Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Draft Notes and Thoughts Post Super Bowl

The 2013-14 NFL season is in the books.  The record setting offensive juggernaut that was the Denver Broncos was eaten up alive by the swarming Seattle Seahawks defense.  Some may argue that it was a boring Super Bowl.  I beg to differ.  It was disappointing from a competition standpoint, but it was entertaining nonetheless.  My money was on the Seattle Seahawks for two reasons: a great defense trumps a great offense and as a life long Raider fan, there was no way I could remotely want them to win....even with Peyton Manning.  Some thoughts, musings on the Super Bowl and a mock draft to boot.

* Congrats to Pete Carroll.  As a USC alum, irregardless of how he left the program, I was happy to see him raise up the Lombardi trophy.  It was evident that his coaching philosophy stayed intact in the pro game. That philosophy: Always compete.  Carroll is a huge proponent of competition and that idea permeates into every decision, practice and game he is involved in.  Here's a story about Carroll in a nutshell regarding competition: When Desean Jackson was being recruited out of Long Beach Poly, he wanted to be guaranteed a starting spot if he chose SC.  Pete balked saying that he'd have to compete for the position just like everyone else.  Jackson ended up choosing Cal.  The idea of non-preferential treatment in the pro game may sound like an ill-fit, what with young entitled millionaires, but taking that stance has allowed many players like SB MVP Malcolm Smith to rise up to the occasion.

* The ongoing narrative going into the Combine and free agency is going to be how Seahawks GM John Schneider built that team since he took over in 2010.  In 3 years, Pete Carroll and Schneider completely overhauled that roster, with almost 300 player transactions in their first year alone.  The Raiders and GM Reggie McKenzie have improved in the area of checking out street free agents and bringing in players for workouts.  Now that the Raiders have pulled themselves out of salary cap purgatory, it will be interesting to see how Oakland builds their foreseeable future.

* The NFL is a copy cat league.  The other 31 teams and their personnel guys are going to be looking for certain components that emulate the Super Bowl champs.  Expect big cornerbacks and physical running backs to be talked up during the draft and free agency.  That means a guy like Ohio State's Carlos Hyde might have his stock elevate just for the simple reason that he fits the Marshawn Lynch mold more so than Auburn's Tre Mason or Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey.  Same goes for defensive backs like Nebraska's Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Utah's Keith McGill who were constantly mentioned during Senior Bowl week.  This could skew a lot of scouts to put more weight on the size of the player versus the overall skill set.  A name to keep in mind is former FSU standout and current CFL All-Star Patrick Watkins.  His last season in the NFL was in 2010, but his size (6'5" 225lbs) could garner him some frequent flyer miles during free agency.

As for a physical workhorse back, LSU's Jeremy Hill is a powerful downhill runner who has a running style similar to Eddie Lacy and Legarette Blount.  Hill may work his way into Day 2, but either way, there are some talented and productive RBs in this draft.

* I couldn't help but think that Johnny Manziel's stock went up because of Russell Wilson's play in the Super Bowl.  Because of Wilson's size and skill set, many draft sites and scouts have called Manziel a less mature version of Russell Wilson.  I don't know if that's an accurate assessment, but interesting nonetheless.  Maturity is a huge factor in the NFL, especially when a team is throwing tens of millions of dollars at college kids.  The two are borderline 6' tall (I expect Manziel to measure in under 6' at Indy), are good throwing on the run outside the pocket, and have arms capable of making all the necessary throws.  But that's where the comparisons stop for me.  There's a big difference between Johnny Manziel out on the town kicking it with Rick Ross late night versus a picture of Wilson and his wife visiting sick kids in a hospital.  Sure Manziel has that competitive fire, but at least for the Raiders, he's too much of a wild card to warrant a top 5 pick.

* Sticking to the Seahawks, I'm sure a lot of Raider fans will be comparing Reggie McKenzie to John Schneider seeing as how both guys are disciples of former GM Ron Wolf and current GM Ted Thompson.  Schneider was higher up in the pecking order as the Director of Football operations for 2 years before taking the Seattle position.  Raider fans need to remember that McKenzie's situation in Oakland has been vastly different than Schneider's in Seattle. As much as he was responsible for the draft moves and free agent acquisitions, Pete Carroll was just as instrumental in making sure Schneider went out and got his type of guys.  If you look at that roster, there is a trend amongst positions, such as DEs Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Chris Clemons all filling a specific Carroll-based mold.  I don't know that there is such synergy between coach and GM in Oakland, mostly because Dennis Allen and Pete Carroll are nowhere near the same caliber coach.

* If there is anything for the Raiders to take away from Seattle, its that GM Reggie McKenzie could afford to take on that "leave no stone unturned" mentality when it comes to rebuilding the roster with the $60M plus cap room they'll have this offseason.  We all know by now that McKenzie will probably take a judicious and frugal approach to free agency, but that's where they will trust their player evaluations and scouting.

* Matt Miller, one of the few legit writers on B/R released his 7 round mock draft earlier today post Super Bowl.  Here's what matters:

  • Round 1: QB Blake Bortles UCF
  • Round 2: OG David Yankey Stanford
  • Round 3: RB Ka'Deem Carey Arizona
  • Round 4: DE Marcus Smith Louisville
  • Round 6: DT Jay Bromley Syracuse
  • Round 7a: WR Michael Campanaro Wake Forest
  • Round 7b: CB Ricardo Allen Purdue
Not a bad looking haul....not bad at all.  My hope for the Raiders is that they can maneuver in the draft for value and additional picks, just only if its for the reason of tapping into the record 98 underclassmen in this draft.  But if the draft played out this way, I don't know that many Raiders fans would have much to complain about.  Bortles has extremely high upside and all the attributes of a franchise-caliber QB.  Many are comparing him to Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger, but I see a little more Ryan Tannehill in his game.  Yankey may be underrated (or overrated) at this juncture, but he was the best linemen in one of the top offensive line groups in the BCS.  Ka'Deem Carey is an ultra-productive RB who has the skill-sets to translate over well into the next level.  Marcus Smith and Jay Bromley are both sleepers who are very athletic getting to the QB.  

* Started watching some Stanford games from this season on the DVR. The obvious prospect who gets the most play in draft circles and sites is Trent Murphy mainly with a little bit of S Ed Reynolds.  The guys I'm watching is DE Ben Gardner with the idea of mid round picks who present value.  Gardner is a beast and has the prototypical size at the position.  Some may argue that he's not an explosive player, but he's got a relentless motor and is very strong at the point of attack.  I'd love to see him get picked up in the middle rounds.

* There was a report on Pro Football Talk in regards to the Raiders being interested in Matt Schaub.  I'm sure that it was met with groans from a lot of Raiders fans, but outside of this season, Matt Schaub has been a very good starting QB.  The season before last in 2012, Schaub had a QB rating of over 90 with over 4K yards passing.  A lot of things went wrong in Houston this past season, but the finger can't be pointed solely at Schaub.  A career 64% passer with a QB rating of 90 (this including his 3 years backing up Mike Vick in ATL) would be a welcomed addition on any team.  Adding a veteran like Schaub would be a frugal move on the Raiders' part, not to mention getting him at a good price while his perceived stock is down.

What an addition like Schaub would also do is give the Raiders some flexibility in the draft.  With guys like Teddy Bridgewater, Johhny Manziel and Blake Bortles all vying to be drafted in the top 5 picks, there will be value with the Raiders pick.  They can either sit and take the best non-QB available, like OT Greg Robinson, LB Khalil Mack, WR Sammy Watkins, OT Jake Matthews (even possibly have a shot at Jadaveon Clowney) or use that pick to trade down and increase their draft haul.

* I had mocked Aaron Donald of Pitt to the Raiders in the 2nd round back in December, and after a strong Senior Bowl week, its look more and more like Donald will be gone by then.  Enter Arizona State Will Sutton.  Sutton got a lot of flack from different media outlets that covered the week of practices and even ended up on a few lists as a Senior Bowl disappointment.  Sutton to his credit made a couple of splash plays on game day.  Sutton and Donald are similar type athletes as undersized but extremely active DTs.  Their height (or lack thereof) is a positive for both players because their leverage allows them to win the point of attack and is rarely pushed back. The problem for Sutton this season has been the 25 lbs extra he put on prior to this college season by instruction from the coaching staff.  For a player who relies on snap anticipation and a quick first step, the extra weight has been painfully noticeable.  Sutton has already vowed to be back at his fighting weight, so for a better gauge on him as a draft prospect, watch 2012 game cut ups versus 2013.

Latest mock will be up later this week.

No comments:

Post a Comment