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NFL Playoffs: Opening Round Predictions and Scores

Published: January 9, 2010

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The NFL Playoffs have finally arrived and for the first time in several years, there is no real favorite to win it all. The Super Bowl is wide open this year and what about the possibility of a Rodgers vs Favre playoff rematch? How about Manning vs Brady again? The battle of the USC quarterbacks should be interesting on Saturday as well. Or perhaps McNabb will finally break through and win a ring.

Last postseason I did picks just like these and predicted the Cardinals would play in the Super Bowl, they did. Let’s hope I can be as accurate as last year and hopefully we have a January to remember! Feel free to give me your predictions as well, it is always great to hear other opinions. Let the predictions begin…

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NFL Playoff Preview: Rematches and The Significance They Bear

Published: January 8, 2010

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So this is how the NFL does a doubleheader.  

This weekend, three games will feature matchups between teams that played each other just a week before.

So it begs the question: Just how is the game planning affected?

A lot of times, it depends on the context and scenario’s from the previous week, the regular season finale.  

Each situation is different.  Some teams had everything locked up, some had everything to play for, and some had fates that fell somewhere in between.

That said, here’s a look at each game and the dynamics surrounding them.


Cincinnati Bengals vs. New York Jets

Going into last week’s game, the Bengals essentially had everything wrapped up, postseason-wise.  

The Jets, on the other hand, were fighting for their playoff lives.

So, were the Bengals playing a vanilla scheme, as to not tip their hand for a future playoff meeting?  Or are they in trouble?  

Coach Marvin Lewis has been relatively coy this week, not divulging any information of note, as well he shouldn’t.  But chances are, a better Cincinnati team will take the field this Sunday.  Plus, they’ll now be in their own stadium.

Conventional wisdom says that it’s the Jets who have the most scheming to do, given that it was they, having everything to play for, who showed the Bengals everything they had.  

Granted, Chad Ochochinco and Co. stumbled a bit towards the end of the season.  But on the whole, Cincinnati remains fundamentally sound.  

Throw in the fact that they should be playing emotional, inspired football in the wake of Chris Henry’s death, and this team should be dangerous.   

Pick: Cincinnati


Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Last week, with the NFC East title on the line, the Eagles got shellacked by the hungry and resurgent Cowboys.  

While that might initially cue the red flags and warning signs in Philly, there’s actually no need to panic as much as some might think.  

See, the pressure’s on Dallas.  Having to beat a team twice in a year is hard; beating them three times is even more difficult.  Plus, it is they, not the Eagles, who have everything to lose.  

After years of December futility, the Cowboys finally put together a decent winning streak last month.  Can they keep it up?  

Also, their embattled coach, Wade Phillips, must win this game to keep his job, recent success be damned.  At least that’s what most are saying, anyway.  Who really knows what goes on in the mind of the mercurial Jerry Jones.  

So, all of that said, look for Philadelphia to be looser, more hungry and loaded with tricks up their sleeves.  Rest assured the players have been reading the press reports all week that have them getting blown out by the Cowboys.  

Pick: Philadelphia


Arizona Cardinals vs. Green Bay Packers

Other than players’ personal statistics, the Cardinals really didn’t have too much to play for last week.  And it almost bit them in the butt, with Anquan Boldin getting injured.

The Packers, on the other hand, are one of the hottest teams in the league right now, peaking at just the right time.  

Then again, Arizona is sporting a better record and winning percentage in the final three games than they did last year, when they went to the Super Bowl.  

Look for the Cardinals to have a few more wrinkles in their scheme than the Packers. Green Bay defensive coordinator, Dom Capers, will no doubt be coming up with a plan to disrupt the timing-dependent Kurt Warner.  

And no doubt Arizona coach Ken Wishenhunt knows this.  With another chance given to them after a heart-breaking loss in the title game last year, they will be on a mission to better their playoff showing.  

This won’t be your same old, inconsistent Cardinals.  The question, however, is whether or not Green Bay can weather the storm.  

At any rate, this game promises to have an intriguing result no matter who wins.  

Why?  The winner will face the Vikings the next week in the divisional round.  Either way you slice it, there’re storylines aplenty; both squads have an interesting history this year with the Minnesota Brett Favres.   

Pick: Cardinals  


Perhaps the most interesting thing about this weekend is the fact that no matter their respective division, all teams have the proverbial “knowing each other well” factor going on.  

As we all know, that makes for much better football.  In fact, this could be one of the more interesting and noteworthy wild card weekends in recent memory.  

An honorable mention on this list is the New England vs. Baltimore game.  They, too played each other back in Week Four.  

So, sit back and savor the storylines.

Relish the higher level of intensity.  

Just don’t let anyone tell you this weekend is short on excitement.   

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Pete Carroll to Sign with NFL’s Seattle Seahawks: Why Leave Now?

Published: January 8, 2010

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Pete Carroll has been tossed about as a potential head coaching candidate for NFL jobs across nearly his entire tenure at USC. Miami even followed him all the way to South America in an attempt to hire the coach with a 97-19 career record at USC. 

For the first time, the rumors of Pete Carroll’s NFL return seem more than vapors. He has not officially signed; however, the Seattle Seahawks have been reported to be very close to hiring Carroll to replace just-fired head coach Jim Mora. 

CEO Tom Leiweke spent the past week in Southern California. He fired Mora while in Los Angeles, and also spent the time in L.A. interviewing Carroll, with the two seeming very close to a deal.

Seattle has already let go of head coach Jim Mora, fired on the heels of a disappointing 5-11 year. The Seahawks closed the year with a four-game losing streak that ultimately sealed Mora’s fate. The program is still looking for a face after rumors of a Mike Holmgren return fell through as Cleveland brought the ex-Seahawks coach and GM on.

It would seem an ideal situation for the head coach who had frequently rebuffed NFL offers to remain in the powerhouse PAC-10 program. Owner Paul Allen has the deep pockets to give Carroll a significant boost to his solid $4 million a year USC contract, putting money on the table that no college program can keep pace with.

The Seahawks also would keep Carroll on the West Coast and close to water, two things he has expressed a desire to maintain. He would be granted a strong say in personnel matters as well, an alluring facet for any coach. Despite his deep pockets, Allen is considered an ideal owner to work for as well, since he tends to not over-insert himself into the finer points of running the team.

The biggest factor in dislodging Carroll from the ranks of college head coaching may have nothing to do with the team interested, and more to do with the situation USC football might be facing.

USC basketball just suffered a huge set of self-imposed sanctions in response to potential ill dealings with one-and-done player OJ Mayo. This may not be the end of sanctions faced as the program still has to face the NCAA and any sanctions the league itself might impose.

The team’s football program has reason to believe it may be facing similar disciplinary action in the near future. For years, an investigation into potential NCAA violations surrounding USC alum Reggie Bush had been stonewalled by the fact that the NCAA has no subpoena power, and thus are forced to use only testimony freely given.

A civil case against Bush has been given the go-ahead now; being an actual legal case, it can force Bush, Carroll, and any other possible individual involved to testify under oath. This gives the appearance that a ruling may very well be on the horizon that will affect USC’s football program.

He also is finally showing some frustration with USC athletic director Mike Garrett. He openly showed disregard for how Joe McKnight’s questionable situation was handled to close the year. Garrett also failed to show Carroll significant support after a down season in which the Trojans went 8-4.

The final straw could be a feeling of unfinished business. Head coaches are an inherently proud, driven bunch, and his 33-31 career as an NFL head coach might leave Carroll wishing to prove himself at the highest level.

With all of these factors, it finally appears this will be the year Carroll returns to professional football. Whether the move will benefit Seattle or not, it seems quite likely they will be giving the head coaching job (along with a strong personnel control component, if not outright GM-ship) to Pete Carroll of USC.

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2010 NFL Mock Draft—First Round: Non-Playoff Teams Only

Published: January 8, 2010

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‘Tis the season for the 2010 NFL Mock Draft bonanza!

One of the best parts of the NFL offseason is all the mock drafts that are produced and updated over and over again.

This is very entertaining and a great way to keep fans clued into who their team could possibly draft in April.

The following is a mock of only the first round, non-playoff teams in the upcoming draft since there is no real telling where playoff teams will end up there is no real reason to make any predictions for them until after the Super Bowl.

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Playoff Predictions for the NFL’s Wild-Card Weekend

Published: January 8, 2010

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After watching ESPN’s documentary on the life and times of Jimmy “The Greek,” I have become inspired to rub my Drew Brees bobblehead doll (don’t have a crystal ball) and predict which teams will get out of the first round of the NFL playoffs.

Here are my predictions for this week’s wild-card contests:

Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals

Sports fans look like they won’t be getting Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao anytime soon, so they will have to settle for Larry Fitzgerald vs. Charles Woodson this Sunday, which will still be pretty darn entertaining.

Green Bay and Dallas have become the trendy bandwagons to jump on in the last couple weeks, but remember Arizona is the team that enjoys limping into the playoffs only to hot-streak all the way to the Super Bowl.

The Cards are better now than last season when they were a Santonio Holmes two-step away from a Super Bowl championship. Arizona runs the ball better with Beanie Wells than they did with Edgerrin James, and the defense has gotten steadier and stauncher, allowing fewer points and yards than they did in 2008.

People forget that Green Bay’s offensive line is the worst remaining in the playoffs. Arizona sacks a lot of quarterbacks in home games and creates plenty of turnovers in playoff games. Aaron Rodgers will be spending more time chewing grass than celebrating in the end zone.

Arizona 27, Green Bay 24.

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

Dallas’ defense and running game have been superb since they destroyed New Orleans’ undefeated season hopes. DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff have been dominant on the defensive line, and the three-headed monster of Felix Jones, Marion Barber and Tashard Choice is healthy and taking pressure off of Tony Romo and the erratic passing attack.

Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid follow the same pattern every playoff year. Their Eagles win their first playoff game but never win the Super Bowl. I think this season will be different. And no, Philly isn’t flying to the title game, not unless Ryan Howard and Chase Utley don some green uniforms.

Dallas 23, Philadelphia 17.

Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots

Baltimore could have upended New England during the regular season if Mark Clayton could have caught a fourth-down pass that hit him point-first in his chest, and that was when Wes Welker’s ACL was stable and Tom Brady had all of his ribs intact.

Baltimore might be one of the better 9-7 teams in recent playoff time. Just look at their losses. All seven came against teams with winning records, including six against playoff teams. And they have only lost by more than 10 points once, with many of their defeats coming in the final minutes or seconds.

We saw how New England plays when Welker is not on the field. The Pats needed a miracle fumble on a last-minute kickoff return to slip by Buffalo at home to start the season, and they couldn’t move the ball a muscle without Welker when they lost to the New York Jets 16-9 in Week Two.

Other teams might be intimidated by Belichick, Brady and the whole Patriots machine. Not Baltimore, though.

Baltimore 24, New England 21.

New York Jets at Cincinnati Bengals

Here are two teams that play the same smashmouth style. Both prefer to run the ball on offense, but the Jets do it slightly better (first in rushing offense in NFL). Both rely on superior defenses, but the Jets’ unit is slightly better (first in total defense in NFL).

Their offense is also similar as neither team likes to throw the ball more than 10 yards downfield. The difference here is that Carson Palmer normally throws to his own receivers, while Mark Sanchez usually throws to the other team’s defensive backs. But if the Jets come out with the same type of game plan they have employed with Sanchez since he returned from his knee injury, they should be just fine. Cincinnati is the one AFC team that the Jets can get away with being ultra-conservative against, because the Bengals plays the same exact way.

If you like football games that are like UFC fights without the octagon cage, this game is for you. If you think passing the ball and zone defenses are for pansies, this game is for you. And if you like field goals and field position strategy, this game is definitely for you.

New York 16, Cincinnati 13.

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Keeping The Dream Alive: Petitioning the NFL for a Barry Sanders Video

Published: January 8, 2010

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Dear NFL executives:

We, the Detroit Lions fans of the Nation, have endured a decade like no other in the history of professional football.

We have seen our team break the record for consecutive road losses, we seem poised to challenge that mark again, we have witnessed an unprecedented 0-16 season, and have endured more than our share of mismanagement, bad luck, and outright decrepitude, while posting the worse record in the league throughout the new millennium.

And though we’ll admit that fan support has waned, and in the last two years the stadium has not always been filled, it’s also fair to point out that many of us have had to make very hard decisions about how to spend our money in the most depressed economy in the nation, and winner or no, professional football had to take a backseat at times.

Unfortunately around the league many have taken the opportunity to spat on us, decrying our Thanksgiving day tradition, ridiculing the city of Detroit, making light of our circumstance, and having the temerity to call us “bad fans.”

But even in the midst of the turmoil, most of us are still here, still passionate about our beloved team, and still looking toward the future with great hope.

We love the Lions and always will.

Proof of that can be observed on the very pages of Bleacher Report, this online forum for sports fans to have their say, where we analyze the potential of the current roster, surmise about the team’s greatest needs, and agonize over their many defeats.

We keep the idea of Detroit Lions football alive and burning, hungry for some success perhaps, but mindful of the greatest ideals of competition: perseverance, loyalty, and commitment to something larger than yourself.

We’ve been tested, you see, but have refused to fold.

And there’s one man who is more responsible than any for keeping that hope alive, and you’ve probably heard his name before.

The great Barry Sanders.

Or just Barry in the state of Michigan.

And though Mr. Sanders is largely recognized as one of the greatest running backs of all time (we say THE best), around here he represents even more.

Around here, for those of us old enough to remember his glorious years in the NFL, he burns as a beacon, and an ever-present reminder that greatness can bloom in Detroit.

Success can bloom in Detroit.

Respect can bloom in Detroit.

Around here Barry Sanders is a name that is whispered, and to the young he’s a bed time story that plants the seeds of fandom, giving them something to hold on to beyond what they’ve witnessed in their formative years.

And at risk of proclaiming something overly grandiose, it might not be too far from the truth to say that Barry Sanders saved a generation of Detroit Lions fans.

He’s the rock upon which modern day fans plant their flag, and he remains the foundation from which we hope to build our legion into the future.

We by no means live in the past, but we relish it, and use it to fuel our optimism in the present.

But even the most steadfast of us could use a little reminder every now and again, and herein lies the point of our request.

We, the long suffering but steadfast citizenry of the Detroit Lions Nation humbly request an NFL production highlighting the Barry Sanders years.

At this point the definitive collection does not exist, and though there is one to my knowledge that has been produced, it covers a scant portion of his career, is largely inaccessible, and could use updating both in the breadth of coverage and in the use of modern day technology.

I can’t think of a more exciting assignment for anyone in your video department.

And though the task might seem daunting, given the sheer number of breathtaking plays incurred during Barry’s incandescent ten year NFL career, this is also what would make it such a rewarding enterprise, and one that we would willingly assist in or even initiate were we in a position to do so.

We realize that the production of such a video would require both man-hours and capital, but also wholly promise that it is a desired item of value to Detroit Lions fans everywhere.

We will buy this product.

We will gift it to our family members and friends.

And they will smile their broad smiles, or squeal with delight, or dance a touchdown dance when they see it.

Can you help us, NFL executives?

We offer our services freely if there’s anything we can do to assist you in this endeavor, forever looking towards the future but proud and sure of our past.


DLN (Detroit Lions Nation)

This note will be sent to the NFL and will serve as a petition.  Please respond below if you have interest in this request.  We recognize that many fans around the league also have interest in the great Barry Sanders, and would welcome your support as well!

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What Pete Carroll to Seahawks Rumors Mean: Finally An NFL Coach On Twitter!

Published: January 8, 2010

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Multiple sources are reporting today that Pete Carroll could become the next coach of the Seattle Seahawks.  While this brings up immediate pressing questions like if Carroll will fare better in the NFL than during his previous stint, how many coaching changes would be triggered in the resulting domino effect, etc., I want to talk about more important topics.

What would Carroll-to-the-Seahawks mean for the NFL and Twitter?

Carroll and his USC program have seemingly mastered the social media universe through Facebook , his Twitter account , and a flashy football website (  A tech-savvy coach like Carroll could make a big splash in the NFL (if any of the league’s other coaches use Twitter, they’re not nearly as well-known), and the potential Seahawks hire would instantly challenge Chad Ochocinco for most influential (and fun-to-follow) tweeter on the NFL landscape.

Think about it! “Carroll to Seattle” opens up all kinds of potential tweets…

1. Carroll could continue his Song of The Day trend. Of course, in Seattle, expect the most popular tune to be “Singing in the Rain” or the yet-to-be-written “Wow, You Can See Our Neon Green Jerseys From Space”.

2. Carroll could motivate and correspond with players on the popular microblogging site. Just like Carroll and former protege Mark Sanchez exchanged tweets over the past year, Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (a Twitter user himself) could get some pointers from his new coach.  Expect to see these kind of tweets flying soon: “Hey Matt, it’s Coach. If you want to keep your starting job, let’s not be getting blown out by crappy teams like Tampa Bay at home anymore. Win forever, okay?”

3. Carroll could motivate Seattle fans to create an even noisier, louder home-field advantage in Qwest Field.   Mark my words, it won’t be long before Carroll’s tweeting all 60,000 Seahawks supporters (a la Drew Carey) with free ticket giveaways, free ponchos (even more appreciated in Seattle), Space Needle tickets, and who knows what else.


No doubt about it, hiring Pete Carroll would be a great move for the Seattle Seahawks. Twitter…and the NFL…would never be the same again.

Hey, it may even help the Seahawks win football games.

As if that really matters.

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NFL Quick Hits (Jan. 8): Jim Mora Fired After One Season

Published: January 8, 2010

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Jim Mora Done in Seattle

Mora lasted just one season in Seattle, as he guided the disappointing Seahawks to a 5-11 record and third place finish in the weak NFC West.

For more on Mora’s firing, click here .


Cleveland Sticking With Eric Mangini

After sitting down with Mike Holmgren in two separate meetings, both sides agree that the franchise was headed in the right direction, and the man to keep it going that way would be Mangini.

For more on Mangini and more NFL news, go here .


Anquan Boldin Doubtful For Sunday

Boldin has been doubtful all week and hasn’t practiced since being knocked out of Week 17’s match against the Green Bay Packers.

Widely known for his toughness and ability to play through injuries, it still doesn’t look very good for Boldin to make the Cardinals Wild Card game against Green Bay, as he deals with ankle and knee issues.

Monitor his status up until game-time tomorrow if you’re considering using him in playoff fantasy leagues. Despite the pessimistic diagnosis, we still wouldn’t count him out.


Randy Moss Misses Friday’s Practice

Moss has been spotted “limping around”, and after missing Friday’s practice, he’s at least questionable heading into New England’s Wild Card game against the Baltimore Ravens.

He’s still likely to play, especially with the loss of Wes Welker, but it’s clear he currently is not at 100 percent.

However, if the Patriots are to stand a chance against an under-rated Baltimore squad, Moss needs to be at the top of his game.


Jack Del Rio Still in Limbo

Not many details are know, but is reporting that Del Rio’s future will likely be determined in a meeting next week between him and Jacksonville’s owner, Wayne Weaver.

There isn’t much reason to keep Del Rio around, especially after his team dropped their final four games to miss the post-season. Except for, you know, that $15 million the Jaguars owe him over the next three years.


Marc Bulger Not Retiring?

In “who cares?” news, reports yesterday that has Rams quarterback Marc Bulger considering retirement have retracted, and now the report is that he fully intends on continuing his playing career.

He can do whatever he likes, but his monster salary coming in next season likely won’t be paid by St. Louis, and he’ll almost certainly be released.

Bulger has been fading for three straight years, and while he’s not completely to blame for his lack of production, his play shouldn’t inspire any other NFL teams to give him a shot as their starter.


Indy Running With Matt Stover, Not Vinatieri

The Colts have decided to run with the hot hand (or leg) in Matt Stover, choosing the 41-year old over Adam Vinatieri as their postseason kicker.

Vinatieri will remain on the active roster, but it’s clear Indy simply doesn’t trust his injured knee enough to throw Stover to the side.

Stover has been performing well, but could be rusty heading into the playoffs, as he will have gone five consecutive weeks without kicking a field goal in a game by the time the Colts play.

For more NFL news , go here .

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2010 NFL Draft Rankings: Offensive Tackles

Published: January 8, 2010

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2010 NFL Draft Rankings: Offensive Tackles

1.     Russell Okung (Oklahoma State)

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 300 lbs.

Projected Round: Top 5

Okung is a complete tackle, one that will do very well in the NFL. He is one of the few offensive players in this year’s draft to show true progression, both in his statistical achievements and understanding of the game. He is an ox on the line and a light foot in the open field. He has every quality needed to succeed at the next level and maybe even take the first pick in the draft.

Okung is a strong, patient pass blocker that does a great job at extending blocks and using his long arms and legs to sustain the rush. He needs to learn to keep his pads lower at times, but if he senses any sort of defeat, he is quick to push his man off balance or get low for the cut block.

He has great force in blocking down the field, getting a great initial pop on the defender. Okung is better at using angles to cut his man inside or outside rather than sheer strength, something that will benefit him at the professional level and only requires a little time in the weight room to perfect.

Okung has all the pieces you look for in a left tackle in the NFL and will most assuredly be the first tackle taken in April. He has no character problems and will be a great addition to any squad.

Teams that will target him: St. Louis, Kansas City, Cleveland


2.     Anthony Davis (Rutgers)

Height: 6’6″

Weight: 325 lbs.

Projected Round: Top 25

Davis is in the second position simply for his dominant run blocking. He hasn’t been asked to do a whole lot in Rutgers’ offensive scheme (traps, pulls), but he has all the athleticism you look for in a left tackle. He has a flawless work ethic and can play a number of positions at the line, a true scholar of the game.

Davis’ size will be his greatest attribute; his long arms are well suited in knocking over undersized ends and linebackers taking poor angles. At times, he depends upon his initial pop to sustain the block rather than sticking to his man and extending the play.

Davis has the sheer force and tenacity to create a gaping hole on either side of the line. He has the athleticism to catch the Sam linebacker off balance and drive the lane into the secondary. He does a great job staying within the defender’s pads; he is rarely victim of a holding penalty. His durability typically outlasts the man on the other side of the line, and he is consistent as he is strong.

Although questionable at times, Davis will show up big at the combine and cause his draft stock to rise considerably, making him my number two tackle taken in the draft. He will fit in well with a team who has more than one hole at the line because he can assist in whatever capacity is required.

Teams that will target him: Oakland, Indianapolis, Houston


3.     Charles Brown ( USC)

Height: 6’6″

Weight: 295 lbs.

Projected Round: Top 25

Brown was a tackle with great potential at the beginning of his junior season, finally getting the starting position after Sam Baker was taken in the 2008 Draft. Even then, his potential was evident.  ut after a stunning senior season, Brown is among the O-line elite in this year’s draft.

His athleticism is more dominant than his strength, but that isn’t meant to imply that Brown isn’t one of the stronger tackles in this year’s class. He relies on a quick pop to throw his defender off balance but doesn’t always drive his feet to sustain the block. His major strength is his ability to discern the motives of the rusher, going inside to cut off the blitz and jumping outside to mirror the defender.

Although he is an adequate run blocker, his technique and mechanics still need considerable work. He leans on the defender at times rather than driving him down the field. He is considered a quick lineman but doesn’t always follow through with his blocks down the field and could do a better job at creating additional run lanes in the secondary.

All in all, Brown is a gifted young man with enormous potential at the next level and, with proper coaching, could blossom into a pro-bowl tackle within his first three years. Look for a team with a low draft pick and pedigreed coaching to give Brown a spot on their roster.

Teams that will target him: San Diego, Indianapolis, New Orleans


4.     Trent Williams (Oklahoma)

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 290 lbs.

Projected Round: 1-2

As the only returning starter on Oklahoma’s offensive line, Williams had his work cut out for him, both in physical demand and leadership potential. Moved from right to left and back to right tackle throughout his career, he has had the chance to prove himself on both sides of the line.

As a run blocker, Williams is above average at best. His speed isn’t consistent and his arm extension is his best weapon against blitzes from the secondary. He will struggle against quick under-sized ends in the NFL.

When blocking for the runner, though, Williams is dominant at the very least. Fires off the line faster than anyone else on this list. His snap anticipation sometimes causes trouble in the form of false starts, but he makes up for it with a tenacious push on his man.

He struggles in a zone blocking scheme, failing to move his feet adequately at times.  He is best when confined to a small space in traffic; he struggles when given the responsibility of managing open space.

Williams’ progression isn’t great, but it isn’t bad, either. His return to school for his senior year will play a major role in the way teams look at him, but it’s unclear as to how long he will have to wait to be drafted. Look for a team to look at him as a potential player at the guard position or an anchor on the right side to pick him up.

Teams that will target him: Detroit, Washington, New England


5.     Bruce Campbell (Maryland)

Height: 6’7″

Weight: 310 lbs.

Projected Round: 1-2

Campbell was unlikely to enter this year’s draft until he, well, declared for this year’s draft. Although there is little to no doubt of his potential at the next level, there are some concerns about his past injuries and whether or not his durability can remain intact in the NFL.

Campbell gave the struggling Tarrapin offense a decent chance for success in ’09, although Turner and company still haven’t found their stride. With more than a few offensive line starters departing, Campbell was among the few elite players left and had to overachieve the entirety of the year.

While most expect him to hit his ceiling early in the NFL, Campbell is strong as he is quick. He has a tremendous pop in the pass blocking scheme, though he over-extends at times, causing the outside rushers to use a second move to get to the quarterback.

Campbell has elite strength as a run blocker and will undoubtedly do the same at the next level. I don’t know if he is ready to be an NFL left tackle, but he could certainly provide some girth in any position on the front. He has the speed to get down the field quickly and provide a second and third block for an advancing runner.

Campbell’s issue with grades will cause his stock to fall further than he’d like, but he can prove his physicality at the combine and make himself a contender to be a top-five OT rookie in 2010. Look for a team that has a sufficient enough line to make Campbell a personal project.

Teams that will target him: Denver, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati


6.     Ciron Black (LSU)

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 322 lbs.

Projected: 2-3

Black is another offensive lineman who could have done very well had he declared for the 2009 draft, but he opted to stay to further develop his technique. Although he lacks superior athleticism, he has great strength and versatility on the line.

As a pass blocker, Black is marginal at best due to his slow kick slide and his sluggishness off the snap. His long reach, though, will make up for it as he can reach the outside rusher and use a mean cut block if all else fails.

Black’s size is his greatest asset in creating run lanes, and he has sufficient straight-line speed to reach the next level and bowl over small corners and safeties. He has elite upper body strength and does very well at staying low and using his low center of gravity to create a push and open up the lanes.

He doesn’t always seal off the rush when it matters most, but he has a level of consistency that most other lineman at his level lack. His progression in college is something scouts look for and, while his stock is floating between elite and above average, the combine will be his opportunity to prove he is ready to compete at the next level.

Even though he has only ever played as the blind-side anchor for LSU, he has the ability to play multiple positions and that may be the deciding factor for a team looking at Black. Look for a team with needs in their run blocking scheme to look closely at him.

Teams that will target him: Houston, Arizona, Philadelphia


7.     Bryan Bulaga (Iowa)

Height: 6’6″

Weight: 312 lbs.

Projected Round: 2-3

Bulaga comes from a long pedigree of good linemen at Iowa and will likely continue the trend in the NFL. His progression at Iowa is something to be desired by other fellow linemen in this year’s class and, while he lacks the physicality needed to be dominant at this position at times, his athleticism makes up for it.

Bulaga’s pass blocking skills are marginal, but it’s unclear as to how well he could do with an offensive scheme that features it. Iowa isn’t a passing juggernaut but he has all the tools needed to be elite at the next level.

As a run blocker, he is better than most, progressing nicely from year to year. Most noticeably, he became less content to focus solely on the first line of defense his senior year and turned his sights on getting to the next level and create the secondary blocks needed to turn the back loose.

Bulaga is one of those linemen who could go either way in the NFL; he could become a backup who excels at filling the holes in most teams’ revolving door line or he could find a permanent home as a guard and, eventually, a right tackle. Of course, I’ve been surprised before and it’s always possible for a marginal player to find their stride at the professional level. Look for a team with shallow depth on the line to look closely at Bulaga.

Teams that will target him: Carolina, New York Jets, Green Bay


8.     Selvish Capers (West Virginia)

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 298 lbs.

Projected Round: 3-4

Protecting Pat White in the versatile West Virginia offense has forced Capers to remain athletic and quick, creating a unique profile for the upcoming draft. Capers made the switch from Tight End to right tackle in ’07, but showed no signs of difficulty in the transition. Rather, he excelled and began to increase his build to adjust to the new position.

It is Caper’s athleticism that sets him apart from the other linemen on this list. He lacks consistency in some of the mechanics that most others have mastered, but he has a desire to learn and the ability to progress that will overcome those downsides.

Even though he has a tremendous cut block, he goes to it too quickly at times. He presents a solid anchor as a pass blocker but doesn’t always keep his body low enough and loses his balance.

As a run blocker, Caper presents a tenacious pop and uses his quick feet to drive the defender far from the play. West Virginia’s spread offense doesn’t always call Capers to get set in a three point stance so transitioning to the next level may be difficult for the young man. He is quick off the line, but loses count of the snap sequence too much, resulting in unnecessary penalties.

He runs with surprising fluidity for a lineman down the field, getting to the next level fast and causing damage to an unsuspecting secondary. No matter the position he is called on to play, Capers is a football player at heart and his tenacity on the line will not go unnoticed by scouts. Look for teams to depend on his versatility and athleticism to contribute at the professional level and give Capers a chance at success.

Teams that will target him: Minnesota, Baltimore, Houston


9.     Kyle Calloway (Iowa)

Height: 6’7″

Weight: 317 lbs.

Projected Round: 3-4

Calloway is another lineman that comes from the Iowa pedigree of NFL-ready players who transition to the next level well. The only real controversy surrounding Calloway is his run-in with the law when he was pulled operating a Moped while intoxicated. Other than that, he is good at what he does and should receive deserved recognition come draft day.

Calloway does a wonderful job at mirroring the defender as a pass blocker. He stays low and becomes a wall at which defenders love to punch and get through but have little success. He uses his reach at times when he should use his feet, and doesn’t use his lower body to drive the outside rush, but he adjusts nicely to a variety of moves by elite ends and utilizes a mean cut block.

Run blocking is arguably Calloway’s forte, using his size to push the defender in any direction he desires. He does well to keep his hands inside and avoid penalties that often call the play back. He is a fighter at heart; he plays through the whistle each and every play.

Calloway has efficient speed and uses that quickness to get down the field and reach the secondary to create an extended run lane. Overall, he has tremendous upside and, even though he won’t be a top five tackle in the draft, will eventually blossom into an elite player at any position on the line.

Teams that will target him: San Francisco, Seattle, Cleveland


10. Sam Young (Notre Dame)

Height: 6’8″

Weight: 320 lbs.

Projected Round: 3-4

Young comes from a pro-style offense which will make his transition easier than most. Although he lacks superior athleticism and quickness, he has massive size and strength, an upside that will not go unnoticed by pro scouts.

Pass blocking is not something that Young excels in which is a large concern for a pass-happy NFL. His lack of quickness inhibits his lateral agility and ability to reach the outside rusher and maintain his balance. Against the elite ends of the NFL, Young will most likely have to rely on the cut block to protect his quarterback.

What keeps Young on the top ten list is his ability to be a wrecking ball in the run game. His technique still leaves something to be desired, but his size allows him to create holes that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible. He has tremendous initial pop and, if he can keep his balance, will drive the defender all the way down the field.

Four years as a starter has given Young more than enough experience and tremendous awareness on the field. He hasn’t shown as much consistency as some would like to see, but his sheer physicality will demand attention on draft day. He will probably never reach left tackle status, but could be a force on the right side or in the middle should that become a factor at the professional level. Look for a team needing beef on the front to give Young a spot on their roster.

Teams that will target him: Houston, Seattle, Tampa Bay


These, and other rankings, can be read at

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USC RB Joe McKnight Declares for 2010 NFL Draft: Where Does He Rank?

Published: January 8, 2010

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USC running back Joe McKnight declared for the 2010 NFL Draft on Friday, and this could change how the draft order of available running backs shakes out. This isn’t a deep draft for running backs–only one may go in the first round–but there are still many good ones available. Here’s a look at the top 10, and McKnight’s place in that group.

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