A couple of odds and ends as the draft draws closer and — as we are apt to do this time of year — we all continue to analyze and over-analyze all things draft:
– NFL.com had a blog entry about why pass rushers may be becoming more valuable, noting that NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock has nine defensive ends going in the first round. The reasoning? It’s becoming harder to sack the quarterback in the first place. QBs are getting the ball out quicker than ever before and the pass plays are often designed to make sure pressure is avoiding, not to mention an actual takedown.
“Notice that quarterbacks were sacked 1.7 percent less in 2010 (6.1 percent) than they were in 1982 (7.8 percent),” the post by Elliott Harrison states. “That translates to a difference of about two sacks per 100 dropbacks. Considering we’ve seen how much one sack can alter a season – think of Troy Polamalu’s strip-sack of Joe Flacco last year — that’s a sizable difference. It’s also a factor in why so many teams are looking at defensive ends in the draft.”
OK, so the Cards won’t necessarily be looking at a defensive end. But pass rusher is what we are talking about here.
– Speaking of Mayock, he was on The Chuck and Vince Show Friday on KDUS (1060 AM) and talked about the quarterbacks. He said four quarterbacks — Newton, Gabbert, Mallett, Locker – have first-round ability. “The problem is that they all have holes,” Mayock said. “It’s a tough one. It’s the hardest quarterback class I have ever evaluated.”
Asked what he thought the Cardinals should do at No. 5, Mayock was blunt. “If the quarterback Gabbert is there, I think they sprint to the podium. In today’s NFL, if you don’t have one of those franchise guys, you have no shot. Arizona is a model franchise for that (theory). The minute Kurt Warner retires, it’s the same offense and defense, basically, and they can’t play a lick anymore.”
Do I have to mention I don’t think that’s how it goes? But I can tell you, many, many, many people (in the media or making these predictions) believe that’s what will happen.
Tags: Blaine Gabbert, Cam Newton, draft, Jake Locker, Joe Flacco, Kurt Warner, Mike Mayock, Ryan Mallett, Troy Polamalu
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All this talk about mocks, it’s only fair you get a chance to do one if you want to. So you can click right here and take part in the mock contest from Chevron and azcardinals.com. Give yourself a chance to win an autographed jersey of whomever the No. 1 draft choice is — do you go with Miller? Peterson? Gabbert? Oh, the possibilities are endless (your chances to win might not be if, say, you put Jake Locker as the fifth overall pick, but hey, it’s your mock).
As for the other part of football we can talk about these days, the 2011 interactive schedule is posted, although the “when” part of the schedule remains under wraps. That will be released later this month — I am guessing the week before draft week (last year, it was April 20). But in the meantime, you can check out the opponents, air miles to be traveled and this somewhat surprising stat given the slate of other teams — the Cards, thanks to their division and off years last season by the Cowboys and Vikings, for instance, will for a second straight season face the NFL’s weakest schedule based on 2010 results.
Tags: draft, Jake Locker, mock draft, schedule
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Yesterday, I had a Twitter follower by the name of Mykael C. Wright ask me to explain the confusing aspect of all this drafting-a-quarterback talk.
“Is game film (20%), pro day (30%), & potential (50%) to put #’s on draft grade? I don’t get qb movement NOW.” he wrote.
What everyone should understand about player “movement” in draft speculation is that there really isn’t any “movement.” The lists people refer to are not a team list; as I have mentioned a few times the Cardinals have not even started to put together their draft board (The draft room is on the third floor just a short walk from my desk and is a shortcut to the bathroom; trust me, once that path gets shut down to protect the secrets of the process, I am well aware). The lists are educated speculation from pundits like Mel Kiper or Todd McShay or one of hundreds of mock drafts that come out seemingly more often than ever these days.
Realistically, however, you can’t have movement until you talk to a player. The “lists” before the Scouting combine are based on what has been done on the field but also what scouts have let leak during the college season. In the end, though, scouts only have so much of a say, and in the case of the top quarterbacks, no one really has had a chance to interview them until Indianapolis. Those interviews are crucial to the process, since coaches want to see those guys stand in front of a white board and diagram a play or two and explain how to attack a certain defense (I was fortunate enough to sit in for one quarterback’s interview when I was in Indy; fascinating stuff).
So that’s really the first time teams and coaches can fully understand a QB, and opinions morph. And, as those opinions leak, QBs “move” on the lists. More “movement” might happen again after a pro day or private workouts as these teams further scrutinize a player. The background checks are in full swing, and again, that could reveal something to affect opinion. Don’t underestimate reverse physiology either. Are, for example, Andy Dalton (below) or Christian Ponder that good? Or have Gabbert/Newton/Mallett/Locker taken so many broadsides of criticism that to be not one of those guys alone make you more attractive?
Going back to Mykael’s original question though, I’d think game film is still 50 percent of the thought process. Pro day? Maybe 2 percent from on the field (assuming he was at the combine already). The pro day is more important as to talking to the people (trainers, equipment guys, coaches) that had been around the kid. Potential is a huge part of it too, especially for underclassmen like Newton or Gabbert who don’t have a long résumé. So to is fit to what you want to do, and of course, the personal interviews.
“Movement” is a mirage, in many ways. And remember, it only takes one team to love you. If, for instance, the Panthers take Cam Newton first overall, does it matter if the rest of the NFL wouldn’t risk a first-round pick on him?
Tags: Andy Dalton, Blaine Gabbert, Cam Newton, Christian Ponder, draft, Jake Locker, Panthers, Ryan Mallett, Scouting combine
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As the combine wraps up – at least my portion of it – I think about watching Cam Newton’s workouts today.
Not live. I was there but not there, watching it on TV screens just like you did, if, you know, you watch such things. Then, after Newton ran and he threw, everyone tried to say it was really disappointing or really not. At the airport this evening, I was talking to an assistant coach (not from the Cardinals) and a fellow writer about Cam-mania and taking a risk on him — or any quarterback.
So much was written and tweeted today about the quarterback workouts, Newton and otherwise. People say Ryan Mallett was the best or Jake Locker or Christian Ponder. On the other side, Newton didn’t particularly throw well today. Not that it really matters. Newton’s physical gifts don’t change even if his throwing was errant today and Mallett’s off-field issues can’t be answered by some impressive passes. Somebody on Twitter pointed out the poor 40 times of one running back at the combine a couple years ago – in the 4.55 range – and noted it was Texans back Arian Foster. Foster just happened to lead the NFL in rushing this past season.
In the end, the combine is a piece of the puzzle but only a piece and, in most cases, only a small piece. It’s getting verified numbers in the bench press or the 40 rather than using hearsay. Is any team – say, for instance, the Cardinals – closer to making draft day decisions on any of these players? Maybe a little bit. But that doesn’t mean any team is thinking, “Oh, that’s the QB I want.” Not yet.
Two months until the draft. Still a long way to go.
Tags: Arian Foster, Cam Newton, Christian Ponder, Jake Locker, Ryan Mallett, Scouting combine
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Indianapolis is the anti-Dallas — meaning it’s cold, but no snow. You can see Lucas Oil Stadium from my hotel room (proof below). And speaking of my room, that’s where the computer will be hooked up for tomorrow’s live chat with general manager Rod Graves and director of player personnel Steve Keim (the link is here), which will begin a little after 1 p.m. Arizona time. As you can imagine, time is precious here in Indy, but we will have some combination of 15- or 20-minute chats each or one bigger one for about 30-40 minutes. Obviously we will get to as many questions as we can (and try to be realistic; Don’t bother asking flat out if the Cards will take a QB with the first pick, for instance. They don’t know yet and even if they did, I don’t see it being revealed on a live chat in February).
Before then, I’ll be over at the stadium as the first wave of players, coaches and GMs come through the media area. Because so many athletes train at the Valley’s Athletes Performance, our flight today had a heavy NFL-bent — among those I saw on the plane were Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert, Washington QB Jake Locker and Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder, along with Cards coach Ken Whisenhunt, offensive coordinator Mike Miller and special teams coach Kevin Spencer.
Welcome to Indy 2011.
Tags: Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Jake Locker, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Spencer, Mike Miller, Rod Graves, Scouting combine, Steve Keim
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