He, guys. New podcast with reaction to the first three rounds from representatives of the Bears (me), Patriots, Eagles, and Panthers. Give it a listen.
- Regular readers of this blog will know that I participated in a mock draft with other fans around the country representing all 32 teams. Former ESPN producer Jay Soderberg put us all together to explain our picks in a podcast. The first 16 picks are located here. I, of course, made the Bears pick at number seven. I also came on and defended the Titans’ pick (though I didn’t make it). Part two is located here where I helped discuss what Buffalo will do in the last ten minutes of the podcast (they were without a first round pick).
- Former Super Bowl winning head coach and current ESPN analyst Jon Gruden and I see 100% eye to eye on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.
- Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com looks at the Bears newly released schedule and says it looks like 7-9. I figure if the Bears split with the Vikings and Lions that sounds about right.
- Nate Atkins at chicagofootball.com reviews the personnel record of Bears general manager Ryan Pace. Pace found some good offensive linemen in the later rounds of the draft. Other than that, his record is disturbingly mediocre. Atkins isn’t too tough on him but he implies that Pace and Director of Player Personnel Josh Lucas need to do better if they want to turn the Bears around. I can only agree.
- John Mullin at csnchicago.com rates the need to draft a quarterback as “low”, pointing out that even though Pace has said he’d like to draft one every year, they didn’t do it in New Orleans. But New Orleans had Drew Brees not Jay Cutler. It’s an interesting evaluation of the current roster situation.
One of the things I’ll be most interested in seeing on Friday or (more likely) Saturday is if the Bears take a quarterback, particularly in the second or third round. Bears head coach John Fox and Pace have gone out of their way to not sound too thrilled with Cutler in their comments to the media. But, as I said yesterday, it’s actions that count not words. If the Bears draft a quarterback, particularly in a round high enough to reasonably expect said quarterback to start at some point in the future, then I’ll believe that Fox’s and Pace’s words are more than just a motivational ploy for Cutler.
- Jeff Dickerson at ESPN actually had a fan ask him if it was possible San Diego would trade Philip Rivers for Cutler straight up. [head shake].
- Dickerson also reports that Martellus Bennett isn’t showing up for voluntary workouts. Given that he just signed a new deal in March 2013, I think the odds are good this isn’t about his contract. It’s more likely Bennett saying to himself, “‘Voluntary’ means ‘voluntary’. I don’t feel like showing up so I won’t.”
No one will argue that Bennett isn’t within his rights. We all know that Bennett marches to the beat of his own drum. I won’t repeat what I said in a previous post on Bennett last summer. Bennet apparently hasn’t learned much since then.
If Fox didn’t know what a job he had in front of him building an esprit de corps amongst the players, he knows now. He wouldn’t have gotten far with Lance Briggs still on the team. I’m not suggesting they immediately trade Bennett (they probably couldn’t without it looking punitive, anyway) but you do start to wonder how far Fox will get as long a Bennett is still around, as well. I wouldn’t mind an extra pick in next year’s draft. If Bennett causes the same kind of trouble this summer he did last summer – and I’d say he’s on his way – we may not see him around for 2016.
- Rob Demovsky at ESPN predicts the results of each Packers game. He has them at 11-5. It’s entirely possible that at the moment they’d be favored in every game.
- Matt Forte isn’t the only division player who has decided to forego offseason workouts. According to Michael Rothstein at ESPN, Lions safety James Ihedigbo won’t be showing up to any voluntary workouts until he gets a new contract. Ihedigbo was a fairly important component of the Lions defense last year. All indications are he’ll be there for the mandatory workouts and I doubt this will have much effect on anyone.
- ESPN‘s Scouts Inc. has posted their board with all of the players they have a draftable grade on stacked by position. For those without and Insiders subscription I’ll tell you the first and most important relevant takeaway – they have 20 players with a first round grade. The round has 32 slots. Should be interesting.
One Final Thought
Mullin continues to point out the distinct possibility that Jimmy Clausen could provide a moderate level of competition for Cutler. Clausen “played creditably against one of the elite NFL defenses (Detroit) after four years of no-play and coming in with a short practice week after the Monday night loss to New Orleans, further shortened by Marc Trestman canceling the Wednesday practice before the Detroit game.” Bears head coach John Fox obviously likes Clausen a great deal personally despite his struggles in Carolina just as current Carolina head coach Ron Rivera has said he does. So there must be something there that makes people at least want him to succeed.
People think I’m pushing Clausen because I don’t like Cutler and don’t believe he’ll ever succeed at a high level. And they’re right. But I’m also not stupid. I know that Cutler will very likely win such a competition based upon talent. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that with a good showing in camp and in the pre-season, Clausen could see time at quarterback if Cutler stumbles. Clausen’s going to be a genuine alternative and the guess here is that the Bears are going to be only one more game like the one against New Orleans in 2014 from once again seeing him.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune puts up his mock draft. Here are his top 10 picks:
1. Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
2. Titans: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
3. Jaguars: Dante Fowler, DE, Florida
4. Raiders: Leonard Williams, DT, USC
5. Redskins: Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
6. Jets: Randy Gregory, OLB, Nebraska
7. Bears: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
8. Falcons: Bud Dupree, DE, Kentucky
9. Giants: Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa
10. Rams: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
It’s an interesting grouping if only because it breaks down into tiers which reflect Biggs’s priorities by position: quarterback is the first at one and two because that’s the most important, then pass rushers at three, five and six, and finally the other positions at three of the last four spots.
This is fine in that it almost certainly reflects the thoughts of virtually all fans, and I would dare say all NFL general managers as well. But the problem is that Biggs takes it too far.
Though he’s certainly not worthy of the two spot, I get the Marcus Mariota pick and it may well happen, though I’m guessing that if it does, its not likely to be the Titans picking there. However, prioritizing Dante Fowler over Leonard Williams, the best prospect in the draft, isn’t what I would call good thinking. In fairness to Biggs, he’s not the only media expert who believes Fowler will go first. But though Fowler’s a great prospect, Williams is the consensus best player in the draft and as close to a sure thing as you can get – he’s almost certainly going to be a dominant defensive lineman. He’s the smart pick.
But those two decisions aren’t nearly as surprising as taking Vic Beasley and Randy Gregory, both very risky prospects (for the top ten) over Amari Cooper, the most solid wide receiver prospect in the draft. Mel Kiper and Todd McShay recently did a live mock draft on ESPN and Beasley didn’t even make the first round.
I, personally, like Gregory a lot but three failed drug tests, including one at the Combine, makes you wonder if he’s not an addictive personality headed for trouble.
Bud Dupree, Brandon Scherff and Kevin White all have their risks as well but of the three, Dupree is the riskiest. Brandon Scherff is at worst an outstanding NFL guard. White is a one year wonder but he (arguably) has more dominant physical skills. Based upon the mock drafts I’ve seen almost no one would take Dupree over White.
This mock highlights the conflicts that must run through every general manager’s head as they prepare for the draft. We’re all familiar with the idea of drafting the best available and how that often conflicts with drafting for need. Biggs has written many times that drafting the best available player regardless of need is a fallacy in the NFL – and I absolutely believe him. But this mock draft might take it too far. As important as pass rush is in the NFL, teams can’t afford to miss in the top ten picks. You can still draft for need but focusing on one position, admittedly a very important one, regardless of the grade on talent for the individual prospects sounds to me like it’s asking for trouble. Here’s hoping that the Bears don’t force a pick in order to fill a position in such a manner.
Todd McShay at ESPN evaluates pass rushing prospect Vic Beasley:
“I’m not as high on Beasley as some others are, because I didn’t see any power element to his game on tape. I also have a hard time putting a top-15 type of grade on a defensive front-seven defender that turns down contact and likes to pile-inspect. Yes, his production at Clemson was off the charts. And yes, his workout numbers are rare. I also believe he is a hard worker with good football character. But I just don’t see the value as a first-half-of-the-first-round draft pick. When it’s all said and done, Beasley might be best suited to play off-the-line in a role somewhat similar to that of Von Miller (Broncos) or Anthony Barr (Vikings).”
I couldn’t agree more. Beasley (below) concerns me on a number of fronts other those that McShay points out (all of which I saw myself when watching him last fall).
Beasley is the very definition of a late riser who found himself floating up boards after the Combine. He was at best a mid-first round prospect before that because, as McShay points out, he had no power to his game. I’ll also point out that I thought his instincts were suspect. Then he showed up at the Combine 15-20 pounds heavier and he carried the weight well. Now teams apparently think he projects to show more power.
But the question is, “Will he be able to carry that weight through the course of an NFL season?” Once a player starts getting regular snaps with an NFL defense, the weight has a bad habit of melting off, especially if it isn’t natural for the player to be carrying it.
Beasley looks to me like the prototypical case of a player who you have to stick to the video on. He is what he was at Clemson. Suggesting otherwise is a dangerous game. If I’m the Bears, I’m not touching him with the seventh pick.
“Bill Parcells used to tell me, ‘You’ve only got to be sprayed by the skunk one time to know it stinks.’ I don’t trust Jameis Winston to comply. He has a fault. He doesn’t get it.”
Maybe. I still think Winston’s major fault is that he’s impulsive (on and off the field). I’m not convinced he’s a bad guy and I’m not convinced he won’t be able to stay out of trouble after he’s drafted. At least for the most part.
David Climer at The Tennessean looks into the validity of the rumors that the Titans will draft a quarterback of trade for Jay Cutler or Philip Rivers.
“Who, then, will be the Tennessee Titans’ starting quarterback when the regular season opens in September?
“[sixth round draft pick] Zach Mettenberger, of course.
“Look, I’m not telling you this is what should happen. I’m just telling you what will happen.
“This is how the Titans roll. They’ve got a plan and they’re sticking to it.”
“In short, [head coach Ken] Whisenhunt and [general manager Ruston] Webster think they pulled the steal of the 2014 draft. Titans brass see Mettenberger as a poor team’s Tom Brady. He’s the quarterback.”
I absolutely believe this. I’m not 100% convinced that they won’t trade a bag of balls for someone like Cutler as insurance (though I doubt it). But I genuinely believe that the Titans want to see if Mettenberger is their future and I don’t think they’ll draft a quarterback high in this draft.
If the Titans stick to their guns here, they’re gong to be bucking a serious trend. The general belief is that you find your NFL starting quarterbacks in the first and second rounds. Not much consideration is ever given to lower round picks anymore. Mike Huguenin examines the situation. Note that the Rams and Eagles both had two quarterbacks who started eight games:
“What we found among the 34 starters: Exactly half (17) were first-round picks, including five quarterbacks who were the overall No. 1 picks. In all, there were eight first-rounders who were the first quarterbacks selected in their respective draft, along with five first-rounders who were the second quarterbacks drafted and four who were the third signal-callers picked. (Two former first-rounders were injured, Arizona’s Carson Palmer and St. Louis’ Sam Bradford, and another, Buffalo’s EJ Manuel, lost his starting job early in the season — meaning the 17 easily could have been 20.)
“Six quarterbacks were second-round picks, including two who were the second quarterbacks selected in their respective drafts.”
There’s a part of me that thinks its nice that the Titans are giving a sixth round draft pick a chance to develop. There’s an underdog quality to the story and I’m rooting for him. At the same time, like many others, I’m wondering what the Titans see in Mettenberger that most of the rest of the world doesn’t.
It could be very good news for late round quarterbacks if Mettenberger works out and the rest of the copycat NFL follows their lead. I think underrated guys like East Carolina’s Shane Carden are too often dismissed and deserve more of a chance. On the other hand, if the Titans are deluding themselves into thinking Mettenberger is a gem that he’s not, they’re going to be kicking themselves for not taking a quarterback in the part of the draft where virtually everyone else currently agrees that you find one.
Mike Mayock at nfl.com explains why he thinks Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is a better prospect than consensus number one overall pick Jameis Winston:
“‘I’ve been fighting with this thing all along. There have been two issues for me with Winston. Number one is on the field. He threw 18 interceptions this year. On a team that arguably had the best talent in the country, he continued to put his team at a disadvantage almost weekly,’ Mayock said on NFL Network’s ‘Path to the Draft’ Wednesday. ‘ … Off the field, regardless of what did or didn’t happen in that alleged rape, he continued a pattern of poor decisions throughout his career. The bottom line for me is, can you trust him off the field?”
I don’t think that’s two issues. I think its one.
People always like to separate what happens off the field with players from what happens on the field. In fact, many fans will tell you that they don’t care what an athlete does when he’s not at the stadium as long as he plays on Sunday. I think this is a mistake. These players are one person. The same person that plays on the field is the one that behaves in whatever manner he does off the field.
Winston’s problems on the field and his problems off the field are the same issue – he’s impulsive. He does stupid things on the spur of the moment without thinking about the consequences. That leads to interceptions on the field and to dumb mistakes like screaming obscenities in public and having sex with drunk college girls off the field. Whether you think it should drop him in the draft or not, he’s one guy with one serious issue. Keeping that tendency from hurting him – no matter where he is – will be the challenge of whatever team drafts him.
Brendan Sonnone at the Orlando Sentinel quotes NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on the possibility that likely first overall pick Jameis Winston won’t attend the draft:
“‘I think that it’s something we respect when a player says, ‘I’d like to be with my family on that day,’’ Goodell told SI. ‘It’s an important day for them also.'”
Sonnone also points out that Winston “could be subject to boos from various fans at the draft – a time-honored tradition”. He’s got a point. Some might remember what happened when a Florida State employee inexplicably asked fans to Tweet questions to Winston using the #AskJameis tag. Let’s just say that some of the responses were creative. I doubt very much that either Florida State or Winston has forgotten the lesson – you take your chances when you expose yourself to a public situation that is largely out of your control.
Though Winston’s problems are of his own making, I could hardly blame him for declining the invitation.
One of the most consistent reasons I’ve heard for not dumping quarterback Jay Cutler is that neither of the two top prospects in the draft will be there when the Bears pick in the first round. Greg Gabriel at the National Football Post tells you (indirectly) why this is likely to be a patently false assumption and why the Bears will likely get a shot at Marcus Mariota and, maybe, even Jameis Winston. If they want them at all:
“We are a week away from the Combine, and the first round quarterback hype is already high. Many of the draftniks and media have both Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota going in the top 10. Their thinking is that because they are the two most talented quarterbacks, they will automatically go that high. If you notice, it’s only the media and draftniks that are making these statements. No one from the NFL says a thing and they won’t until they get into the lying season full swing. Once you get to the Combine, you can’t believe a thing an NFL exec says about a prospect because 90% of the time they are lying.
“If you go back a year or 13 months, most of that same group had Teddy Bridgewater going, if not first overall, at least in the top 5. They also had Johnny Manziel as a sure-fire top 10. As we got close to the Combine, Central Florida’s Blake Bortles started to catch fire and by the start of that annual event, many ‘experts’ had all three of those quarterback’s being drafted in the top 10. The problem is the people making these predictions aren’t the ones making the decisions. While quarterbacks did get largely over-drafted for a number of years, in the last two drafts, they’ve been drafted just about where they should have been.”
Personally, I thought Bridgewater was under rated by NFL teams in the end (and his rookie season proved me right). But the point still stands. Everybody had NFL teams over-drafting quarterbacks last year just as they probably have them doing it this year.
I actually wouldn’t put it past Lovie Smith to over-draft Winston or Mariota. He isn’t dumb but i don’t think he’d know raw quarterback talent if it crept up and bit him in his nether regions. I doubt very much that he knows what he’s doing and whether he will actually listen to the people that do is also highly doubtful. He’s a very stubborn man. In any case, which ever one Smith doesn’t take (or both) will fall, especially if its Mariota. That statement may surprise some but Mariota is a much bigger risk that Winston.
We can use notable failure Johnny Manziel as the ultimate cautionary tale for those wondering what the draft status of these quarterbacks should be. The comparison of Winston to Manziel doesn’t hold water because, though they share concern over off field issues, Winston has already shown that he can throw from the pocket with anticipation to a receiver. Immaturity aside I doubt very much that any quarterback accomplishes that without putting in some work, something that by all accounts the Browns were told that Manziel only rarely did. Mariota, on the other hand, compares well to Manziel on the field because hasn’t shown the kind of ability that Winston has. He worked from a spread offense and has never thrown from the pocket. His accuracy is also suspect. Winston has shown the traits on the field that you want to see. Mariota hasn’t and might never show them.
Both of these guys are over rated in the media right now. And it says here that one or both will fall to the Bears if they want them and (very probably) beyond that. In fact, if they do want one of them they might be wise to trade down (as Gabriel suggests that Jacksonville should have done before drafting Bortles last year).
There is one other factor to consider here and that’s why the quarterbacks tend to be over rated this time of year. The truth is that the opinions of draft “experts” like Todd McShay and Mel Kiper are highly suspect. In addition to the fact that no one is telling them the real truth about any of the prospects and how they are actually viewed by the league, its worth considering that they are under immense pressure to increase ratings. And we all know that when it comes to the media and the NFL, it’s all about the quarterback. The minute these guys start talking about offensive tackles, you can practically feel producers getting nervous and you can practically hear them telling the on air personalities in their ears to get back “on point”. Setting up questions like “which quarterback will go number one overall” is where media outlets like ESPN make their money. So it’s in everyone’s best interest to over rate the quarterbacks.
I’m not saying don’t listen. I’m saying listen strictly for the entertainment value. Because it’s all hot air until April when the Bears finally are off the clock.
The NFL Combine is upon us and as freaks like me set up their television recorders for the event, Field Yates at ESPN has a timely reminder for us:
“32 players NOT invited to 2014 Combine were drafted, while 111 players invited to Indy were not selected.”
Scouts for some of the better organizations in the NFL sometimes talk about “anchoring” their board. What that means is that these organizations get their scouts in a room pre-combine and go through every player they are interested in, assigning them the round that they think these players should be taken in (thus “anchoring” them to that spot). After that, the better organizations stick to this board, only tweaking it here and there based upon workout numbers and, sometimes, further tape study. They never let a player jump up or down by more than a round or so from here on out.
Bottom line, players can affect their draft status with a good combine showing, especially players with off the field issues in the interview room. But for most of the better organizations, it can really only be a tie breaker with all else being equal. Matt Miller at the Bleacher Report may have put it best:
“This reminder is for me as well as you: Don’t buy into the combine hype. Fast times in the 40-yard dash are impressive, but they have to be validated on tape.”