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Saturday, April 30, 2011

166 - Lawrence Wilson, OLB, Connecticut

6'1, 230 lb UConn Linebacker. Wilson kept coming up in my draft simulations as a fluid, natural athlete for a linebacker. He's lacking in size, but he's not just a Tampa 2 SS turned WLB. He does knife in for plays, he does blitz. He needs protected, but we just drafted two DTs.

Wilson is a top value pick at LB, where we had talent already. But I had a feeling Rivera would inevitably want a LB of his own, and a good player to ensure that Thomas Davis has a talented backup.

#132 - Kealoha Pilares, WR, Hawaii

A 5'10, 205 lb run and shoot receiver, Pilares has a wide catching radius who's strong for a receiver his size, goes over the middle, and can stretch the field.

He put together 88 receptions, 1300 yards, and 15 touchdowns last year, coming up from 66/690/4 last year. He's a very productive slot type receiver, and is smart enough to make the Coryell reads that inside receivers must make - reading the coverage, reading the corner, and making the choice along with the QB to break a route in a different direction.

I'm a little surprised they went receiver, with three young guys on staff, but even with a backlog of young players, the new staff will want their guys. Pilares fits, especially in providing a young slot guy if Steve Smith is gone.

#98 - Brandon Hogan, CB, West Virginia

A tremendous, and tremendously risky, pick. I admit I didn't pay much attention to him post-draft, with the DUI and knee injury, but the film on this guy is fantastic.



I can't wait to see him on the field, and his career will be defined more on whether he can be on the field than whether he can excel on it - he will excel, but will he stay healthy? Will he keep his nose clean? He seems to get it. Let's hope he spends as much time regretting his mistakes as rehabbing, and does plenty of both.

Summary Through Day Two

*Cam Newton showed up today, talked to press. He's refined in his speech. Talked to advertisers, who will love him most of the time.

More importantly, he met with staff for five hours, says Sal Paolantonio. Which was important, since apparently there's a lockout again.

Also coming in (early), Jimmy Clausen. I'm sure it was for a playbook, and I'm sure some confident words from him to staff, to go with reassurance from the staff. Who knows if he remains here.

*Never did trade. Luckily.

It would've been nice to get athletic, strong DT Stephen Paea, just not strong enough to waste future picks on it. Luckily we didn't, and sitting at the top of 4 with the first pick we hopefully won't have a need to trade any more future picks.

*We received two DT, luckily since we're starved at the position.
For years it was Jenkins and Buckner, then swapping Lewis and Kemoeatu in for Buckner, and eventually out with Jenkins. Since, a bunch of nothing. Hopefully this tandem is ready to play, because they'll play.

Hard to remember back to preseason, when Tank Tyler and Louis Leonard were starters. Ed Johnson may or may not return. So these two rookies are what we have. Would definitely like to see Andre Neblett get plenty of work too.

*The more Ron Rivera gets into things, the more it makes sense that he's the young, idealistic type coach who's going to want to stop the run, to help create pressure. He won't be as passive about bringing that pressure, but there's definitely a renewed sense of the front four with these picks.

So, it may be very run the ball, stop the run. But it certainly won't be conservative. It will be interesting to see how much emphasis the OL gets tomorrow, versus the remaining need on defense at CB.

Friday, April 29, 2011

#97, Sione Fua, NT, Stanford

Fua (6'1, 307) is a big, strong nosetackle, who excels at getting off the ball low and fast. He's tough to move, tough to get under his pads, and tough to beat mentally or physically. He's the type nose tackle that championship teams have.

He has a little mobility, but lacks in athleticism, and scouts are split on whether or not he can become a legitimate pass rusher. He can learn to use his hands better, and will need to learn a move or two, but whether his feet are good enough to allow it to go toward productivity is harder to say. Still, his role will be bringing up the third-and-longs that allow you to punish the QB - him being able to produce on 3rd down would simply be a bonus.


I like it. I watched a ton of Stanford football the last two years, with their Coryell-style offense and tough defense. Fua's a legit player. Some sites had him lower, but he's a good fit here.

#97, pre-pick

coming up on 97, five picks away.

I like for the CB need, Curtis Brown/Texas, Kendric Burney/UNC.

Drake Nevis finally went, but Kenrick Ellis, the raw Hampton DT, still there.

Sam Acho is, again, an intriguing rush LB type, that just isn't a need right now because of the DEs we have, but he's an intriguing top level player.

I also like Jordan Cameron, the very raw TE from USC. Not a lot of OL to like here, Marcus Cannon is too big, Clint Boling makes sense, and would be good in zone at guard.

#65 - Terrell McClain

McClain (6'2, 297, South Florida) is a well built, active run stopper at DT. Good feet, flashes athleticism, and can

He's athletic enough to play nose, off the guard, or outside on the tackle if you're shaded over or giving a 3-4 look. He has a good first step, can work laterally, and can stunt/slant.

However, he looks like a rotation player right now, can push the pocket, but doesn't have great moves. He doesn't always show the athleticism, because he needs to get better conditioned. It shouldn't be hard, and with 29 reps at combine, he's on his way to having a lot of strength. One place I personally don't think he can overcome is a smaller base, so he won't consistently overpower from the trunk. But in a one-gap scheme, not the worst thing.


I wanted Drake Nevis, but we got a similar player without the size limitations or the short arms. No complaints on this pick, a definite need.

#65 - pre-pick

Sitting at 62 - I like Drake Nevis at DT, maybe Sam Acho as an outside shot at the hybrid OLB spot that Norwood would likely play. Not a lot at CB I love but maybe Ryan Hill at CB. Outside shot of an OL like James Brewer. Let's see what we come up with.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Panthers Trading Back Up?

http://espn.go.com/blog/nfcsouth/post/_/id/20562/panthers-looking-to-trade-into-round-2

Sal Paolantonio reporting Carolina is willing to place a future early pick and the 65 pick into getting back into the 2nd round. Of course, Paolantonio isn't reporting it to much of anyone, since it didn't make it to air - nothing did. There was very little reporting at all for ESPN, just commentary.

At any rate, the trade is supposed to be for a DT or CB - both of which make sense, I'd only put TE with those two as far as youth needs, and TE seems deep. You could argue DT is deep, too.

As a fan, please don't. At some point you have to stop doing this, even things out and get back at a full draft in 2012.


Since any pleas will go unheard and Hurney will inevitably trade up, here's what's best available at DT, CB as of the 33rd pick:



DT:
*Stephen Paea, Oregon State - we make plenty of Pac-10 picks anyway, and Paea makes sense as a one-gap 3-4 or 4-3 hybrid. Great first step, great short space run defender, who needs to improve his change of direction and only bull rushes well so far.
*Drake Nevis, LSU - a little short at under 6'1, but highly productive one-gap player who, like Paea, could play any of the inside roles in Rivera's hybrid defense. Has more moves, but not as good of a first step and shorter arms.
*Jarvis Jenkins, Clemson - Looks to be a nose tackle. Top run defender with size that can become power, but with athleticism to still be one-gap. Another bull rusher without moves.

CB: only three CBs have come off the board, and you could argue why any of them could be the top player at the position. Here's what's left:
*Ras-I Dowling, Virginia - hard-nosed football player at corner. Good in man or zone, good deep, plays the ball bt doesn't take tons of chances and plays the run tough.
*Ryan Hill, Miami - raw player because of injuries, but physically all you want with a hard working demeanor.


If they traded up later in the 2nd, look for:
DT
*Kenrick Ellis, Hampton - oversized two gapper, who could fit as a nosetackle
*Marvin Austin, UNC - could be dominant, fits for size and athleticism as a one gap guy. You have to buy into character with this guy, which is why I'd put him closer to 45-50 than 33.

CB:
*Rashard Carmichael, VT - shorter (5'9) but longer arms and no other real limitations. Great feet, athleticism, and zone awareness.

#1 - Cam Newton

Well, we did it. We picked Newton, the worst kept secret I hoped wasn't true.

Kid has an arm, and I don't care about his character concerns (yet). My concern is his accuracy, and his inexperience, more than anything. After the draft, or at least should I get a chance in the next day or two, I'll start working on thoughts for what we should do with Newton to get him to be the QB we want him to be, instead of the running guy he is.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lockout "still lifted"; Newton

Judge Nelson put the players ahead of the NFL again, lifting the lockout essentially permanently (it's much less likely the lockout restarts on appeal). What does it mean? Nothing, yet. Rules on the league year will come, then the league year itself. All will happen after the draft unless the various sides all agree on things like player trades, and they haven't agreed on much in years.


Night before the draft now, 21 hours until the pick.

Everyone keeps saying the pick is Cam Newton. I've made myself clear, both in the past and this year, that QBs aren't magically the top player taken every year because they're the best players. In this case I don't even know that Newton is top 15, and plenty of scouts agree.

But, it looks like impending doom - a running QB in a timing system; an inaccurate QB in a system that requires accuracy. An offense that will probably have to adjust to one player's strengths to make all other players' skills a variable.

It can work, but it will take a lot of things to fall into place. And I doubt it does, at this point, but I don't doubt we'll take him.



There are other picks, and while I had grand thoughts of putting together players to watch at the top of the 3rd and 4th, the picks that will have to matter if we're picking a fucking project QB, I haven't done so.

So quick thoughts - at 65, I'd really love a DT. Need a DT. Kenrick Ellis and Jerrell Powe are intriguing big men, but makes more sense to go with a Jarvis Jenkins or similar 300 lb guy, instead of 340. Unlike Marcell Dareus, prospects at the top of 3 probably won't be able to do everything well, though, so the player has to be a run stopper anyway.

Alternately, a TE makes sense - Rob Housler has the huge athleticism but is raw; Lance Kendricks makes sense a round later if they feel OK about his routes, or if they want more raw athleticism, Jordan Cameron. They do have their yearly Gamecock pick to make, so that could be Weslye Saunders.

One of the top 100 picks will inevitably be a cornerback - Aaron Williams, Marcus Gilchrist make sense to fight for nickel to start, and then be starting zone guys. Toughness, instinct more than anything.

If anything outside those three spots made the top 3 non-Newton picks, I'd call OL. WR is a need, but needs a vet. OL has veterans, WR doesn't. And OL makes sense in any and every draft. Florida's Marcus Gilbert keeps jumping out at me, more than the others likely available.



But, it's fairly rare that guys I lock onto pre-draft are picks. Right about this time every year, fans get heartbroken in April and fall in love in September. It's part of the process. Expect trades - Hurney averages about 1.5 trades per draft - and likely a bit of a move toward smarter players with a little less upside.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Steve Smith - Locker Empty

Players, for the moment, can't work out yet.

The only Panther to show up at Mint Street today was John Kasay, a player rep for a union that, according to presiding Judge Nelson, isn't a union (it would be interesting to see a ruling on her behalf when the NFLPA suddenly becomes a union again).

Meanwhile, Steve Smith's locker is empty, suddenly.

So is there a trade in the works? It may be now or never, really. There are no "player to be named later" situations in the NFL, so Smith probably won't be traded before the draft. If not, what's the benefit, from a compensation standpoint, in doing so? Trade a player now, for 2012 pick that still won't be that high?

There's the feeling, naturally, that peeking behind the curtain and seeing that Smith isn't currently a part of things means a receiver pick at #1. I don't know if that's the case, but I doubt they move Smith just to get another young receiver. Replacing Smith, ideally, means another vet. Three San Diego WR along with the 2nd TE are available in free agency, though to this point Carolina hasn't actually shown much interest in Chargers players, despite the obvious connections.

Either way, the team will need some veteran ability at WR. With three second-year WR that should make the roster, a rookie - even a dynamic player like Green - won't be enough experience.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Lockout Lifted

Looks like the lockout is no more.

http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=6424084


so, barring an unlikely stay on appeal, the owners continue to have no leverage, despite them having the worse end of the deal in 2006. The most concerning thing, to me, is that Judge Nelson determined that the NFLPA decertification isn't a sham. It obviously is - they'll have their hand right in the money ASAP.

Now, if there's a stay, there's a lockout. But that doesn't seem likely. But is there still a chance of free agency this week? There will probably be players showing up tomorrow. There's realistic reason to suggest that coaches will try to even work out players, in a last ditch effort to get an idea on what they have.

Softli: It's Dareus

Just his opinion, but former Panther scout, turned college personnel director, and now former Rams VP, Tony Softli says he believes Dareus is the pick:


"They need defensive linemen. They have for awhile," says Softli, who also has a history with the Rams. "I really think they're gonna pass on Cam Newton. ... I really believe it's gonna be the defensive tackle." While we still take everything with a grain of salt, it's important to note that Softli's info has been solid this offseason. He was the first to point out Adrian Clayborn's Erb Palsy condition, and among the first to explicitly report on Ryan Mallett's drug use at Arkansas."


It's a bold choice, pushing that. So far, most are convinced of Cam Newton, or on rare occasion, a trade. Barring that trade (for value, not because we don't have young players), Dareus is what I'd want, by far over the others - I'd heavily advocate the trade itself except it comes with losing Dareus at pick 2 or 4.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

NFP Might Have The Wrong Idea

National Football Post has had some excellent content lately, from Andrew Brandt ( @adbrandt on twitter) bringing insight on labor, to the great, and hopeful article linked below on Carolina bluffing on Newton:

http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/Are-the-Panthers-bluffing.html

However, Brandt mentioned offhand that "New Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s playbook is believed to be somewhere in the vicinity of 900 pages, which makes it one of the most voluminous in the league. Virtually every play has a shift and/or motion. It’s a difficult offense for an experienced quarterback."

(link here: http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/NFP-Sunday-Blitz-9962.html)

So let's go into why that isn't necessarily a concern.

While I have been studying Chargers and (ugh) Cowboys gametape to pickup tendencies and see Coryell in its modern forms, I haven't come up with the easy explanations on paper I've wanted to write. Hopefully this summer, we'll get to see that.

In the meantime, know that the offense is much more intuitive than 900 individual plays that require a player to learn every facet of the play. If you know your 20 or so formations, the 5 shifts for your position, and know what your codes mean (i.e., routes, which are intuitive for receivers, or your zone protections, for a lineman), the play tells every player on the field what they're going to be doing.

In other words, if you can learn the words of the language, you can speak the language. You're not memorizing each of 900 plays individually as if they're separate, unrelated plays.

Coryell does rely on shifts, motions, and formation disguises to run the same plays. One run play can be run ten ways or more, one pass that ends up in featuring the F post (a key play in this O), can be run over a hundred (I'll diagram 525 F Post one day soon, along with other staples).

As a matter of fact the average Coryell OC can bring 200 plays into a game where he'll call no more than 75. But set up as an intuitive form, the player can learn what's needed in a much smaller space than Brandt is suggesting.


Not that I believe that a lockout-shortened season with a brand new coaching staff is a good situation to draft Newton into. He's got very limited experience with plays, was fed reads from the sideline, and worked exclusively from shotgun. He has huge growing pains ahead, not only in the average NFL offense but in the correct usage of technique and decision making.

An Argument Against Defense #1

Carolina doesn't lack defensive talent, and that side of the ball has stars. As the draft approaches, the best bets continue to look defensive. Offensive options - essentially, two QBs and two WRs on a team that took 2 QBs and 3 WR last year - look much shakier.

I've argued that defense is the best bet before, despite offensive concerns. That offense needs vets, and leadership. But here's an argument against defense up front - Rivera likely doesn't need it. Rivera's #1 overall defense - aided by a #1 offense - was most remarkable for doing it without stars. There weren't the superstars of past Chargers teams - most notably Shawne Merriman, and the trade of Antonio Cromartie. It was a cohesive unit of 13-14 defensive players who weren't looking for limelight, just did their work.

So if Rivera can do that there, is it necessary to do so here? The stars - Beason, Davis, depending on your viewpoint you could pick from Johnson, Gamble, Beason, Godfrey as supporting stars - could give Rivera more talent than he was working with, but is as homegrown as what he had there. If defense is easily made to work without more blue chips, why waste the opportunity? The offense is the side in desperate need.



Still, a defensive tackle is very hard to find that can do it all - like Marcell Dareus can. Look at 3rd round possibilities, and you see guys who can do one thing very well, that might have a shot at doing other things, but essentially a group of situational players (mostly run stoppers).

And, those offensive options still look iffy. If AJ Green, who could be available at 5, is the pick, we have four young WR and Steve Smith. If it's Cam Newton, you're talking a total lack of production for two years or playing a QB without basic fundamentals. So, that's the 2011 NFL draft - tons of options that make no sense.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Newton, or not?

Nolan Nawrocki says the Panthers aren't interested in Cam Newton:

http://www.profootballweekly.com/2011/04/05/carolina-seeks-second-round-pick

though this is the same reporter who trashed Newton thoroughly with character and technique concerns earlier in the week.

Let's be honest, the Cam debate has been beaten soundly to death at this point. With guys like Mel Kiper recently pushing Newton to #1 overall - without anything to change their opinion - punditry is really very affected by itself. One outlet upgrades a guy, so others must, too. They're compared against each other, and available to do so.

Teams don't have that, which is why you regularly see shock and amazement that teams' draft boards don't match the media's - which often tends toward a consensus since they influence each other's.

So in this last few weeks of draft coverage, keep in mind that no one knows what Carolina's draft board actually looks like. Not Nolan Nawrocki, not Mel Kiper. Not Warren Moon or a suddenly silent Cecil Newton. Hopefully, Nawrocki's right, personally. I'd prefer that. But, if Nolan's reporting is accurate, he could be screwing it up for us anyway.