looks either disinterested or totally lost. It’s likely he will stick in Baltimore for another year, but he might not be around much longer than that.

24th overall – DT Peria Jerry (Atlanta Falcons) – 6 games started and just 2 sacks in 3 seasons with the Falcons, Jerry faces an uphill battle to make the Atlanta roster. New Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan hasn’t committed (publicly) to either a 3-4 or a 4-3 scheme, but a 3-4 would almost certainly seal Jerry’s fate in Atlanta. Regardless of scheme, it’s a good possibility that Jerry will be playing elsewhere in 2012.

39th overall – OT Eben Britton (Jacksonville Jaguars) – He’s been hurt a lot early in his career, plying in just 10 games over the last 2 years. When he’s on the field he isn’t anything special. The Jaguars don’t have a ton of depth at the position, so it’s possible that he could stick even with a poor camp. However, he will need to get healthy and show some progress if he wants to stick in the league.

40th overall – DT Ron Brace (New England Patriots) – Brace has been hurt off and on with a number of small injuries and has found himself in coach Bill Belichick’s doghouse at several different points (including being inactive for this year’s Super Bowl). When he’s on the field, he has shown flashes of being a quality 5-technique DE but his inconsistencies and lack of durability have led to him getting passed on the depth chart. Belichick doesn’t keep guys around who don’t produce, and has already pulled the plug on Darius Butler (taken one pick after Brace). It would be a mild surprise if Brace breaks camp with the Patriots.

45th overall – LB Clint Sintim (New York Giants) – Sintim is coming off a torn ACL and has yet to establish himself in New York’s LB corps. He was almost totally nonexistent his first two seasons before tearing his knee up last summer. Some Giants fans remain high on him, but like Britton and Brace, he will need to prove he is both healthy and taking a step forward in order to secure a roster spot.

50th overall – WR Mohamed Massaquoi (Cleveland Browns) -The best thing to happen to Mohammed Massaquoi’s young career is the Browns passing on a WR in the first (or a top WR in free agency) and waiting until the 4th round to address the position. The Cleveland WR depth chart is thin enough for the underwhelming Massaquoi to have plenty of reps and get a long look in camp. While he isn’t terrible, he’s also not lived up to his status as a mid 2nd round pick. He will probably hang on for another year in Cleveland, though he might not have survived this long with a different team.

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Beyond The Rookie Contract: The 2007 2nd Round Draftees

February 17, 2012 Leave a comment

What does the average draft follower expect from his/her favorite team’s 2nd round draft pick? For most fans, 2nd round picks represent long-term starters and franchise cornerstones. The building blocks of a successful team. After all, they are the 33rd-64th best college players available. You’d think you’d get a guy who could be a high level contributor for years to come. Or even just a guy who can contribute for a reasonable period of time. However, that’s not usually the case.

Most 2nd rounders these days sign 4 year contracts. Therefore, a 2007 draftee would have been signed for the 2007-2010 seasons and eligible for free agency last summer. A look back at the 2007 2nd round gives some much needed (this time of year, especially) perspective on 2nd rounders. Take a look at how the 2007 class looked in their first year after their rookie contracts expired:

1. Of the 32 draftees, only 7 were on their original drafting team’s roster: Eric Weddle (37th, San Diego), Justin Blalock (39th, Atlanta), Drew Stanton (43rd, Detroit), Lamarr Woodley (46th, Pittsburgh), David Harris (47th, New York Jets), Victor Abiamiri (Philadelphia, 57th) and Ryan Kalil (59th, Carolina).  Those 7 accounted for 73 games started in 2011. Neither Stanton (backup QB) nor Abiamiri (on Injured Reserve) got into a regular season game. So only 5 guys were still contributing to their original team

2. 5 of the 2nd rounders failed to make a roster in 2011: Arron Sears (35th, Tampa Bay), Dwayne Jarrett (45th, Carolina) Kenny Irons (49th, Cincinnati), Chris J. Henry (Tennessee, 50th), Dan Bazuin (62nd, Chicago). Neither Irons not Bazuin ever played a regular season game in the NFL

3. 15 of the 2007 2nd rounders started more than 8 games in 2011. 12 started 0 games. 5 others started between 1-3 games. Only Paul Posluszny (34th, Buffalo), Blalock, Harris, Eric Wright (53rd, Cleveland), Josh Wilson (55th, Seattle) and Kalil started all 16 games for his team last year.

4. Only 1, Weddle, has been named to an All Pro team. Only Kalil has been named to multiple Pro Bowl teams (3). 5 other players have made the Pro Bowl once: Weddle, Zach Miller (38th, Oakland), Sidney Rice (44th, Minnesota), Woodley and Steve Smith (51st, New York Giants).

It’s safe to say that if you are expecting your team to come up with a long term starter or an impact player in the 2nd round you are setting your expectations too high. While every draft class is different (and 2007 was a weak crop), the results are pretty similar most years: 2nd round picks do not produce long-term starters and high-end players. There are plenty of quality players who are 2nd round picks – Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice and Rob Gronkowski immediately come to mind. But there are also tons of 2nd rounders you quickly forget if they were not your team’s selection. Guys like James Hardy (2008), Cody Brown (2009), Joe Klopfenstein (2006).

In the 2 months between now and the draft, many hours on TV/radio and thousands of words on the internet will be spent discussing the fringe 1st round players and the “solid crop of guys” in the 2nd round. Just remember: in 5 years, you probably won’t remember that a third of these guys were drafted as highly as they were – despite being “borderline 1st rounders” and “high floor” prospects. Guys who would at least “be great special teamers” or “contribute on 3rd down”.

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Is The 2nd Round The Best Place To Find A Quality RB?

November 28, 2011 Leave a comment

(Originally posted by me at Mocking The Draft)

The success of recent 2nd round picks Matt Forte, LeSean McCoy, Maurice Jones-Drew and Ray Rice combined with the devaluation of RB’s league-wide has led a lot of draft observers to conclude that the 2nd round is the “sweet spot” for finding a RB. You get a good player, without using a 1st round pick on a position which is less valuable (in many minds) than it used to be and has a short shelf life. The 2012 draft is fairly weak in terms of early RB talent, especially once you get beyond sure-fire top 10 pick Trent Richardson and likely 1st rounder Lamar Miller(assuming he declares). But there are still a few decent prospects who should hear their name called in the 2nd round. What’s the likelihood that 2012 will produce the next Forte, McCoy, Jones-Drew or Rice?

It’s too early to judge the 2011 crop of 1st and 2nd round RB’s (Mark Ingram, Ryan Williams, Shane Vereen, Mikel LeShoure, Daniel Thomas), but the previous 10 (2001-2010) drafts give us plenty of data from which to draw some conclusions. First, here’s the overall production:

Early_rb1_medium

Not so surprisingly, the 1st round RB’s put up significantly more yardage than their 2nd round peers. In fact, the difference between a 2nd and 3rd round RB has been nearly half that of the difference between a 1st and 2nd round RB. One thing that stands out here is that the production difference comes mostly from rushing, and not receiving. In other words, either 1st round RB’s tend to be bad receivers or successful 2nd/3rd round backs tend to be especially good receivers.

Another way to look at the production of these RB’s is by their per-game rushing & receiving yards. Take a look at the number of RB’s, by round, to average 70+ total yards from scrimmage per game:

Early_rb2_medium

As you can see, more than half of 1st rounders and less than a third of 2nd round RB’s drafted between 2001-2010 have put up 70+ YPG. Other than the 4 aforementioned 2nd rounders, only Clinton Portis, Travis Henry and Ben Tate have achieved this milestone. In the same time period, there have been 12 2nd rounders and 5 1st rounders who have averaged less than 50 YPG.

And while the success of 2nd round RB’s has been greater in the last 5 years, finding a quality RB in the 2nd is still a 50/50 (or worse) proposition. Check out the 2nd round RB’s from 2006-2010:

Early_rb3_medium

People focus on the top 4 guys but seem to forget all about the 6 (7 if you include the perpetually hurt Hardesty) duds.

As far as the 2012 draft goes, here are 3 guys who, if they declare, I expect to see go between picks #33 and #64:

David Wilson (Virginia Tech) – Unlike most of the successful 2nd round backs of the last 10 years, Wilson doesn’t have much experience as a receiver.  However, he does have an attractive skillset which is sure to get his name called fairly early in next April’s draft. Wilson is likely to be the fastest RB at the combine, with the speed and explosiveness to be a big play threat every time he touches the ball. He’ll draw some comparisons to both Jahvid Best and Chris Johnson, but his running style reminds me most of Ahmad Bradshaw. He has some untapped potential as a pass-catcher and should be able to help out immediately on kick-returns

Chris Polk (Washington) –  While Wilson is flashy and will generate plenty of buzz at the scouting combine and pro days, Chris Polk will likely fly under the radar a bit. He’s a well-rounded back who doesn’t really catch your eye in any one area. He’s got good size but isn’t the prototypical power-back. His speed is adequate, but  some scouts and draft experts will consider him to be lacking the needed burst to succeed in the NFL. His lateral agility is pretty good for a bigger guy but he’ll never remind anyone of Barry Sanders. His hands are solid but his lack of explosiveness and poor route-running make him an underwhelming option as a receiver. That said, Polk is a productive back who could make an excellent #2 option in a 2 back scheme. He does enough things “pretty well” to have a good shot at NFL success and while he doesn’t have the best physical tools, he’s got good awareness and instincts which allow him to get through holes quickly and break the occasional long run.

LaMichael James (Oregon) – Most people are familiar with the diminutive James by this point. Listed at 5’9 185, James will get dismissed as too small to withstand the rigors of the NFL. Which is probably accurate. While Jones-Drew and Rice are also small backs, James lacks the frame to put on weight and his lower body isn’t nearly as thick as theirs. It’s very unlikely that James ever becomes an every-down back, or even the primary guy in a multi-back scheme. He’s a true change-of-pace guy in the Darren Sproles mold. If he can stay healthy, James should find success in the NFL as a receiver, returner and occasional runner.

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