Owners of professional sports teams have a lot of responsibility when it comes to the success of their franchise. They are the ones putting up massive sums of money in an attempt to generate profit, but they also control the direction of personnel hirings. Much can be said about terrible owners in other sports, such as James Dolan of the Knicks, who can’t seem to get over his love affair with Isaiah Thomas. However, Dolan at least supports his team and his city and wants the best for them. Recent events have revealed an NFL owner who does not display this courtesy, in addition to ineptitude.
I wanted to wait to write this column until the 53-man roster deadline had passed, until teams had used the waiver wire to stock the bottom of their rosters from other team’s castoffs. Now that the dust has settled, we’ll look at some day-three picks we really like. These players represent a combination of value at their selection, contribution right away, and potential down the line. I’ve ranked them by order in which we had them ranked.
20. Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami-FL
Buffalo Bills, Round 7, Pick 237
#123 overall, #14 OT
Henderson was an unusual prospect to grade, with worlds of physical talent dragged down by off-field problems and laziness in developing his technique. It was never clear at Miami whether he just needed good coaching or didn’t have the mental attitude, but all indicators are that he’ll start at right tackle for the Bills over second-round pick Cyrus Kouandijo.
19. E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri
St. Louis Rams, Round 6, Pick 188
#112 overall, #13 CB
Gaines is currently penciled in as one of the Rams’ starting cornerbacks opposite Janoris Jenkins. He had some strong games in the preseason, and while we believed in his abilities as a solid cover corner in various coverages, even we didn’t project a week-one starter.
18. Ronald Powell, LB, Florida
New Orleans Saints, Round 5, Pick 169
#105 overall, #7 LB
It should be no surprise that Powell ended up on Rob Ryan’s Saints defense, as his versatility was a highlight on film. Let vix tell you more.
17. Jonathan Newsome, OLB, Ball State
Indianapolis Colts, Round 5, Pick 166
#104 overall, #15 ER
He popped on film, showing occasional flashes of high-level athleticism, but he also played at Ball State. Developmental, but loads of potential here.
16. David Fales, QB, San Jose State
Chicago Bears, Round 6, Pick 183
#103 overall, #7 QB
Fales has a subpar arm, but showed some good skills in read progressions and decision-making. He didn’t post another 70%+ completion percentage in his senior year, but he was accurate enough. If he can develop his arm strength and refine his skills, he could have a solid career in the league.
15. Corey Linsley, C, Ohio State
Green Bay Packers, Round 5, Pick 161
#101 overall, #2 C
Linsley was a late riser on our board, someone whose film turned out to be significantly better than expected. Conveniently enough for us, we’re going to see just how well that translates to the field very soon, thanks to J.C. Tretter’s injury.
14. Avery Williamson, LB, Kentucky
Tennessee Titans, Round 5, Pick 151
#92 overall, #6 LB
Williamson was a star on the field for the Wildcats, a legitimate three-down linebacker who is strong at shedding blocks and making tackles while also being strong in pass coverage. He held his own for an overmatched Kentucky team, and don’t be surprised if he’s starting in the middle for the Titans soon.
13. Tre Boston, S, North Carolina
Carolina Panthers, Round 4, Pick 128
#87 overall, #6 S
Safety may be one of the more difficult positions for us to evaluate, as reliable all-22 film that includes full footage of the back end is tough to find. That said, Boston graded out well for us as a versatile safety who can tackle and hit. Given Carolina’s losses at safety in free agency (and the past-their-prime veterans they signed to fill the gaps), Boston could be starting sooner rather than later. At least he’ll have a front seven capable of making his job easy. Let vix take you into more detail.
12. Carl Bradford, OLB, Arizona State
Green Bay Packers, Round 4, Pick 121
#85 overall, #13 ER
Bradford needs some development to reach his potential but he showed high levels of athleticism, mostly as an edge rusher but occasionally in coverage too. He won’t be rushed into action in Green Bay; if he works on his craft and develops his technique and strength, he could be a solid all-around player.
11. Kevin Norwood, WR, Alabama
Seattle Seahawks, Round 4, Pick 123
#81 overall, #14 WR
Norwood was mostly regarded as a deep threat at Alabama, which is a little unfair, as he possesses quite a wide range of receiver skills, as well as good size and speed for the position. He had a camp injury that’s kept him buried on Seattle’s depth chart, but long-term he should be part of their rotation, perhaps even one day starting opposite Paul Richardson on the outside.
10. Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina
San Francisco 49ers, Round 4, Pick 106
#77 overall,#13 WR
Ellington is a unique player, a speedy little slot receiver with moves, maneuvers, and vision like a running back. He’ll never be a traditional #1, but he’s the kind of guy who can have a role right away, and I hope the 49ers make the most of his skills. Vix can’t say enough good things about him.
9. Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
Cleveland Browns, Round 4, Pick 127
#75 overall, #10 CB
I had to look up where Lindenwood is, too. Small-school prospects with little to no film against comparable competition are always a gamble, but Desir’s size-speed combo makes him worth it. (Supposedly there’s a tape out there where Desir goes up against John Brown of Pittsburgh St. (KS), Arizona’s third-round selection, but I haven’t been able to locate a copy.)
8. DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State
Tennessee Titans, Round 4, Pick 112
#67 overall,#8 DL
We may have been overrating the very large men who tend to leave the field during passing downs, as we put a number of defensive tackles higher on our board than where they actually were drafted. That said: Jones stands out a consistent, explosive force up the middle who if nothing else will force teams to keep blockers on him if they don’t want him in their backfields.
7. Caraun Reid, DT, Princeton
Detroit Lions, Round 5, Pick 158
#59 overall, #6 DL
Another guy whose level of college competition surely caused NFL teams to be more bearish on him than we were. We saw a guy who, when he wasn’t getting double-teamed, showed great quickness and pad level for his size and ability to rush the passer from a 3-technique. Perhaps Akiem Hicks is a good comparison for possible upside.
6. Ross Cockrell, CB, Duke
Buffalo Bills, Round 4, Pick 109
#56 overall, #8 CB
Not a prospect with outstanding measurables, but man, can he play. Watch his tape from the Chick-Fil-A bowl against Texas A&M: In a game the Blue Devils eventually lost 52-48 (!), Cockrell was largely left in man coverage against Mike Evans and held him to four catches and no scores.
5. Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson
Pittsburgh Steelers, Round 4, Pick 118
#53 overall,#9 WR
Bryant is a very raw prospect, but he’s a physical specimen. Considering guys with his kind of measurables who are even less developed as prospects go in the second round (Why hello there, latest member of the Carolina Panthers practice squad). It’s always a risk whether or not a guy like this develops, but he has admitted that he didn’t take his game as seriously in the past as he does now, which is a great sign of maturity especially for a young prospect. Even though he was inconsistent in college, he wasn’t so much so that you couldn’t reliably throw to him.
4. David Yankey, G, Stanford
Minnesota Vikings, Round 5, Pick 145
#47 overall,#5 OG
Yankey was a prospect much more highly rated in the public eye until he started sliding close to the draft, winding up in the fifth round. We still liked what we saw: a guard with terrific athleticism and great ability to pull, whose blocking needed some refinement but who should still be a solidly capable starter sooner rather than later. Maybe teams didn’t like that he slid inside in 2013 to make room for top offensive tackle prospect Andrus Peat.
3. Dakota Dozier, G/T, Furman
New York Jets, Round 4, Pick 137
#42 overall,#3 OG / #7 OT
What we liked about Dozier that elevated him over your typical small-school lineman prospect was what we saw in his footwork. He’s still developmental to a degree, naturally, but he has the feet to make us think he could play tackle someday (and has a non-zero chance to become a positive left tackle).
2. Telvin Smith, LB, Florida State
Jacksonville Jaguars, Round 5, Pick 144
#34 overall, #1 LB
Smith fell in part because of a positive marijuana test at the Combine. He may have fallen in part because of his size. But for a linebacker prospect, his game speed is incredible, his coverage skills are excellent, and he’s still pretty solid at tackling and run support. C.J. Mosley is the better prospect as a classic every-down middle linebacker, but in a game that’s becoming less about big hits and more about speed and the aerial attack, Smith could be the kind of valuable coverage linebacker that doesn’t come along too often.
Our mystery mountain man of tape, vixticator, breaks him down further.
1. Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
Tennessee Titans, Round 6, Pick 178
#30 overall, #4 QB
For perspective, we had Mettenberger ranked higher than Derek Carr. That was an outlier stance- Carr has much more physical talent overall, and comparing their athleticism would be unfair and mean– but Mettenberger combined a cannon arm with good decision-making and the willingness to stand in the pocket and take a hit. He played QB at a high level for LSU last year, and in the preseason showed some flashes he could develop into a throwback QB, a cannon-armed statue. Sadly for Jake Locker fans, I think that development may need to show as soon as next year.
Finishing up the NFC West grades, I’ll address the offseason performance of the top teams in the NFL’s most competitive division. Before I start, I’ll take a minute to comment on the year-long suspension of Cardinals ILB Daryl Washington. When on the field, he is one of the best players in the league at his position, so it goes without saying that this is a massive loss for the Cardinals. It irks me quite a bit that this suspension is due to multiple failed drug tests for marijuana, while other players face no suspensions for behaviors such as assault and street racing. However, the NFLPA negotiated the terms of the current CBA, so they really have no one to blame for this but themselves. This is not the fault of the Cardinals, so it will not factor into their grade.
I had started doing the NFC West piece in traditional fashion, with the intention of doing all four teams at once. However my writeup on the Rams was so long (as long as some of the entire other divisions combined) and contained so many controversial topics, that I felt their offseason analysis deserved it’s own article.
Time to wrap up this mini-series. The initial thrill of free agency seems to have died down, with close to half the market being signed at this point, at least when considering the major free agents. Once the majority of the starting level players have been signed, I’ll do a piece on this years free agency, evaluating decisions league-wide.
Rather than some short writeups across the league this week, I decided to take a more in-depth look at a situation that, as a fan of good football, bugs me. The St. Louis Rams have, under head coach Jeff Fisher and GM Les Snead, taken a team that was possibly the absolute worst in the league from 2007-2011– totaling 15 wins over those five seasons, including a seven-win season in 2010– and turned them into a team that is, at least, competitive in many games, if not quite ready to take a leap beyond the six- and seven-win dregs.
These improvements might lead one to think that the current nucleus of the team is primed to take a big leap forward soon. I think this is a mirage, and the team’s long-term prospects will be severely hampered if they stick with that core. Read on as I describe the problems.
Recommended lines: 1/5
Solid Leans: 3/6
Pretty terrible week to say the least, but lets go further and break it down.