Marshall trade gives Dolphins needed playmaker


 

I think the Brandon Marshall trade is a great deal for the Miami Dolphins on several different levels.

First, the Dolphins keep their first-round pick this year, which I think is critical for them. They give up a second-round pick this year and a second-round pick next year for a player that has had three consecutive 100-plus reception seasons. You’re getting a young player who is big, physical and has proven production.

Really, as everyone knows, the only issue with Marshall is keeping him interested in football only. With Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano, the Dolphins have an opportunity to do that.

For the Dolphins, I absolutely love this trade. Offensively, they needed playmakers, and Marshall changes the whole game plan.

Why Dez Bryant’s stock is falling as draft nears

In Mike Mayock’s mind, there is “absolutely no doubt in the world” that Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant is a top 5 player when you look at him on tape — the key phrase being “when you look at him on tape.”

But in the NFL, “on tape” doesn’t tell the entire story. And whether it’s Bryant forgetting his cleats at his pro day, under-performing on his pro day, or other off-the field issues, there are red flags regarding the talented receiver that has Mayock thinking he has removed himself from the top 10 of the NFL draft.

“What kind of player are you getting? There’s a whole risk-reward scenario in the first round of the NFL draft,” Mayock said to host Rich Eisen. “The higher you go, the more money you pay a guy, and the higher you expect. However, with his inability to perform on his pro day, with certain off-the-field issues, I attach a ‘buyer beware’ scenario with Dez Bryant. So, is he a top 5 talent? Absolutely, Rich. But I don’t think he’s gonna go in the top 10.”

Be sure to watch the video to see which two former NFL quarterbacks Mayock compares Colt McCoy to, as he explains why McCoy’s stock is rising. Also, Mayock explains the rise of Oklahoma’s Trent Williams and how he — not Russell Okung — could be the first offensive tackle taken off the board.

Clausen helps cause with impressive pro day workout

SOUTH BEND, Ind — At Jimmy Clausen‘s workout on Friday, I saw pretty much what I expected to see.

I’ve probably seen about 10 of his games on tape, and I felt like I knew what the kid was. What he didn’t do on tape during the season is that he didn’t transfer his weight from the right side of his body to his left side, and that was readily apparent on tape.

I saw the weight transfer today, and I asked him later on if it was because of the toe injury. He said, “Absolutely, Mike. I couldn’t push off the right side and I got into some bad habits during the season.”

I enjoyed meeting the kid and talking with him. I’ve said all along, that from a physical skill-set perspective, he’s a top-10 pick. But you have to buy into the kid; you either like the kid, or you don’t like the kid. In my first prolonged opportunity to sit down with him, I think he’s into football, I think he has a passion for the game. Now you have to figure out what his work ethic is and how much he loves the game.

The questions I have: Is he a leader of men, or, over a period of time, is he going to wear on people? Or is he going to take a step up to the next level and lead somebody to a Super Bowl? Therein lies the whole thing. I buy into the skill set. Now you have to buy into the kid.

Check out the video above for my breakdown of Clausen’s workout, as well as my thoughts on his teammate at Notre Dame, wide receiver Golden Tate.

Expect defense to rule first round

With the majority of the pro days in the rear-view mirror, things are starting to shake out a little bit as far as the first round of the draft is concerned.

We’ve said all along that this is a defensive draft, especially early on. So out of the 32 picks in the first round, I think you’re only going to see between 12-14 offensive players taken, which means you’re going to get 18-20 defensive players picked.

The offensive players who I think are first-round locks are Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen at quarterback; C.J. Spiller at running back; Jermaine Gresham at tight end; either Maurkice Pouncey or Mike Iupati as interior offensive linemen; Russell Okung, Trent Williams, Bryan Bulaga, Anthony Davis and either Bruce Campbell or Charlie Brown, perhaps both, at tackle. And I would say Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas at wide receiver.

You add that up and you get 12-13 players, 14 max, with some bubble guys: Jahvid Best and Ryan Mathews at running back, Rob Gronkowski the tight end, depending on how he checks out medically. At the wide receiver position, there’s a whole lot more questions than answers, and quite frankly, I like the second-round receivers better than I do the ones in the first.

Williams could be McNabb’s protector at No. 4

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the effect the Donovan McNabb trade will have on the draft, and the more I think about it the more I believe the Redskins will be a factor in the NFC East. They have a veteran quarterback now and they’re going to draft a left tackle with pick No. 4. And keep in mind, they could have a choice between Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung and Oklahoma’s Trent Williams, the two top tackles in the entire draft.

If so, they could go with Williams, even though he is generally regarded as the No. 2 left tackle behind Okung. Williams fits Washington’s scheme better. He’s a little bit more athletic for the Redskins’ zone-blocking scheme. I think Williams makes more sense for the Redskins at pick No. 4.

The other McNabb effect is on the quarterback situation with Jimmy Clausen, whose pro day I will be at on Friday in South Bend. He had a shot at going to the Redskins before the McNabb trade, but not anymore. The medicals and how he is evaluated off the field will go a long way in determining if he is going to be a top-10 pick.

Eagles can go many directions in the draft


 

I think Washington’s ecstatic, because they get a quarterback that can step in and play Day 1, and they can take a left tackle with the fourth overall pick. The trade didn’t cost them a first-round selection.

Philly, meanwhile, continues to get younger and stockpile draft choices, which is exactly what Andy Reid wants.

You start talking about the Eagles at pick No. 24 and at pick No. 37, these key early picks, I think you’re going to wait and see how the board plays out.

I think you’ll see them target cornerback, defensive end and offensive line and if they need to move up and take a player of significance, they have the firepower to do so.

At No. 24, I think Jason Pierre-Paul, Derrick Morgan and Brandon Graham will all be gone from the defensive end position, leaving possibly an Everson Griffen. I think among corners, Joe Haden and Kyle Wilson will both be gone at that point. Depending on how you have Devin McCourty, Patrick Robinson and Kareem Jackson lined up, one of those three could be your pick.

Don’t forget, I think four offensive tackles will be gone by the 24th pick, but there is quality with Mike Iupati and Maurkice Pouncey, the two interior offensive linemen.

One of those names will likely be the Eagles’ selection if they stay put.

Draft grows in importance for the Eagles

The Eagles have made a huge trade, dealing QB Donovan McNabb to the rival Redskins for the 37th overall pick in this year’s draft, and a conditional choice in the 2011 NFL Draft.

What does the move mean for Philadelphia’s draft outlook this April?

I’ll have some answers on “Path to the Draft” tonight. Make sure to check out the segment on the show which starts at 7 p.m. ET.

Alualu, Joseph, Shipley represent real value


 

I’ve got my eyes on three prospects who will likely be taken on the draft’s second day, second- and third-round guys that will have some real value to the teams that draft them:

Cal defensive tackle Tyson Alualu: He’s one of those guys — one of my favorite players in the draft — that some team is going to take in the second round. He’s going to be a great value. … If he stays healthy, I think he plays in the league for eight to 10 years.

East Carolina defensive tackle Linval Joseph: I think he’ll be one of the premier 3-4 defensive ends in the draft. I don’t see him getting out of the second round.

Texas wide receiver Jordan Shipley: He’s an ideal slot receiver. I don’t think he gets out of the third round, although most teams have him with a fourth-round grade.

McCoy is a solid second-round draft pick


 

AUSTIN, Texas — My favorite stop for a pro day every year is Austin, Texas. They put on a great show and, trust me folks, there’s no lack of talent.

This year, the curiosity was QB Colt McCoy, and I think the most important factor was that he showed he was healthy. He throws the ball deep, he throws it intermediate, and he has excellent deep touch and accuracy.

I loved his footwork. I knew he was a great athlete, so he has great mobility. He’s smart and tough — you can see that off tape. The most important thing I saw was his ability to drive in intermediate routes — both the in-breaking big route and the comeback route. He showed he can do that. I think he’s a solid second-round pick.

Earl Thomas, the safety, ran a 4.34-second 40-yard dash on my watch. Remember, it’s a very fast surface, and the scouts will add some time to that. He pulled a hamstring and, other than a 32-inch vertical jump before his 40, didn’t do anything else.

The way I look at Sergio Kindle is he’s a fantastic athlete coming forward. He’s explosive and quick. I don’t like him quite as much in space, but he’s going to be a first-round pick coming off the edge.

Lamarr Houston. Natural three-technique, 300-pound guy who moves tremendously well, could drop his wait, bend his hips and explode. I think he’s a second-round three-technique.

Finally, Jordan Shipley, the wide receiver, ran 4.55 on my watch. I don’t really care. That’s what he is. He’s quicker than fast, he’s tough, he’s instinctive. He’s a punt returner and kickoff returner, and he caught every single throw from McCoy today. Great hands, and he will help an NFL team, probably in the third round.

Bryant’s workout creates more questions


 

LUFKIN, Texas — I think the NFL scouts and coaches in attendance at Dez Bryant‘s private workout today — and there were a ton of them — left with more questions than answers.

I went into the workout with Bryant as my No. 3 best football player in the country — not the No. 3 best wide receiver, but the third-best football player in the draft. And here’s what I saw today. I saw a guy with a 38-inch vertical leap, I saw a guy broad jump 11-foot, 1-inches and I saw a guy run a 1.5-second flat 10 yards. When you add that all up, it should equate to a 4.4, 4.42 40.

But he ran a 4.55 as an average today. So I was disappointed with the 40. I’ve got to attach some significance to that, and that’s the difficulty all 32 teams are going to have.

He came in at 224 pounds. When he was playing his best football, he was in that 210, 212 range. But he’s cut up. It’s not like there’s a lot of body fat there.

The best part of the workout for me was that he got into the routes. He can pluck the football. Strong hands, big body, 224 pounds. I like the guy but I can’t put him in Larry Fitzgerald‘s class. Larry came out at 223 pounds and ran a 4.52 40. Very similar numbers. But Larry was completely clean off the field. This kid didn’t finish the short shuttle today, didn’t finish the three-cone. There are some red flags there.

When you run 4.55 and you’re considered an elite receiver, and you’re not clean off the field — there were some issues today — I’m going to completely have to reevaluate where I have this guy going in the draft. I’m going to go back to tape and I’m going to have to talk to some people about him. I talked to enough guys around today, and everyone was thinking the same thing: ‘OK, if this guy starts to slide, are we going to take him at No. whatever.’ And a lot of people are going back to tape to do more homework on him.

His slide could be significant based on the comments I’ve heard.

Would it surprise me if he went around No. 10? No. Would it surprise me if he went, say, 25? Absolutely not. And he could fall anywhere in between.

Bradford gets an ‘A’ for pro day workout

 

NORMAN, Okla. — I’ve been to an awful lot of quarterback pro days, and Sam Bradford’s workout Monday gets an “A” on all levels.

Does he have a JaMarcus Russell-type arm? No. Few people do. Does he have a Matt Ryan-type arm? Yes, he does. His arm is good at all the throws, he’s accurate, he can drive the ball intermediate, and his deep touch and accuracy are phenomenal.

I talked to a bunch of people around the league — head coaches, general managers and scouts — and the consensus was all the same. On a basis from 90 to 100, everyone gave Bradford at least a 90 and an “A” to an “A-plus.”

It was a big day for Bradford. Don’t be surprised to see him go No. 1 to the Rams. You can see my one-on-one interview with Bradford here.

Rams’ choice at top of draft just got easier

NORMAN, Okla. — Sam Bradford completed 39 passes this past season for the Oklahoma Sooners, but that was because of two shoulder injuries. He came out Monday at his pro day and threw the ball 63 times and only one of them touched the ground. And, trust me, it was because one of the receivers dropped the football.

What did I see today? Well, I knew I’d see deep touch and accuracy, which I saw. I knew I’d see short touch and accuracy, which I saw. What I wanted to see was the intermediate routes, the deep in-breaking routes, the deep out-breaking routes across the field. Did he have enough arm strength to be an NFL quarterback? The answer is a resounding yes.

Everything I saw about this kid tells me he’ll be the first pick of the St. Louis Rams.

Now, he’s got two private workouts set up — on April 15th with Washington and on the 19th with St. Louis. Those are two teams in the top five that need quarterbacks.

I’ll have a full report on Path to the Draft today starting at 6:30 p.m. ET on NFL Network, including interviews with Browns president Mike Holmgren and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.

Ranking the best prospects by position


 

Tennessee’s Eric Berry is projected by many analysts, including NFL Network’s Charles Davis and NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks, to be the first safety taken in the draft.

Texas’ Earl Thomas tops my list as the best safety prospect in this draft class, though, because I consider him the most instinctual player I’ve seen at the position in several years.

Another safety I like is South Florida’s Nate Allen. He has replaced LSU’s Chad Jones as my fourth-ranked safety due to his versatility in coverage.

You are talking about a guy with four interceptions last season, he makes plays as a center fielder, he can drop down and cover a slot receiver or a tight end. I think he’s a guy that can make plays.

I think that’s the trend we’re getting in today’s NFL.

Check out my complete position-by-position rankings.

Examining Bradford’s worth as the top overall pick


 

Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford has the potential to go No. 1 to the Rams, but is he worthy of that lofty standing?

Much of the evaluation comes down to how his shoulder checks out. He suffered a shoulder injury in the first game last season, and re-injured it when he returned midway through the year.

The question I’m asking the doctors is, because he injured that shoulder twice in one season, after it’s repaired, will it be any more likely that it will happen again? If the answer’s yes, I’m not touching him.

However, if the answer is 100 percent no, it’s not a problem, then I’m going to let the football and my evaluation of the tape take precedence.

To me he is a franchise quarterback.

OL prospects Asamoah, Saffold show promise

Rodger Saffold would make a good second round pick at tackle. (Michael Conroy / Associated Press)

I love Illinois G Jon Asamoah. He got hurt at the Senior Bowl, but should clear medically before the draft. After Florida C Maurkice Pouncey and Idaho G Mike Iupati, I see Asamoah as the third interior offensive lineman off the board. I like him in the second round and he should start immediately. He’s nasty and finishes.

Indiana tackle/guard prospect Rodger Saffold has really helped himself. He made 41 starts at left tackle in college and had a great week at the East-West Shrine Game. He tested well at the NFL Scouting Combine and should land in the second round. I would draft him as a left tackle and kick him inside if he can’t handle elite speed.

There are two interesting below-the-radar players of note who were huge names coming out of high school:

Callahan Bright is a 6-foot-2, 330-pound nose tackle, who originally committed to Florida State. He ended up getting into trouble and couldn’t qualify academically. He has been training in Florida and there’s some interest in him as a late-draftable/preferred free-agent type.

Marques Slocum was another highly-rated defensive tackle coming out of West Philadelphia Catholic High School back in 2005. He played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and went to Michigan in 2006 and 2007. He has been playing for the Philadelphia Panthers in a semi-pro league. He worked out at Temple last week and 17 teams were there. He ran a 1.82-second time at the 10-yard marker of the 40-yard dash and did 33 reps at 225 pounds. He pulled up with a slight hamstring injury.

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