Tuesday, May 3, 2011

NFL Draft. Rrrribbit.

Is he even wearing a hat?

With the last pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans selected a player who will inevitably be cut during training camp while also slamming the door shut on any NFL related activity for the near future. However, in case you missed lyle's up to the minute updates, in the three days that preceded that selection, five members of the 2010 TCU Horned Frogs were selected to ply their trade at the next level. Three of them were no brainers, two of them were surprises, and a few more were overlooked, although they should find a landing spot in free agency, whenever that happens. But more on that later. For the time being, let's take a look at the guys who will for sure be given a fair shake in the pros and what their chances of making a swift impact will be.

1. Andy Dalton. Cincinnati Bengals. Round 2. 35th Overall Pick.

QBs Currently on Roster: Dan LeFevour, Carson Palmer*, Jordan Palmer.

After sitting through the most painful first round a TCU fan has had to endure in years, Dalton was quick off the board on Day 2 as Bengals OC Jay Gruden got his man right where he wanted him. Like many of you, I thought the whole Dalton going in the first round scenario was a bit far fetched, but I still kinda held out hope that someone would swoop in late and steal him via trade. And when Christian Ponder, of all people, went hilariously high to the Vikings at 12, anything was truly possible. Obviously it was not to be for Dalton in the first round, but having had the weekend to think it through, Cincy may not be that bad of a landing spot for him after all. Lamarr Woodley wholeheartedly agrees with me here as he expressed with this tweet - Never sacked a redhead b4... cant wait!!!! lol what u think @ @?? Be careful what you wish for, LaMarr. With two R's and superfluous capitalization.

For one, Carson Palmer is still likely out the door which leaves the position wide open. Naturally, that begs the question whether or not we believe Dalton is ready to be an immediate starter in the NFL - an idea the Bengals are clearly open to. To be honest, I'm conflicted on this one. On the one hand, of course having the option to start is much more desirable than knowing you'll be sitting on the bench... at least in the short term. Long term, I'm not so sure. Cincy has already had one high pick QB burn out in Akili Smith, and Carson Palmer, after some early moderate success, is firmly in the fryer. Palmer's flame out is mostly due to an injury he suffered during his most successful season though, so I am not sure how we should judge that.

On the bright side though, Gruden is, like his brother, viewed as something of a QB guru, although, like his brother, he hasn't necessarily groomed a young QB into a hall of famer, Brett Favre notwithstanding. But looking past that, it has been said that Gruden REALLY wanted Andy Dalton and it speaks volumes that, needing a QB and with Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, etc sitting there with their fourth pick, they opted to wait on a QB and took receiver A.J. Green instead. Given the predicted run on QBs it was a bit risky of them to do so, but the Bengals played the waiting game and it paid off handsomely, although it has been rumored that they were REALLY interested in grabbing Dalton with Green Bay's final pick of the first. Andy gets to play for a coordinator and coach who really wanted him, in a west coast offense that should suit his skills, under a new coordinator on a young team, at least at the skill positions. There will surely be some growing pains, but the fact that everyone is pretty much on page 1 should mean he won't be any further off the mark than anyone else.

As for the pick of A.J. Green, that surely suggests that Chad Johnson nee Ochocinco nee Johnson has played his last down in Cincy, which is another positive. I'm assuming that, whoever lines up under center in Cincinnati whenever the season begins, will have A.J. Green and Jordan Shipley as their top two targets, two guys who are talented and won't undeservingly demand the ball like Johnson would. Green is clearly a stud, but he hasn't played a down in the NFL so I'm not sure what else I need to say about him.

As for Shipley, while we all hate him simply because of where he played his college football, you can't deny that a little bit of that hate also comes from recognizing how good he was while playing for that dreaded University. And, ok, some of it is because of THIS too. But, think of it this way: Jordan Shipley made Colt McCoy - an ordinary talent for the better part of his career who was picked a full round round later than Dalton, btw UT fans - the winningest QB in college football history and an NFL draft pick. I personally think Dalton is a better talent than McCoy currently is, so just imagine what Shipley can do for him. No matter what happens, we can't say that Dalton doesn't have a couple of pretty swell security blankets in Shipley and Green.

I'm not sure we necessarily WANTED Dalton to go into a situation where he may be forced to be THE guy, but that is where he is. However, I think the fact that he'll be playing for a top notch coordinator in Gruden and will be on the exact same page as everyone else learning his offense should be seen as an advantage. Let's just say if things go as everyone in southern Ohio hopes, there are going to be a lot of bandwagon jumpers from the Fort Worth side of the metroplex, myself included.

But I'll leave you with an interesting fact: Assuming Carson Palmer doesn't return, the only competition Dalton will have is from Dan LeFevour and Carson's younger brother, Jordan. As of right now, baby Palmer is a slight leader for the starting role, but interesting fact to consider: As a high school senior, Andy Dalton visited UTEP in hopes that he would take over the reins for their departing senior QB. That senior QB? Jordan Palmer. My gut feeling is this time he replaces him.

2. Marcus Cannon. New England Patriots. Round 5. 138th Overall Pick.

Current Offensive Line Starters: Matt Light, Sebastian Vollmer, Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly, Dan Koppen.

The slide we all expected, yet tried to ignore, happened as Marcus Cannon's recent health issues caused him to stumble from the second all the way to the fifth round. However, in a twist of fate, this may have wound up being a blessing for Marcus as he will be a part of one the more respected and better run organizations in all of football. Well, except for the whole Spygate thing. Unlike Dalton, however, Marcus will be more of a "long term" prospect, given his unique situation where he will likely sit out his rookie season after undergoing chemotherapy. I guess you can think of it as him taking a medical redshirt.

So while I won't be able to take a look at the potential immediate impact Cannon will have on the Patriots offensive line, there are still a couple of questions to be asked for when he does come back. For one, who will still be there? Matt Light and Dan Koppen will both be 10+ year starters, and Logan Mankins has made it very clear he's disappointed in his current situation and wants to test the free agency waters. That's potentially the entire left side of the offensive line that will be gone, opening up a major opportunity for Marcus. However, where should he go? No matter how optimistic we are, chemo is hell on your body, no matter your age. Will he still have the mobility and quickness required to be an NFL tackle? I don't see him as a guard, but I wouldn't rule it out. Given, I have no idea how to evaluate such things though, so take that query with a rock of salt.

Regardless, Cannon was a major cornerstone of one of the most successful offensive lines in college football the past few years who just happened to run up against a major health malady at a tough time in his development. The fact that one doctor visit caused him to go from a late first rounder to a fifth shows how fine the line is between NFL success and failure and the Patriots are admittedly taking a major risk. That said, I think Cannon will be one of those picks that makes everyone hate the Patriots - almost every time they take a chance, they knock it out of the park as they did most notably with Tom Brady and Wes Welker. I wish Marcus a swift recovery and, as much as it pains me to say it, I hope he becomes another feather in Bill Bellichik's already ample cap.

3. Jeremy Kerley. New York Jets. Fifth Round. 153rd Overall Pick.

Receivers Currently on Roster: Brad Smith, Santonio Holmes, Jerricho Cotchery, Braylon Edwards, Scotty McKnight, Logan Payne, Patrick Turner.

As the last of the three guys we had no doubts would be selected at some point during the weekend, Jeremy Kerley winds up with Rex Ryan in New York where he will find familiar faces in LaDainian Tomlinson and Drew Coleman. While that should clearly be construed as a positive thing, seeing as how he will have at least two guys who will want him to succeed right off the bat, finding his fit requires a couple of variables. For one, will the Jets re-sign Braylon Edwards, who is a free agent? Edwards is one of your major "production doesn't match opinion" guys who wants to be paid like a superstar despite being far from one. I can't imagine the Jets will bring him back unless the price is far more conducive to the organization's bottom line. Santonio Holmes may also be on the FA block. Then there's Brad Smith-another potential free agent, depending on how the lockout situation shakes out- who is basically their current, older model of Jeremy Kerley although Kerley at least played WR at the college level. You have to think the Jets took Kerley with an eye towards his return game abilities which is also Brad Smith's area of expertise. This is definitely something that will have to be worked out in camp.

Once those details are worked out, though? I can't see any reason why Kerley won't succeed. As a fifth rounder, he's an absolute steal financially, which will make the brass happy. QB Mark Sanchez, when he's not banging Upper West Side high schoolers, will surely appreciate having another weapon at his disposal as well. The fact that the Jets traded up for him shows the value they placed on him as well. I'm not sure how much of a genius OC Brian Schottenheimer is, but players like Kerley don't require too thick of an instruction manual, chiefly, "Get the ball in his hands. Watch positive results." And, for those of you who watched Hard Knocks last summer, you have to think that Special Teams Coach Mike Westhoff, an absolutely potty mouthed rage machine, will appreciate the drop in his BPMs with Kerley on board. Then there's Rex Ryan, who may be a loud mouth but who is arguably the one coach in the NFL that any player not named Tom Brady would do anything to play for. Not a bad place for the former Hutto Hippos QB to be.

And then came the surprises...

4. Colin Jones. San Francisco 49ers. Round 6. 190th Overall Pick.

Safeties Currently on Roster: Dashon Goldson, Chris Maragos, Taylor Mays, Reggie Smith, Curtis Taylor.

A very interesting pick here for the 49ers, but one that could pay off handsomely for them. Jones, in case you forgot, had a pretty freaking solid year this past season. He was second on the team in tackles with 80 and was also second in tackles for loss with 11.5. From the defensive secondary, although we're aware of how close to the line our safeties often play. Not too bad for a guy who missed his entire junior year with an injury. Of course, Jones has a pretty stellar sense of timing, saving perhaps his biggest game of the season for the Rose Bowl where he led the team in tackles with 10 and had a sack. If you go back and watch your Rose Bowl DVD, sometimes it definitely feels like he and Tank made every single tackle on the day. And then he didn't fare too poorly at TCU pro day with that huge 40, witnessed firsthand by SF first year coach Jim Harbaugh.

So yeah, you could say Jones made out like a bandit. So how does he fit? For one thing, a cursory glance at the 49ers current roster of safeties shows that they are all pretty young guys, with none having more than 5 years of NFL experience. This surely suggests that the San Francisco coaching staff is open to camp competition for starting roles and that the current guys haven't entrenched themselves. Of course, most times a sixth round safety pick is mostly looked at as good value and an immediate special teams contributor, but if he catches on it's not out of the question to think he could see some decent playing time.

5. Malcolm Williams. New England Patriots. Round 7. 219th Overall Pick.

Cornerbacks Currently on Roster: Lots of them, most notably Leigh Bodden and Devin McCourty.

With guys like Jake Kirkpatrick, Jason Teague, Jimmy Young and Wayne Daniels left on the board, you can be forgiven for not having Malcolm Williams in your TCU Draft Day pool. However, apparently Bill Bellichik did and, if you believe the BoSox Nation, he's evilest of evil defensive geniuses, so Williams will probably be the steal of the draft. I don't mean this to sound like a knock on Williams, but I just find it interesting that a guy who finished the year with 12 tackles would go over someone he didn't even beat out at his own position from the same team. But hey, the more Frogs we have in the NFL the better, so no complaints here.

As lyle mentioned in his draft update, Williams is a guy who came to TCU with high expectations after being an OU commit out of high school. Unfortunately he got log jammed behind heavily entrenched starters Rafael Priest and Nick Sanders two years ago and then Jason Teague and Greg McCoy this past year. But, clearly the Patriots brass sees something in him they like, or perhaps they just want to trump the Jets current strangehold on Horned Frogs in the NFC East?

He did contribute on special teams for TCU, so you can bet that is where he will see most of his action early in his career. Stud rookie Devin McCourty pretty much supplanted himself in a starting role on the corner with his Pro Bowl performance last year, but down the road perhaps Williams will see some time in the rotation as long as he didn't get lost in the bottom of the roster shuffle that goes on at the NFL level.

So now that we've covered the five guys who were drafted, what about everyone else? I found it strange that the Cowboys took a faceless center from Wisconsin when Kirkpatrick was still available, and Wayne Daniels was higher rated than several DE's that went. Even Jimmy Young I expected to get some late round love. But unfortunately I'm not a front office type and now these guys must wait. In a normal year, their wait would probably already be over as they all would've been picked up as UFAs. Sadly, of course this is no normal year with the current reinstated lockout, so if any of these guys were hoping for an immediate paycheck they will be sorely disappointed. The guys who have the financial stability to wait probably will. The ones who won't may try their hand in the UFL or Arena League until all of this blows over. But, let's say the NFL misses significant time? Then some in the lower ranks in the league will be looking for the same paychecks elsewhere creating a bit of a logjam. What then? I'm sure some will have to get a regular 9-5 to support themselves, which is probably not what Jake Kirkpatrick expected to be doing when he was receiving his Rimington Award.

It's unfortunate that these guys had to be missed out on in the absolute worst year for such things. It's even worse for the league that teams will miss out on a Wes Welker or Miles Austin. You have to think this thing will be resolved before any real games are missed, but when money is in involved, people tend to lose their wits. In the meantime though, let's be happy for Andy Dalton, Marcus Cannon, Jeremy Kerley, Colin Jones and Malcolm Williams. They were all great Horned Frogs. Let's hope they're just as great at the next level.

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