Blog Transplant

The RDB has become obsolete in light of recent events. Namely, I’ve started up a better collaborative draft blog along with my friends Hunter, Justin, and Soup. It’s titled Future Sons of Washington and you can access it here: http://futuresons.wordpress.com

It’s a more modern operation that should feature quite a bit more content. Thus, I’m going to take the soul of this blog and transplant it into the new one. This site will no longer be updated following this post, so if you want to keep following the Redskins/NFL Draft oriented discussion, check out the new outfit.

Again, the new address is: http://futuresons.wordpress.com

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Nick Fairley by Justin P.

Nick Fairley, DL, Auburn
Junior, 6’5″, 298 lbs.

Make a "My Fairley Lady" joke at your own peril.

As one of the fastest risers in the 2011 draft class, Nick Fairley has come out of nowhere to becoming one of the most dominant players in the FBS this year at the DT position. With great size and ultra fast athleticism for a big DT, he’s proven that even though he’s a JUCO transfer, he’s been dominant in one of the toughest conferences in the FBS. While he does have some things that people marvel at there is the concern that he has become a dirty player with some of the hits he has put on players. While its not something that’s ridiculous like a drug bust or assault charge its something to note because he has made some hits that aren’t clean and has started to garner a reputation towards being a dirty player.

With the positives its simple to see with Fairley and something that a lot of teams will marvel at because he’s so quick and has some nice pass rushing moves already even though he’s a JUCO transfer. It’s something to marvel at because he’s not a 250 pound OLB who relies on speed and moves to beat his defender, he’s an around 300 pound DT who uses his leverage, speed and strength to beat some very good defenders to earn a lot of sacks this year. Its almost amazing to watch him because just when you think he’s going to get stopped, he ends up bull rushing or making a ridiculous move to get the QB. I honestly could go on and on about his pass rushing and how he plays as a player but I’ll go on and talk about his weaknesses because those carry a bigger affect on how I project him at the next level

Fairley really has only 2 major concerns or weaknesses I see in him and one has to do with him being a JUCO transfer. I don’t have anything against JUCO players as some end up not having issues moving to the next level but at the same time it does make you concerned as an evaluator of his game because he’s only put up these stats for one year as in 2009 he only had 1 sack but this year out of nowhere has posted double digit sacks and been dominant. The question then has to be asked why did he all of the sudden produce these stats? Is it because of him getting more PT and allowing to be a player and do his thing? Or is it just him realizing his potential and seeing what he has athletically and realizing he can be one of the best in football. I have to wonder and many scouts will as well but the fact remains he’s a dominant pass rusher on the field. The other issue with him is something I briefly talked about earlier and that’s the dirty hits he’s had this year. It’s something for me as a scouting guy I don’t like at all because its just cheap and it shouldn’t happen. The time where I really sat down and watched him was the UGA- Auburn game and he had a couple of dirty hits shown in this youtube clip

When you watch it he’s making late hits and the one that was the most troublesome was putting the crown of his helmet into the back of QB Aaron Murray. That’s just a blatant cheap shot and something that IMO he should have been ejected for because he could have really hurt the QB, and I’m a proponent of letting the guys play, but a dirty hit is a dirty hit. I’m not trying to discredit him as a player because I think very highly of him, but at the same time if I’m a scout doing an interview of him during the offseason I’m sitting there studying his character concerns left and right to see what he says and if he really is a good hearted guy who made a couple dumb plays or if this really is a part of his attitude.

Now comes down to the question what does Fairley entail for the Redskins? Well this is a skewed opinion because I don’t see him making it to the 10th pick and I feel we will take a QB at the #10 position. Fairley is someone who if he came here though would have an immediate impact because he would line up as a 3-4 DE and with his high end pass rushing and size he would be able to put up a 6 or 7 sack rookie season because of how quick and dominant he can be. While there are those some high expectations of him, he very well can do it because he’s a skilled pass rusher and in a 3-4 scheme he would be able to do a lot when it came to 3rd down passing situations. While he’s a great college player, I don’t see him making it to 10 and it’s a shame given how talented he is

- Justin P.

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Ryan Mallett by Justin P.

Ryan Mallet, QB, Arkansas
RS Junior, 6’6″, 238 lbs.

Big Tex instead of Rex?

Standing at 6 foot 6 and 238 pounds, Ryan Mallett is seen as one of the top rated QB’s heading into the 2011 draft and rightfully so as he displays some rare athletic abilities to him. With a cannon arm and great size many teams feel that he can be the franchise QB when you allow him to do the things he does best. Mallett is a Michigan transfer and by going to Arkansas he has made a great job by now making himself one of the top QB’s. What separates him from another QB like Locker is the arm strength and that’s the best thing that Mallett possesses as a QB. He’s someone who can throw the ball with a flick of the wrist 60 yards down field

Now that you have a little background on him, lets get into the strengths with him first before we get to the weaknesses and the outlook on him. The strengths of Mallett are really 2 fold. One is his size, because for a guy who is 6’6 that’s something that can be both a positive and a negative. In the positive respect you have a guy who can stand tall in the pocket and read a defense and be able to do it easily and Mallett is able to do so. Also when you look at him and you watch him play again the Arm strength just sticks out and it shows just how talented he is. The concern some will have is that he’s got the big arm but can he use it the right way instead of being someone who just chucks it and hopes. With Mallett he’s very smart with his arm strength and you can see it on film, when he goes deep and the guy he think can make a play, he throws it there. If the deep route isn’t open he’s very capable of making the intermediate throws to his TE’s and WR’s. Mallett has great positives about him and its definitely seen in this video cut up on youtube

While its always great to talk about the positives about QB’s, the fact is that you need to discuss the negatives and what the guy doesn’t do well. When I talked about the size earlier it has a big negative effect on him as well in regards to his throwing motion. While he does have a good motion and its effective, it also is elongated and ends up being a concern at the next level because once he faces better pass rushers he wont be able to to make some of those passes because of the fact that motion is elongated. Another concern with Mallett is his accuracy and while you can just ignore it because he’s in college and he’s still learning the nuances of the game, but the fact remains that a lot of QB’s who are inaccurate in college remain inaccurate when they get into the pros. It’s something to be noted too because as we have seen with the Kyle Shanahan offense you need an accurate QB who can keep a rhythm to the offense and if Mallett is inaccurate then it would be similar to the McNabb situation. The last real negative with Mallett is something I’ve been reading a lot lately, and that is the concerns about his work ethic and its starting to surface now that scouts have been informed about it. That’s a huge sticking point especially with us as we have seen that if you won’t put in the work to be a player then you won’t be on this team.

Now that you’ve seen the positives and negatives on Mallett, the thing now is well what is the projection of him? Personally I think the team stays far away from him mainly due to the elongated release accuracy issues and the work ethic. Yes he has the physical tools to be a great QB but the work ethic you can’t change until the player finally gets it and that could never happen. We are a team that needs to hit on a pick early on and Mallett is a very risky pick, not on the level of Newton but a risky pick at that. A team who runs a more vertical offense will look at him heavily like an Oakland who uses the play action to go for the deep ball, but with our O that utilizes the middle of the field along with the deep ball isn’t the best fit for him.

- Justin P.

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New Content On The Way

The blog has been on hiatus since the post speculating on the effects the lockout might have on the draft. It appears plenty of great underclassmen have announced their intentions to declare, so we will have some blue chip prospects to talk about after all. I’m going to proceed to update this blog like I had originally planned. I’ve got quite a bit of new content to add in the next few weeks as the draft season begins in earnest. I’m going to write a few more draft vignettes, perhaps post a passing chart, update the Redskins Big Board, and post a mock draft once the deadline for early entrants to declare has passed.

For now, I’m excited to post a vignette of Ryan Mallett written by one of my buddies and fellow draftniks at extremeskins.com, Justin P. Earlier in the year I asked my friends there if they’d be interested in providing content and analysis for the blog. Justin was happy to oblige with an evaluation of Mallett and I’m looking forward to his contributions in the future.

- Andrew

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How the Lockout Might Effect This Year’s Draft

When I made my last Big Board ranking, I did so under the assumption that the NFL Draft will be conducted as usual in April and that the impending lockout wouldn’t have much of an affect on the draft. This seems the be the approach the majority of the draftnik community has taken, but it’s a flawed one. The fact is, if there is a lockout starting in March, it will have massive consequences on the draft in April.

First and foremost, there appears to be some question about the legality of holding a draft in April while a lockout is in effect. Since the current CBA is set to expire on March 3, ostensibly the draft falls within the time period when NFL employees are locked out. This would include scouts and employees in the personnel departments. However, it seems the 2011 draft was included in the previous CBA, so it’s likely that the draft would still be held and I’d imagine teams would still find a way to scout players to make their selections.

Even so, there are a ton of questions as to how the offseason will progress through a work stoppage. Would rookie draft picks even receive contracts for the year in question? Rookie contract negotiations are usually difficult under the best of circumstances. If your general managers aren’t allowed to work, how will negotiations even take place? What kind of benchmarks will agents and teams use to determine the contracts when they can’t use past deals cleanly because no draft pick will play his rookie season. Assuming they could, would NFL teams even want to come to the table knowing the year is lost and that a rookie pay scale will probably be enacted for 2012?

I don’t want to be gloomy about the chance for a 2011 season, but I think it’s extremely unlikely that a new CBA will be struck before March 3. Everything that the NFLPA and the Owners have done so far suggests they are preparing for a lockout. DeMaurice Smith has explicitly said he believes the owners will lock out the players next season. The owners have made preparations towards such an eventuality. They will still make quite a bit of money from the league’s TV contracts even if no games are played. And the owners are planning to ask for a significant amount of concessions from the union, which will certainly make negotiations contentious. Since negotiations probably won’t become serious until the season is over, that leaves less than a month before the deadline to come up with an agreement that is acceptable to both sides. That’s simply not going to happen. The league faces deep seated, long term problems that will take a lot of time to sort through. Add to the mix that the union will most likely decertify itself just before the deadline so that it can sue the league once it settles on a lockout. With no union to negotiate with, the owners won’t be able to strike a new CBA. The whole process is likely to become extremely litigious, which gives no hope for a quick resolution.

So how does this effect the 2011 draft? At the very least, I think it means that the vast majority of underclassmen will elect to return to school for the 2011 season. Kyle Rudolph has already indicated that a lockout would probably cause him to return to school. “With a potential lockout, this is not a normal year,” he said. “That’s another thing that would incline me to stay in college.” (Groeschenn) My guess is that most of the other top underclassmen will follow suit. It’s a huge gamble–hiring an agent and declaring by the second week of January means you’ll have to sweat out the month and a half before the CBA deadline to see if the lock out will progress. And if there is a lockout, I think it’s in the clear advantage of an underclassman to remain in school so that he can finish his degree and avoid having to take a year off from football, especially since there are questions as to whether he’ll receive a contract this year even if he gets drafted.

Some will argue that the likelihood of a rookie pay scale being implemented into the next CBA will make it advantageous for underclassmen to declare if they’re being looked at in the first round. I heard this argument last season and I remain unconvinced by it. First off, no one knows when or if the pay scale might be implemented. Second, no one knows what it might look like, and if it will even be appreciably different from the sort of de facto pay scale that teams and agents already negotiate around. Third, the pay scale would only effect the first seven picks in the draft since the contract numbers for rookies have traditionally become significantly more manageable starting with the eight overall selection. A change effecting only the top seven players in the class is not a very significant one since it won’t involve the vast majority of teams and players. In effect, if you’re a junior that is using a future pay scale as your primary motivation to declare early, then you are gambling not only that there will be an impactful pay scale down the line, but that you’ll also be one of the first seven choices. That in itself is a huge gamble since underclassmen already have many disadvantages competing against seniors in the pre-draft process (inability to compete in all star games, one or more years less of tape).

In short, if I were an underclassman I would return to school for 2011. There is simply too much uncertainty around this year’s draft to justify the risk of coming out early. Your worst case scenario for going back to school is much more palatable than the same for coming out early. Maybe it makes sense for the players who are ranked among the 5-10 best players in the class at the end of the season to come out early. But player stock being as volatile as it is, being talked about as a top 5 pick in December doesn’t mean you’ll be one in April. In 2010, 53 underclassmen declared for the draft. This year, it’s possible we could see only the very best juniors, or the ones with eligibility problems like Cam Newton and Robert Quinn come out early.

Groeschen, Tom. “Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame star, takes it one step at a time”

Cincinnati.com. 8 November 2010. Web. 11 November 2010.

[http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20101108/SPT01/11070345/Kyle-Rudolph-Notre-Dame-star-takes-it-one-step-at-a-time]

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New Big Board

I’ve replaced the old “Top 32″ section with a new “Big Board” section that lists a top 50 prospects for the class. There are a few notable differences between this format and the old one beyond the inclusion of an additional 18 players. Specifically, this board does not include the names of prominent underclassmen who I expect to return to school, whereas the old one included anyone who was draft eligible.

Additionally, this list reflects a strong Redskins bias whereas the old list provided a more general ranking. This means that the list was made with a view towards the Redskins team needs, drafting style, and scheme quirks. For example, it’s well established that Mike Shanahan devalues running backs early in the draft, so you’ll see prospects like Mark Ingram and LaMichael James ranked significantly below where I think they’ll rank for other teams. Also, offensive linemen who fit poorly into a zone blocking scheme, and defenders who fit very poorly into a 3-4 base front were all but removed from consideration. Lastly, positions where the Redskins are flush were massively de-valued, namely, strong safeties, pure left tackles, and tight ends.

Click here to view the board.

- Andrew

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Aldon Smith

Aldon Smith, DL/OLB, Missouri
RS Sophomore, 6’5″, 260 lbs.

I've got this many sacks!

For this entry I’ll shift back to talking about the top defensive front seven prospects in the country. This one will be about Missouri’s star sophomore defensive end Aldon Smith. Starting with the basics, Smith entered this season coming off a remarkable redshirt freshman season where he registered 64 tackles, 19 TFLs, and 11.5 sacks, the last number good for the single season record at Missouri. He broke his fibula in third game of the season against San Diego State. Fortunately, he’s expected to return to play against Oklahoma this weekend. Regardless, he’d gotten off to another fast start this year with three sacks in three games, giving him a remarkable 14.5 career sacks in 16 games.

At Missouri Smith plays primarily as the featured, weak side pass rusher. However, he has the versatility to play either side in the NFL and even lines up inside at 3 technique on passing downs in college. In terms of build, Smith is a very long prospect with a good body type for the defensive end position. He’s extremely long armed with big hands and good musculature through his joints. He’s a tight skinned athlete with a solid base, is narrow-waisted with a good bubble. He’s not as bulky or powerfully built as both Robert Quinn and Da’Quan Bowers are, but Smith posseses a lot of room on his frame to add size in the NFL.

In terms of his intangible reputation, Smith is known to his coaching staff as one of the hardest working players on the team. He seems to have a good reputation with his teammates as well, and is a tough player that flashes elite playmaking ability. He plays with an excellent motor, playing until the whistle and makes a lot of dynamic plays by outworking his opponent.

Here’s a youtube video by AloAloysius of Smith’s stunning 2009 performance against Nate Solder and Colorado: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTyDrwMkV-c

Solder is no slouch as a prospect. He’s one of the elite athletes in the nation at the offensive tackle position. But he got more than he could handle in this game versus Smith. One of the first things you’ll notice about Smith from this game is just how coordinated and skilled he is with his hands and feet. He’s got large mitts and he uses them very well. Smith is a young player, probably only 19-20 in this video, yet there is a distinct polish to his game already. A lot of that comes from his ability to use his hands effectively to control and shed blockers. Plus his anchor strength is pretty good when run at. In the first play of the video Smith is the point of attack. Through the play, he’s able to maintain his balance, shuffle his feet to avoid getting put on skates, disengage his opponent, and then make the play. It was just sound, textbook containment. On the next play, Smith shows of good balance and awareness as he protects his legs against the cut block and nearly gets up-field in time to register a pressure. His long arms give him a considerable leverage advantage and he looks good extending them into his opponent. He also plays with good power and flexibility and can bend his knees and drive. Smith eventually gets to the point in the second half where he’s able to push Solder around at will because of how much more, sudden, balanced, and skilled with his hands and arms he is. He looks like he has the potential to be a very good stack and shed defender in the NFL.

As a pass rusher, Smith shows off a lot of versatility do to his functional strength, range, and his exceptional athleticism. Plus he demonstrates a considerable amount of polish in his repertoire of moves for such a young player. Again, I think you can chalk this up to his excellent hand-eye coordination. In terms of what he’s able to do off the edge, Smith possesses a strong speed rush and is capable of threatening the edge of the pocket and taking wider loops. However, unlike most elite college edge rushers, this is not Smith’s primary move and he clearly prefers to work angles to the quarterback. His first few steps are good but not elite. He’s considerably faster and more explosive off the snap than Adrian Clayborn is, but he doesn’t look as blindingly fast as Quinn and Bowers do. However, Smith is a far more efficient rusher than both Quinn and Bowers. He boasts an array of moves and a real savvy for setting up offensive linemen with his inside counter and, in general, Smith is very comfortable working back inside on a play. In fact, all three of his sacks in this video came on inside moves. The first came on a pretty juke and inside counter that sent Solder sprawling on his rear. At the 2:26 mark of the video Smith lines up in a two technique over the left guard, dips his shoulder and rips through to the quarterback and makes an athletic tackle for the sack. Later on fourth down (the 2:38 mark of the video), he lines up inside again in a three technique, this time over the right guard. He shows off his explosive quickness and craftiness by using an old swat and swim move to get free. Then he quickly finds the football (the quarterback tries desperately to step up and avoid the rush) and then Smith uses his elite frame and impressive athleticism to make the one-armed diving sack.

I love his final sack because it demonstrated so many positives in a single play. First, it was in a critical situation on a fourth down where the QB almost broke free. When you look over the game, Smith sure makes a lot of brilliant plays in key situations (on big third downs). From this it’s clear that Smith possesses very good instincts for the game and knows his way around a football field. He rarely has trouble finding the football, and excels at using his long arms to shut down passing lanes. He deflects an awful lot of passes with his coordinated hands, and he looked like Javale McGee blocking that third down pass near the end of the video. He also had a nice fumble recovery in this game where he was the first man to react to the ball on the ground and he quickly swooped on it. Smith doesn’t seem to get snookered often, he rarely spends any time on the ground, and he just generally seems to have a good head for the game.

Also, the sack showed off his elite length, impressive tackling, and ability to make plays off his frame. Smith isn’t the impact hitter that some other elite passrushers like Quinn or Akeem Ayers are. But he is a solid wrapper capable of making difficult tackles, and is explosively strong enough to pull ball carriers down with his arms. He also owns impressive closing speed and looks natural when he gears up and makes plays in pursuit.

I do have some concerns about Smith. First and foremost, I’d like to see how he performs against a double team. Smith was a freshman in this video, and playing with his partner in crime Jacquies takes an awful lot of pressure off of Smith since offenses can’t solely focus on neutralizing him. Also, though he did a good job of generating a push in this game, I think he could improve his bull rush in the NFL. He is a bit lanky as a player and gets too upright at times. I understand he’s only about 19-20 here and will continue to grow. How much bulk can he add in the NFL without losing his quicks? Also, his broken fibula should raise a flag and teams will want to see how he responds to the injury moving forward. Finally, I think the biggest question for us of all is, what position does he play in a 3-4 front? The examination of that segues me into my next section,

What does he entail for the Redskins?

Aldon Smith reminds me an awful lot of Justin Tuck as a player, and he’s used in a very similar role in Missouri’s defense as Tuck is with the New York Giants. To that end, it’s easy to project Smith as an elite prospect and natural fit at 4-3 defensive end. However, there are legitimate questions about where he fits in an odd front. It certainly isn’t as an every-down five technique. He owns the length, but lacks the bulk to play in that kind of role in the NFL. He could certainly add quite a bit of weight, but I think doing so would waste some of his natural brilliance as a speedy edge rusher. Does he fit at outside linebacker? Possibly. But it’s difficult to tell from what he does in this game since he never stands up. Who knows what he’ll look like in coverage? Missouri never asks him to drop back in zone. However, there are clues to his performance to suggest he could hold his own at linebacker on first and second down, before shifting back to a three point stance on third down. I think he absolutely has the fluidity, balance, and range to play linebacker from an athletic standpoint. I also like the way he’s able to stack and shed blockers and set the edge against the run. Finally, I love his instincts and the level of overall awareness he plays with which would certainly suit him if he switched to OLB in our front.

Smith is only a sophomore in eligibility and he missed three games this season due to his injury. But if he comes back and continues to produce at his career rate (0.9 sacks per game), with his athletic skill set, that’ll be enough to make him a very high pick in this year’s draft. I would think he’d be a lock for the first round and have a strong chance of being taken in the top ten picks. That would place him firmly in the same elite tier as Robert Quinn and Da’Quan Bowers. In fact, if I were drafting for a 4-3 defense, I would actually target Smith ahead of both Quinn and Bowers. I believe he plays with better instincts, is a more polished pass rusher with a better repertoire of moves, and has the type of frame that will allow him to add bulk in the NFL and play on both the strong and weak side of your defense. I don’t think Quinn offers the same kind of versatility in an even front since his frame is a little more maxed out. He might not be able to effectively add the bulk to play left end. Plus, neither Quinn or Bowers are the consistent playmaker (against the pass and run) that Smith is. However, were I drafting for a 3-4 defense, I would probably rank Quinn and Bowers first and second with Smith ranking third. I just haven’t seen enough of Smith standing up and playing in space to feel comfortable projecting him at LB over the other two players. Quinn fits the profile of the elite 3-4 OLB and we’ve already seen Bowers play quite a bit in a two point stance, so we know he’s capable of it. That’s not to say we can’t find out before draft day what he looks like standing up at LB, and I think Smith could potentially end up being the superior playmaker at the position even though he’s probably a riskier bet. Either way, if Smith decides to come out early, he’s a prospect deserving of our attention.

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