Patriots Select Shane Vereen

With the 56th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Patriots selected Shane Vereen, RB, California. A versatile back. More analysis tomorrow.

Patriots Select Ras-I Dowling

With the 33rd pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Patriots selected Ras-I Dowling

With the 1st pick in the 2nd round being seen as a top target for teams looking to trade up, it was somewhat surprising that the Patriots stayed put and for the 2nd year in a row, they shocked with a CB selection. Ras-I Dowling, from Virginia might be a FS at the next level but it primarily a corner. A year ago he was considered one of the top talents for this draft, but an injury limited his production this year. The Patriots will be back on the clock at #56 and then at #60 but I’d expect them to trade one of those two picks.

Nate Solder Analysis

At #17, the Patriots selected Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

Amongst all the talk of trading up for a top pass rusher, trading down for more value, the Patriots stood at #17 and selected Colorado offensive tackle Nate Solder. Solder is a tall (over 6-8) former TE with great feet and athleticism for the position. He’s always played LT which might suggest that Sebastian Vollmer will stay on the right side. I had Solder as my #4 OT in the draft but he suits the Patriots more than maulers like Gabe Carimi, who fell to 29, that I had ahead of him. I like the pick and the value there but I was somewhat surprised at first that they didn’t address the pass rush need by trading up for some of that top-15 talent. You can’t deny that OT is a need position for the Patriots though.

Patriots trade down again

With the #28 pick, the Patriots decided, as they so often do, that there wasn’t a player on the board that represented more value than a trade they had on the table. I actually agree somewhat, just because of the value of the trade. The Saints gave up their 2nd round pick (#56) as well as next year’s 1st rounder to get up to #28 and take Heisman winning running back Mark Ingram. If it wasn’t such a good value trade I’d be hugely disappointed that the Patriots didn’t stay put and take Muhammad Wilkerson who I saw as a great fit for the D-line. As it happens, he went two picks later to the Jets. We’ll see how he turns out first hand with him going to an AFC East rival. The Patriots now have three picks in the 2nd round – #33, #56 and #60. I’d expect more trades to be forthcoming when day 2 of the draft begins at 6pm EST, 11pm here in the UK.

Patriots Select Nate Solder

At #17, the Patriots selected Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

Amongst all the talk of trading up for a top pass rusher, trading down for more value, the Patriots stood at #17 and selected Colorado offensive tackle Nate Solder. More analysis tomorrow when the 1st round is over.

Flying Elvis Mock Draft

The NFL Draft is just a day away! Image via “ryan lejbak” on flickr

Just one day until the 2011 NFL Draft now so it’s high time to get a mock draft done! I was going for the first round only, but I’m going to carry on until pick #33 simply because the Pats hold that pick. Mock drafts are hard enough without trades so I’m not including them, although it’s highly likely the Patriots will choose to trade in the 1st round. Hopefully they move up for a top talent but I’m not making any trade predictions. So, let’s begin with mock draft…

  1. Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
    I am certainly not in support of this pick. As I said when I ranked the quarterbacks, I prefer Blaine Gabbert, and that’s if you’re limiting yourself to a QB. There are tons of better players than Newton in the draft. The Panthers could do with D-line help (Dareus?), a corner (Peterson?), a linebacker (Miller?) but it’s a QB-driven league with no 2nd round pick, and all signs are pointing towards Newton to Carolina at #1.
  2. Denver Broncos – Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
    Denver are going back to the 4-3 defense, and with Dumervil possibly moving back to DE, they might need a linebacker and should consider Von Miller. There are also reports out there that they’re looking at CB Patrick Peterson. In the end though, if I was in charge of shifting Denver’s D back to the 4-3 I’d want to re-equip that D-line and Dareus is a top prospect, well worth the selection.
  3. Buffalo Bills – Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
    Von Miller would be a great selection for the Bills. They need to upgrade the pass rush and Miller can bring that as an OLB in whatever system they choose to go with. They have some young talent in the secondary and that’s the only thing that stopped me from slotting Patrick Peterson here.
  4. Cincinnati Bengals – A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
    A.J. Green might be the best player in this draft, but the needs of the teams above for defense. None of the teams above really need a receiver and while the Panthers could use Green, we’ve always covered why they might go QB. I think the Bengals should be delighted with this scenario and they should take Green.
  5. Arizona Cardinals – Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
    This pick comes down to a philosophical decision regarding the QB position. The Cardinals really need a QB but they also need a CB and Patrick Peterson is a better prospect then Gabbert. In the end though, with no guarantee that they can get a Kevin Kolb type when the league year eventually starts, they have to draft a QB in my opinion. I’d take Peterson but I think they take Gabbert.
  6. Cleveland Browns – Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
    It’ll break my heart because I want him in New England, but I think Quinn might be the pick here. Peterson’s a better prospect but they took Haden last year and they need an edge rusher when they switch back to the 4-3 D this year. I wouldn’t be stunned, however, if they go with an inside guy like Fairley, or even take Da’Quan Bowers. He won’t fall as far as people are projecting in my opinion.
  7. San Francisco 49ers – Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
    As the 49ers, I’d tell the runner to get his running shoes on if Peterson fell to  #7. One of the best players in the draft and at a need position? Perfect. If he’s gone, I wouldn’t rule out a QB is one falls or Prince Amukamara. Those are the real need positions for the 49ers.
  8. Tennessee Titans – Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
    Former Auburn D-line coach Tracy Rocker took the same job for the Titans in February so this seems to be a fit. However, if Rocker knows Fairley the best out of anyone in the NFL, he might also know his flaws and his character and if he falls to Tennessee and they pass that’d sure be interesting.
  9. Dallas Cowboys – Tyron Smith, OT, USC
    Although a RT in college, Smith might be the best LT prospect in the draft and the Cowboys really need this position. I wouldn’t rule out Prince Amukamara here either, as the Cowboys secondary is weak, particularly at safety but also at corner.
  10. Washington Redskins – Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
    The Redskins’ secondary is in need of a boost and Carlos Rogers might be on his way out. Julio Jones would be awfully tempting here, as would Jake Locker but I think the ‘Skins will pull the trigger on Amukamara because of Jones’s injury concerns and Locker’s accuracy problems.
  11. Houston Texans – J.J. Watt, DT/DE, Wisconsin
    Julio Jones is the best player left on the board and I wouldn’t necessarily rule out the Texans taking him, putting him opposite Andre Johnson and even further improving their explosive offense. Defense is their major concern though, and as they shift from a 4-3 to a 3-4 they might look at getting some stout 3-4 DE types to play the 5 technique and Watt is somewhat raw but definitely talented enough.
  12.  Minnesota Vikings – Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
    With Sidney Rice a free agent and probably a high price one, the Vikings should be very happy if Jones falls into their lap at #12 here. With Newton and Gabbert gone they can address QB later, possibly by trading up into the end of the 1st, or the early 2nd round.
  13. Detroit Lions – Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
    I suspect the Lions would want to trade down from this spot but if they stay put they’ll be looking at offensive tackles or defensive ends. With Vanden Bosch getting on in years I’d take the upside of Bowers and if see if he can get healthy and learn from the veteran before he retires.
  14. St. Louis Rams – Corey Liuget, Illinois
    The Rams would probably have been holding out hope for Julio Jones to drop into their laps here but with him gone they likely wait to get into that strong 2nd round crop of WRs. The Rams need help on the D-line and I think Liuget would be a good addition here. Somewhat raw but a very talented inside lineman.
  15. Miami Dolphins – Mike Pouncey, C/G, Florida
     The Dolphins do need a running back so you often see Mark Ingram here in mocks but I think they’d rather strengthen their interior O-line first and grab a running back in the 2nd or 3rd. Pouncey is a somewhat overrated talent but his brother’s success as a rookie seems to have helped his stock.
  16. Jacksonville Jaguars – Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
    Aaron Kampman is getting on in years and Derrick Harvey is a bust so the Jags need to address defensive end. Kerrigan is a hard-working high-motor guy that has had great production at Purdue, a great school for the position as well.
  17. New England Patriots – Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri
    An outside linebacker that can give the team a legitimate pass rush is the Patriots number 1 need. Aldon Smith is a raw talent, but a natural pass rusher with great upside. Had 14.5 in 18 game stretch at Missouri.
  18. San Diego Chargers – Cameron Jordan, DE, California
    The Chargers need help on the defensive line and Cam Jordan is up there with  JJ Watt as the best prospect for a 3-4 DE. With so many great talents on the D-line in this draft he could slip as far as this but I doubt he goes lower.
  19. New York Giants – Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
    The Giants O-line went unchanged for over two years, a period when they won the Super Bowl. Last year in particular, injuries and losses on the line have cost them and they’ll take the chance here to upgrade by taking an aggressive physical tackle in Carimi.
  20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
    Tampa upgraded the DT spot last year with Gerald McCoy and now they upgrade the end spot with a hugely productive guy. Clayborn’s stock took a hit because of his Erb’s Palsy, but he’s still a great talent.
  21.  Kansas City Chiefs – Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
    The Chiefs need a nose tackle, an OLB and an offensive tackle as a priority. Of the 3 positions, Castonzo offers the best value here and could start for them right away, even though it might have to be at RT.
  22. Indianapolis Colts – Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
    The Colts also need help at tackle, and are lucky to grab the last of what I consider to be the top tier of tackles. It’s quite possible that the pick could be Castonzo or Carimi too, it just depends how the teams above them value each tackle.
  23. Philadelphia Eagles – Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor
    The Eagles need O-line help and they might go OT with Derek Sherrod but I think Watkins is more NFL-ready and with the lockout situation that could help him get the nod for the Eagles over Sherrod. He could also play right tackle for them and he’s really competitive and has a  mean streak.
  24. New Orleans Saints – Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
    Back-to-back Baylor prospects here which Taylor going to the Saints to bolster that D-line that needs so much help. The size of a nose tackle but much more agile than most, he’d be a great addition.
  25. Seattle Seahawks – Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
    If you ranked the CBs by talent alone, Smith could be right with, or ahead of, Amukamara. His character problems have reportedly improved with maturity throughout his college career and the Hawks would have another talented piece in their secondary after drafting Earl Thomas last year.
  26. Baltimore Ravens – Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
    Jared Gaither and the Ravens don’t seem to get along (despite his obvious talent) but they do like Michael Oher. Here they get a talented tackle to play opposite Oher and they can cut Gaither loose as they seem to want to.
  27. Atlanta Falcons – Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
    Versatile and solid across the board, Ayers has few weaknesses and with the top DE talent off the board, the Falcons can address their linebacker need here with a good pass rusher with linebacker instincts.
  28. New England Patriots – Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple
     Reports are out there that the Pats like Mark Ingram and will pull the trigger if the defensive front seven or O-line talent isn’t good value. However, at #28, I think Wilkerson represents great value and fills a greater need. Already has the 300+ lb bulk to play in the Patriots system, which some of the other 3-4 end talents don’t.
  29. Chicago Bears – Cameron Heyward, DT/DE, Ohio State
    Not a natural fit, but with all the top O-line talent gone, the Bears could do a lot worse than slotting Heyward into that D-line. High motor guy that will go for 60 minutes.
  30. New York Jets – Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia
    The Jets really need a pass rusher so I think they’ll reach for Houston with the top talent off the board. They could also go WR with someone like Jon Baldwin or 3-4 DE if one falls.
  31. Pittsburgh Steelers – Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
    Williams is a solid corner, that might have to switch to safety at some point but I think could stick as a nickel/slot corner in the Steelers’ system.
  32. Green Bay Packers – Brooks Reed, OLB, Arizona
    I don’t know if Reed is really a 1st round talent but with the run on edge rushers, Packers will pull the trigger to make sure they don’t end up leaving the draft without one, even if it is a 2nd tier guy.
  33. New England Patriots – Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
    Ingram could have gone at 15, 17, 19, 28 or 32 but with all the positive things I’ve heard linking Ingram to New England, I think it’s highly likely that if this 1st round scenario plays out, the Patriots will see Ingram as better value than a trade down.
Well there we have it. My first ever mock draft! Feel free to let me know what you think with a comment, or a tweet to @RoryWalker or @flyingelvisblog.

Draft Prospects Houston and Ballard Failed Drug Tests

Two prospects touted to go in the late 1st round and 2nd round respectively, Justin Houston and Christian Ballard, failed drug tests for marijuana at the NFL Combine, according to a report by FOX. In the past we’ve seen this. Vontae Davis’ stock didn’t drop. Pecry Harvin’s stock didn’t drop. Maybe Houston and Ballard will be fine.

The thing that gets me about these things is the mental aspect. I’m not bothered by the fact that a 20-something year old college guy did weed. No big deal. What bothers me is that he had plenty of time before the Combine and he knew he would be tested, yet he still couldn’t help himself. It screams “stupidity” to me. There’s a chance that both players might be fits for the Patriots’ system as I discussed previously, but neither are prototypes for the position. Maybe that’s enough to knock them of the draft board for the Pats.

Draft Rankings – Defensive Secondary

Patrick Peterson. Best corner in the draft? Yes. Best player? Maybe! Image via "crawford orthadontics" on flickr.

The 2011 NFL Draft is very unlikely to be remembered as a great safety class, with Rahim Moore being the top safety of a very weak class. The cornerback class looks a lot better though, with two top-15 talents and likely a 3rd CB going late in the 1st round. Patrick Peterson is the highlight, and possibly the best player in the draft. For me it’s Peterson, Von Miller and AJ Green at the top of my board. Here’s my top 10 corners and top 5 safeties in the draft:

Cornerbacks

  1. Patrick Peterson – LSU
    Has the speed, great size for a corner and experience of playing press coverage. Great ball skills and adds immediate return ability. Projection – Should be a top 5 pick but might slip to the 49ers at #7 due to urgent needs for the teams above.
  2. Prince Amukamara – Nebraska
    Another physical guy but slower and smaller. Didn’t have any INTs in 2010 but clearly a top prospect. Projection – Top 10 pick.
  3. Jimmy Smith – Colorado
    Reports are out there that Smith is maturing after some character issues, and he’s another guy with experience of press coverage and he’s certainly a top talent. Projection – 1st round.
  4. Ras-I Dowling – Virginia
    Injuries in 2010 drop Dowling down the board but a year ago he was in the conversation for being a 1st round talent at least. Prototypical size and great value. Projection – 2nd round.
  5. Brandon Harris – Miami (Fla.)
    5-10 burner that has plenty of upside but might have to be a slot corner. Projection – 2nd round.
  6. Aaron Williams – Texas
    Quick feet but it has been said he might be better as a FS and that’s always worrying. Projection – 2nd round.
  7.  Davon House – New Mexico State
    Physical corner from a lower level of competition. Needs some technique work. Projection – 3rd round.
  8. Chimdi Chekwa – Ohio State
    Good speed and size, makes some mental mistakes. Projection – 4th round.
  9. Brandon Burton – Utah
    Pretty solid developmental pick. Projection – 4th round.
  10. Johnny Patrick – Louisville
    Great tackler for a CB. Off-field problems. Projection – 4th round.
Safeties
  1. Rahim Moore – UCLA
    Top safety in a poor class. Supports the run well. Projection – 2nd round.
  2. Quinton Carter – Oklahoma
    Very aggressive safety. Projection – 2nd round.
  3. Tyler Sash – Iowa
    Good vs run, always seems to be in the right place. Projection – 3rd round.
  4.  Ahmad Black – Florida
    Undersized, but he’s an instinctive football player. Projection – 4th-5th round.
  5. DeAndre McDaniel – Clemson
    Good tackler that would be useful on special teams right away. Projection – 5th round.