I. There’s a strong possibility that Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd is selected in the top 10 this April. He’s strong at the point of attack, agile, and has a quick first step. He generates consistent pressure up the middle, displays a combination of upper body strength and quick feet, and flashes violence on contact. He doesn’t always make the plays that are right in front of him and he’ll need to have better backfield vision at the pro level. But as a 3-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3, he has the ability to be a double-digit sack player down the road.
II. It’s somewhat remarkable to read that BYU defensive end Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah didn’t train for February’s combine. Most prospects hire a trainer in order to prepare for the mental and physical workouts that they endure in Indianapolis, but Ansah skipped the training and still left an impression. At 271 pounds he ran the sixth fastest forty time of the 37 defensive linemen that worked out and only LSU DE/OLB Barkevious Mingo (who is an athletic freak) had a faster-ten yard split (1.56). Ansah needs to develop a larger pass rushing repertoire if he’s going to be a dynamic pro and he’s not overly explosive off the line. But he’s athletic, strong, and was always around the ball at BYU. He also uses his hands well when pass rushing and is scheme versatile after lining up as an end in a 4-3 and a 3-4, as well as an edge rusher while standing up in a 34. It would be an upset if he dropped out of the top-10 next month.
III. This is a deep safety class this year but one player who struggled last year was USC’s T.J. McDonald. At 6’3″ and 205 pounds he has great size, is sound in run support, and is physical. But he’s not a sideline-to-sideline player nor is he fluid in coverage. Many NFL teams consider their safeties to be interchangeable and McDonald is too one-dimensional. He’s most comfortable playing inside the box but his coverage skills leave a lot to be desired. Some pundits view him as the fourth or fifth-best safety in this year’s class but based on all-around talent, Georgia’s Bacarri Rambo and Florida International’s Johnathan Cyprien are more intriguing prospects.
IV. Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher are both outstanding prospects but Joeckel is the safer selection of the two, and might be the safest pick in the entire draft. He mirrors edge rushers well in pass protection, does a great job with his lower half to drive defenders backwards while run blocking, and he doesn’t display a lot of wasted movement. He’s not as aggressive as Fisher while run blocking, but he’s the more technically sound player and is more fluid in his movements. Both players are NFL-caliber left tackles and both are top-10 (if not top-5) prospects. But Joeckel is 1 and Fisher is 2 in the rankings.
V. Alec Ogletree might be best suited to play the weakside linebacker position in a 4-3 after lining up in the middle of Georgia’s defense last season. He’s fast, athletic and has great range. He’s a former safety so he’s agile in space and flies to the football. But he’ll get cut off at times when trying to sift through traffic and he struggles to get off blocks. He can also get walled off in pursuit and has a tendency to overrun plays at times. That said, he’s a big hitter that covers a lot of ground quickly. His recent citation for DUI and four-game suspension last year after failing a drug test notwithstanding, he’s a hell of an athlete and might wind up being a steal if he slips into the second round.
Around the NFL…
I. Alex Smith is a solid fit for Andy Reid’s offense in Kansas City and he truly was the best option available this offseason. Geno Smith doesn’t scream “franchise quarterback” and it would have been a tough sell to the fan base to re-install Matt Cassel as the starter while patiently waiting for a better option to come along. Smith was that better option.
That said, a second-round pick and a condition third-round selection that could turn into another second-rounder was a steep price to pay for Smith. Yes, he was having an excellent season before suffering a concussion in mid-November and yes, he should be able to effectively run Reid’s West Coast Offense. But the reason Jim Harbaugh stuck with Colin Kaepernick last season when Smith was healthy is because he knew the Niners were more explosive offensively with Kaepernick under center. Granted, Kaepernick adds another dimension by running the Pistol offense but Smith will prevent Reid from threatening opponents downfield on a consistent basis. Can the Chiefs win with Smith in the time being? Sure, but this move only delays the inevitable, which is that at some point Kansas City will need to draft and develop a young franchise quarterback for the long term.
II. Now that we know the annual average ($20.1 million) of Joe Flacco’s new deal, as well as the guaranteed portion ($52 million) and how much he’ll receive over the first three seasons of the contract ($62 million), there’s absolutely no reason why the Falcons shouldn’t re-sign Matt Ryan well before the end of the 2013 season. Flacco has eight more postseason victories under his belt, but it’s not as if Ryan is on the decline – on the contrary, he’s only going to get better. He posted career numbers last season with Michael Turner barely churning out 3.5 yards per carry. Imagine what Ryan could do against a defense that also had to worry about stopping Steven Jackson (or any other running back that didn’t have cement blocks for feet). The new floor for contracts involving franchise quarterbacks as been set following Flacco’s agreement with the Ravens. The Falcons would be wise to be proactive because with Ryan set to become a free agent in 2014, there’s no sense to wait.
III. Jake Long isn’t going to get the $11 million that he/his agent is asking for on the free agent market. He’s coming off back-to-back disappointing seasons and has also dealt with various injuries over that span. Granted, he’ll be 28 by the start of the season so if he can stay healthy he still has plenty of good years left in the tank. But in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, this was a bad year for him to hit the open market. A team would either have to be crazy or desperate to fork over $11 million per year after what Long has shown the past two seasons.
IV. This situation involving Darrelle Revis and the Jets is ugly. It’s believed that he’s seeking $16 million annually and $60 million guaranteed on his next contract, which would make him the highest paid defensive player in the league. If he holds out this summer, then the final three years of his contract won’t void and he’ll be “stuck” in New York until he becomes a free agent in 2017. Meanwhile, the Jets only have him signed through 2013 and former GM Mike Tannenbaum left the team in cap hell before he was let go at the end of the season. Thus, the Jets could trade Revis, but his value couldn’t be lower coming off knee surgery. Plus, from a scheme standpoint, Revis means more to Rex Ryan’s defense than any other player on the Jets’ roster. If you’re trying to win, it behooves you not to get rid of its best defensive player. Then again, it’s not as if the Jets are going to compete any time soon. Not with Mark Sanchez under center and an overall lack of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. If new GM John Idzik wanted to start fresh, trading Revis, saving the cap space and acquiring a couple of picks might not be a bad idea. (Even if the Jets aren’t getting max value on their return.)
V. The Falcons’ decision to release John Abraham, Michael Turner and Dunta Robinson turned heads last week but it’s simple cost versus production. Turner no longer has the ability to create on his own and managed just 3.6 yards per carry last season. Robinson is coming off his best year in Atlanta but he’s maddeningly inconsistent in coverage and the Falcons probably could get better, cheaper production out of Brent Grimes assuming he’s healthy and they re-sign him. After racking up 10 sacks, Abraham was clearly the most productive of the three but he’s no longer an every-down player and GM Thomas Dimitroff recognizes the need to find younger pass rushers. By releasing these three players, Dimitroff created roughly $18 million in cap space. That money can be used not only to sign Matt Ryan to an extension, but also get younger and/or better at running back and up front defensively.
Out of Bounds…
I. There was a report by the National Football Post that Matt Barkley’s stock is on the rise. How the hell could his stock be on the rise if he hasn’t worked out since suffering a shoulder injury back in mid-November at USC? These pre-draft reports are adorable.
II. The Jets are reportedly interested in signing free agents David Garrard and Brady Quinn because, you know, having only one bad quarterback on your roster simply isn’t enough.
III. Here’s how desperate we are for March 12 (the start of free agency): I’ve actually read not one, but two reports about how David Carr would be a great fit for the Buccaneers. I didn’t even know David Carr was still in the league.
IV. Here’s a fun game: Type “Darrelle Revis” into Google, followed by your favorite team. Somewhere, some blog already has a report stating that Revis is an option for that team. You could type in “Darrelle Revis Saskatchewan Roughriders” and get positive search results.
V. Profootballtalk.com says that free agent Andre Smith is seeking $9 million per year in free agency. Smith will have more success trying to sneak a gun past airport security…again.