The NFL Draft is a month away, 29 days from now to be exact. Free Agency is winding down, and now we have an idea, of what positions we will target. So with that said, lets take a quick look at the Free Agents we have signed as of today.
Signings: Peyton Manning QB, Tracy Porter CB, Mike Adams S, Andre Caldwell WR, Joel Dreessen TE, Jacob Tamme TE, and Caleb Hanie QB.
Re-Signings: Wesley Woodyard OLB, Joe Mays MLB and Manny Ramirez G/C.
My take: We're obviously set at QB, With Manning and now Hanie to back him up. Porter and Adams are both much needed veteran additions that we needed in the secondary. Tamme and Dreeseen give Manning two nice receiving options to go along with Julius Thomas, and Virgil Green at the Tight end position, and Caldwell replaces Eddie Royal, who signed with the rival San Diego Chargers. Woodyard and Mays will compete for playing time at both linebacking spots and Ramirez adds much needed depth along the OL.
Now what areas does that leave for us to address in this years draft? My personal opinion is DT, RB, LB, and CB. Lets take a look at the DT class in this years upcoming draft
One obvious area of need is Defensive Tackle. The loss of Brodrick Bunkley is huge. As of today, our Defensive Tackles are, Ty Warren who hasn't played in two years. Kevin Vickerson who's coming of an IR stint, and isn't anything special, and Ryan McBean who will be suspended for the first 6 games this upcoming season.
Let's take a look at some options who our Front Office may target:
First Round Options:
Fletcher Cox: 6'4 298lbs, Mississippi St.
Pass rush: Good quickness off the snap. Attacks gaps, getting skinny to slip past interior linemen when lining up as a defensive tackle. Enough speed to challenge the shoulders of strong-side tackles when lining up as a defensive end. Does not possess the explosiveness and flexibility to turn the corner efficiently, however, limiting his pass rush potential on the outside. Developing pass rush technique, including a swim move, but does not use this often enough. Relies almost exclusively on his bull rush. Generates an explosive pop to knock his opponent back onto his heels. Possesses the lateral agility to take advantage of the unbalanced offensive lineman to run around him and collapse the pocket.
Run defense: Good size and power, though Cox struggles with leverage, at times. Can be blown off the ball when double-teamed as he currently lacks prototypical width and thickness in his lower body for an interior defender. Cox does appear to have the frame to add an additional 10-15 pounds. Good upper-body strength and quick hands to disengage from the one-on-one block. Penetrates gaps and locates the football quickly. Slides off of blocks to latch onto ballcarriers as they attempt to run by. Alert defender who recognizes the trap block and possesses enough quickness to beat his opponent to the spot. Lacks the sustained speed to chase down ballcarriers, but puts good effort into his lateral pursuit.
Explosion: Varies his burst off the snap, but does not possess true explosiveness in his get-off. Among his best assets, however, is his strong upper body. Attacks blockers with an explosive pop, which allows him to disengage quickly.
Strength: Naturally strong man who is still learning to use his power to his advantage. Good to very good upper-body strength and leg drive to push his opponent deep into the pocket. Good strength as a drag-down tackler, as well. Does negate his own strength, on occasion, due to a high pad level.
Tackling: High effort player who locates the football and pursues laterally and downfield. An effective drag-down tackler due to his upper-body strength. Surprisingly light on his feet showing an ability to adjust to elusive ballcarriers in close quarters. Closes quickly and wraps up well, but isn't an explosive hitter likely to knock the ball free. Has forced just two fumbles in three seasons of action.
Intangibles: Naturally large man with plenty of room for additional growth. Appears to be just scratching the surface of his physical potential, though he has three years of starting experience in the SEC. Blocked four kicks from 2009-11. Was suspended for the 2011 season-opener (Memphis), along with four other Bulldogs, for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
Pass rush: Flashes exciting burst off the snap to penetrate. Can slip through gaps with his get-off and is an intimidating force for quarterbacks to avoid. Shows some natural balance and lateral agility to break down and chase the quarterback but has only phone booth quickness overall and is quickly left behind by mobile/alert passers. Shows a rip and swim move, but neither is particularly effective. Relies often on a simple bull rush but it is only marginally productive due to the fact that Poe routinely stands up at contact, losing leverage and negating his own strength. Does not possess an adequate secondary move if his initial burst is contained. Too often struggles to disengage with blockers smaller and weaker than him. Needs to do a better job of using his height to his advantage and present to the quarterback obstacles to throw around. Has only four passes defensed in his career, though to his credit three of them came in 2011.
Run defense: Shows the burst to split gaps and make the play on his own. Also has the ability to create a pile in the middle, even showing the ability to split the occasional double-team. However, is just as often blown off the ball due to his high pad level. Needs to do a better job of being the aggressor and tossing blockers aside to make the play rather than falling off blocks onto ballcarriers as they go by. Flashes good lateral agility to side-step blockers and can surprise you with his speed and effort in lateral pursuit. May struggle as a nose guard in the NFL due to shorter than ideal arms (31 5/8), especially considering his height. Good strength and balance to sit down, lock-out and create a pile, however, leading to possibilities inside and out (in the 3-4).
Explosion: Has an explosive burst off the line. Consistently among the first linemen moving at the snap. Generates power through his hips and can rock the offensive lineman back onto his heels with his initial surge. Gathers momentum quickly and can explode into the ballcarrier, showing the ability to separate the football (four forced fumbles over his career).
Strength: Possesses excellent weight-room strength, although it doesn't always translate onto his play due to his short arms and high pad level. Can wow you with his ability to push the pocket and drag down ballcarriers with just one arm but doesn't play with power consistently enough for a man with his talents.
Tackling: Surprisingly light on his feet and shows the ability to break down reasonably well to make the tackle in tight quarters against much smaller, quicker ballcarriers. Can knock ballcarriers to the ground with a good shove and latch-on, drag-down tackles while engaged, but also shows the ability to wrap securely, as well as enough explosiveness to force fumbles.
Intangibles: Given a second-round grade by the NFL Advisory Committee. Voted Team MVP and Defensive Player of the Year by his teammates. If Poe had returned for his senior season he would have been playing for his third head coach in four years.
My take: Poe is a very very large man, who is surprisingly athletic for his size. I've been a huge fan of him for awhile now, even before his combine performance. There's a few concerns about him though. One is, he did not put up great numbers in college. He went to school at Memphis, so he should have dominated. Also, in college he has gotten by with his size and athleticism, but has poor technique. I think with solid coaching (Which we have with Fox and Del Rio) they can mold him into a beast. Like Cox, i think his combine put him out of our reach. I expect Poe to be a top 15-20 pick.
Michael Brockers: 6'6 322lbs, LSU
Pass rush: Comes fast and hard off the snap if given a step by backpedalling linemen in pass protection. Will work through the whistle. Tries to swim past his man when there is room to maneuver, bothering the quarterback but rarely getting there. Effective taking up two blockers and flashes some quickness outside on twists.
Run defense: Most productive against the run when slanting into the action. Strong at the point when keeping his pads low, but his height means a constant battle to prevent linemen from getting under his pads. Fights through doubles, at times still finding the ballcarrier through traffic. His anchor against doubles when not attacking the pocket is inconsistent; blown off the line too often. Good effort to reach ballcarriers coming into his area; keeps his eyes on them and can make the play even when moving back or losing his balance. Must work on defeating cut blocks with his hands.
Explosion: Combination of size and strength has not yet been harnessed. Inconsistent off the snap, more often last one to move than the first. Does not knock back better linemen. Fatigue becomes an issue later in game, losing his explosiveness off the ball and hustle.
Strength: Rarely dominates his man at the point. Capable of shedding with strong hands and tossing aside guards if their heads are down, but could do so more regularly.
Tackling: Wide body and long, strong arms envelop backs running between the tackles. Good vision and strength lets him bring down backs by a shoelace, even if falling to the ground. Possesses nimble feet and fair change of direction for his size; chases ballcarriers around the line and can stay with elusive backs after they make a move. Gives some chase to the sideline on quick throws and when backs try to run outside.
Intangibles: Suffered torn left ACL/MCL in August 2007, broken left ankle in August 2008. Cousin Art Still played for the Kansas City Chiefs. Another cousin, Levon Kirkland, was a standout linebacker with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
My take: if we cannot land Fletcher Cox, Still will be the next best option i believe. Still is a great interior pass rusher, which we really lacked last season. There's a good chance he's available at 25 for us. My only concern is that a 3-4 team will take him earlier, but if not Still may be our guy at 25.
Second and Third Round options:
Jerel Worthy: 6'2 308lbs, Michigan St.
Pass rush: May not put up huge sack numbers, but is a constant thorn in a quarterback's side in pass rush situations. Swims past lesser linemen with a shake and quick, violent hands. Closes on the passer in a hurry once free. Will sometimes line up a half-yard off the line to give himself room to make his move. Does not split doubles regularly or have a great bull rush, often giving up after initial contact.
Run defense: Packs power and has quick feet to handle one or two-gap run defense responsibilities in the box. Tough to move, stands up blockers when anchoring against the run. Brings down backs from behind within the box and straight up the middle, but does not regularly chase plays downfield or towards the sideline. Spins off blocks but doesn't have elite change of direction to reach quicker backs going through the hole once he's left it. Gets caught up in his man chest at times, failing to get off to make a play. Quick backs elude him easily in the hole. Avoids cut tackles to stay upright, but lacks quick acceleration to get into plays away from him.
Explosion: Impressive explosiveness off the snap, shocks his man with a strong initial punch and can also out-quick him to get into the backfield. Quick to get low, create a pile in goal lone situations. Gets too worried about contact or penetrating a gap that sometimes forgets to find the ball.
Strength: Already excelling in this area, should get even stronger in a pro strength and conditioning program. Strong hands allow him to shed lineman in either direction to catch backs coming into his area; consistency in using them could be improved, however. Once he gets a guard on skates, puts them into the quarterback. Takes his man backwards when slanting, also effective occupying two men on twists to free up the end.
Tackling: Limited area of coverage results average tackle numbers for the position. Swallows up ballcarriers in the box with length and superior upper-body strength, though, leading teams to stay away from inside runs. Closes well on quarterbacks and running backs in the backfield and rarely gets go of ballcarriers once making contact. Has enough agility and athleticism to grab backs from behind after a strong swim move.
Intangibles: His stamina and conditioning will be a concern for scouts unless improvements are made. Vocal on and off the field; points out potential hot receivers and run plays to teammates before the snap, something you don't see many interior linemen do.
My take: I'm not as high on Worthy as others. Don't get me wrong, he's a talented prospect, who has loads of potential, but the red flags worry me. He doesn't always go 100% and conditioning is an issue. Those issues make me a little weary about using a first round pick on him. Ultimately i think he will be a early to mid second round pick. If he's there for our 2nd round pick, i'd love to get him, but a little to risky for my liking at 25.
Kendall Reyes: 6'4 300, Connecticut
Pass rush: Does not get a lot of sacks, but provides some interior pressure and will make quarterbacks pay for holding onto the ball for too long. Flashes the ability to bull his man into the backfield and split double teams. Takes advantage of lunging lineman to rip off and harass the quarterback. Gets his big hands up to block passes if unable to beat his man, also follows quarterback on moving pockets and sniff out screens. Not an elite pass rusher, though, due to a lack of closing speed and inconsistent quickness off the snap.
Run defense: Flashes the strength to stack and shed, move down the line to chase running backs in either direction from inside. Agile enough to avoid cut block with hands and sidestep, get into the backfield. Keeps eyes in the backfield to get a piece of ballcarriers coming inside. Gets low quickly to get under offense linemen in short-yardage situations. Plays too high at times, however, gets carried downfield or put to the ground by better lineman when losing the leverage battle.
Explosion: Flashes enough quickness off the snap to threaten gaps at three-technique, especially when slanting. Also shows a punch to stop blockers, but is not yet consistent enough with that and his hand placement to control veteran NFL linemen.
Strength: Growing frame gives him great potential to play inside at the next level. Still learning to use his mass inside to leverage offensive lineman, but shows the ability to force his way through one-on-one blocks and double-teams with powerful leg action and violent hands.
Tackling: Length and strong upper-body make him difficult to escape once he gets to the ball. Fair hustle, moves off block to chase to the sideline or inside when the back is in sight. Inconsistent closing speed and break-down to grab backs coming his direction. Better short-area quickness to wrap up ballcarriers in his immediate vicinity, lacks long foot speed to do more than chase them into other defenders' arms. Stamina is a question mark, considerably fresher at the beginning of each half.
Intangibles: Two-time team captain who teammates commend on his work ethic. Has added weight through diet and weight room work while maintaining size-relative athleticism. Durable, versatile player. No known character issues or off-field incidents.
My take: i really like Reyes, he's actually my dark horse to be our pick at 25. He really impressed me at the combine. He can provide a good interior rush, and be effective in the run game. I think he would be a solid addition. I highly doubt he lasts until our second round pick though. I can see potentially as a late first to early second DT.
Brandon Thompson: 6'2 314lbs, Clemson
Pass rush: Arguably his best skill due to an extraordinary burst off the snap. Explodes out of his stance, demonstrating a burst upfield to slip gaps and the lateral agility once past the line of line of scrimmage to chase down the quarterback. Inconsistent use of hands. Flashes quick hands to slap away blocks, but too often gets caught in the in the hand-fighting at the line of scrimmage, rather than quickly disengaging. Uses a swim move occasionally, though is only marginally effective with it. May be limited with this technique due to short arms. Good upper body strength and leg drive for the bull rush.
Run defense: Penetrates through gaps, often forcing running backs to elude him or the back end of the offensive lineman he's pushing before they even reach the line of scrimmage. Inconsistent in his ability to separate from blocks, however, making him more of a nuisance than a snap-to-snap terror. Good anchor to hold up at the point, though he does not possess the bulk or lower body strength to hold up to double teams. Good effort pursuing laterally. Quick feet and good balance to slide down the line and possessing the burst to slip through gaps.
Explosion: Pops off tape due to his explosive first few steps. While powerful, doesn't rock the guard/center back with his upper body strength or explode into tackles.
Strength: Good weight-room strength, which translates onto the football field in terms of his anchor. Isn't able to consistently shed blocks and makes plays in the hole. Good strength for the drag down tackle.
Tackling: Can make the impressive chest to chest bear hug tackle in the hole due to his ability to wreak havoc in the backfield. Good strength, though his marginal arm length limits his ability to grab hold of ball-carriers as they run by. Willing to lay out and shows good hand-eye coordination to trip up ball-carriers.
Intangibles: Nicknamed "Yams" because of his huge thighs, which aid in his role as a run-stuffer. Won the Strength Training Award among Clemson defensive tackles in the spring of 2010. Tied for third on the team with a 425 pound bench press. Lifted 225 pounds 30 times for Clemson coaches. A pre-Business major who earned a spot on the Honor Roll in the spring of 2010.
My take: Another favorite of mine, a great pass rusher, who can also be a great run stuffer. I've seen him mocked to the late first to our 2nd round pick. If he's available at our second round pick, we have to get him. Personally i'd love to pair him with one of the DT's we select at 25. Would give us some youth and talent in the interior of our D-Line. Something we have lacked for years.
Mike Martin: 6'1 303lbs, Michigan
Pass rush: Provides some secondary interior pass rush, getting most penetration when playing three-technique. Possesses only adequate burst off the snap even when directly over the ball, and his initial pop leaves room to be desired. Hands could be much more violent when trying to gain control of the block. Can bull rush his way past running backs in pass protection. Preferred pass rush move is an arm-over swim move while simultaneously pulling lineman forward. Once momentum is stopped, lacks a critical counter move to progress into the backfield. Spies the quarterback if stoned at the line, but lacks the height and vertical to knock down passes.
Run defense: Uses more hustle than brute strength to stop the run. Gets skinny to split double teams, using good short-area quickness to make a play in the backfield. Runs the line very well, making plays on the ball when he beats blocks on the backside. Rarely goes to the ground, showing good balance from his high school wrestling days. Constantly moving his hands, readjusting them into proper placement. Occasionally too high (despite his short stature), and bows out his arms, hampering his ability to press and lock out. Does not hold his ground while facing a double team, first instinct is to roll away to make a play, which can create a large hole.
Explosion: Does not test offensive linemen with quickness or strong initial punch. Rarely first off the snap. Able to swim past single blockers to penetrate into the backfield. Does not attempt to split double-teams, takes a step back and waits to chase down plays.
Strength: Low center of gravity and generally low pad level allows him to play with initial strength and leverage at the point of attack. Upper-body only average, however, struggles to shed one-on-one blocks or sustain leverage once out of his stance. Pad level rises late in the game.
Tackling: Catch-and-drag tackler who rarely drives ballcarriers to the ground. Very good short-area quickness to make plays between the tackles. Displays agility and secure tackling to corral backs in the backfield, also chases plays from the backside to prevent cutbacks.
Intangibles: High-motor, high-character leader. Worked at Ndamukong Suh's summer football camp. Played through two sprained ankles (Iowa, 10/16; Penn State 10/30), missed only Purdue (11/13). Won team's Richard Katcher award the past two seasons for being the team's best defensive lineman.
-- Rob Rang
My take: Martin really intrigues me. He's more of a undersized 3-4 NT, But i think he would excel in the role Bunkley played last year. He doesn't offer much as a pass rusher, but is good against the run. What really intrigues me about this guy, is his motor. I'm a sucker for prospect that have a high motor. He's also a wrestler which i think will help in the trenches. He should be available for us in the second, and i would excited if we were able to draft him
Mid round guys i'd like us to draft:
Alameda Ta'amu: 6'3 348lbs, Washington
Pass rush: Surprising initial quickness off the snap. Wide-bodied frame makes it difficult for him to split gaps, but shows a burst when he has a lane. Developing swim move. Relies mostly on a simple bull rush at this point, which is quite effective in collapsing the pocket. Only phone booth quickness. Gives good effort in chasing down the quarterback, but tires quickly.
Run defense: Strong, stout interior presence who often requires double-team blocks to keep him from clogging running lanes. Short, thick legs and thick trunk which aid him in anchoring. Inconsistent in his effort pursuing laterally and downfield, but surprises opponents with his quickness for such a large man. Short arms could lead to problems against NFL-caliber offensive linemen with longer arms able to get into his chest …
Explosion: Flashes an explosive initial burst off the snap to split gaps, especially when guards vacate the hole to pull. Has the upper body strength to rock his opponent back onto his heels. Quicker and more athletic than his body would lead you to believe, flashing startling explosiveness as a tackler when he gains momentum.
Strength: Powerful man who often requires double-teams. Excellent strength in his upper and lower, though his short limbs limit his effectiveness, at times. Relies heavily on his bull rush to pressure the quarterback. Often is at his most effective as a run-stuffer by simply creating a pile in the middle due to his ability to anchor.
Tackling: Makes most of his tackles by simpyl bludgeoning the ball-carrier. Lacks the quick-twitch muscles and lateral agility to break down in space, but has such great strength that he often is able to grab the ball-carrier with one arm, slow his momentum and grab on with his other arm to pull the ball-carrier to the ground. Inconsistent effort in pursuit, but generates impressive momentum when he's moving at full-speed and can rock the ball-carrier with an explosive hit.
Intangibles: Struggled with his weight early in his career. Has weighed as much as 390 pounds and played at 360, at times. Committed himself to extra conditioning and taking rice -- a staple of the Samoan culture -- out of his diet. He weighed in at 337 pounds for the 2011 Holiday Bowl. Suffered a broken foot during his senior year of high school.
My Take: If you're looking for a run stuffer in the third round, Ta'amu is your guy. He is a very large man, and surprisingly athletic for a man of his size. We're in a division where teams will try to run down our throat, so a guy like Ta'amu can clog those inside rushing lanes on first and second down.
Derek Wolfe: 6'5 295lbs, Cincinnati
Strengths: Has a tall, solid frame with adequate length and has done a nice job losing the bad weight and firming his body. Has a quick first step with fluid movements off the ball. A natural bender, staying low and using leverage to force his way into the backfield. Highly competitive and fierce, showing relentless effort to the pocket with a nonstop motor. Has very good awareness, keeping his head on a swivel with a good feel to quickly locate and react to the play. Tough as nails with a physical attitude and often attracts double-teams. An extremely hard worker in the weight room and doesn?t let up in practice. Versatile in college, lining up in several different spots, including moving to nose tackle over the center on third downs. Stayed durable over his career, starting the final 38 games of his collegiate career. Was productive at Cincinnati, especially as a senior when he led the conference in tackles for loss (21.5) and had career-highs in tackles (70) and sacks (9.5).
Negatives: Only average lower-body strength and struggles to anchor at the point of attack. Bit of a defensive end/defensive tackle ?tweener who struggles in traffic with multiple blockers, not always using his limbs effectively to disengage. Will allow his body to get too upright at times and needs to consistently keep his pad level down to be effective. Not a quick-twitch player and struggles to quickly change directions with some body stiffness. Has streaky hand placement and usage, abandoning his technique. Lacks a natural position and there will be some concerns as to where he will fit best at the next level.
NFL Comparison: Kevin Vickerson, Denver Broncos
-- Dane Brugler
My take: Earlier in this post i said i was a sucker for guys with a high motor, well this is another guy i really like. Ultimately i think he'll be more of a 5-Tech DE in a 3-4, But i think he can find a role in a 4-3 team. He's a 4th-5th round pick i believe. I can see him playing anywhere along the D-Line. Fox and Del Rio could do alot with this guy i think.
Jaye Howard: 6'3 301lbs, Florida
Strengths: Carries his weight well for his size and looks to be in much improved shape. Quick-footed with nimble agility and range to work up and down the line of scrimmage. Good get-off burst and quickness with natural explosion. Looks fluid when moving laterally and is a flexible and natural bender. Gets to plays in a hurry with smooth pursuit and penetration skills. Has very good awareness and uses his eyes well with field sense. Does a nice job getting his hands up at the line to knock down passes. Has a versatile skill-set with experience lining up at several different defensive line spots over his career.
Weaknesses: Possesses a narrow frame and lacks an ideal frame to add much more girth or bulk. Has underwhelming strength for the position and lacks raw power ? too easily controlled by single blockers. Doesn?t always finish and too easily gets locked up, struggling to shed. Has streaky snap anticipation and needs to develop better reaction skills. Recorded too many facemask and offsides penalties, struggling with poor discipline ? easily jumps off hard counts. Lacks a wide array of pass rush moves and needs to finish after he gets his hands on ballcarriers. Was part of a defensive line rotation most of his career and was out-played by underclassmen the past few years. Battled a right ankle injury in 2010 and needs to stay conditioned.
-- Dane Brugler
My take: I think Howard would be a great rotational guy. He really impressed me at the senior bowl. Has great explosiveness and versatility. Like Wolfe i think he could play all over the D-Line. He's a 4th-5th round pick, so low risk, high reward type of pick.
Mike Daniels: 6'0 291lbs, Iowa
Strengths: A coordinated athlete with a lightning quick first step and natural explosion, routinely the first defensive lineman off the ball. Built low to the ground and is most effective when he keeps his pad level low and battles. Has active hands to slip blocks and a high motor to never give up on the play ? plays hard and hungry on every snap. Agile and nimble footwork with smooth body control, very light on his feet. Fights through the whistle and is always chirping and going at full-go, love his effort and determination. Extremely tough, battling through an ankle sprain most of 2011. A leader and hard worker off the field, adding over 50-pounds since enrolling as a 230-pound freshman. Consistently productive over his career (27 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks).
Weaknesses: Undersized and lacks elite bulk and girth for an interior defensive lineman doesn't have NFL measureables or length. Lacks a stout anchor and can be redirected off the snap with underwhelming base strength. Tends to play too upright at times and needs to be more consistent with his leverage to maximize his potential. Has short arms and has room to improve his pass rush technique. Struggles to disengage with inconsistent hand use and power, too often gets lost in a crowd. Needs to wrap and finish, too often settling to just hit the ballcarrier. Battled a leg injury for most of the past season so his medical will be important. Will be scheme-specific at the next level because of his lack of size and strength,won't be a fit for everyone.
NFL Comparison: Drake Nevis
-- Dane Brugler
My Take: I think Daniels would be a good late round/UDFA guy. Another high motor, explosive guy. If put in a rotation, i think he could excel. I think Fox and Del Rio would like to have a guy like Daniels on their team.
Ultimately i think we come away with 2 or 3 DT's through the draft, we have too. It's a deep class so hopefully EFX takes advantage of it. Part 2 will focus on the running backs in the draft.