Hey, In case anyone is wondering where I’ve been the past few months, I was offered the opportunity to contribute to the fansided blog NFL Spinzone. I’ve only posted a couple pieces for them so far, but if anyone’s interested I did pieces on the 49ers holdouts and the Panther WR’s. So, feel free to check out those links, and please accept my apologies for the long unexplained absence.
I started this post on Friday, hence the title. I thought about changing it, but I have plans to do a fuller breakdown of rounds 2-7 (hopefully early next week) so I’m keeping it until I think of something better.
1. Texans selected OLB/DE Jadaveon Clowney
I would have been shocked if it was anyone else, Clowney has a support system already in place in Houston, the owner loves him and he’s got a great coaching staff to bring out his best. Playing alongside J.J. Watt means the double teams that restricted Clowney’s effectiveness as a junior should all but disappear. Word is that Crennel sees Clowney fitting into the hybrid DE/OLB role that Patriots great Willie McGinest once played in Crennel’s New England days.
2. Rams selected OT Greg Robinson
I really thought Khalil Mack had a shot here, but there’s no arguing with the pick. Robinson is an ideal fit in St. Louis where he’ll likely start out at Right Tackle or Guard with the intention of sliding back over to the Left Tackle spot he played at Auburn as early as 2015 if Jake Long fails to regain his form after suffering a torn ACL late last season. (Long is under contract through 2015, but the Rams can cut Long for minimal financial loss after the 2014 season if they need to.)
3. Jaguars selected QB Blake Bortles
I did not expect the Jags to pass on Khalil Mack or Sammy Watkins, and they passed on both. I didn’t think taking any QB this high was wise, but by the end of the process I was convinced Bortles would go top 5 (had him going to Browns at 4) and if the Jags were sold on getting a top QB, I think Bortles was the best choice. He’s pretty much a local having played at UCF, so he’ll help sell tickets and he’s really the only QB in this draft who checks all the boxes (namely: size, mobility, arm talent.) I’ll like this pick a lot more if the Jags can land a top WR in the second and a quality pass rusher in the third (or vice versa.) Could they have moved down and still gotten Bortles? Probably, but they would have to move past 2 if not 3 teams with a need at the position and that is a very risky place to be.
4. Buffalo Bills trade w/Cleveland Browns to select WR Sammy Watkins
Love the player, like the fit, but my gut reaction was that the Bills gave up too much (9th pick this year, plus 1st and 4th rounders next year.) I actually like the deal much better now that the Bills have traded Stevie Johnson to the 49ers for a conditional 4th round pick next year that could become a 3rd rounder. Granted, coming from the 49ers it will be a pick late in the round, but it showed me that the Bills had a plan in place to deal with what had suddenly become a crowded WR spot. The Watkins trade was about getting younger and giving EJ Manuel a true #1 and go to WR to pair with a strong supporting cast of Mike Williams, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin and TJ Graham.
5. Oakland Raiders selected OLB Khalil Mack
Mack fell to the Raiders and they did not hesitate. It’s being assumed that Mack will play the ‘Von Miller’ role in Dennis Allen’s defense and I’d say he’s well suited to it. I really like the direction the Raiders are moving in this offseason and I’m especially excited to see what this revamped defense can do, with Mack as it’s centerpiece.
6. Atlanta Falcons select OT Jake Matthews
Nice pick by the Falcons, you sort of knew they would be going tackle with Mack and Clowney off the board, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that they got an exceptionally talented player at a position of dire need. Like Robinson, Matthews will probably start his career on the right side, though Sam Baker has been inconsistent at best on the left side new line coach Mike Tice might be willing to give him one more shot while Matthews builds up his strength and gets acclimated to the NFL.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers select WR Mike Evans
I had really started to sell myself on the Manziel to Tampa hype, but that was always conditioned on Mike Evans being off the board by the 7th pick. Tampa needed a receiver and they got a great one. Evans isn’t a polished route runner yet, but he’s a big bodied WR who knows how to box out defenders and make the catch in coverage. Vincent Jackson should provide a good role model for Evans while also taking pressure off the veteran. It also means Josh McCown and Mike Glennon won’t have to worry much about overthrowing their top targets.
8. Cleveland Browns trade w/Minnesota Vikings to select CB Justin Gilbert
Shades of the 2011 draft when Minnesota scared the Browns into trading up from number 4 to number 3 to select Trent Richardson, but that aside I love this pick. When the ‘Lions looking to trade up for Sammy Watkins’ rumors were at their peak I actually thought the Browns might try to trade down to #10 to take Gilbert (whom I and many other people speculated would otherwise be taken at the 10 spot by Detroit.) Instead it was the Bills who made the trade, but the result is the same the Browns filled a trouble spot on their roster opposite Joe Haden, and added a dynamic punt returner. The Browns defense is another unit I look forward to seeing in action this season.
9. Minnesota Vikings select DE/OLB Anthony Barr
If you read my re-mock just before the draft, you already know I love this pick. Barr is still unpolished, but he is such an explosive athlete who will be a great fit in Mike Zimmer’s offense, and will hopefully take some of the sting out of losing Jared Allen to the division rival Bears this offseason.
10. Detroit Lions select TE Eric Ebron
I’ll be honest, I didn’t quite buy the Lions interest in Ebron, but I was also willing to place my faith in Joseph Fauria as the pass catching TE in Detroit. It’s a pick that makes the Lions scary, giving Matt Stafford another weapon and creating match-up problems for teams outside of Calvin Johnson. He’ll probably get split out wide a lot and he’s a dangerous target to have over the middle. It’s not the pick I would have made, but I won’t knock it, he’s a good fit and Jim Caldwell likes to throw to the TE.
11. Tennessee Titans selected OT Taylor Lewan
I never really bought that Tennessee would go CB in the first round, but it seemed like the offensive line had been addressed last year and in a deep class they might look for a swing tackle later in the draft. But, once again it’s hard to argue with the pick, Lewan was arguably the best player on the board and current left tackle Michael Roos is 31, and on the right side Michael Oher does not necessarily inspire confidence. Lewan’s talent should dictate that he wind up starting, whether it’s through the clearing of a roster spot or winning a position battle. This move likely gives the Titans one of the strongest O-lines in the league.
12. New York Giants selected WR Odell Beckham
This was probably the biggest surprise of the night for me. I like the fit and I love Beckham’s skill set, but the Giants are just not a team that drafts position players this high, so to see Beckham go to the Giants at #12 in a deep class of WR was a little bit of a shock. But like I said, it’s a good fit, Beckham can play inside as well as outside and he can stretch the field as well as anybody. Hakeem Nicks left big shoes to fill, but I think Beckham will prove he’s up to the task.
13. St. Louis Rams selected DT Aaron Donald
With the offensive line addressed the Rams go for the top player on their board, the tenacious 3 technique out of Pitt, Aaron Donald. Donald’s stock blew up from late round flier to best DT in the class and I’m still not sure I trust it. Donald is undersized with short arms, but it’s hard to argue with the production, and starting on a front 4 that includes Chris Long, Robert Quinn and Michael Brockers will make it easy to forget about the 6’0 tackle shredder (that is of course until he’s ripping the opposing QB to the dirt.) In short, I’m not sold on him as a dominant individual, but he’s a great fit in St. Louis.
14. Chicago Bears selected CB Kyle Fuller
Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings are both back, but their on the wrong side of 30 and it’s unlikely Tillman plays past the 2014 season. Enter Fuller a rangy 6’0 corner with 4.5 speed who’s not afraid to come up and make tackles in run support. He’s likely to start inside at the nickel spot in 2014 while learning the NFL game from Jennings and Tillman before likely taking over for the latter in 2015. There were some other needs on defense, but with 5 pass rushers already off the board and only one corner gone the Bears get a guy they know will fit their scheme.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers selected OLB Ryan Shazier
Dennard was the popular pick here with Shazier pegged more for the later round, but in the past two seasons the team has lost franchise legends James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley at the OLB spot and those shoes can’t be filled by just anybody. Shazier is a little small, but he’s an exceptional athlete who plays fast and is extremely competitive. The Steelers are hoping he gives last year’s first round pick, Jarvis Jones, a running mate for the next ten years. Cornerback is deep enough that it can be more easily addressed in the later rounds, and adding a speed rusher like Shazier will make things much easier on whoever they decide to play in the secondary.
16. Dallas Cowboys selected OT Zack Martin
Jerry Jones wanted Manziel, and honestly I don’t blame him if you gave me the ages and scouting reports with the names and fan response redacted, but Romo is Romo and Manziel is Manziel and Zack Martin is the 16th overall pick. Tony Romo has to love this, Cowboys go offensive lineman in the first for the second year in a row, and as much as Travis Frederick was panned for being a reach he played very well in his rookie season. Martin was another quick climber who the Dolphins were really hoping would fall to them. He’s a polished blocker who dominated at the Senior Bowl, has the flexibility to play multiple positions on the line and should slide immediately into the starting line up as a RT or Guard.
Dr. Strange Run, or How Trent Richardson Exposed the Flaws in Draft Evaluation and Tanked the Value of Running BacksPosted: May 10, 2014 in Uncategorized
In the 2012 NFL draft the Cleveland Browns selected running back Trent Richardson from the University of Alabama with the 3rd overall pick in that year’s draft. The only two players taken ahead of him were QB’s Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. On it’s surface it seems like just another draft day gaffe for Browns (who are actually off to a really solid first 3 rounds this year) but the fact is Richardson was the consensus top running back in that year’s draft with rumors that if Cleveland didn’t take him the Buccaneers or someone else would. The Browns even swapped their original #4 pick with the Vikings pick at #3 to keep another team from jumping ahead of them for the right to land the man being touted as the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. By the end of the 1st round that year 3 running backs had been taken (David Wilson to the Giants, and Doug Martin to the Buccaneers.)
For those of you not familiar with the story, Richardson had trouble staying healthy his rookie year and revealed at the end of the season that even when he was on the field he was playing through pain. Which really only made his 950 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns more impressive. But the next year the honeymoon was over, Cleveland had hired a new staff of coaches who weren’t thrilled with what Richardson brought to the table and he was dealt to the Indianapolis Colts, for a 1st round pick in this year’s (2014) draft. At the time, the Colts seemed to have made out like bandits, getting such a young and talented player at a position of sudden need with Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw injured. But Richardson’s struggles continued last season in Indianapolis, blame fell on a lack of time to adjust properly to the new scheme and the Colts remain confident Richardson can be a steady contributor to their offense, but the takeaway is that no one has any idea how well a RB will transition to the NFL and their careers are considered as good as done by the time they’re 30.
Now, I’m not looking to put all the blame on Richardson. David Wilson and Doug Martin also had very promising rookie season’s with Martin finishing as one of the leagues top rushers before injury wiped away an unimpressive start to his 2013 season. David Wilson combined injuries with ball security issues to find himself on the Giants bench for most of 2013. And even still, I’m not looking to place the blame squarely on these 3 young men, but if Trent Richardson ran for 1500 yards and 10 TDs in 2013 with another 250 receiving yards and 2 TD catches I would be willing to bet there would have been a RB taken in round 1 this year.
You might be saying to yourself, well, look at Eddie Lacy he had a great year for Packers, if my theory holds true, shouldn’t that have boosted the draft stock of a guy like Bishop Sankley? (Who had to wait almost as long for his name to be mentioned in this article as he did to hear his name called at the NFL draft) And the answer is, sort of. This year, NFL teams were all in a staring contest at the running back position. There was no clear cut number, so no one wanted to be the first to blink and take a guy in the 2nd only to watch a guy you had rated just as highly go 2 rounds later to a division rival who also added two more, presumably, better players at other positions. This is why once Sankley came off the board at number 54, two of the next three picks were Running backs (Jeremy Hill at 55 to Cincinnati and Carlos Hyde at 57 to the 49ers.) It’s not so much that running backs are being devalued as it is no one in the NFL has any idea how to value them. A good running back can change your franchise. As good as their defense is and as much of a story as Russell Wilson is the Seahawks don’t make it to the Superbowl without Marshawn Lynch. The 49ers would not have made the playoffs the last 3 years if not for the efforts of Frank Gore. Teams understand the importance of a good running game, they just haven’t quite figured out how to get one.
For now at least, the 2nd round seems to be where the value is, and it makes sense. No matter what their injury history was in college the running back position in the NFl is physically demanding enough that every player at the position carries a higher than average injury risk, and that hurts their value. Most teams employ some form of running back by committee or another so the fact that this is a player that won’t see the field on every offensive snap even when full healthy also hurts their value matched up against other positions. And of course, it’s no coincidence the last few years draft classes have been heavy on offensive lineman as teams are finally realizing that everything starts with the big men up front. All the talent in the world won’t make you an effective runner if there’s a linebacker meeting you in the backfield as soon as you touch the ball. So, as the value of offensive lineman and defensive lineman rises the value of running backs fall necessarily to balance it out. We’re actually seeing something similar at the QB position, but there’s still enough of them being taken in the first round to stave off the rumors that their value is also dropping.
We are less than a week away from the draft and it seems like we’re no closer to a consensus on where any of the top players in this year’s class will land. So, I guess that means my guess is as good as any, right?
1. Houston Texans select DE/OLB Jadaveon Clowney
He’s got a ready made support system in Houston and is widely regarded as the premiere talent in this class. The work ethic concerns seem to be a product of frustration with the consistent double and triple teams he saw and I don’t expect it to carry over into the pros. I’m still giving Greg Robinson a shot as a draft day surprise, but the fact is Clowney makes the Texans defense scary good and puts them right back in the playoff mix (yes, even with Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB.)
2. St. Louis Rams select OLB Khalil Mack
Credit to the guys at WalterFootball.com for this one, where their sources believe the Rams are leaning towards Mack as the best player available if they can’t deal the pick (which would be their first choice here at #2.) Mack played in a 3-4 scheme at Buffalo, but he has the size, speed and cover skills to survive in a 4-3. Like Clowney, his addition makes the Rams defense scary good. I’d hate to be the Tackle lined up against Robert Quinn with Mack peeking over his shoulder.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars select WR Sammy Watkins
The Jags get saved from a tough call here with Mack off the board. Cecil Shorts is solid and Mike Browns showed some flashes, there is a desperate need for a true #1 receiver. Watkins is only 6’1 but he plays big. He can give the Jags all the promise of Justin Blackmon without the suspensions. As a bonus he’s a sexy pick that can excite the fan base without the risk of jumping at a QB early.
4. Cleveland Browns select QB Blake Bortles
The Browns GM has said that taking a QB at #4 isn’t ideal, and well, it isn’t, but Sammy Watkins is off the board and Bortles actually seems like a solid fit. I see Bortles as Matt Schaub 2.0 for Kyle Shanahan, he’s got the size and the arm, but he’s also got mobility. Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews could be in play here to play RT opposite franchise stalwart Joe Thomas, but locking up Bortles early frees up that #26 pick to be used on the best available player at RT, CB or WR, all fairly deep positions of need for the Browns expected to still have top talent available at that #26 spot.
5. Oakland Raiders select WR Mike Evans
Another credit to the guys at Walter Football. I still really like Anthony Barr, especially with all the veterans Oakland brought in, but there’s pressure to hit with an immediate impact player at #5 and Evans is the best combination of talent and need. The signings of Penn and Howard take pressure off the tackle spots, especially in a deep class when you’re still waiting to see what Melenik Watson can do. Evans is a big-bodied Red Zone threat who can make plays down the field opposite James Jones and give Matt Schaub an Andre Johnson-type receiver to work with and make life infinitely easier for Matt McGloin or whichever rookie they end up drafting.
6. Atlanta Falcons select OT Greg Robinson
The Falcons need help on the line and they’re thrilled to get Robinson here at #6. The thought is that Robinson will line up on the right side for his rookie season, but if Sam Baker continues to struggle on the left Robinson could be plugged in as Matt Ryan’s blind side protector. Either way he improves the line as a unit and brings a forceful run blocking presence to a team that had trouble gaining yards on the ground last season.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers select QB Johnny Manziel
I just can’t get this idea out of my head. It’s a perfect fit for both team and player. With veteran QB Josh McCown acting as a mentor and offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford as his teacher Manziel could be great. I feel bad for Mike Glennon, but with the Texans and Vikings both looking for pocket passers with prototypical size and arm strength and a draft class that lacks in that area the Buccaneers should have no trouble getting at least a 2nd round pick this year or/and next year which is still a nice return on a 3rd string QB that doesn’t fit your system.
8. Minnesota Vikings select OLB/DE Anthony Barr
Barr has already been approached about possibly playing DE by the Cowboys and said he’s all for it. Barr is unpolished, having only played on the defensive side for a year, but new Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer knows how to work with raw talent and there seems to be little question about Barr’s work ethic. He may struggle early, but I’d expect him to be a truly disruptive force by the end of his rookie season.
9. Buffalo Bills select OT Jake Matthews
The Bills probably never thought Matthews would be available this late in the draft, but here he is, and while Eric Ebron and Haha Clinton-Dix are tempting, Matthews is the most talented prospect still on the board. Matthews would likely slide in at RT, and give the Bills two powerful bookends, equally adept at protecting EJ Manuel, and creating holes for CJ Spiller.
10. Detroit Lions select WR Odell Beckham
Beckham’s stock has been steadily rising for months and I think this is where he lands. The Lions heavy interest in Sammy Watkins early in the draft process says that they’re starting to prepare for life without Calvin Johnson. Beckham is an ideal pick as he can easily play inside while he gets up to pace in the NFL and give the Lions another speedy big play weapon that can create plays in space. Beckham’s versatility and work habits also make him ideal for a Jim Caldwell run offense.
Tags: 2014, Buccaneers, draft, Johnny, Manziel, NFL, Steve, Young
One month ago today I wrote a post about how comparisons between Johnny Manziel and Hall of Fame QB Steve Young were not the compliment they might seem to be at first glance. I’ll give you the short version: Young was drafted by the Buccaneers where he struggled as a starter for two years due to his scrambling tendencies and a talent poor roster. Of course he was then traded to the 49ers where he would sit behind Joe Montana for a few seasons before going on to said Hall of Fame career.
Recently the Buccaneers have been linked to Manziel, possibly at the #7 pick should he fall to them. For Mike Glennon’s sake I’m hoping it’s a smokescreen, but after spending the day reading mock drafts and scouting reports on WalterFootball.com I’ve come to the realization that Mike Evans, who I’ve had as the Bucs no brainer pick at no. 7 could well be gone before they pick (specifically to Oakland at #5.) If Watkins and Evans are both gone it creates an interesting situation for the Bucs. Eric Ebron would be the best offensive weapon available, and while I like the fit, Ebron isn’t the top 10 lock that Evans is (in my opinion anyway.) There would likely be one of the big 3 OT available, but with the ink still drying on Anthony Collins’ deal and a deep class at tackle it feels like a luxury.
That brings us to Manziel. It’s possible that, like Jerry Rice, the Buccaneers view Manziel as a young, raw version of Steve Young and the number 7 pick as their re-do at a future hall of famer. With Josh McCown on board, and the coaching staff very much enamored with him, Manziel could take his rookie season to get his game up to NFL speed. (Something Tampa never had the chance to do with Young) While I don’t think Manziel would be too spend his rookie season on the sidelines, he can be convinced. After all, he’d be under the tutaledge of renowned QB whisper, Jeff Tedford, who seems to work wonders with mobile QBs with big arms (he’s the reason Kyle Boller went 19th in 2003 draft) Spending year one holding a clipboard and learning from a seasoned veteran in McCown and a QB guru in Tedford makes this the ideal situation for Manziel. And of course if Manziel ends up looking like the better QB by the time week 1 rolls around he could skip the waiting and start right away having won the job from a capable veteran.
The Buccaneers went out and spent money in free agency on young talent, Michael Johnson and Alteraun Verner helped round out a stout defensive unit that seems poised to shine under Lovie Smith’s leadership. And on the offensive side of the ball Donald Penn and Jeremy Zuttah were replaced by Anthony Collins, and Evan Dietrich-Smith. The running games is solid with Doug Martin leading the charge and Mike James and Bobby Rainey proving their merit last season when Martin was injured. The passing game needs work but there’s plenty of depth at WR, so I’d look for Tampa to add at least two pass catchers who can contribute right away. Allen Robinson or Davonte Adams could be intriguing second round options. In any case, the Bucs have the making of a very good team. If they believe in Johnny Manziel’s talent they might offer the best combination of young talent, veteran leadership and strong coaching to make Manziel a star.
But what about Mike Glennon? I have some ideas that I’ll be revealing in another post, but like I said Tedford seems to work best with mobile QB’s and it’s possible Glennon just doesn’t fit the system. They won’t get rid of him until there’s a clear replacement, and even then Glennon salary as a second year player taken in the third round would allow them to hold on to Glennon as insurance, McCown is 34 and there’s concerns about Manziel’s durability or until they get a trade offer they think is fair…but that’s a matter for another post.
After a week of gang ties, release and resigning the dust is settling around former Eagle turned Redskins’ WR DeSean Jackson. There is, however, still one very important question left to unanswered: What does this mean for my fantasy football team?
It’s no secret that the Redskins were a disaster on the field last season, and in an instance of fantasy imitating reality, any Redskin not named Pierre Garcon ended up with a disappointing season. Robert Griffin put up big numbers early, but was inconsistent and ended the year on the bench, and Alfred Morris had a solid statistical year finishing 14th among running backs, but after being touted as a top 10 back and likely first round pick, finishing behind Ryan Matthews and Fred Jackson was a tough pill to swallow for Morris owners (I should know, I was one of them.) The good news is, Morris and Griffin could live up to last year’s billing this year, at this year’s reduced rate.
The biggest winner here is Robert Griffin III. Rather than dealing with last year’s rag tag receiving corps RG3 now has 3 legitimate receivers, (yes, I consider Andre Roberts to be legitimate, but more on him later) who can all stretch the field, and more importantly do damage when the get the ball in space on screens and slants. Having to account for that much speed, especially if TE Jordan Reed can stay healthy, means fewer defenders focused on Griffin, so even if the defense manages to cover everyone up, he’ll be able to find space to scramble and gain some yards for himself. This, is not specific to the Jackson signing, but I also see Griffin taking a big step forward as a leader this season. I think the 2013 season was a sobering experience for the 2012 rookie of the year, from coming back too early from his injury, to sitting out the last few games of the season. Jay Gruden has already stated he expects a lot out of his QB, and I expect RG3 to take that as a personal challenge to continue improving, to take charge of, and responsibility for this offense. He has the weapons, he has the talent, and if he plays all 16 games RG3 could easily reclaim his place as a top 5 fantasy QB this year.
Pierre Garcon gets the runner up spot for biggest boost based on the signing. The bad news is, Garcon is unlikely to catch 113 passes again this year, but that’s a good thing. Garcon’s high catch numbers were the product of a stagnant offense that had to force the ball to it’s best receiver and Garcon’s yards per catch suffered as a result. Garcon will likely be closer to 80-90 catches on the season, but I still expect him to eclipse 1,000 yards and a more effective offense means more scoring chances and Garcon could conceivably improve on his 5 TDs from 2013. Bottom line: Garcon should replicate or improve upon his 2013 point total, but could be less consistent week to week. Watch the match-ups with better corners as Jackson’s presence could make him easy to ignore. Think of Garcon more like Jeremy Maclin playing alongside Jackson when he was healthy and less like AJ Green playing opposite Marvin Jones last year in Cincinnati.
DeSean Jackson comes out no worse for the wear. He was a beast in Chip Kelly’s offense last year, but even if he stayed in Philly he was never going to repeat his 2013 numbers. Like Garcon, Jackson benefitted from a higher than usual volume of targets in this case caused by an injury to Jeremy Maclin that would end his 2013 season before it began. Expect Jackson to go back to catching around 60 passes per year (instead of the 80 he caught in 2013) but he’ll make the most of those 60, and could reach the 1,000 yard plateau…just don’t expect another 9 touchdowns.
Andre Roberts is probably the only guy I would say is affected negatively by this trade. Before Jackson’s addition I was eyeing Roberts as a sleeper candidate with defenses giving all their attention to Pierre Garcon, but now barring an injury to either Jackson or Garcon it seems Roberts’ fantasy value will be limited. Don’t underestimate his team value though, especially if he ends up as the primary punt/kick returner (a position he held his first two seasons with the Cardinals before being replaced by Patrick Peterson.) Assuming the rest of the special teams unit actually decides to show up this year, that facet of the game should be much improved.
What about Alfred Morris you ask? Well, for him it’s a bit too soon to tell. Jackson’ addition is definitely good for the running game, (more defenders in coverage means fewer in the box) but just how good for Morris in particular? That will depend on how Gruden chooses to use Morris. The good news is, Jay Gruden’s offense runs the ball more than you think: BenJarvus Green-Ellis carried it 220 times last season, the bad news is that’s 50 fewer attempts than Morris had. But back to the good news, Morris averages a yard more per carry than Green-Ellis, and while Roy Helu could fill a Giovanni Bernard-type 3rd down/change of pace back role, Morris’ play could earn him more snaps, and he will get the majority of goal line and clock kill work. Keep an eye on what the Redskins do in the draft at the position and how reps are split in OTA’s, but Morris should be a strong RB2 with RB1 upside if he can crack double digit touchdowns like he did in his rookie season.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that any offensive success the Redskins could have this year, will have to be dependent on improved play from the offensive line. Jay Gruden is bringing in a lot of new guys as he switches from Mike Shanahan’s favored zone blocking scheme, to a power blocking scheme. They’ve brought it some decent talent, but I’m hoping they use at least a couple draft picks continuing to solidify what was a porous overall unit in 2013.
I’ll toss in one last disclaimer, since I’m predicting two 1,000 yard pass catchers to a team that finished 3-13 last season. I’m making my predictions based on everyone staying healthy and playing all 16 games at a level consistent with their past production, but the NFL makes no guarantees. If you’re still feeling unsure that the offensive line will hold up or that RG3 will make the necessary strides as a pocket passer might I suggest one week fantasy football leagues? It’s all of the fun without the commitment. Pick up a player when he’s hot and drop him when he’s not.
Tags: 2014, draft, football, Gruden, Jerry, Johnny, Jon, Manziel, NFL, Rice, Steve, Young
Johnny Manziel has seen his stock rise from a number of draft analysts following an impressive performance at Texas A&M’s pro day, and that has the media outlets buzzing about his potential. Specifically, Manziel has drawn what seems like high praise from two very respected names in the world of football. Former Head Coach and QB Guru Jon Gruden, and Hall of Fame Receiver Jerry Rice have both compared Manziel to hall of fame QB and Super Bowl champion Steve Young. Why do I say that only seems like high praise? Well, because they aren’t comparing Manziel to the finished product, but rather the fresh out of BYU brimming with potential Steve Young who saw his professional career begin in the USFL, before being picked up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a supplemental draft. It always seems to be lost in the legend, at least to the casual fan, but Steve Young was not an overnight success. Young had a record of 3-16 as a starter in two years with a struggling Buccaneers squad before being traded to the 49ers where he would serve as Joe Montana’s back-up for a few years before claiming the starting job.
For what it’s worth I think the comparisons are accurate. Manziel is a few inches shorter shorter than Young, but both were considered undersized and used their legs to get out of trouble often. Young didn’t become a truly great QB until he learned to throw from the pocket, and it’s no secret that Manziel will have to do the same. There is a lot of potential and raw talent in Manziel, but the trouble with any team drafting him in the first round, particularly in the top 10 is that there will be pressure to start him right away and that could be a mistake. Teams need to be willing to take the Aaron Rodgers approach to Manziel, let him learn from the sideline for a bit. Or, if the talent is just too tantalizing, at least settle for a Russell Wilson approach, let him come in and compete for a job, just don’t feel pressure to make him the day one starter if he’s not coming along as quickly as you hoped.
The NFL is littered with draft picks who were rushed into a bad situation and suffered because of it. The Jaguars Blaine Gabbert serves as the most recent glaring example. Gabbert had all the physical tools to succeed, but coming from a spread offense had trouble picking up blitzes. Given a year on the sidelines to study and adjust he may have learned enough to protect himself. Instead he was rushed into the starting line-up and a porous O-Line mixed with a tendency to hold on to the ball too long lead to sack after sack. Gabbert never looked comfortable in the pocket after that…something the 49ers are hoping to fix this season after acquiring the passer for a late round pick.
In short, if Manziel really is the next coming of Steve Young it’s not the Jaguars, Texans, or Browns that should be looking at him, but rather the Saints, Patriots and Manziel’s childhood favorite team the Cowboys that should be looking to Manziel as a Superstar to be groomed behind an aging franchise QB.