The323 NFL Draft Big Board  

Posted by Walter

The Official 323 Big Board: Unlike the mock draf that predicted which teams would draft which players, this board is all about who we think are the best prospects. The initial installment comes immediately following the Senior Bowl, so some of the top performers from Mobile are featured fairly high in the rankings. As the momentum meter will show you, these rankings are intended to be very fluid and will change on a weekly basis.

If you don't like where you're favorite player is ranked, feel free to post a comment telling me how much of an idiot I am. F0r example, personally, I feel that Adrien Peterson is too tall and runs to high to stay healthy in the NFL. Hence his #10 ranking is far higher than his talent would indicate. In the words of Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny, "I really could use a good ass-kicking" so all you Sooners fans, let 'er rip.

1. Jamarcus Russell - Quarterback, LSU

Momentum - Rising

2. Calvin Johnson - Wide Reciever, Georia Tech
Momentum - Rising

3. Joe Thomas - Tackle, Wisconsin
Momentum - Rising

4. Laron Landry - Safety, LSU
Momentum - Steady

5. Gaines Adams - Defensive End, Clemson
Momentum - Steady

6. Brady Quinn - Quarterback, Notre Dame
Momentum - Falling

7. Jamaal Anderson - Defensive End, Arkansas
Momentum - Rising

8. Amobi Okoye - Defensive Tackle, Louisville
Momentum - Major Riser

9. Paul Poszulsny - Linebacker, Penn. State
Momentum - Steady

10. Adrian Peterson - Running Back, Oklahoma
Momentum - Falling

11. Dwayne Jarrett - Wide Reciever, USC
Momentum - Steady

12. Patrick Willis - Linebacker, Mississippi
Momentum - Rising

13. Levi Brown - Tackle, Penn. State
Momentum - Major Riser

14. Adam Carriker - Defensive End, Nebraska
Momentun - Major Riser

15. Dwayne Bowe - Wide Reciever, LSU
Momentum - Major Riser

16. Alan Branch - Defensive Tackle, Michigan
Momentum - Falling

17. Reggie Nelson - Safety, Florida
Momentum - Falling

18. Leon Hall - Cornerback, Michigan

Momentum - Falling

19. Justin Blalock - Guard, Texas
Momentum - Rising

20. Ryan Kalil - Center, USC
Momentum - Major Riser

21. Darrelle Revis - Cornerback, Pittsburgh

Momentum - Steady

22. Lawrence Timmons - Linebacker, Florida State
Momentum - Steady

23. Ted Ginn Jr. - Wide Reciever, Ohio State
Momentum - Falling

24. Charles Johnson - Defensive End, Georgia
Momentum - Rising

25. Joe Staley - Tackle, Central Michigan
Momentum - Rising

Just missed the cut.........

Mike Griffin; Sidney Rice; Brandon Merriweather; Daymeoin Hughes; Ben Grubbs; Aaron Ross;

2007 Mock Draft-Part One  

Posted by Walter

Here is the first half of our initial mock for the 2007 NFL draft. Of course this is all subject to change, and we plan on keeping this fluid as needs, workouts, injuries, hirings and all the rest influence things. For each selection we have a brief analysis by the big man, and a "Frazier's Fan" outlook. The Frazier's Fan notes are meant to show how a fan of this NFL team should be feeling about the prospect of drafting the player we've slotted for them. As always, this isn't a list of who's best, it's just a prediction of who will be drafted, based on that players position, skill, level of hype, and the drafting team's needs, draft history, and ability to evaluate talent. It's a excercise in pure guessing.

1. Oakland Raiders
- Jamarcus Russell, QB LSU

Walter: A once in a lifetime talent with the super-human size speed combination, and bionic arm to lead the Raiders vertical passing game for the next 10 seasons.

Frazier's Fan (FF): Gotta be excited! Russell may not be polished, but if he's throwing bombs, maybe Moss will care again, and Kiffin is going to try and light up the scoreboard.

2. Detroit Lions - Brady Quinn, QB Notre Dame

Walter: While Detroit needs more than just an infusion of youth at QB, Matt Millen simply cannot afford not to take the polished Quinn whose drafting might buy him a few more years in Detroit (drafting Joe Thomas wouldn't do that).

FF: After the Joey debacle, quarterbacks are scary. Especially ones who play like shit against elite opponents, and showed no improvement in the last year. I'm nervous.

3. Cleveland Browns* - Joe Thomas, T Wisconsin

Walter: Expect the Browns to address their QB situation either late in the first round or early in the second round by drafting one of the local products (Drew Stanton, or more likely Troy Smith). Thomas is the franchise left tackle that the new Browns QB will need.

FF: It's hard to get amped about offensive lineman, but you can't kill the pick. Maybe it's the smart move, but I'm not getting off my couch to buy a Thomas jersey.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers* - Calvin Johnson, WR Georgia Tech

Walter: Defensive line is a more glaring need, but with no prospects warranting the #4 pick Calvin Johnson is simply too talented to not take. I wouldn't be shocked if they tried to trade out of this pick.

FF: Woohoo! Wide receivers are sexy, and this is one of the best in recent memory! If only he had a quarterback with talent, or a spleen, to throw him the ball. (Not that he needed one in college).

5. Arizona Cardinals - Jamaal Anderson, DE Arkansas

Walter: In Anderson the Cardinals will get a Richard Seymour clone who will demand two blockers whether the opposition is running or passing....still the guy this team really wants is Joe Thomas, and I wouldn't be shocked to see the Cards try and move up into the top 3 to get him.

FF: Feeling pretty good about Jamaal, he was a great all-around lineman last year. We got a lot of needs, but Anderson definitely helps.

6. Washington Redskins - Gaines Adams, DE Clemson

Walter: If Anderson makes it to the Skins picking him would be a slam dunk, but Adams will give them the pass rushing presence they have sorely missed. Alan Branch will garner consideration, but he projects as more of a nose.

FF: Who are our defensive lineman again? Yeah, get this guy. I love seeing the opposing quarterback on his ass!

7. Minnesota Vikings - Adrien Peterson, RB Oklahoma

Walter: Certainly not a need pick, but with no available WR worthy of this pick the Vikings get potentially the top overall player in the entire draft at #7.

FF: YES! Not only is this kid good, and at a position everyone can get stoked about, but I have been seeing his highlights for three years! Rock on!

8. Houston Texans - Levi Brown, LT Penn. State

Walter: Ouch. Peterson is the guy they want, but he gets snatched up one spot before the Texans pick forcing them to reach on Brown, hoping he becomes the franchise left tackle they have been lacking during their entire existence.

FF: Remember how I said no one gets amped about offensive linemen? Well, Texans fans DO get amped. Dear God do they need one, and Levi is great, even if he looks like a 45 year old bible salesman.

9. Miami Dolphins - Amobi Okoye, DT Louisville

Walter: Again, not a need pick but Okoye was lights out at the Senior Bowl and his blend of power and speed make him an ideal three technique tackle (something Alan Branch, the other player the Phins will consider, is not).

FF: This kid is good and all, but I'm a hell of a lot more worried about our offense. And that traitor, Saban.

10. Atlanta Falcons - Leon Hall, DB Michigan

Walter: With Milloy and Crocker nearing the end, I would select LSU safety Laron Landry, but the Falcons need immediate help at corner and Hall can step in opposite Deangelo Hall and start from day one.

FF: If I'm a Vick believer, I am dying to get another receiver, and give the guy one last chance. If I'm not a believer, than I'll take the defensive help.

11. San Francisco 49ers - Alan Branch, DT Michigan

Walter: Finally an absolutely perfect fit. Branch is the space eating nose tackle that the niners sorely needs, and in the 3-4 his lack of pass rushing ability won't really be an issue.

FF: Loved the improvement we showed last year, and Branch will make a great addition. If the offense improves a little more, and a better defense, could we make the playoffs?

12. Buffalo Bills - Patrick Willis, LB Mississippi

Walter: Somewhat of a reach here, but as we saw last year with James McCargo, the Bills are not afraid to reach. Willis is a tackling machine who can slide into the strong side OLB spot in 2007 before taking over in the middle for London Fletcher in 2008.

FF: I'm not entirely sure where we need the most help, but having another great linebacker never hurts. Good linebacking covers lots of holes, and we've got plenty.

13. St. Louis Rams - Paul Poszlusny, LB Penn. State

Walter: The cupboard is completely bare for the Rams at OLB. While I still think Puz's best fit is as a cover 2 MLB, he can come in and start from day one for the Rams.....assuming they aren't stupid enough to select Lawrence Timmons over him.

FF: Cool! I like guys I've heard of, I like linebackers from PSU, and I love having at least one competent linebacker.

14. Carolina Panthers - Lawrence Timmons, LB Florida State

Walter: The guy they want is Pat Willis, but with him gone they snatch up the next best linebacker available. Again, the guy I'd choose is Laron Landry, but after investing several high picks in th secondary in recent years (Chris Gamble, Richard Marshall) the Panthers need to bolster their linebacking corpse. Plus, last year's first rounder Thomas Davis can always move back to safety.

FF: Are we trying to be the most boring team in football? On defense, the need is linebacking, but I'd love to see someone other than Steve Smith do something offensively.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers - Adam Carriker, DE Nebraska

Walter: Prior to his Senior Bowl performance this would have been an ultimate reach. But Carriker dominated so much in Mobile that he looks the part of a top 15 picks, and his size (6'6'' 300 lbs.) makes him an ideal end in the Steelers fixture 3-4 defense.

FF: I love it. We haven't had great play on the line in awhile, and with an end that can stuff the run AND pressure the quarterback, we're getting back to that Super Bowl winning, nasty, D.

16. Green Bay Packers - Tedd Ginn Jr., WR Ohio State

Walter: Ginn will almost certainly go higher than #16 (though he shouldn't), but Green Bay would be a solid landing spot for him as the Packers would use him in the slot and on kick returns (a la Desmond Howard) to get his feet wet before taking over the starting spot for Donald Driver in 2008.

FF: Are you sure there's no running backs available? We've got a ton of needs, but I don't feel like "punt returner" is high on the list. Do we label him a bust now, or wait until he suits up? Do you think Teddy is going to enjoy nice, quiet, downtown Green Bay?

* - subject to coin flip

The All-323 Team  

Posted by Walter

Wait a minute, didn't we already do a 323 all america team? Well, yes we did, but this team is a bit different. All america teams are about numbers.....flashy, gaudy, sexy numbers. So what is the all-323 team about? Well pretty much the exact opposite. Whereas an all america team takes the best players who have the best numbers, the all-323 team takes the best players who didn't have the best numbers. In a word, the all-323 team is filled with players who may not have the numbers, but have "it".....whatever "it" may be.

QB - Stephen McGee, Texas A & M

Walter: As any loyal 323 reader no doubt already knows, I am a huge Stephen McGee fan. But my man love aside, McGee was really an outstanding performer this year for the Aggies. The numbers don't lie, nearly 2300 passing yards, 666 rushing yards, 16 total TD (12 passing) against just 2 INT. McGee was efficient (134.9 QB rating), fearless (146 carries on the season), and tough as nails (4.6 yards per carry, a real grid in out type runner). Though his numbers weren't the equal of a Brady Quinn or Colt Brennan, McGee was every bit as important to his team, as was the emotional lift his gutsy play provided.

RB - Tony Hunt, Penn. State

Walter: Another 323 favorite, but this time, one that the national media is starting to pay attention to. Funny, all it took was an MVP performance at the Senior Bowl. Hunt has been the definition of a workhors this season for the Nittany Lions (277 carries), and was by far their team MVP. While talented but erratic QB Anthony Morrelli was getting his feet wet, JoePa and Co. relied on the broad shoulders of Hunt to carry the load. Hunt is what he is, a power back, and he knows this. He doesn't try to reinvent the wheel, rather he just gets his pad level low and plows forward. Even though he will never have many 50 yard runs on his resume, you can win with a back like Hunt. He is a positive yardage machine and is going to make an excellent NFL player.

RB - Felix Jones, Arkansas

Frazier:The all-323 backfield is an excellent example of the two-back approaches being u at the professional level. While Tony Hunt is a hard driving, workhorse type, who can move thetilized pile and wear down defenses, Felix Jones is the homerun. Jones paired with Darren McFadden to provide a lethal 1-2 combination that left defenses worn out. While McFadden is a physical freak, delivering punishment while he runs, Jones found creases and blew them up for huge gains. He made small creases into touchdowns, and was excellent in open space. Jones also did an excellent job in the receiving game, with screens and short catches out of the backfield making up for the fact that the Hogs quarterbacks really struggled. Jones exploded for 1,168 yards and a stunning 7.6yds/carry. Although he may have done his work in the shadow of the incredible McFadden, Felix Jones has really earned a little recognition of his own.

WR - Willie Idlette, Wake Forest

Walter: Ah yes, Mr. Idlette....or as I like to call him, the best player with the worst stats you've ever seen. Idlette's numbers this year were, for lack of a better word, pedestrian (511 recieving yards, 125 rushing yards, 4 TD). But that can be attributed to the uber conservative, spread the ball around offense Wake Forest ran. The fact is that whenever the offense needed a big play they turned to Idlette, and he delivered just about every time (just as Boston College). Idlette is the classic player who is at his best when there is the most on the line. Just consider what he did in Wake's final four games: 59 yds. recieving and 20 yds. rushing against VTech, 64 yds. recieving and a TD against Maryland, 73 yds. recieving and 35 yds. rushing against Georgia Tech, and 91 yds. receiving against Louisville. Again, you won't find him on any all america teams, but I bet you'd be hard pressed to find a guy who made more big plays for his team when they needed it the most.

WR - Darius Reynaud, West Virginia

Frazier: Reynaud isn't on this list because he caught an unseemly amount of balls. He didn't. And he isn't on this list because he turned every catch into a homerun, he didn't, but he did turn a lot of them into big gains. He's here because he's the perfect running back for his system. He has good hands, which were essential because as skilled as Pat White is, his passes are often a step behind, or high, or low, of his targets. Darius turned those into receptions. He also helped provide a balance on offense, and turned third and longs into first downs. And he turned short gains into long ones. When West Virginia needed a reception, there was only one man they were going to. More than anything, Darius was willing to give up his own stats to make his team better. He isn't just a willing blocker, he takes pride in it. West Virginia turns creases into touchdowns better than any team in the country, and Reynaud made that possible by taking on his blocking assignments, and wiping out cornerbacks or safeties trying to make the play downfield. Reynaud also gained a couple of hundred yards on the ground, since Rodriguez knows how good he is in space, and he had to find ways to get the ball in his hands.

WR - Harry Douglas, Louisville

Frazier:Man, that Mario Urrutia is good, huh?! Wait, he only tied for the team lead in touchdown receptions? Wait, he didn't lead his team in receptions? He didn't lead his team in receiving yards? He didn't lead his team in yards per catch? Yeah, that was Harry Douglas. Every time. He was the leading receiver on the top offense in the country. He was Brohm's primary weapon. He really made that team go, and he didn't get any of the love for it. Harry Douglas did everything. He caught the ball well, ran good routes, made big plays, and moved the chains. It's only because the Louisville offensive attack was so balanced that he didn't get the love he deserved. Well, he's getting it now, and he's going to get it next year when he and the other Louisville receivers are catching perfect Brohm passes, and running roughshod over any defense that dares challenge them.

OL - Phil Trautwein, Florida

Walter: As a former offensive lineman with limited athletic ability myself, I really love and admire self made player like the Gators' Trautwein. Trautwein was not a hugely recruited player out of high school in New Jersey, and he wasn't one of Urban Meyer's guys when the coach stepped in. Still, Meyer challenged Trautwein, and he responded with a gritty attitude that allowed him to perform at an all conference level for Florida en route to a national title. Trautwein gets by on simply being meaner, nastier, and wanting it more than his opposition. While the Gator skill position players got all the love from pundits after their domination of Ohio State, Trautwein and the rest of the Gator O-Line performed quite well in manhandling the Buckeye front.

OL - Kasey Studdard, Texas

Walter: Studdard is a similar player to Trautwein in the sense that neither really get their due. Trautwein because he isn't flashy, Studdard because of his far more heralded teammates. While everyone knows just how good Justin Blalock is, Studdard is just as tough and effective a collegiate blocker. While he doesn't share Blalock's athleticism or pro potential, Studdard is a straight up mauler who has always been at his most effective in the running game.

OL - Ryan Clady, Boise State

Frazier:The fightin' Broncos roared for 2,700 yards on the ground this year, and no one was more valuable to that attack than Ryan Clady. Now, he's an obvious choice for the all-323, because his entire team was pretty much overlooked. Clady isn't just a WAC blocker, either. He's a hulking 6'6, 320lb. behemouth out there. While he might not have gone against top competition every week, he always brought his game, and against an excellent Oklahoma defense, he proved his worth. He paved the road for a hundred yard game from Ian Johnson in the Fiesta Bowl, and one day he'll be doing the same for a back in the NFL.

OL - James Marten, Boston College

Walter: Marten's game is quite similar to one of my all time favorite BC Eagle lineman, Jeremy Trueblood. Trueblood was a massive (6'8'') blocker who played as physically and mean as anyone. Well, Marten is a massive blocker (6'7'') who shares Trueblood's mean streak. Marten is a typical BC lineman. He may not have the measurables or athletic ability, but between the lines he just gets the job done. Marten also possesses the rarest of rare qualities in an O-Lineman, namely that he just takes pleasure in finishing blocks. Marten is the type of player who never has to be told to play to the whistle, and is always the one getting into fights on the first day of training camp. Trust me, coaches love guys like him.

OL - Steve Vallos, Wake Forest

Frazier: Now, Vallos isn't as overlooked as many of the players on this team. But he's another guy who really represents an entire team that was short-shrifted. The Wake Forest philosophy was to run well, control the ball, and not make mistakes. A big part of that is protecting the quarterback. Wake Forest also produced 2,100 yards on the ground, with no back going for over 500 yards. That means that no matter who was toting the ball, Vallos was making holes.

DL - Chris Long, Virginia

Frazier: Go Hoos! Maybe it's a homer pick. But, maybe it isn't. Howie's son has been an outstanding player for Virginia, and they've desperately needed somebody to be. He recorded 5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss and 21 quarterback pressures, all while being the cornerstone of an improved Virginia defense. Long is a big body at 6'4 and 290 lbs. from his defensive end position. But he has good quickness, excellent hands, and you can tell that his father is a hall-of-famer. His instincts and football IQ are both excellent. Chris got overlooked this year because in a down ACC, Virginia couldn't get anything going. But their defense improved from 60th in the nation in total defense to 20th this year. Long was a big reason for that jump.

DL - Tommy Blake, TCU

Walter: I will guarantee you one thing, Tommy Blake is the absolute best defensive player you've never heard of. TCU was a defensive machine this year, thanks in large part to this dominant junior end. Yes his stats are gaudy at 7 sacks and 16.5 tackles for a loss, but Blake is physical specimen who is the rare end who contributes as much against the run as he does rushing the passer. TCU had one of the top rush defenses in the nation this year and a large part of those kudos must go to Blake. Blake will enter 2007 as one of the top defensive ends in the college game and TCU will be a tough out once again.

DL - Casper Brinkley, South Carolina

Walter: Unlike Blake, Brinkley is a player whose best contributions don't appear on the stat sheet. Well, kind of. Brinkley did post a very respectable 7 sacks and 13.5 tackles for a loss for the Gamecocks this season, but that said, he wasn't even the most recognizable Brinkley on his own team (his twin brother Jasper is the South Carolina middle linebacker). Casper is a bit undersized at only 260 pounds or so, but he is a true technician who is absolutely never (and I mean never) out of position. Casper is a coaches dream in that he is a solid positional player who will always make sure his responsibility is taken care of and never puts his own stats ahead of the team. With Casper (and Jasper) leading the way, look for the Gamecocks to have one of the best defenses in the SEC in 2007.

DL - Bryan Pata, Miami

Frazier:This is just one way to honor a young man who lost his life too early. Bryan Pata was an excellent football player, and he should at this moment be preparing himself for the April draft. He would have been selected, and whichever team got him would be lucky to be getting a player of such high moral character, who was a leader on a team that desperately needed them. No one ever had a bad word to say about Pata. He was liked and respected by teammates and opponents, and even when things were spiralling out of control in Coral Gables, he was trying to hold his team together, and to get foolish young men to act with class and character. Maybe I'll remember Bryan stuffing a run, or terrorizing a quarterback, but mostly, I'll remember him as a young man who had a lot to give. To his team, to his sport, to his community. He is the ultimate 323 player.

LB - Dallas Sartz, USC

Walter: Sartz probably wouldn't have been on this team had he stayed healthy in 2006, because he would have been on another......the 323 all america team. Sartz is the classic player who has all the physical and mental tools but just never could stay healthy in college to put it all together. Shhhhhh, don't tell anyone but most of the time those guys become great NFL players (see Martin, Curtis; Davis, Terrell). Sartz is a physical football player who put up 70 tackles and 7 sacks on the season. At 6'5'' and 240 pounds Sartz is a prototype NFL linebacker, not to mention that he was one of the more underappreciated college backers.

LB - Mark Dodge, Texas A & M

Frazier: Dodge is a favorite of mine. He is the definition of what a leader should be. After serving his country in the Army, Mark decided to go back to college. But he still hadn't fulfilled his dream of playing big-time college football, and so he transferred to Texas A&M. He hadn't been on the campus for over a month before he was selected to the leadership committee on the Aggies football team, a sign of the respect that his teammates and coaches had for him. He has been a leader since the first moment he stepped on the field. While he might be a first year player, he has a whole lifetime of experience off the field, and has seen pressures far greater than playing in front of the rabid members of the 12th man. While his leadership is truly admirable, his play is what really earned him this nod. He led a tough Aggies defense from his position in the middle, and was constantly plugging holes, and making huge tackles. It was Dodge filling a gap, cutting down a Longhorns running back on 4th and short that set the tone early in the upset over Texas. When a play needed to be made, Dodge was there.

LB - Buster Davis, Florida State

Frazier:Buster is the ferocious hitter in the middle of the Seminoles defense. Every time I saw them play (which was far too often for that sorry bunch) I couldn't keep my eyes off Buster. He was virtually everywhere. At only 5'9 he is an absolute fireplug of a man, at a bruising 240lbs. But he doesn't carry it heavy. He is very quick, and while his straight line speed may not be great, he plays very, very quick. He is also a tackling machine. If he hits you, you're going down. And he doesn't blow tackles trying to light up every opponent. It's just that he happens to light up a lot of them. But don't worry, he's focused on bringing them down. The real value of Buster was just his ability to be everywhere his team needed him to be. He went sideline-to-sideline, and made plays all over the field. Honestly, I couldn't watch enough of him. I love the way he plays the game, and I love watching the "little" man plastering all the big boys.

DB - Anthony Scirrotto, Penn. State

Frazier: Scirrotto was a big part of the Nittany Lions success this year. He's another guy who while having goot speed, was at his best making plays when they were needed. He came up and played excellently against the run, making tackles and providing a reliable last line of defense. But his real gift was his ability to be in the right place, and make the right plays. He was at his best playing the position well, and breaking up passes. He is a very heady player, which is hardly surprising for a Joe Pa favorite, and he helped make the Nittany Lions secondary an excellent unit. In the win against Tennessee, he showed how valuable he is, with 6 tackles, an interception, and 2 passes defensed. That's a hell of a showing, in a huge game.

DB - Leonard Peters, Hawaii

Walter: In case you didn't know, offense isn't the only thing that the Warriors do on the island....well maybe it is, but Peters is still one hell of a football player. Perhaps he would have gotten more recognition had the rest of the players around him not stunk so badly, but Peters is a classic inside the box safety who really excells in the running game. At 6'1'' and 200 pounds Peters has the size to be a factor, and with 74 tackles in less than 10 full games this season he also has the productivity. Peters will never be a great coverage safety but with his kamikaze style laying WR out he will always have a place in the game of football.

DB - Dejuan Tribble, Boston College

Walter: Yes he may be only 5'9'' and 189 pounds. Yes he wasn't any sort of highly recruited player coming out of high school. And yes, he was one of the best all around defensive backs in the nation in 2006....wait, what? Well it's true. The lightly regarded Tribble was all over the field for the Eagles this season, registering 49 tackles, 7 interceptions, 5 pass break ups, and even 4 tackles for a loss for good measure. Tribble is a heady corner who has uncanny instincts and ability to read the quarterback. Only a Junior in 2006, expect to hear a lot more from him in 2007, especially if his team finally fulfills the promise they have showed for the past 3 seasons under recently departed Tom O'Brien.

DB - John Talley, Duke

Walter: Talley deserves a ton of credit for almost single handedly making the Duke defense respectable in 2006. Despite playing on a unit with players who are closer to division II caliber than division IA, Talley matched his all 323 teammate Dejuan Tribble with 7 picks. Talley is a classic ball hawk who just always seems to get his hands on opposing QB's passes (8 passes broken up to go with those 7 picks). Talley probably doesn't have the athletic ability to compete in the NFL in man to man coverage, but there will always be a place for players who have his instincts and playmaking ability. Gotta love those Bluedevil defensive backs.

The All-323 Player Of the Year - Paul Thompson, QB Oklahoma

Walter: With no disrespect whatsoever to Stephen McGee or any of the other all323 players, no player in America more embodied what the all-323 team is supposed to be about more than Thompson. In 2005 Thompson was the starting quarterback for the Sooners on their first play against TCU. When they lost that game, the Norman faithful crucified him and forced Bob Stoops to go with Rhett Bomar for the rest of the season. Thompson quietly took the criticis
m all on himself (even though he surely did no deserve it) and started working on his hands and route running, eventually working his way into the top three of the depth chart for wideouts at the beginning of the 2006 season. But when Bomar was dismissed from the team who was there to save the day? Thompson. Despite the fact that he had worked his ass off becoming a wide reciever, Thompson yet again put himself aside for the better of the team. He easily could have told Bob Stoops, "Coach, I'd love to do it but I'm a senior, I've worked to become a wideout, that's where I have the best chance to be drafted, can't you find someone else?" And frankly, had he said that I don't think Stoops would have blamed him. Yet when the season started, there was Thompson under center, leading the Sooners to their most improbably Big 12 title in years. Thompson had a great year, but by moving back to QB he probably cost himself a chance to be drafted. He wasn't an all america, but he is the definition of an all-323.

So Mr. Thompson, we know it may not mean much to you, but we here at the323 take out hat off to you Sir.

Senior Bowl Practice Wrap Up  

Posted by Walter

First, I'd like to give kudos to the NFL Network for their superb broadcasting of the Senior Bowl practices all week. Just and oustanding job by their entire crew, especially analyst Mike Mayock who is the most prepared and insightful draft analyst on the planet. OK, so the big question is which players helped themselves the most during practice, and which players hurt themselves the most? Keeping in mind that this list does not take into account the game itself, which will be played lated today, here is the official 323 five up five down from Senior Bowl practice week.

Five Up - Five players who made themselves a lot of money.

1) Dawyne Bowe - WR, LSU

No shock here for anyone who has read analysis or watched practice this week. Bowe was consistently the best player on the field, and was virtually uncoverable. At 6'2'' and 222 lbs., Bowe is a big, physical WR who is not afraid to go over the middle and really uses his body well. The most impressive thing about Bowe, though, was the quickness and agility he displayed coming into and going out of his breaks. A man that size just shouldn't be able to stop and cut as quickly as he did this week. It was a sight to behold, watching smaller corners try to lock Bowe down in press coverage. Folks, it just ain't gonna happen. I don't think I've ever seen a wideout break press coverage as consistently and effortlessly as Bowe did all week. The only knock on Bowe is that his hands are inconsistent and he will drop catchable balls. However, that is a flaw that can be corrected by an NFL team. Bowe entered the week as a fringe 1st Round WR, and left mobile with a solid mid 20's grade.

2) Amobi Okoye - DT, Louisville

Okoye started the week with a bang, showing up in Mobile a svelt 20 pounds under his playing weight. But Amobi quickly put any fears to rest by consistently dominating the one on one drills against some pretty good offensive lineman. Okoye displayed a superb blend of power and quickness, often dominating with a bull rush one play and a swim/spin move the next. At only 20 years old many scouts were concerned with his age, but Okoye also allayed those fears by giving thoughtful, mature, and articulate interviews all week. Physically Okoye still has some growing to do, but his skill set is so unique among players in this draft and in Mobile he showed that he is a solid 3 technique prospect. Okoye entered the week as a 2nd round pick, and he may have shown enough to sneak into the back end of round 1.

3) Eric Weddle - DB, Utah

The number one priority for Weddle this week was to find a position. Weddle worked out as both a corner and safety, and while he performed well at both he showed unparalleled instincts and ball hawking ability at safety, his NFL position. Weddle doesn't necessarily pass the eyeball test, but between the lines he is just always around the ball. Weddle showed that he is an excellent athlete with fluid hips and great awareness in coverage. His lack of ideal straight line speed will probably preclude him from ever being a full time NFL corner, but his versatility is such that he can easily slide outside in a pinch. Weddle proved that he is the type of player you win with, one that creates turnovers and will help in all facets of the game. Weddle was considered a high second day pick before this week, but his performance as a safety definitely got him into the 1st day, and perhaps even the back end of the first round where a team like the NE Patriots may covet his high character and versatility.

4) Ryan Kalil - C, USC

Simply put, Kalil was the best offensive lineman in camp. He is a solid 290 lbs. but what really stood out about Kalil was his absolutely perfect technique and use of leverage. Kalil consistently got hands on the defensive lineman, and was always underneat his opponent's pad level. Prior to the week of practice I considered Kalil a Dan Koppen type player who could come to an NFL camp and start from day one. Today I still think that comparison is apt, although Kalil may have worked himself into the bottom of the first round. Mike Mayock described Kalil as a guy who you can plug in from day one at center, and then 10 years later he's still there. Kalil will probably be a high second round pick, but has proven this week that he is capable of being a longtime NFL starter.

5) Adam Carriker - DE, Nebraska

Carriker started the week on a great note, showing up at the weigh in looking like a body builder at a ripped 290 lbs. The week got better from there. Originally thought of as strictly a 3-4 end or 4-3 tackle, Carriker exhibited explosion and quickness all week that most scouts didn't think he possessed. Specifically coming off the edge in the pass rush, Carriker was unblockable. He uses his hands very well, and is so strong that once he locks on the offensive tackle is in big trouble. Carriker looks the part perhaps more than any other player in Mobile, and proved this week that he can play defensive end in any NFL scheme. Especially with so many team adopting the Patriots philosophy of switching between the 3-4 and the 4-3, Carriker appears almost a lock for the first round. I wouldn't be shocked if a team like the Jets fell in love with him, despite greater needs elsewhere.

Five Down - Five players who cost themselves a lot of money.

1) Marcus McCauley - CB, Fresno State

McCauley has all the tools to be an awesome corner, but for several reasons he really needed a good week of practice. First of all, he had a down senior season and needed to show scouts that the real Marcus McCauley was the guy dominating the WAC as a sophomore and junior. Secondly, playing at Fresno St. McCauley did not face NFL caliber wideouts on a consistent basis. He needed to prove himself somewhat, against top talent at the senior bowl. Well, McCauley looked awful all week and probably has more questions surrounding him now than any other player. McCauley was repeatedly torched by the top players like Dwayne Bowe and now he looks hard up to be a second rounder.

2) Dan Mozes - C, West Virginia

This one hurts. I was touting Mozes prior to the Senior Bowl as a tough and athletic center who could potentially be a long time starter in the NFL. Well I am one who is able to admit his own mistakes. Mozes was terrible all week. He was the antithesis of Ryan Kalil, an undersized center who just doesn't have the technique or leverage to compete at the next level. Mozes' biggest problem is that he just isn't strong enough. He was consistently overpowered by even the most pedestrian defensive lineman, and Mozes looked flat out overmatched all week. I considered Mozes a solid 4th round pick going into the week and now I wonder whether he will be drafted at all.

3) Tyler Palko - QB, Pittsburgh

Palko is another player whose camp I was in prior to this week of practice. I honestly believed that Palko had the smarts and toughness to make up for his lack of athletic ability and become a Damon Huard like NFL backup (that is a huge compliment by the way). But after this week, I have all but given up on the Pitt product. Palko displayed a below average arm. and terrible mechanic all week. He consistently underthrew open WR, even against no defense, and looked like nothing more than a CFL backup. Further, Palko's delivery is long and he holds the ball low. His height is below what one would expect already and his mechanics cause him to play even shorter. Palko looks like nothing more than a late round throw away pick.

4) AJ Davis - CB, NC State

I have said it all week, AJ Davis was consistently the worst player in Mobile. I just don't know waht else to say. If I were a GM I wouldn't draft him. But some team will probably be stupid enough to waste a pick on him.

5) Ken Darby - RB, Alabama

Darby didn't do anything to really kill his stock as far as mistakes go, it's just that he has been mostly invisible all week. Darby is a skill type of player who should have thrived in the senior bowl practice setting. He is a guy who didn't have great production but should have been all over the field on offense catching passes and sliding through holes against linebackers who are more interested in not getting hit than making tackles. Yet I cannot recall a single play where I noticed Darby all week. His production was poor in college and was even worse at the Senior Bowl. He will need a huge game on Sat. to undo that damage to his draft stock.

The Year in Review- Preseason Top Tens  

Posted by Frazier

It's time to look back again, all the way to our preseason top tens. This is where we selected the top ten teams based on hype, analysis of the previous year, recent changes, and educated guesses about the growth of players or coaches, and the effects of schedule. Now, everyone does these things, and everyone is wrong. That's kind of a given. But we here at the 323 are going to actually take responsibility for these picks. We will be held accountable, even if virtually no one else ever is. That's because we owe it you our devoted readers, and because it's the only way we'll ever get better.

Frazier's Top Ten

1) Ohio St.

Analysis: Yeah, I was pretty much right on these guys. They held on to the spot until the epic debacle against Florida. Still, their defense, as expected, managed to be pretty decent. Basically because it's Ohio St. and that's sort of how they roll. The absolutely dominated teams all year, and were totally deserving of their lofty ranking. It just turned out they weren't that great.

Hit or miss: Hit. This was a gimme.

No, this is a gimme. Ohio State at #1 was just the smart pick.

2) West Virginia

Analysis: Even though I predicted they would lose a game they shouldn't (South Florida) they still had a great year. They started #6 and ended #10, so that's a bit of a drop. But they still made some serious noise. Tons of talent, an offensive genius, and a soft schedule definitely help.

Hit or miss: Hmmm. A tough one. With the vagaries of the preseason it's tough to be too harsh when you land a team in the top ten. Compared to some of the other teams on the list, it's definitely a hit. A close hit, or a close miss.

3) USC

Analysis: Yeah, I was right, you really didn't want to play this team at the end of the year. They destroyed a solid Michigan team in the Rose Bowl. Basically, a consistent effort and they're probably the champs. Of course, champs are consistent, that's the point. But this is pretty much right where they should be. I was right about their linebackers, Jarrett, and overall speed, this team is easily #3.

Hit or miss: Hit. Nailed it.

4) Texas

Analysis: Has to be a disappointing year for the Longhorns. The Big 12 was really down, and they should have been the best of the bunch. But they lost a couple of games they simply shouldn't have. Texas A&M proved that this team simply wasn't as tough as they needed to be when it counted the most. They finished the year #13 in both polls, which is nice. But a win over Kansas St. and they'd be a top ten squad. Nice choke.

Hit or miss: It's a miss. A "coulda, woulda, shoulda". I'm sorry, in that pathetic conference, this team had no excuses not to be higher.

Chicken Bone?, that's Kansas State stuck in the windpipe.

5) Auburn

Analysis: Well, I was feeling pretty good about this pick when they beat Florida in thrilling fashion. I'd called them the class of the SEC, and they seemed like they just might be. Then they got blown out by Georgia, and I was sick to my stomach. Still, they went 11-2 on the year, and their other loss was to a very good Arkansas squad. They did beat the national champs as well. Their offense was just not good enough to get them over the hump. Inconsistent quarterback play, plus Irons seeming to run out of steam as the year progressed were serious problems. As it is, they finished in the top ten in both polls, #8 AP and #9 coaches, and they beat the champs.

Hit or miss: This feels like a miss, since Auburn didn't look great a lot. But they finished pretty close to where I predicted, and they beat the best team around. It's a hit. And a good one.

6) Notre Dame

Analysis: Ugh. I should have known better. Hell, I DID know better. Even I admitted that I was selling out with this pick, that if I had any balls I'd drop them out of the top ten. But I caved to the huge hype. I figured they would be so good offensively, and their schedule so weak, they could end up here. Of course I didn't know Michigan would be that good. And I kind of forgot they'd have to play a top team in a BCS bowl, a game I wouldn't favor them in (unless it was the ACC champ or something). Those extra losses booted the 'Domers all the way to #17 and #19 in the polls. Frankly, they may have been worse.

Hit or miss: Miss. A bad one. Just a stupid, stupid mistake on my part. As much as I knew they were overrated, I still bought the hype.

7) Florida St.

Analysis: Yikes. I had totally forgotten how much I liked them in the preseason. Nationally they were around the top ten when the season started, and I thought that might a little low. They fought an undefeated Penn St. team to the wire in the Orange Bowl the year before, and I figured it was one of those teams that was hung and stupid, but had worked themselves out and would be ready. But it was a fluke, not a building game for the next year. They even started things with a tough win over an equally overrated Miami squad, but things went south from there. They nadir was a 30-0 whupping at home to Wake Forest. An absolutely stunning game. I was wrong, Weatherford did not figure things out. He was less than useless. Xavier Lee was no better. They were both so terrible they made me want to puke. This team needed a bowl win just to prevent Bobby from having his second losing season in his illustrious history. Wow.

Hit or miss: Um, the worst miss ever? Worse that my UConn pick. Maybe worse than saying Florida was overrated. This was painfully, brutally, disgustingly wrong.

Who is that under the bus? Oh it's just Seminole offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden.

8) California

Analysis: This pick looked terrible after the Tennessee disaster. Then it looked brilliant up until the Arizona stinker. And then they lost to USC, so it was a lost season. And then they destroyed a Texas A&M team that had looked very, very good. So it was one of those years for Cal. Another season where they just couldn't break through. All they had to do was beat USC, and it didn't happen. Lynch was good, but not great. This team just didn't break on through. Beat Arizona, and this pick is dead-on. But another stupid loss was incredibly costly.

Hit or miss: Close miss. They finished #14, which is pretty close, but my whole point was that this team was finally going to break through, and have an excellent year. Not enough.

9) Oklahoma

Analysis: I really loved this pick. After being talked about for title considerations, national pundits ran away from them in droves after Bomar was booted. I said people would regret writing them off, and I was dead-right about that. Stoops did a phenomenal job, and Thompson kept his team in games. Even with Peterson injured, they kept plugging along. A ton of credit to great coaching, with a little help from a dismal conference. Although the stunning loss to Boise St. shocked many folks, Oklahoma came a long way from being written off. Oh, and remember that the Oregon loss shouldn't count. Great year from this bunch.

Hit or miss: Nailed this guy. They finished #11 in both polls, and out-performed what was expected after the stunning loss of their quarterback in the preseason.

10) Louisville

Analysis: My only real mistake was picking them to lose to WVU. The Cardinals stormed the national party with a one-loss campaign. Hell, I even predicted them to lose a single game all year (I was just wrong about which game). I was also right that Petrino would be a genius, and that Brohm might be the most pro-ready quarterback in the country. This was a hell of a year, and it could have been even better without a stunning loss to Rutgers (which was kept alive thanks to an incredibly stupid penalty on the missed figgie).

Hit or miss: An absolute hit. Picked the number of losses, and they finished #6 AP and #7 coaches. Pretty damned good.

Overall analysis: I was right more often than I was wrong. But when I was wrong, I tended to be very, very, very wrong. This happens with preseason polls. You just don't know enough to say anything meaningful, so you take your best shot. It's hard for anyone to look through all the hype and bullshit, and sometimes even us at the 323 get blinded by it. Some of these teams simply underachieved, and others just sucked and I was totally wrong about. Overall, I'm pretty proud of my performance. Of course, the champs don't even register, so what do I know?

Overall grade: I hit 5 pretty much dead on. I had a close hit with West Virginia, and a close miss with Cal. So that leaves 3 that I was just wrong about. The Texas pick wasn't terrible, but the Notre Dame one was, and the FSU one was historically bad. And only the Oklahoma pick was really inspired. A pretty good job, but not good enough, B-.

Walter's Top Ten

1) Auburn

Analysis: What a mess. Based almost entirely on their schedule, I had Auburn as my preseason #1 team, undefeated and playing Louisville for the national title. Whoops. Auburn started the season strong, but finished poorly. I will pat myself on the back a little bit for identifying their home date versus Arkansas as a potential trap game (the week before Florida), but that isn't impressing anyone. Auburn didn't completely shit the bed, finishing in the top 10 (#9), but unsurprisingly when the pressure was on to go undefeated, Tommy Tubberville's squad stumbled against teams they clearly should have beaten (at home vs. Arkansas and Georgia).

Hit or miss? - Miss, big time. And I lose even more points for actually referring to Brandon Cox as "one of the more underrated signal callers in the conference, if not the country." Ugh, what was I thinking.

Trust me, Brandon Cox is a lot worst in real life.

2) Louisville

Analysis: I, like everyone, was convinced that Louisville's season would come down to their game against West Virginia, which I predicted they'd win. They did, but they bombed in the 2nd half against Rutgers. Louisville had the look of a national title team all season, rolling up impressive offensive numbers and an unheralded but nasty defense. Louisville finished #6 in the nation, but given that they beat WVU anything short of a top 2 finish has to be considered a disappointment.

Hit or miss? - Miss. The Big East was stronger than we thought but Louisville won the game they needed to win. Losing to Rutgers puts this in the miss pile. Oh, and Frazier, no way you can take West Virginia at #2 as a hit. They lost their only meaningful game of the year!

3) USC

Analysis: Now that's more like it. I identified USC as a team that had the talent and the schedule to compete despite massive departures to the NFL on offense. Yet, I also correctly recognized that the Trojans probably didn't have the horses to run the table in a deep Pac-10 conference. Thank goodness they decided not to show up against UCLA or USC would have played Ohio State in the title game and, by all accounts, probably won and finished #1 overall (that would have been a miss).

Hit or miss? - Hit. Dead on. I had them at #3, they finished at #4.

4) West Virginia

Analysis: My rationale for this was that, absent an undefeated team at year's end, the one loss Mountaineers could sneak into the top 5. Well, I was right about having no undefeated team, wrong about the Mountaineers only losing one game. As things stand, WVU finished the year 11-2 (thanks to a miraculous second half against Georgia Tech) and ranked #10. Still, as with Louisville I can't credit myself for this pick. In the Big East, being off by one game is akin to being off by a lot more.

Hit or miss? - Miss. Close but no cigar. My whole premise was that WVU would win every game but Louisville. Losing to South Florida dropped them too far to constitute a hit.

5) Notre Dame

Analysis: Fuck. I knew I had them ranked too high in the preseason, but I didn't have the stones to leave them off the top 10. Fuck. Notre Dame stunk this year, they were dominated by their four best opponents, and they couldn't play any defense. I did correctly identify the Irish pass defense as being amongst the worst in the nation, but this just serves to make my picking them at #5 all the more bewildering.

Hit or miss? - Miss. I lose some more points for typing "Brady Quinn is hands down the best quarterback in America." It may have been a correct statement at the time, but now we know better.

Even Jayson Williams is making fun of me for
pickingpicking Notre Dame at #5. Although
writing and releasing a published book does seem
bit extraneous.

6) Ohio State

Analysis: I never though the Buckeyes would win the national title. I never even thought they'd get there. I was so sure they'd lose one of their tough road games (read, Texas). Well I was wrong for the most part, but thankfully I was vindicated by their terrible performance against Florida. That game proved that it wasn't the Buckeyes who were good, but just that their schedule was bad. Michigan was proven a fraud against USC, ditto for Texas in their late season swoon. Ohio State was never worthy of the #1 ranking. Frankly, that they finished at #2 was probably nothing more than a function of pollsters not wanting to admit their year long mistake.

Hit or miss? - Hit. Off by four spots, but the premise was solid. They were never as good as people thought, and if you ask me, after the title game they look like the fourth best team in the nation at best (behind Florida, LSU, and USC).

7) Texas

Analysis: Well I was looking OK for a while, but Kansas State and Texas A & M put a quick end to that. Texas in the top 10 was premised on two things: line play, and Rhett Bohmar's dismissal. Well, Texas did have great line play, but Oklahoma ended up playing a whole lot better with Paul Thompson than anybody thought they would. Texas finished at #13, which is probably higher than they deserved, but they only played like a top 10 team for half the season. Plus not showing up against Ohio State counts for something.

Hit or miss? - Miss. Texas was a shell of themselves last year, and it wasn't all losing VY. Colt McCoy played well at times, but losing Ramonce Taylor (transfer) hurt, as did the departures in the secondary (Mike Huff and Cedric Griffin).

8) Miami

Analysis: Uh, oh, here's where the wheels really fall off. Do I even need to discuss this pick. Larry Coker is terrible, they had no quarterback, no running back, no WR, no team discipline. Can I just say that I was drunk when I made these picks..........?

Hit or miss? - Miss.

That's pretty drunk..........

9) Florida State

Analysis: ..........Uh, really drunk.

Hit or miss? - Miss.

.......but this is more like it. I mean I did pick
Miami and FSU back to back in the top 10.

10) California

Analysis: I went out on a limb with this one, and the limb broke big time. I thought that Cal was one of the most talented offensive teams in the nation and had a chance to challenge USC for the Pac-10 crown. Well they had tons of talent (check), but dreams of a top 10 finish were dashed when they decided not to show up against Knoxville the first game of the year. Cal was talented, but totally inconsistent, and never played anywhere near their potential level. True they finished #14, but I had them as a strong #10 with potential to finish higher.

Hit or miss? - Miss. Again. Noticing a theme?

Overall Grade: First the good. Ohio State didn't finish #1. Louisville finished over West Virginia. And USC was almost dead on at #3. Now the bad. Well Miami and Florida State totally sucked. Ditto for Brandon Cox who submarined my Auburn at #1 bandwagon. Notre Dame made me pay for my lack of balls. And Cal and Texas underachieved big time. In general my preseason top 10 was a total mess. I will give myself a C- and hope that nobody asks me to justify that high of a grade, because, frankly, I may not be able to.

Senior Bowl - 1/24  

Posted by Walter

Last day in pads down in Mobile, so that means double the coverage. The NFL Network broadcasted both teams' practices today so I have double the observations. There was too much going on to cover everything so I am going to limit my comments to what I saw during the individual position workouts (CB v. WR, DL v. OL). Most scouts will tell you that these are the most important because the team drills suffer from the players not being familiar with one another.

North Practice - Overall the North squad is not as talented as the South unit (aside from QB), but they do have more elite talent. The North team has really begun to separate. The true blue chippers continue to dominate some of the lesser talent, and it wil be really interesting to see what some of these guys do in the game on Saturday. OK onto the personnel points, I have a lot so I am going to try and keep them short.

  • For the second straight day Paul Poszlusny was working out over the guard. Puz's reads were fine, but he struggled covering backs into the flats. It's just a though, but Puz showed up to the Senior Bowl a thick, barrell chested 237 pounds. Perhaps he projects more as a cover 2 middle linebacker than he does a weak side OLB. In the cover 2, the MLB has to be able to do two things: (1) make tackles sideline to sideline, and (2) have enough speed to be able to drop into the deep middle of the field and read the QB. Puz certainly has the speed to drop, and his smarts/instincts make him an ideal fit for that role. Just a thought............
  • Tyler Palko looked awful. His arm strength looked weak as he consistently underthrew open recievers, and his mechanics are very sloppy. Palko holds the ball very low and takes a big windup when he throws. He isn't very tall to being with, but this mechanic flaw makes him play even shorter.
  • Once again, Marcus McCauley looked lost in one on one drills. He has all the physical tools but they just don't translate. When Marcus was in press coverage he didn't jam properly. When he was playing off the reciever he was high in his packpedal, and his stiff hips prevented him from breaking on the ball. He has been thoroughly unimpressive.
  • Other quick hits from the DB/WR matchups: Eric Weddle showed some great hips and solid footwork in coverage. Brandon Myles was catching everthing in sight. Josh Gattis couldn't cover anyone, or locate the ball in the air. Aaron Rouse was shockingly effective in coverage, even making an incredibly athletic interception in the endzone.
  • Dan Mozes struggled again. He was consistently pushed back from the point of attack, and was dominated by Quinn Pitcock. Mozes looks completely overmatched at the Senior Bowl.
  • The most impressive player on the North squad today was Adam Carriker. Carriker showed great hands, always twisting and turning the offensive lineman's body. For a man his size he is extremely quick off the ball, and has really shown pass rushing abilility many scouts thought he lacked.
  • The other most impressive player was Amobi Okoye who has been absolutley unblockable on the interior. He has just been way too strong and way too quick for any of the North guards. On back to back plays, Okoye ran straight over and through Dan Mozes, and then came back and beat him with straight quickness. No other player in this game can dominate in so many different ways.
  • Levi Brown looked outstanding once again. His most impressive performance was two straight dominations of Victor Abiamiri. Brown has outstanding feet and balance, but I would still like to see him be a little nastier.
  • Other quick hits from the line play: Marshal Yanda had a good practice. He is a typical Iowa O-Lineman who is technically sounds and tough as nails. Ryan Harris continued to struggle with his footwork and strength. Ohio St. center Doug Datish looked slow and stiff for the second straight day. He was beat several times by teammate Dave Patterson.
South Practice - The South squad featured some great matchups today of players who have really been bringing it this week. Maybe it's just me but the South coaches seem to be setting up the best on best matchups more than the North squad. OK onto the personnel points:
  • Aaron Ross continues to show just outstanding footwork. He has so much potential in man to man coverage it is scary, although he has yet to put it all together. He is good enough to be an NFL nickel back right now.
  • On the other hand, AJ Davis is still the worst player here. He is still way too high in his back pedal, and plays with terrible leverage. Dwayne Bowe matched up with him was the mismatch of camp.
  • Speaking of Dawyne Bowe, he continues to be the most impressive player on either team. Bowe is a chiseled 222 pounds, but he looked extremely quick going into and coming out of his cuts. He keeps a low center of gravity and uses his body well when making cuts. He was uncoverable all day on out patterns, and (as always) slants. Bowe caught everything thrown at him with his hands, and has shown the ability to come back to the ball. He has been dominant and is solidifying himself as a first round WR.
  • Quick hits from other DB/WR matchups: Chansi Stuckey made an outstanding catch, tipping an overthrown ball to himself. Ditto for David Clowney who made a great diving touchdown grab. David Irons continues to impress.
  • The star of the lineman today was Aaron Sears. Playing almost exclusively at guard (his projected position), he showed outstanding athleticism and footwork (not unexpected since he played LT for most of his career). Sears was very strong, and dominated Miami DT Kareem Brown on several plays. He was the best guard on the field today.
  • Ben Grubbs was also outstanding at guard. I had heard he was such a great athlete and today he showed it. Grubbs has outstanding footwork and really moves well. He too dominated Kareem Brown.
  • Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kareem Brown looked terrible. He looked slow and unathletic, and really displayed no creativity whatsoever in his pass rush technique.
  • Another star on the DL was Tim Crowder who really handed it to yesterday's star Tony Ugoh. We know how athletic Ugoh is, but Crowder showed us today just how polished a defensive end he can be. Crowder used his hands really well, and displayed an explosive first step off the ball. This is critical for him since he does not possess great straight line speed.
  • Other quick hits from the OL/DL drills: Joe Staley really improved his play today, and stood out athletically. Tank Tyler was better, but still looked disinterested most of the time. Ryan Kalil had another outstanding day, abusing Tank Tyler yet again.

The Year in Review- 5 Up  

Posted by Walter

Yesterday we saw how well we did at predicting the preseason's overrated teams, but how did we do trying to find sleepers? Maybe these teams did pull through and have great years. Maybe they weren't that good and we just missed, or maybe they simply failed to live up to their ability. Let's take a look.........

Walter's Five Up

5) Tulsa

Analysis: This pick was looking great when the Golden Hurricanes started the year 7-1, but it looks not as good when they finished the year 1-4. Overall Tulsa had a decent year. Their two top wins were against the very solid East Carolina and Navy squads, and their losses were against top Conference USA teams (SMU, Houston, Rice) and BYU. But I definitely expected better things from Tulsa this season. They failed to build upon their breakout season a year ago, and really struggled offensively at times. They missed Garrett Mills more than I thought they would, and QB Paul Smith failed to take the next step. They did finish 8-5 so this isn't a total miss, but they didn't maintain the momentum from 2005, and got waxed by Utah in their bowl game. Steve Kragthorpe can be proud of what he accomplished at Tulsa, but even he will tell you this season wasn't what he thought it would be.

Hit or miss? - Hit, barely. Or miss, barely. This team proved that they were ranked just where they should have been. They did not underachieve but they certainly were not underrated.

4) Hawaii

Analysis: By far my best pick. An 11-3 season, coupled with record offensive numbers and a top 25 ranking definitely qualify the Warriors as one of the most underrated teams to start the season. The big question facing Hawaii this year was how they'd fare against some of the BCS conference teams on their schedule. Though they did lose at Alabama and Boise, they performed very well. Add in wins over Purdue and Arizona State and you have what amounts to a coming out party for the nation's preeminent offense. With Colt Brennan, Davone Bess and Co. returning next season, don't expect them to fly under the radar again.

Hit or miss? - 100% hit. Right on the nose, this was one of the most underrated teams to start the year and they proved it with big performances against their top competition (see above, and including Fresno State and Nevada).

If the 2006 Warriors were a movie they'd be the "Magnificent 7" with
Colt Brennan playing the gunslinging role of Yul Brunner, and Davone
Besse as the "walk softly but carry a big stick" cool Steve McQueen.

3) Arizona

Analysis: Ouch, this one hurts. You'd better believe I was riding high after the Wildcats beat BYU in the opener, but it was all downhill from there. For the third straight season Arizona failed to take a step forward under Mike Stoops finishing a bowl less 6-6. But while the numbers won't wow anyone, this team was actually pretty close to being good. The 6 losses are all defensible and against top competition: at LSU, USC (whom they played tough), Washington, at UCLA, Oregon St., and Arizona St. Of their 6 wins, three were extremely impressive (over BYU, over Washington State on the road when the Cougars were ranked #25, and over Cal when they were ranked #8). So once again it was an up and down year for the Cats. They had a murderous schedule, didn't have any horrific losses, and flashed some real potential against Cal and Oregon (whom they rocked in Eugene 37-10).

Hit or miss? - I'd bet USC, Cal and Oregon would call them a hit as an underrated team, but 6-6 ain't gonna cut it. They weren't terrible, but they didn't take a step forward. Miss.

2) Arkansas

Analysis: Another direct hit. I actually thought Arkansas would take baby steps, and be ready to challenge for the SEC crown in 2007. Not so much. Arkansas featured a devestating running game with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, and rode those horses to a shocking 10-4 season. The crazy thing is that if not for a murderous stretch at the end of the season (#9 LSU, #4 Florida, #7 Wisconsin), Arkansas' record would have been that much better. If they can get even mediocre quarterback play from Casey Dick next season, they have enough skill position talent in McFadden, Jones, and WR Marcus Monk to be a player for the national title. If they are ranked outside of the top 10 in the preseason, you may find them on this list once again.

Hit or miss? - As dead on a hit as you will find.

1) Northern Illinois

Analysis: OK, so I got a little N Illinois crazy during the preseason when I predicted that they would hang with Ohio State and beat Iowa.....sue me. They did finish the year 7-6, but there is no way I can feel good about this pick. They got clobbered by the Buckeyes in the opener (although G Wolfe did run wild against them as I thought he might), lost to Ohio the next week in a clear hangover game, hung with a terrible Iowa team before falling 24-14, and got pasted by 30 points in their bowl game vs. TCU. Overall, an ugly ugly picture. Of their 7 wins you can only count one as being a quality win (over C Michigan), and several you could say shouldn't even count (Ball State, Temple, Buffalo). Perhaps I dug too deep into my bag of tricks for Northern Illinois, perhaps the allure of making such a shocking prediction was a ploy to catch your attention. Whatever it was, it was a total failure.

Hit or miss? - Miss. Not even close really. N Illinois won the MAC last season so anything short of that has to be considered a failure.

Even Dick Cheney has better aim than I did in picking Norther Illinois.

Overall Grade: Well let's see, two great picks (Hawaii and Arkansas), plus two poor picks (Arizona and Norther Illinois), plus one mediocre pick (Tulsa) about a B-. I was tempted to give myself a straight C seeing as the good picks just about cancel out the bad ones, but that seemed a bit harsh. None of my picks absolutely bombed this year (ahem, UConn, ahem, UTEP). I mean they all finished with non-losing records. And picking Hawaii and Arkansas (who both started outside but finished inside the top 25) was more impressive than Arizona and N Illinois were pitiful. Yes B- seems about right.......well maybe C+.

Frazier's Five Up

5) Nebraska

Analysis: Hmmmm. This is a tough place to begin. Now, the Huskers started the season #20 in the AP and #22 coaches poll. They finished the season out of the top 25 in both polls, although just out. They ended up going 9-5, which isn't great, but they did make the Big 12 Championship game, so there should be something said for that. Zac Taylor really failed to make progress this year, and he was inconsistent, at best. He played his worst in his biggest games, and can't blame his running attack for a change, because it was better than expected. This whole team was generally mediocre, losing a close, and ugly, game to Auburn in their bowl. Not a terrible year, but not the step forward they might have had.

Hit or miss: Miss. Dammit. I wanted this to be a hit. Making the Big 12 title game was such a fucking tease. But, as they did all year, they simply couldn't win a big one.

4) Arkansas

Analysis: Wow, this is a slightly better pick. Arkansas really arrived on the scene this year, led by the swiss-army running back and an innovative offensive approach. Who needs a quarterback when you have McFadden? (Actually, Arkansas still did, as competent play from that position and they may have really done something). They had four losses on the year, yet, those four losses came from top 5 schools! That is un-fucking-believable. No one had a tougher road. Still, they had a great year, and really deserve a ton of credit. I may have been a little overenthusiastic about Nutt (altho he actually was pretty good this year) and Mustain (the kid has ego issues). They really DID have a softer SEC schedule, it's just their trip to the SEC Championship, and top bowl really weighted down the end of the year schedule. I hope all the drama of the off-season doesn't blow their chance for something special next year. And I pray that McFadden stays healthy. He's a joy to watch.

Hit or miss: Hit. Absolutely. Great year for the Hogs.

Contrary to what his newly coined nickname might suggest, Darren
McFadden is not Swiss.....he actually hails from Lichtenstein.

3) UConn

Analysis: Ugh. This pick gave me nightmares all season. My rationale behind this pick was that a third Big East team would emerge due to a soft schedule, and with a lucky win would hit the national stage. I just bet on the wrong horse. My decision was between UConn and Rutgers, and some Jersey bias probably led me down the wrong path. They played Rutgers to a virtual tie last year, so I figured one of those teams would break through. Although I knew Schiano was doing good work, I bet on the program building skills of Randy Edsall. My analysis of the situation was dead-on, but my pick to fill that void was misguided. The turmoil at quarterback between the mediocre Bonislawski and the mediocre Hernandez didn't help things. The Huskies ended up taking a step backwards, with a 4-8 campaign.

Hit or miss: Big miss. The worst kind, because I correctly identified a place for a no name team to rise to national prominence. Yeah, that team was Rutgers. Fuck.

2) Boise St.

Analysis: I couldn't be prouder. I feel like a papa bear showing his cub off to the world. Seriously, I love the Broncos, their crazy smurf turf, and their insanely ballsy coach. Wow. I really, really, really love this team. I was right about Zabransky returning to his form of a couple years ago, which paid enormous dividends. I was also right about Peterson being a more than able replacement. Yeah, the offensive innovations were still on display. They went undefeated, remember?

Hit or miss: Biggest hit imaginable. They didn't lose a game, and won one of the best bowl games of all-time against Oklahoma. Yeah, it's a hit.

A direct sunk my battleship.


Analysis: Whoops. Honestly, I'm not sure what happened here. Palmer's numbers actually improved, but he didn't do it when he needed to. I thought he was going to make the leap, instead, he kind of spun in circles. It turns out that their ugly end of season slide last year was no fluke. And that team showed up regularly this year. Basically, their biggest problem is that everyone else simply got better. Tulsa was good again. Houston was vastly improved, and really played well this year. Rice came out of nowhere to be a good team. Well, UTEP simply couldn't keep up. Price did a poor job getting these guys to play, and needs to take some blame. He's a better coach than he showed this year. The team rushed for a total of 691 yards this year. That's pretty much the biggest culprit. They ran for 1,500 yards last year. By having zero running game, they focused every team's energy on the pass. While Palmer put up better numbers, he couldn't carry them all by himself. The team dropped from 8-4 to 5-7, and that is pretty disgusting. Basically, UTEP couldn't keep up with the Joneses (or the Houston's, Rices, or Tulsa's).

Hit or miss: Miss, badly. You can't win if you're allergic to running the ball. A huge disappointment.

Overall analysis: Ugh, not quite. That's sort of what happened here. Going 2 for 5 just isn't good enough. While the big man may have given himself a pass on Tennessee (they were a miss, chief) I refuse to do the same with Nebraska. That pick was a miss, even if they were damned close. I am more upset about the UConn pick than anything. I was literally debating between UConn and Rutgers all day when I made the call, and my personal bias against Rutgers decided it. I've been living with that decision every day since. The UTEP thing was an unmitigated disaster. I thought they were the best of a bad conference, turns out it was a pretty good conference, and they were pretty bad. Of course, the Arkansas pick was a total hit, and the Boise St. pick was as good as the Florida pick was bad.

Final Grade: One great pick (Arkansas) one better-than-great pick (Boise St.) a close miss (Nebraska) and two disasters (the U's, Conn and TEP). Without Boise St. it's a total wash, but they saved my day. If the U's could have pulled to .500, it's a damned good year. As it is, it's a C. Fuck it, it's a C+. (Thanks Broncos).

Senior Bowl - 1/23  

Posted by Walter

Day 2 - 1/23

Just finished watching the NFL Network's coverage of Day 2 of the Senior Bowl practices, which means I got my first look at the South squad. The coverage was a full 2 hours today and since most of the offensive and defensive installation was yesterday, I have a lot more observations about specific players.

But first, some general observations about the South Squad:

  • The quarterback situation for the South Squad is far worse than the North. Whereas the North squad boasts first round talents like Drew Stanton and Troy Smith, the South squad has only Chris Leak, Jordan Palmer and Kevin Kolb. Not to take anything away from those guys, but the North passers are far better, and this may affect the South WR/TE play somewhat. Just something to keep in mind.
  • One glaring theme during the South practice today was the overall dominance of the South offensive lineman. In both individual drills and team situations, the defensive lineman were constantly overmatched by their, tougher, stronger offensive counterparts. Some defensive lineman looked OK, but as a group they just do not appear to be very physical at all, while the South offensive lineman appear to be a nasty, smart, physical bunch. I will be very interested to watch them play against some of the more physically imposing defensive lineman from the North squad like Victor Abiamiri, Adam Carriker, Lamar Woodley, and Amobi Okoye. These should be the best matchups during the Senior Bowl game itself.
OK. now onto the individual player observations. First, the offensive notes from Tuesday:
  • Kevin Kolb is by FAR the best quarterback prospect on the South roster. He threw the ball very accurately today, and, perhaps more importantly, showed the ability to throw a tight spiral which consistently cut through what was a strong Mobile wind. Another important development for Kolb was how comfortable he looked operating out of the 5 and 7 step drop, something he never had to do in college (where he operated almost exclusively out of the shotgun). Kolb's footwork looked fine, and he consistently threw accurate balls in rythm. Overall, he had an excellent performance all day.
  • Other than Kolb the South QB's struggled. Jordan Palmer looked very top heavy and immobile in his drop, and his footwork was sloppy. His ball fluttered in the wind. His arm strength did not look as good as advertised. Chris Leak has similar problems with the wind. His arm just isn't strong enough, although he does throw a pretty ball when it comes out right.
  • The two most dominating performances I saw during the practice came from offensive lineman. Texas guard Justin Blalock was nothing short of awesome in one on one drills. He absolutely ate up Quentin Moses working as a tackle, and showed extremely quick feet for a guard. Blalock projects as a guard but he showed ability to step outside if necessary.
  • The other dominating performance came from USC Center Ryan Kalil. Though somewhat undersized, Kalil held his ground against every defensive lineman thrown at him. He showed outstanding footwork, and makes up for his lack of size by playing with unparalelled leverage. Kalil dominated NC State defensive tackle Tank Tyler twice in one on one drills, and several times during the team period.
  • Much like the quarterback situation, the wideouts on the South roster really aren't anything special. There were really only two guys who stood out, and both did so because of their physical play rather than speed. First was Dallas Baker who showed solid ability to beat press coverage at the line, and excellent route running skills. He caught several balls.
  • The second was Dawyne Bowe, who at 222 lbs. was the most physical wideout all day. He caught several balls over the middle because of excellent body control and toughness, although he looked shaky on deep, vertical routes, dropping a sure TD from Kevin Kolb. Bowe is establishing himself as perhaps strictly a possession type reciever, but overall he was the most impressive player on the field.
  • Joe Staley was maddeningly inconsistent, showing outstanding balance and ability one play, but getting overpowered the next. In one matchup against Texas End Tim Crowder, Staley displayed picture perfect pass blocking ability and looked like a potential franchise left tackle. However, he was beaten with simple swim moves several times after that.
Like I said, aside from the quarterback play (other than Kolb) the South offense really looked good, especially up front. The defense looked worse, specifically up front, but there were some players who looked particularly good. Onto the defensive notes:
  • The group of defensive backs is pedestrian at best. Like I said, the South WR group is physical but not incredibly athletic, and the defensive backs had trouble all day. NC State's AJ Davis was consistently the worst player. He flashed the ability and willingness to be physical with bigger wideouts, but his hips are very stiff which prevents him from breaking on balls.
  • Texas' Aaron Ross was clearly the best defensive back on the South squad. Though some balls were completed against him, Ross displayed other-worldly footwork, and change of direction speed. What was strange was that initially I wrote down that Ross had great ability but appeared afraid to be physical, but then on one play he absolutely ended a pass route at the line with a jarring jam. I loved what I saw from Ross today, and although he isn't as polished as Leon Hall, may have more potential.
  • Ross' teammate, Mike Griffin did not impress. He showed solid recognition skills and the ability to break on several balls (crucial for a safety), but he looked lost in man coverage. Griffin's hips were stiff in man coverage, and he is way too high in his back pedal. He isn't big enough to play the strong safety spot, so he is going to have to show the ability to cover slot WR (a necessary skill for the free safety). He needs to work on bending at his knees and keeping his weight over his feet in his backpedal.
  • Brandon Merriweather looked great in man coverage. He has great feet, and very fluid hips. He plays a lot like a cornerback and I wouldn't be shocked to see him playing that position in the NFL.
  • Auburn CB David Irons was a mystery all day. I have stated that I think Irons projects best as a cover 2 corner, in the mold of Ronde Barber, and he did very little to dispel those thoughts today. Irons looked slow in man coverage (which he is) and was forced to play overly physical resulting in what would have been at least one illegal contact penalty. Irons was beaten deep by Johnny Lee Higgins (who can absolutely fly) once, but he also almost picked off a simple out pattern by using outstanding anticipation. Overall it was an up and down day for Irons, but it seemed like I was noticing him every time he was in a drill. Oveall Irons has been somewhat of a revelation, though he has made some mistakes.
  • As I said, for the most part the South defensive line was awful. But I did see two exceptions. First was Miss. St. tackle Antonio Johnson who looked extremely explosive, and used his hands extremely well. He beat Tim Duckworth on a monster spin move, but what was most impressive was Johnson's use of multiple pass rush moves. I cannot emphasize how impressive he was using his hands.
  • The second exception was Oklahoma St. tackle Ryan McBean. McBean showed up to the Senior Bowl somewhat slimmed down, but was still very powerful in one on one drills. McBean also looked very quick on inside moves, dominating TN tackle Aaron Sears on one occasion. McBean was outstanding today, and showed the potential to possibly play the defensive end position in a 3-4 scheme.
  • The worst defensive player for the South was NC State tackle Tank Tyler. Tyler was nothing short of awful, looking disinterested at times. Ryan Kalil handled Tyler on every occasion despite being outweighed by nearly 20 pounds, and Tyler was even dominated by Clemson center Dustin Fry who was by far the least imposing South offensive lineman. Tyler was awful all day and showed absolutely no explosion against either the run or pass.

The Team

How's the look?