Pigskin Paul’s Page

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More post-Draft thots

Been seeing a lot of nay-saying in post Draft-land. I would like to remind all that with 7-8 Draft Picks per team, on average it is quite unrealistic to expect bad teams to turn it around based on a single Draft effort. The impact last season of ELLIOTT/PRESCOTT was unprecedented in my 50-plus years of watching pro football. Don’t expect that big of a Rookie impact even from the BROWNS this season with BARRETT-PEPPERS-NJOKU all coming aboard in one few swoop. As good as those players are, and are likely to be, their impact is likely to be less than a couple more wins in 2017. The big swing for this BROWNS franchise would likely be getting SAM DARNOLD/QB/USC into the fold next Draft.

Let’s stick with the BROWNS for a minute and try to calculate out what they were able to add to the roster thru the 2017 NFL Draft process. Clearly the 3 aforementioned players will all “start” in some manner for the majority of the season. ZANE GONZALEZ/K (R7) should win the PK job and be an upgrade. If 6th Rounder CALEB BRANTLEY/DT is cleared of legal charges he should certainly be in the 2-deep DL rotation. LARRY OGUNJOBI/DT, Round 3, should also crack that rotation. QB/KIZER & OT/JOHNSON are projects who should be inactive all season, but have long range starting potential. HOWARD WILSON/CB looks to have what it takes to catch on to the NFL game right away, at least in sub-package units. And last, but not least, it is my belief that RB/MATHEW DAYES (R7) could be a very pleasant surprise and get some significant playing time and touches as RB depth. I’d even talk to you about the URFA signings that the team has made since the official end of the Draft, but I don not see much there to be excited about. Only TAYLOR McNAMAR/TE & CHANNING STRIBLING/CB look to be of possible pro timber to me.

The RAIDERS have finally reached the stage of rebuild where significant talent additions at a couple of positions could make a big difference if they can go into the 2017-18 Play-Offs with a healthy QB/DERK CARR. And to my eyes their biggest needs going into the Draft were in their back 7 (or 8) on Defense. Assuming that First Rounder GAREON CONLEY/CB is cleared of his legal issues he could start right away in replacing D.J. HAYDEN. OBI MELIFONWU, in Round 2, could be a large talent upgrade and it would not surprise me if he does not play multiple roles for them. But CB is not one of them. Despite excellent athleticism I am skeptical of him playing on the Corner. But I could see him as a match-up defender who splits time between S and OLB. He’s a productive tackler with the athleticism to handle multiple coverage roles. It may take him a while to absorb all his potential duties, but watch out for his work in the second half of the season. I would also watch carefully for the work of ILB/MARQUEL LEE (R5) who is a solid athlete and a productive player.

It may not be this season, but perhaps in 2018 we might want to pay rapt attention to URFA TE/PHARAOH BROWN, who looked like an all-world player until a horrific knee injury put him out of action several years ago. The rehab has been long, and is still ongoing, but he’s a big target with long arms and big hands, who could make a very dangerous downfield receiving prospect in time. Also watch for WR/ISHMAEL ZAMORA, another URFA from Baylor who has a troubled off-field situation, but fits the old-time RAIDERS tradition of large, athletic receivers (6’3/224). The team did not draft a WR this year, but likes to add WR talent to their roster each year. I would also add that I like the Draft addition of RB/ELIJAH HOOD. With a guy named LYNCH now heading their RB depth chart it could give HOOD the chance to mature and develop while BeastMode does his thing prior to the Vegas relocation.

Post DRAFT thoughts from Pigskin

Nope not doing team Draft grades. Not yet, actually not ever. But if you pay attention over there next month or so you can probably figure who’s work I admire and which fan bases are in for disappointment come next September.

My first kudos go out to the BROWNS organization. I am not saying that they got everything right, but what I am saying is that they held their water, kept things under control and the roster looks stronger once again post-Draft. That would be 2 years in a row. Despite all the speculation, and cheap bar talk, the team took the best player available at Pick 1 and they played around a bit, moving down and then back up, to get additional players who look like keepers to me. Despite jumping around a bit they still ended up with double-digit total picks. Best of all perhaps, is the work they did to get themselves another First Round Pick in 2018. Live for today, and live for tomorrow!
I luv the fact that they pretty quietly drafted one of the top 4 QB way down at Pick 52, and quickly stated that their was no immediate expectation for KIZER capture the starting QB job. As much as how many games the team wins in 2017, HC HUE JACKSON will be judged on what kind of progress he can make with KIZER. Assuming the BROWNS are out of Play-Off contention come December, we should expect to see KIZER get a couple of starts at the end of the season. If not, then let the questioning begin relative to Hue Jackson’s reputation as an Offensive whiz and QB Whisperer.
I also liked the fact that the team did NOT cluster draft at any specific position group like they did last year by drafting what seemed like a WR at every other Pick. I was concerned that perhaps the football version of saber-metrics was to draft volume and hope someone turned out to be an NFL caliber player. In fact they did not draft a single WR this year.
I don’t even have a major issue with their selecting DT/CALEB BRANTLEY who had an off-field incident a couple weeks before the Draft. Once again a woman, in a bar, claims BRANTLEY punched her. If that turns out to be reality then the team has basically already said they will cut BRANTLEY. I’m OK with a risk pick in Round 6 on a player who two months ago was in the Round 2/3 range.
I also like the fact that the team took a stab at fixing their ongoing Kicking situation by drafting ZANE GONZALEZ in Round 7, Pick 224. He’s a record setting kicker, who seemed to have added about 10-yards to his range as a senior last season. He has a solid chance to fix the team’s PK merry-go-round, which might actually be worth a couple of wins right away.
Way to go BROWNIES! BROWNS fans should feel like more solid progress was made two weekends ago in an attempt to create something good along the lakeshore.

Overall 2017 was a solid Draft. The talent ran deep. But once I looked at each team’s drafted player lists I think I would revise some of my enthusiasm and say it was a deep, if not star-studded Draft Class. Lots of guys should make rosters and improve the bottom end of team rosters, but we may not be raving about 1st Rounders who are immediate stars, like we were last season when instant stars emerged like FAK PRESCOTT, CARSON WENTZ, EZEKIEL ELIOTT, JORDAN HOWARD, JALEN RAMSEY and more. In fact, assuming the now customary 100 Underclassmen apply for the Draft in 2018 I would project that group, led by SAM DARNOLD/QB, will be more exciting, and just as deep, as the 2017 group we just witnessed.

Jealousy and envy are two potent and ugly emotions within the human race. And as they pertain to the NFL the PATRIOTS are a target for many whose teams continually fail to catch up with BELICHICK/BRADY and company. So let me pass on to you some important information to temper your recent rants about what a “Nothing Draft” the PATS had. It is true that the team only selected 4 players in the 2017 Draft. But let’s talk about what they got for those missing Picks. The team added BRANDIN COOK/WR/RS, KONY EALY/DE, DWAYNE ALLEN/TE, MIKE GILLISLIE/RB & JAMES O’SHAUNESSEY/TE in return for Picks. Chances are this group will contribute more in the next few years than the drafted Rookies might. And that is important because a guy named BRADY is fast approaching his 40th birthday. So for the PATS winning now means everything.
And to make you haters feel even worse I would contend that the guys they did draft may all be major forces in 2018, after a year of coaching & indoctrination in the Patriot Way of doing business in the NFL. DEREK RIVERS/ER & ANTONIO GARCIA have starter potential for 2018. DEATRICH WISE/DE & CONOR McDERMOTT/OT look to be solid role player, back-ups. Wanna feel even worse haters?! They are likely to find some roster help from an impressive/solid group of URFA they signed after the Draft itself.

In a strange geographical twist an Ohio team had a very Raiders-esque west Coast Draft last month. The BENGALS looked for all the world like the AL DAVIS Raiders of old early on. In Round 1, in true DAVIS tradition, they selected the fastest player in this year’s Draft. The record setting (4.22) JOHN ROSS/WR/Washington. We shall see how he works out for them, but for once the actual fastest guy may be a real football player. He is quick and elusive after using his speed to get open, and will specialize in Cliff Branch’s favorite play call, ‘Go Long’. Then in Round 2 the team selected JOE MIXON/RB/OKLAHOMA. MIXON, IMO, is the best all-around RB to come out of college since a guy named ADRIAN PETERSON. He’s an even better pass receiver than PETERSON or EZEKIEL ELLIOTT. But a video of MIXON punching out a female student as a freshman at Oklahoma was too abhorrent for more than a few folks from multiple NFL organizations to risk public backlash by drafting him. After those 2 Picks the BENGALS Draft got pretty normal, but it was a controversial start. Now we will wait to see how it plays out. I will just say that the players just mentioned fill some serious need areas for the Bengals, who look to be scrambling a bit to avoid a slip from recent perennial Play-Off team to something seriously less.

One upon a time there was a team in Texas whose leadership saw the wisdom on using computers to collect and sort through player information like height, weight, speed, jumping ability, and more, thus generating notebooks of information on Draft eligible players. This was in a time when those computers and their servers took up multiple rooms in the NFL team’s headquarters. It is also believed that despite denials some NFL teams were still using Street & Smiths college annual magazine to help select their players. TEX SCHRAMM, with a big assist from Gil Brandt, led the cutting edge concept that= the Cowboys had a better idea on who to draft than most teams for years. Over time as other teams began to copy their methods and catch up COWBOYS leadership began to get cute and felt they could use their scouting and computer system to unearth “gems” that other teams still couldn’t find. That approach led to too many wasted picks and the COWBOYS slid back to mediocrity until a football genius named JIMMY JOHNSON came along. I like to say that SCHRAMM & BRANDT got too “cute” by thinking they could outsmart their competitors.
Which brings us to 2017 and the recent approach to things as practiced by guys named SCHNEIDER & CARROLL, who have had solid success doing things their collective way in Seattle. But if you look carefully you might notice that not too much has panned out for them since they had a hunch on a smallish QB named RUSSELL WILSON, who is clearly amongst the NFL’s elite. They ended the 2016 season with only one First Round player on their roster, and the current cast failed to carry them very far once the Play-Offs began.
Well, the boys did it again in their execution of the 2017 Draft. They traded away their First Round Pick to gain volume, and then pretty much spent the rest of the Draft weekend selecting players a round or two sooner than their talent warranted, IMO. In Round 2 they selected MALIK McDOWELL/DL/Michigan Sate, who just might have been the biggest underachiever in the Draft. At Pick 58, they selected ETHAN POCIC/OC/LSU, a solid player, then immediately told the world they saw him as a RT. And so it went. Their final 4 Picks in Rounds 6 & 7, featured not one player I saw as draftable. I would have expected all 4 of them to be URFA types. They got some serviceable players who may help the bottom of the roster, but overall not enough to stop their slide in Power Rankings. SEA HAWKS fans gird up your loins and make the 12th Man even more raucous and supportive at home games this coming season. This team is going to need all of your support, and then some, to make a Play-Off run again in 2017. The biggest factor in their favor is that they play in the NFC West, which may be one of the NFC’s weakest divisions.

That’s all for now, but I will have more collective Draft thoughts later in the week.

Pigskin

COMBINE Draft Results

Please understand that the following article is meant in no way to be an indictment of the NFL Combine. Consider it a few after-the-fact observations of the process and some of it’s flaws, both intended and circumstantial.

This year’s Combine had an official list of 330 invitees. This year’s Draft had 253 Picks in it. If you bother to go to the Combine website, nflcombine.net , you will see their stated goal is to include every player who will be drafted at their event. Relatively speaking their performance on that account was better than average in 2017.

My manual count shows 225 players present in Indy out of the 253 actually drafted last weekend in the NFL Player Selection Process. That is an 88.9% success factor. When I was in school that would be a solid B Grade, maybe even B+. But shouldn’t a group of paid professionals be able to come closer to one of their stated goals? Probably so, but in their defense they have a few obstacles to overcome in their efforts to invite the 330 most likely to be Drafted prospects in the country.

One of the biggest factors playing against them is the way the NFL handles declared underclassmen issues. By the time the actual declaration to forfeit eligibility is done and processed, it is almost too late to invite many of those players to an All-Star Game venue for on-field, in-pads scrutiny. So the League buries its head in the sand and prohibits these games from inviting underclassmen to participate. In its first year in existence the NFLPA Game invited a handful of declared underclassmen to their game, and the NFL threatened to fine any member teams that sent their scouts to even watch those players work out. So as a result, almost all of the Underclassmen get invited to the Combine every year, because it helps NFL Personnel people gather a lot of workout numbers in a small amount of time as they play catch-up in evaluating underclassmen. The problem with that practice is that most years only about 2 of every 3 underclassmen declared get drafted. With the number now totaling about 100 players overall each year having declared, it means about 33 invited players take up space that some seniors could have occupied. Chances are that might also inflate the number of Combine participants who actually would get drafted.
It is also an accepted, but not talked about reality, that teams who belong to National Scouting and pay most of their bills with membership fees, are known to request certain players be invited for their particular scouting purposes. I can’t tell you a total number, or percentage of actual draftability of those players, but I would surmise it too, brings down the success rate of draftees to Combine participants. In essence this process overrides the player selections that National’s scouting staff likely recommends for invite.

It has also been mentioned on a regular basis by some, that the relative value of some of the exercise/events that make up the on-field activity at the Combine should be changed or modified from year to year. For instance, why are OL & DL running 40-times. Make it a 20-yard run, with 10-yard splits. But the most commonly voiced complaint about that concept is that doing so would take out long term comparable stats to players of decades ago. That makes some sense, but you can’t redraft DEION SANDERS. The fastest guy at this year’s Combine (John Ross) in the 40 is still the fastest guy out there for this year’s Draft.

Enough already before we end up debating micro-minutia, redundancy intended. Unless several major items are going to change, then I would strongly urge National Scouting & the NFL , just delete the sentence proclaiming their goal to invite every drafted player to the event each year. Why set yourself up for failure and second guessing every single year just because of the nature of the beast.

Pigskin

2017 NFL Draft Recap

Colin has already presented you with multiple numbers to digest from the Draft last weekend, so I will try my best to avoid duplicating too much in this brief article.

As most of you know by now, I am a big fan and proponent of our annual January Star Games, as Colin likes to refer to them. The Big 3, are the Senior, Shrine & NFLPA games. Trying to sift through the players involved (over 300) it gets hard to pin down an exact output to the Draft from each game. Players at the weigh-in will differ by as many as double digits from those who actually play at the end of the week, primarily due to practice injuries. And of course we have players from the Shrine & NFLPA (which play on the same day) getting called up to the Senior Bowl to fill out roster spots. All that being said I went through the Weigh-In rosters and came up with this count of players drafted from each game:

SENIOR BOWL 83
SHRINE Game 24
NFLPA Game 21

It’s not hard to see the pecking order, but I would point out that the newest game appears to be catching up with the Shrine venue. Please remember that Declared Underclassmen cannot participate in any of these games, which means that 67 of the 253 Draftees never had a chance to participate.
So do some quick math and you understand that 186 of the draftees were eligible for the Draft and 130 of those 186 attended all-star games, minus a few double-dippers.
A tip of the cap to TONY SOFTLI, who now heads up the NFLPA player scouting/recruitment. Only a few years ago that NFLPA number was in single digits. The Shrine venue got a similar roster boost when Dan Shonka of OURLADS began helping them with their player recruitment a few years ago.

In a side note number related to those above, 104 Underclassmen were declared eligible for the Draft, and 67 were drafted. Most of there rest will be in an NFL Training Camp as URFA come July.

I do not believe in grades for individual teams and their Draft efforts. But I realize readers like to see another opinion of some sort on how their team did. I am toying with a code system that will at least present you a relative scale on how I think the teams did. It may be as simple as 3 levels of ranking: +, = , – . Bet you can figure out what they pretty much mean. I’ll keep plugging away at it over the next week and hopefully come up with a report card in the next week or two.

Don’t forget that it will take a wee bit longer to get a grasp on total Draft Process outcomes for all teams. We have to wait until the Undrafted Rookie Free Agent (URFA) signings are wrapped up and reported. Which in some cases will not be officially released ’til after Rookie mini-camps this weekend for most teams. And for those of you carelessly predicting the demise of the PATRIOTS after only 4 Draft Picks, please remember they made a series of trades and RFA signings that count as part of their 2017 Draft Process.

Please be aware that yours truly will still be writing about the Draft a month from now. Unlike some millennials who have a rear view mirror of life after about 2 days, I feel totally entitled to discuss things well after their occurrence.

Pigskin

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