Tuesday, February 24, 2009

2009 NFL Draft: Ranking the Linemen

Continuing our look at this year’s entrants into the 2009 NFL Draft we make our way from the quarterbacks to the big guys up front, the offensive linemen. This year’s class of offensive linemen is very deep. There is a very good chance that two or three offensive linemen could go within the Top 10 in this year’s draft. The big question is simply who will go of the board first. Warning, I am not going to break down all the big men by position this is just the best overall linemen.

1) Eugene Monroe, University of Virginia: Monroe helped himself out at this year’s combine by doing all the right things. He proved to be a completely natural fit on the football field while going through drills. His bench press strength was a little disappointing (only 23 reps), but lucky for him you don’t have to be able to bench press to block. His footwork was great, and the other plus is Eugene Monroe has natural tackle size. He is not too fat which some worry about Andre Davis, and he is not too small which is a knock on Jason Smith.

2) Jason Smith, Baylor: Jason Smith improved his draft stock by proving to be one of the strongest tackles available in this year’s draft. After moving from tight end to tackle there were still come questions about Smith’s size and strength. On Saturday, Smith put up 33 reps on the bench press proving he is as strong as anyone in the draft. Smith also proved he still has quick feet from his days as a tight end. With the disappointing showing of Michael Oher, Jason Smith could be the first or second tackle taken off the board.

3) Max Unger, Oregon: What makes Max Unger different than everyone else on this list? Unger is a center not a tackle. Now I’ve never heard of a center taken in the top 10 or 15 in the NFL Draft, but Unger will be drafted in the first round of this year’s draft. Max Unger has all the makings of becoming a staple on an offensive line in the NFL. Oddly enough what impressed me most about Unger was not his on the field work, but rather his interviews and poise off the field. All attributes that I like out of a center.

4) Michael Oher, Mississippi: Michael Oher was on the top of my draft board not just for tackles, but I had him going as the number one overall pick in the draft. Needless to say Oher has dropped on my board. Mainly due to the fact that his workouts at the combine were very mundane. While Michael Oher did not do anything bad while he was in Indianapolis, he failed to impress, and with the class of offensive linemen coming out this year, there is simply no room for mediocrity.

5) Andre Smith, Alabama: Andre Smith should send Michael Crabtree a thank you note for taking away a bulk of the media attention. The 2009 NFL Combine will go down as a public relations nightmare for Andre Smith, truth be told everything since about mid December has been a PR nightmare for Smith. Andre Smith abruptly left the combine on Saturday after choosing not to workout. When asked to give a reason, Smith stated that he had not prepared properly. To make matters stranger, Smith then sent word via an agent that he would be working out twice a day this week with a trainer in Atlanta. The issue here is Andre Smith already had a knock against him for being immature. To come to the NFL Combine and then state he was not prepared shows a complete lack of maturity. It is not like the combine jumped out of nowhere to surprise him. I’m not sure what is going through Andre Smith’s head, but I would be very leery of drafting him till someone can get a handle on him mentally.

Ranking The Quarterbacks In the NFL Draft

As the 2009 NFL Combine prepares to come to a conclusion today in Indianapolis, it is time for us to take a look back and try to sort out what we learned from this year’s version of the NFL’s meat market. This time out the gates we are looking at the top performing quarterbacks and ranking them. These rankings are a combination of the quarterbacks body of work along with his combine performance, a high ranking on here does not mean a top draft pick, but it does show their ranking relative to the others in their draft class.

1) Matt Stafford, Georgia: Matt Stafford came to this week’s weeks combine as many people’s top rated quarterback, and he will leave Indianapolis as the top rated quarterback in this year’s draft. Stafford did not throw at the combine, but he did not need to. He went through many of the running drills and frankly he out performed my expectations. Stafford measured at just over 6’2 and 225 pounds which was actually a bit lighter than what we originally anticipated. In addition, Matt Stafford showed solid mobility, he didn’t blow anyone away with his athletic ability, but Stafford did prove that he is not Drew Bledsoe. That is enough to insure that he is the top quarterback available in this year’s draft.

2) Pat White, West Virginia: Pat White may be the biggest over at any position at this year’s NFL Combine. Just a few weeks many (including myself) doubted that White could be a productive NFL quarterback. In fact many scouts were looking forward to Pat White’s workout with the receivers rather than his workout with the quarterbacks. However, once White took to the field to work his passing trees all thoughts of working as a receiver were forgotten. Pat White was the most impressive all around quarterback at the NFL Combine this year. His arm strength was far greater than I expected he had the ability to hit his receivers in stride on the deep ball, and his deep out balls had plenty of zip on them to catch up to the wide outs. Obviously White tested well on the athleticism side of things, he is the most athletic quarterback available in this year’s draft. Most importantly for Pat White was he proved to scouts that he is more than just a Wildcat formation quarterback. He has the potential to become a starting QB for someone in the NFL, and on Sunday White took a major step in that direction.

3) Mark Sanchez, USC: Most people still have Mark Sanchez as their second ranked quarterback in this year’s NFL Draft class; personally I just cannot give him that ranking. While Sanchez to show good mobility during his workouts in Indy, and he was willing to go through just about every drill imaginable, he just did not score that well on my charts. Athletically speaking Mark Sanchez is fine, he moves well, a bit undersized height wise (6’2) but solid. What I did not like about Sanchez was his arm strength. Sanchez continually under threw his receivers when tossing the deep ball. In addition Mark Sanchez struggled to zip the ball to the outside when throwing outside the numbers. Quarterbacks with weak arms scare me. While I don’t need a guy with a cannon to toss it 70 yards down field, I do want a quarterback who can consistently hit the deep out route.

4) Josh Freeman, Kansas State: On the measurables alone Josh Freeman is literally head and shoulders above the rest. At 6’6 and 248 pounds Freeman has what everyone would consider ideal size for a quarterback. Freeman also has the strongest arm in this year’s draft. He does have the rumors of being able to toss a 70 yard bomb. There are two reasons why Freeman only grades out to be the fourth best quarterback in this year’s draft. First is he is only a junior, due to a coaching change at Kansas State, Josh Freeman will be unable to play his senior year. That extra year of playing time would have done him well. The second reason for his lower ranking is a lower pass completion percentage. I believe that Freeman can become a solid producer in the NFL. He could be a very special mid round pickup.

5) Nate Davis, Ball State: Nate Davis put together an amazing regular season, but he stumbled down the stretch in the MAC Championship and in his bowl game against Tulsa. There is plenty not to like about Nate Davis, he’s undersized a bit unorthodox, comes from a small school a little over weight perhaps, you know all the usual knocks on a small time quarterback. Nonetheless Nate Davis proved to be a miracle worker at Ball State this past season. He posted a lifetime QB rating of 147, and he threw for over 9,000 yards. I’m not really sure where Nate Davis would fit in at in the NFL, but I do believe he could become a productive player someday down the line.

Devin Harris Crazy Buzzer Beater

We all saw Dwight Howard's half court shot during warm ups on Sunday. Yeah it was nice and it was good. Well the New Jersey Nets Devin Harris decided to take it one step farther with this amazing buzzer beater. Check out this wild shot Harris puts up to win the game.

Monday, February 23, 2009

2009 NFL Combine Day 3

Welcome to day three of our coverage of the 2009 NFL combine. Today we are talking Wonderlic test, LB's and defensive linemen. This years linebackers class is stocked full of talent. It will be fun to take a look at this years talent coming out.

A big trend to watch in this years combine is the number of guys who are looking to become conversion players. These are the guys who will play DE and OLB. That means they will have their hand in the dirt and they will need to stand up, and be able to cover.

The D-Linemen have wrapped up for the day and now we are onto the linebackers. Brian Cushing just ran his 40-yard dash and looked impressive. As far as linebackers go there is no question that Aaron Curry from Wake Forest is the cream of the crop. It would not take a lot for him to jump into the number one pick for me. A solid showing today and I'd be willing to move him up the board, especially after watching the quarterbacks yesterday.

On a side note for all the UVA followers out there, Cedric Peerman ran a 4.45 second 40 yard dash time on Saturday. That was the fastest time of any back at the combine. This is good for Peerman who put in solid work all season for UVA, but due to the teams lack of success his ability was often overlooked. Currently the knock on Peerman is fumbling the ball, where he caughed up the rock on two key plays again Miami this past season. He also fumbled during the Senior Bowl. Posting a solid 40 time will help to elevate his stock.

On an interesting note from today's combine, two of the top defensive prospects have come up limping after running their 40-yard dash. Brian Orakpo and USC's Rey Melaluga both came up gimpy with injured hamstrings.

LB Aaron Curry from Wake Forest ran a 40 yard dash in the 4.5's very impressive. He is moving up the board. Curry will work out in all the field drills so we will get a chance to see his agility. The Detroit Lions have talked to Curry and took him to dinner on Friday. Drafting a Linebacker with the first pick would not be a sexy pick for if you're a team like the Lions picking a linebacker would be a safe pick and you can bet that Curry will be a long time Pro-Bowler in the NFL.

Watching Brian Cushing run some agility drills not happy with his hip flexibility. He seems a bit stiff, (he's not bending at the knees and opening his hips as he moves).

Taking a look at Clay Mathews and I like this kid a lot. Real big at 240 pounds, but extremely mobile. He likely won't be a first rounder but I think he will make someone very happy as a second or a third round NFL draft pick.

Another note on the weekend at the NFL Combine, Andre Smith chose not workout on the weekend. The reason he gave was he got a late start in getting ready. That's pretty impressive considering that Smith did not play in the Sugar Bowl because he was suspended, so Smith has had plenty of time to work out. This is yet another knock against this young man. Once again he is proving to be immature in his actions.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

NFL Combine: Sunday; Quarterbacks and Receivers

It's Sunday at the NFL Combine and today we are watching the last batch of the quarterbacks as well as some of the receivers going through their routines.

People to note today is USC's Mark Sanchez who is throwing and going through the workouts today. Matt Stafford of Georgia will not be throwing today.

Another interesting note for all you UVA fans, Kevin Ogletree ran a 4.37 40 yard dash, tied for ninth among receivers and tied him with super receiver Percy Harvin.

Another big note from the combine so far has been the fate of star wide out Michael Crabtree. It was determined yesterday that Crabtree has a stress fracture in his foot. The injury will keep the youngster from running at this years NFL Combine. However, he has stated that he will run at the Texas Tech pro day in March. After that, he will elect to have surgery on his injured foot. Another interesting note about this story is it means that Michael Crabtree has still not been clocked in a 40-yard dash.

Watching QB drills right now. It's amazing at how many of these QB's are struggling with the 5-7 step drops. That's a direct correlation to them running a spread offense.

Pat White is impressing me right now. His arm strength is better than I thought, and despite being an option QB, his football is great.

Mark Sanchez does not look good. He is missing a lot of throws that QB of his caliber should be making. He is sailing his passes. I also don't like his delivery. Right now Stafford is the better pick in my books. But I guess, I am just comfirming what i already thought.

Mark Sanchez has under thrown all his deep balls. Simply not impressive.

Pat White looks like he could be a starting NFL QB.

Jon Gruden just took a dig at Phil and Chris Simms.

The quarterbacks are off the field and now we are getting ready to watch some RB's do some running.

Overall this years QB class is kinda weak. In all honesty Pat White has been the best I have seen thus far. Sanchez has worked his way out of the top of my draft board. I had the Jets looking at him, be in all honesty I'd consider droping him even farther than that. All in all, I don't think there is a true franchise QB in the draft this year.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Raising the Profile of Rugby

As is our weekly tradition, Walker-Sports is happy to invite the contributors from Heaven's Game to stop in and share some rugby knowledge with our fan base. This week the guys are talking about raising the profile of the game, something that has been a hot topic around many bar tables here in the United States.

Slowly but surely rugby is raising its profile in this week alone we have seen The IRB hand over a questionnaire to the IOC. This weekend see ABC in the US air a program dedicated to rugby at near enough prime time.
Both of these events bring huge exposure to our game.

There are also many other benefits. Most of these benefits will been by the second tier nations.

Whilst in many of the top rugby nations funds are easy to come by in the form of sponsorship or government grants. The second tier nations are not as fortunate as many governments only hand out grants to Olympic sports.

Will re-acceptance into The Olympic family mean an instant turnaround in fortunes for these second and third tier nations. Will Wales, New Zealand and South Africa lose their status as the worlds best teams in the next decade? Not likely.

What it does mean is many nations will now be able to introduce a real rugby programme in schools. The state schools will receive backing and in 20 or 30 years time there may well be a far different shape to the top 20 teams in the IRB rankings.

As for the USA, the screening of rugby on national television can only help the game and if a generation of people are exposed to the game on a regular basis then watch out the rest of the world. Perhaps not though, you only have to take a look at football/soccer it is only now many years after the hosting of the world cup are the US holding together a serious professional competition.

Rugby will take longer to reach this point in The US, when it does it will not take long for a top 5 spot to be a reality for them.

Greg Oden is Not Who You Thought He Was

I hate to be the guy who jumps on a young man and just beats him into the ground, but this one instance where I am willing to be called a hater. Greg Oden should be given the nickname The Big Hurt, and it's not because he throws down thunderous dunks in the paint. Once again Greg Oden finds himself the shelf with an injury.

It was revealed earlier this week that Greg Oden is suffering from a bone chip in his left knee. The injury will keep Oden out at least three games. This marks the second time this season that Greg Oden has missed time due to injury. Oden missed six games at the beginning of the season due to a foot injury. Also do not forget that Greg Oden missed all of his rookie season after undergoing micro-fracture surgery. That came on the heels of having his tonsils removed during the summer. Oh, and did I mention he missed significant time during his one year at Ohio State after suffering a broken wrist?

Basically my point is Oden has what we like to call where I'm from "brittle bones." It's not a knock on Oden because frankly they is nothing he can do about it. Some people just cannot take the bumps and the bruises. What would just be a bruise for most of us turns out to be a broken bone for others. It's a shame to because Greg Oden could potentially be a solid long term producer in the NBA, but at this rate he will spend more time on IR than on the hardwood. Now granted I once compared Greg Oden to Ralph Sampson, and I may be wrong with that comparison. However, there is a good chance that Greg Oden could turn out to be a lot like another brittle NBA Superstar we know, and well that's not one of the best things either.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Lefty Guard Barack Obama , Chris Paul, and The Trade Deadline

As a left handed person, this is the first time I’ve ever heard anything good about a lefty in basketball since Lefty Drizzel. CNN got quite an assortment of former and current players to break down President Obama’s game. They go a little soft on el Presidente, but considering we desperately need a point guard who knows how to pass and screen away on my men’s league basketball team, I’d be more than happy to pick up the Hawaiian kid from ChiTown. Bill Russell is an old head for sure and he shows it in this clip. Chris Paul had some interesting insight on having a dual personality, one on the court and one off. Magic was probably thinking, kid, I could score on the court and off, no difference.

Chris Paul doesn’t have to worry about Magic’s approval because C-Paul continues to blow up the league and is clearly in top 10 if not top 5 players in the league. Right now he is averaging a double-double with 22 points and 11 assist per game. Dwight Howard probably wondered how Chris Paul got access to his Super Man cape as he went for 36 points and 10 assists last night against Orlando. Speaking of kids from Chi-Town, Chandler, or his big toe didn’t pass the team physical in Oklahoma so he’s on his way back to New Orleans. And so, Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox going back sooner to the Sooner state then they had anticipated.

In my last post, I based my trade proposals on the concept of chemistry, not because I anticipated any of the trades to go through, but I took an old school approach to thinking about trades. But, there was one thing missing, not everyone’s looking to win a championship as J.A. Adande points out over at ESPN in his post Trades Are About More Than Who Got the Best Player. While times are tough and budgets tight it makes sense to move budgets around. But maybe that’s part of the problem, GM’s want to run a business so much they forget about how to win games, with team chemistry. When you don’t have chemistry, force it, like Isaiah has tried to do in NY. That’s done a lot of good for him.

Thom Wallace writes about the convergence of media, art, technology, and sustainability at www.thomwallace.com and contributes to Walker Sports when a great Baltimore basketball mind is needed.

NFL Combine Day 1

The NFL Combine is set to kick off later today in Indianapolis. The NFL Combine has become one of the largest non-spectacles in sports and I will admit I buy into it completely. That is why we will have like coverage of the combines here at Walker-Sports. In addition you can also expect our top ten positional breakdown as the results come in. Finally you can also expect an updated mock draft once the combine is completed and we have the opportunity to compile our data.

As we await the beginning of the 2009 NFL Combine, let me take a moment to list off a few individuals that I am personally excited about watching this year.

1) Josh Freeman QB Kansas State: I loved this kid during his time at KSU. He put up some great numbers but was often overshadowed by his counterparts within his conference. Freeman stands 6'6 and has a monster arm, plus he his mobile in the pocket. The only reason he is leaving college early is due to the coaching change at Kansas State where they will look to revert to their option based ways. If Josh Freeman can test well this weekend there is a great chance he can shoot up the draft charts and perhaps steal a first round draft pick.

2) Michael Crabtree WR Texas Tech: I know the whole world knows what Michael Crabtree can do, and he is most likely a top five draft pick. However, there is some intrigue about watching him work out in this years combine. Mainly because Crabtree has never been clocked in the 40 yard dash. While that is not the worst thing in the world, it would be interesting to see how he actually grades out with his straight line speed. A slow time could damage his legacy, not running the 40 could hurt his potential as well. Michael Crabtree may have backed himself into a corner on this one.

3) Michael Johnson DE/OLB Georgia Tech: Michael Johnson was one of my favorite prospects entering the 2008 college season, and for the most part he did not disappoint. He is a big kid (6'7) and he posses great burst off the balll. However Johnson chose not to play in this years Senior Bowl. That has hurt his draft stock because he provided no real reason for skipping the big game. All we know is Johnson claimed to be preparing for the Combine. If that is the case that means he is putting all his hope on this weekend and he will need to put up or shutup if he wants to earn a high draft grade