Tag Archives: NFL draft

Some work from April and early May

I’ve been out of it again. That’s just the way it is on this site in the month of March, April and May. I’m too busy doing non-football related things to really get a chance to post here.

But I wanted to make sure I got a chance to highlight some of the things I’ve written and produced in the last month and a half. After the Boston Marathon bombing, a good portion of my time went to Patriots coverage and the NFL Draft, which was April 25-27. I wrote a number of items on the draft and ran our live coverage of the event on Boston.com. (You can find an archive of that coverage here.) I was also did some video, both producing and appearing on air.

And then I’ve also been writing a new weekly feature in the Extra Points Patriots blog on Boston.com called “Patscetera.” It’s basically a catch-all for interesting items and commentary. So far, so good with that. You can read a new one each Friday on the site. I’ll try and link it up here more regularly going forward. No promises, though.

Here’s a look at what my last month and a half has been like.

Hopefully I don’t take this long to send in another update again. And hopefully I’m doing more video, on air.

Until next time.

Five draft prospects that keep popping up – Boston.com

The NFL Draft Combine is still in the throes of devouring its young, with linebackers and defensive linemen going through drills today. Defensive backs will take the field Tuesday. But in the week of buildup toward the combine’s conclusion, more than a few names have been tossed about with relation to the Patriots. Here’s a rundown of who has been mentioned, as well as any pertinent information.

1. Florida safety Matt Elam — The hard-hitting safety is one of the best rated defensive backs on the board, so it’s no wonder his name has been connected with the Patriots after the team finished a paltry 29th in pass defense. As a Florida football player, Elam has connections with former Gators Brandon Spikes, Aaron Hernandez, Jermaine Cunningham, and Jeff Demps. But his game speaks for itself. He tallied 76 tackles, 2 sacks, and 11 tackles for a loss. He was first team All-SEC and first team AP All-American. It’ll be tough if he makes it to No. 29, but he’s definitely on the radar. We’ll see more details on Elam when he works out on Tuesday.

2. West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin — What’s the likelihood that there are two guys named Tavon on the Patriots? After the way Austin’s name was thrown around by mock drafters and media folks, you’d think it was a done deal. Austin ran a 4.34 40-yard dash Sunday. In his senior season for West Virginia, he was all over the field as a returner, receiver, and in the back field. He caught 111 passes for 1,287 yards, ran for 652 yards on 73 carries, and averaged 25.1 yards on kickoff returns. He totalled 17 touchdowns on the season. He’s only 5-feet, 8-inches and weighs 174 pounds. So he fits the mold of another slot-like wide receiver. But he has the versatility to be moved around, an attribute Bill Belichick thoroughly values.

See more of my original post on Boston.com: Five draft prospects that keep popping up – Extra Points – Boston.com.

Patriots draft prospectus

Editor’s note: This was written for Boston.com.

Possible Patriots draft picks. (Boston.com)

Before considering whether or not the Patriots will trade away either of their two picks (Nos. 27 and 31) in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, which is in the “likely” column, one first has to consider whether or not there is any value in staying put. The key word, as it always is for coach Bill Belichick and company, is value. Do the Patriots envision any more value in multiplying the picks they have in the second round (two, 48 and 62), or the third (93) and fourth rounds (126)? Doing so changes the board for the Pats dramatically. So when considering the Patriots draft prospects, one has to consider the positioning, the projected talent, and then begin throwing darts at a board. Here’s where our darts landed.

Better late than never?

Colin Kaepernick
The 49ers were smart to wait till the second round to select Nevada's Colin Kaepernick.
In the 2011 NFL draft, there were five quarterbacks selected before the San Francisco 49ers picked Alex Smith’s replacement. The 49ers, a franchise without a legitimate leader under center since Jeff Garcia was given the boot, passed on its first opportunity to select a QB in the first round. It can be hard to make a decision as dynamic as a quarterback selection. Literally speaking, the franchise hinges on it. You could end up with a Joe Montana or a Jim Drunkenmiller.

So in all the knee-jerk glory and perspective that is the NFL draft, it was hard to not hate the 49ers’ decision to pass up on the likes of Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton and, yes, Ryan Mallett. With the No. 7 pick in the first round, the 49ers brass decided to go with defensive end Aldon Smith out of Missouri — Gabbert’s teammate. With time, I’ve come to terms with their decision because, simply, after Cam Newton’s selection (at No. 1 overall) the quality of talent in the draft pool dropped significantly.

Stop for a second and think about the NFL draft in terms of value over need. (With all this time in New England covering the Patriots, that word is starting to stick with me.) The 49ers were drafting based on value. Value — not need — determined who they took at the No. 7 spot. And value, not need, is what kept them for choosing a quarterback in the first round. It’s widely known that the cost of an NFL quarterback in the draft is outrageous. With Newton as the top pick, the pay scale for the 2011 rookies is likely to blow the minds of every NFL owner if this lockout is ever resolved. (And a rookie wage scale may avert this problem in the future.) With the economics of the draft tied so closely into the maneuverability for franchises, particularly in free agency, passing on quarterbacks and running backs is almost the prudent thing to do when you’re drafting higher than the No. 3 pick.
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All in due time

Aldon Smith
Defensive end Aldon Smith, the first-round draft pick of San Francisco 49ers, holds up a jersey at a news conference at the team's training facility in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP photo)

In a perfect world, I would’ve already expressed my concern about the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders. That is, if concern is the most appropriate feeling. And I’m sure you’ll agree, that’s been the dominant feeling about both of those football teams for, oh, the last decade.

Instead, I’ve been busy doing Patriots coverage of the NFL draft over on the Extra Points blog for Boston.com. So excuse me as I continue my amateurish ways and hold off on posting something so immediately.

I think some post-draft analysis will be appropriate given the circumstances.

Until then, follow along on Twitter at @zuriberry.

NFL draft coverage: Who will the 49ers pick?

OK, I really don’t care who they pick. I’m really more interested in what they pick with their first pick of the 2010 NFL draft.

Will it be a quarterback? A wide receiver? A running back? That’s really what’s important.

Readers of this blog will know from prior posts where I stand. The San Francisco 49ers need a quarterback. They continue to sign and trade for receivers as if the team has a receivers problem. Arnaz Battle wasn’t the problem. And Ted Ginn Jr. is not the answer.

Neither is David Carr.

Every problem with the 49ers offense — and I mean every problem — falls at the feet of Alex Smith. He’s a former No. 1 pick that’s not a No. 1 quarterback. That’s plain and simple to me.

No offense to Smith, but 2010-11 cannot be his year for the sake of my sanity. This year, like last year (and the year before that), the 49ers need to go in a different direction.

So what will it be? Jimmy Clausen (above) looks kinda sexy at No. 13 … or No. 17.

Feeling a little crabby over 49ers first round pick

Don’t tell me I’m supposed to be happy with that first round.

I think it’s about time to end the Michael Crabtree lovefest. Hands down, Crabs, Crab cakes, or whatever you want to call him (my personal favorite is Crabfest), is the greatest wide receiver in the 2009 NFL Draft, outranking the likes of Oakland’s pick, Darrius Heyward-Bey, by a longshot and a steal at No. 10 for the San Francisco 49ers.

But was Crabs really the answer for San Francisco? I don’t think so.

While the pick both excited and stimulated all of 49ers nation into hype not seen since Alex Smith was drafted first overall in 2005, it also killed any hope for what was expected to be the selection of Smith’s replacement.

With Matthew Stafford off the board two days prior and the New York Jets taking USC’s Mark Sanchez, hopes were slim as the remaining talent was heavily scrutinized.

All the while, all the pundits overlooked little old Josh Freeman of Kansas State, selected No. 17 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was written off for playing in a poor conference, being a project quarterback and generally not being the cool character that everyone knows Sanchez portrays.

There was so much scrutiny between the Stafford and Sanchez themselves, there wasn’t enough room to bring Freeman into the argument. Not to mention the fact that the 49ers were waddling over selecting one of the top-rated tackles or linebackers, Crabs was a pleasant surprise at No. 10.

“We had a head-on issue with it,” Singletary told the media on draft day. “You’ve got Michael Oher there, you’ve got (Michael) Crabtree. So what do you do? You want to tear up something. You’d like for it to be Crabtree or it’s Michael Oher. But when they’re both there at the same time and how we had our board, Crabtree is one of the best players in the draft so you’ve got to go there.”

You can say The Crabster’s availability threw a wrench in the 49ers’ planning. Or, if you’re thinking as nefariously as I am, the Raiders ruined the 49ers’ plans by passing up on the Texas Tech phenom.

How could they? As a two-time Biletnikoff winner, he was deserving of being the first receiver picked — bad foot and all. He’ll certainly prove his worth for years to come and Old Al will have to read it in his own local newspaper to boot.


But the 49ers were quick to jump the gun. Considering there are now 10 wide receivers on the roster, including Isaac Bruce, Josh Morgan, Arnaz Battle and Jason Hill, there won’t be enough balls to go around with all the development in the works.

The beautiful part about the NFL draft is there’s always room for redemption. The 49ers did their own version of addressing the quarterback issue and redeeming hopes in the future of the franchise’s lead role by picking up Ball State quarterback Nate Davis in the fifth round.

As Singletary put it, the guy was a steal. But don’t let him get your hopes up, he’ll have to put in at least a year carrying the clip board.

“This year, we’ve got Alex Smith and we’ve got Shaun Hill,” Singletary said. “Those two guys are competing for that job and at the quarterback position right now that’s enough to look at and focus on.”

One thing is for sure, and worthy of praise, there is a plan and there is focus. That’s promising.

Editor’s note: This column originally appeared in The Union.

NFL mock draft: Top 10 picks with comments

Been scouring all the mock drafts out there. I think it’s appropriate I do one for myself, at least through the first 10 picks. After that, it just gets sketchy. Without further ado, here we go:

  1. Detroit Lions (0-16 last season): Matthew Stafford, Georgia — It’s sad that Daunte Culpepper didn’t work out for the hapless Lions, but it really illuminates their struggles. After being on a wide receiver binge for the last six years, they’ll likely draft to build first rather than win first. It’s a no-brainer, especially with the worries about Mark Sanchez and the USC quarterback’s who have floundered after being drafted as of late (ah hem, Matt Leinart).
  2. St. Louis Rams (2-14): Jason Smith, Baylor — With the departure of Orlando Pace, and the struggles the Rams had in pass protection (45 sacks) and rushing (103 yards per game), they’ll focus in on the basis. And that starts up front with the hogs. The big if is whether Smith gets the nod, or Eugene Monroe from Virgina. Consider this a toss up of the two.
  3. Kansas City Chiefs (2-14): Aaron Curry, Wake Forest — After filling the quarterback hole, rethinking the tight end position (departure of Tony Gonzalez and signing of Sean Ryan) and having a new general manager to lead the draft, all eyes point to talent above need. Curry is the talent that most observers are saying is the “safe” pick, even though he’s marked as a guy who would flourish in a 3-4 defense, he’ll easily adjust. He looks that good.
  4. Seattle Seahawks (4-12): Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech — He’s my favorite player in this draft. If you recall, last season the Seahawks went into the year with four or five receivers injured. They started signing guys off the street and it was just getting ridiculous after awhile. And then of course, this offseason people started looking at Matt Hasselback like he was the problem, or more nicely, the future problem. They’ve got one major need and Crabtree fills it. They’d be stupid to draft anywhere else so high.
  5. Cleveland Browns (4-12): BJ Raji, Boston College — After getting this whole positive/negative drug test results cleared up, it appears the big defensive tackle will still be in the top-10. What better place to go than Cleveland, which gave up 356 yards a game (25th in the NFL) and finished with only 17 sacks last season. This Raji’s 337 pounds would help, if not now, down the line.
  6. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1): Eugene Monroe, Virginia — Every year I think the Bengals should focus on the basics (blocking and running) and every year I’m a little more disappointed. Here goes wishful thinking.
  7. Oakland Raiders (5-11): Jeremy Maclin, Missouri — Al Davis has apparently taken a liking to the Missouri wide receiver. It comes as no surprise that Davis is a sucker for potent threats. Talent first, need second. In this case, Maclin fills a need and a want.
  8. New York Jets (from Jacksonville Jaguars): Mark Sancehz, USC — As much as you (OK, really me) want to knock what Trojan quarterbacks have done in the pros lately, he’s the best thing available for this team with a quarterback identity issue.
  9. Green Bay Packers (6-10): Brian Orakpo, Texas — The recent moves by the Packers to fix up their offensive line before the draft gives me the distinct hint they’re posturing toward a defensive player. This is a good time to take Orakpo, a defensive end who had 23 sacks in 21 starts for the Longhorns. They build football players at that school.
  10. San Francisco 49ers (7-9): Andre Smith, Alabama — In a draft lacking a lot of depth, the 49ers will immediately fill a hole with Smith at tackle. Pass protection has been an issue the last few years. But even more important will be Mike Singletary’s emphasis on the running game. While a quarterback would be the team’s pick of choice, their top choice (Stafford) will be long gone by this point. And other top tackles will be gone, so Smith falls here by default. Josh Freeman, the No. 3 quarterback in most draft rankings, may not be sexy enough for the 49ers to grab here. But if it were up to me, they’d totally do it.

Here are some good mock drafts you should be aware of: