The first week of the 2010 NFL season saw several first-year players thrust into key roles on their new teams. Chris Tripodi is back with us this season and he breaks down some of the best (and worst) rookies, this time from Week One.
Sam Bradford (QB-StL)
The top overall pick in the 2010 draft threw the ball a whopping 55 times in his NFL debut, completing 32 of those passes for just 253 yards and a touchdown while getting intercepted three times. Despite the ugly numbers, Bradford looked good at times with limited receiving options and against an underrated Cardinals defense.
Bradford relied heavily on fellow Oklahoma product Mark Clayton, who caught 10 balls after practicing with the team just three times before the opener. Bradford looked composed in the pocket and despite the 55 attempts, was sacked just twice on the day. He likely won’t be asked to consistently make big plays with a shaky offensive line and lack of big-play receivers, but Bradford played better than the stats show in Week 1 and has the look of an impact quarterback down the road, granted he can handle the inevitable struggles that will come with quarterbacking a bad offense as a rookie.
Dexter McCluster (WR-KC)
The second-round pick out of Mississippi may not have a true position in the NFL just yet, but he showed why the Chiefs spent a top-40 pick on him with a 94-yard punt return for a touchdown that gave Kansas City a two-score lead heading into halftime. McCluster fielded a booming punt inside the 10 with room to run, made a quick cut just the inside the left hash and was off to the races from there.
McCluster wasn’t the most productive returner in college while handling the rushing load, but the early returns look good on him excelling in that role as a pro. He showed great vision, elusiveness and explosion on his touchdown return and could give the Chiefs their best return man since Dante Hall. He also added 2 receptions for 9 yards and will likely be given many opportunities to catch short passes because of his game-breaking ability.
Tony Moeaki (TE-KC)
A third-round pick out of Iowa, Moeaki saw plenty of action on passing downs and in multiple tight-end sets in the season’s first week, catching 3 passes for 21 yards and his first career touchdown, breaking wide open into the endzone from a goalline set in the second quarter.
Moeaki was a reliable receiver at Iowa and should give Matt Cassel an extra option in the underneath passing game. Considering Cassel throw for just 68 yards on 22 pass attempts, Moeaki should continue to see looks in this offense despite some deficiencies in the run game.
Tyson Alualu (DT-Jac)
Many experts screamed, “Reach!” when the Jaguars drafted Alualu with the 10th overall pick in April but the rookie out of California made an instant impact in Week 1, making 3 tackles and registering a sack on Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton.
What was most impressive about that sack was the move Alualu put on tackle Ryan Clady, considered by many to be the best left tackle in the game today. Lined up at right defensive end, Alualu bull rushed Clady and drove him back into Orton, grabbing the quarterback by his jersey while still engaged to take him to the ground.
Alualu is known more for his nasty streak and ability to play multiple positions along the line rather than his pass rushing ability, but beating one of the NFL’s top young tackles with brute strength is a good sign for the Jaguars. If Alualu can maintain this level of play throughout the season and his career, no one will be questioning whether or not Jacksonville reached on him in the top 10.
Devin McCourty (CB-NE)
McCourty is one of many young players New England will rely on defensively this season, particularly in the secondary. Carson Palmer targeted him early in his matchup with veteran Terrell Owens and McCourty proved up to the task, knocking the ball out of Owens’ hands after he jumped over McCourty to make a catch.
Owens caught seven balls on the day for just 53 yards on 13 targets as McCourty did a solid job limiting Owens to underneath grabs. One thing McCourty needed to improve on coming out of Rutgers was his ball skills, but he showed the ability to stay with Owens downfield and reacted well to the ball in the air. He’ll need to continue to make plays if New England expects to stop anybody through the air, especially with another inexperienced corner on the opposite side in second-year player Darius Butler.
Kyle Wilson (CB-NYJ)
To say that Wilson looked bad in his debut would be an understatement. The first-round pick out of Boise State was expected to help the Jets secondary in man coverage, but looked lost at times against veteran receivers Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
Wilson was noticeably beat downfield on at least five separate occasions, with three resulting in completions and one resulting in a 22-yard pass interference penalty that turned a Ravens third-and-10 into a first-and-goal from the 1-yard-line. Wilson also had a key holding penalty on third-and-long early in the game that extended a Ravens drive that had stalled in Jets territory.
Wilson did show the ball skills that made him a first-round pick early on against Todd Heap, who beat him to the endzone only to get the ball knocked from his hands on a well-timed breakup from Wilson. But he will need to work on staying with receivers downfield in order to stay on the field for the Jets, whose multiple blitz packages on passing downs will require their corners to man up often.
T.J. Ward (S-Cle)
Ward got the Week 1 start at strong safety for the Browns and didn’t disappoint, leading all rookies with 11 tackles this week. Tackles can be a misleading statistic for safeties, but Ward made multiple plays around the line of scrimmage as well as on special teams, not just padding his numbers with tackles 10-15 yards down the field.
A former walk-on at Oregon and a second-round pick of the Browns, Ward has always shown the ability to play downhill and sideline-to-sideline against the run. His coverage skills were seen as his major weakness, particularly man-to-man, but Ward did a good job containing Tampa Bay tight end Kellen Winslow, holding him to 4 receptions for 32 yards on 6 targets. It will be interesting to see how he reacts to Kansas City’s backfield committee of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones in Week 2, as well as how he performs in coverage against the aforementioned Moeaki.
Nate Allen (S-Phi)
Allen will forever be known in Philadelphia as the players the Eagles drafted with the pick they received in exchange for long-time quarterback Donovan McNabb. He also has the daunting task of replacing Brian Dawkins in the Eagles secondary, but the Week 1 returns look good for the second-round pick out of South Florida.
Allen had 5 solo tackles, a pass defensed and an interception against the Packers on Sunday. While the interception was an overthrown gift from Aaron Rodgers on a rainy day, Allen does have the size and speed to become and impact free safety in Philadelphia for a long time. Intercepting one of the league’s best quarterbacks should only boost his confidence and help him build on a solid debut.
A new feature for TFY Draft Preview; a weekly live wire to bring you updated news from the world of college football and, once and a while, the NFL. We’ll update this daily as we speak with our sources around the nation about the goings on in the scouting world.
- Sources have told us that federal investigators are also part of the recent NCAA probes which center on almost a half dozen schools. The sources told us it is a felony crime in certain states to give student athletes gifts or cash, the primary reason while the feds are involved.
- When will the 2011 NFL Draft take place? Most think the annual selection process will hold its place on the calendar in late April. Yet we’ve heard from more than a few sources who say the league could push up the draft anywhere from several weeks to a month, depending on what happens with the labor unrest in the NFL. We will have more details in our weekly podcast Wednesday evening.
- The recent NCAA investigations coupled with the potential lockout is likely to reverse the recent trend which saw large numbers of underclassmen entering the draft. Sources have told us the potential of no paychecks forthcoming in any form (workout bonuses, etc) will lessen the attractiveness of the NFL for players with college eligibility remaining. Sources have said players are being advised at this early stage not to enter the draft unless they are top 45 material.
- Scouts coming out of the west coast say receiver Ronald Johnson is likely to be a fast riser in next April’s draft. Scouts like his reliability and size and there is even talk Johnson could slide into the first round.
- The other player on the USC roster scouts have become enamored with is junior defensive tackle Jurell Casey. And though they do not speak about the underclassman openly, those who’ve commented on Casey feel his is first round material.
- Sources have told us the Denver Broncos are the frontrunners to sign outside linebacker Pierre Woods, cut by the Patriots after spending five years with the organization.
The Uncanny Mock returns with a vengeance to predict the 2011 NFL Draft seven months prior to the actual occurrence.
Two full rounds of madness!
Head Scout Brent Sobleski steers this ship into its inevitable oblivion.
Sit back, relax, and enjoy as TFY’s last preseason prognostication enters the long and winding road of regular season talent evaluation.
Before the journey begins, a few questions shall surely be raised and now answered…
- Slotting is based off last year’s standing, until proven otherwise.
- An asterisk denotes an underclassman.
- Underclassmen are not included past the initial round.
So with that…
|1||St. Louis||Robert Quinn*||DE/North Carolina|
|Analysis: Offensively, the Rams established an identity drafting Sam Bradford in 2010. Now they will look to do the same defensively establishing a potentially dominant line with the addition of this pass rusher extraordinaire.|
|Analysis: Some questions can be raised as to which cornerback prospect could and should be slotted this highly. Peterson has the size, physical nature, and even return ability to add to an already vastly improved Detroit defense.|
|3||Tampa Bay||A.J. Green*||WR/Georgia|
|Analysis: Already entering this season relying heavily on rookie presence at receiver, neither Mike Williams nor Rejus Benn has the type of physical ability or potential dominant traits of an A.J. Green. The unit will be very young, but quarterback Josh Freeman will certainly enjoy these options.|
|Analysis: Eventually the massive headache known as Albert Haynesworth will be treated. Marcell Dareus has to the potential to add a similar type of dominant player along their front line. Oh…and the Crimson Tide product has no issues playing and excelling in a 34 defensive front.|
|5||Kansas City||Andrew Luck*||QB/Stanford|
|Analysis: Early indicators rank Luck as the one true franchise quarterback prospect with draft eligibility. Under new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, KC will discover if Matt Cassell is the top quarterback they paid for or a waste of money. He has not shown enough to date to warrant passing on a prospect of Luck’s caliber.|
|Analysis: Coach Carroll needs, and became accustomed to, the horses up front for his defense to be successful. Smith has off the charts physical ability and could slide seamlessly into the Leo role desperately needed to provide a consistent edge presence.|
|7||Cleveland||Michael Floyd*||WR/Notre Dame|
|Analysis: The Browns lack playmakers both offensively and defensively. If they are going to make the jump from simply being well coached and competitive into a winning football team, then game breakers are required…starting at the wide receiver position.|
|8||New England (from Oakland)||Prince Amukamara||CB/Nebraska|
|Analysis: Three straight drafts and a third opportunity for the Patriots to add a top talent to their already young secondary. Amukamara has the type of physical ability which would separate him from the likes of Devin McCourty and Darius Butler to become the team’s top cover man.|
|Analysis: Buffalo could only smile if one of the top quarterback prospects still landed in their laps. Locker has the type of athletic ability behind center which Chan Gailey has previously flourished. Whatever the case, eventually, the Bills have to address the position.|
|Analysis: Ryan Mallett is overrated at this juncture, and this slotting is falling along those same lines. His lack of touch makes him a potential coach killer. But the biggest issue in Jacksonville is having the talent to excite their fans, including the ability to bring some explosiveness to their offense. Mallett would accommodate both qualities.|
|11||Chicago||Cameron Heyward||DE/Ohio State|
|Analysis: If the Bears are selecting this high once again, then one thing is certain. The entirety of the team’s football operations will be fired. Whoever would be entering as the team’s new head coach and general manager will have to look toward helping Julius Peppers and keeping their talented Bear linebacker’s clean.|
|Analysis: The Dolphins’ identity is built around running the football. Ronnie Brown is coming off his second major knee surgery. Ricky Williams’ future is uncertain. Time to infuse some youth and fresh talent into the mix.|
|13||San Francisco||Von Miller||LB/Texas A&M|
|Analysis: Maybe it is the glasses which make Miller remind one of Coach Singletary. Or maybe the 49ers have lacked a legit pass rushing presence at outside linebacker for years. Manny Lawson and Parys Haralson are solid 34 backers, but do not present the type of natural ability off the edge that Miller does.|
|Analysis: No substitute can be found for a legit, powerful, run stuffing nose tackle. Currently, the Broncos defensive line is old. Jamaal Williams’ best days are behind him. If this unit is to take the next step, a talent such as Powe needs to be added up front.|
|15||NY Giants||Bruce Carter||LB/North Carolina|
|Analysis: Along the three lines of defense the Giants have excelled over the years, linebacker has been the weakest as of late. The defensive line carried them to a Super Bowl. Antrel Rolle was added to the secondary. Now it’s time to acquire some true playmaking ability among the linebackers.|
|Analysis: The Titans should be thrilled to have an elite wide receiver simply slide right into their collective grasp. Jones would add to Kenny Britt, Justin Gage, Bo Scaife etc. while taking pressure of the running game and MVP candidate Chris Johnson.|
|Analysis: Steve Smith has been looking for a running mate for as long as many can remember. Dwayne Jarrett appears destined to never pan out fully. While Baldwin can add the same type of physical presence but even more overall talent to the position.|
|Analysis: Troy Polamalu’s injury hampered the Steeler defense a year ago, but it was Aaron Smith’s loss which was debilitating. Bailey would infuse youth and athleticism into Pittsburgh’s defensive line. A unit which is on the precipice of a much needed overhaul.|
|Analysis: John Abraham will be 33 next season. Former top pick Jamaal Anderson never panned out and could move inside. Kory Biermann has been a pleasant surprise. But the Falcons still need to add more pass rushing ability to their defense. A combination of Clayborn and the aforementioned Beirmann would be absolutely relentless off the edge.|
|20||Houston||Stephen Paea||DT/Oregon State|
|Analysis: With all the high draft picks spent on the Texans’ defense, it has never lived up to expectations. Mario Williams is a stud, but Amobi Okoye has yet to fully develop. Paea is a bull in the middle and could take pressure off both by collapsing the interior of the pocket consistently.|
|21||Cincinnati||Ryan Williams*||RB/Virginia Tech|
|Analysis: Simply adding more potential to an already scary offense. Despite having household names at both wide receiver and quarterback, the Bengals’ bread is buttered with their physical running attack. Cedric Benson is a stud but nearing that infamous 30 years old plateau. Williams could only add an elite dimension to a unit which will already be one of the best in the NFL.|
|22||New England||Gabe Carimi||OT/Wisconsin|
|Analysis: Sebastian Vollmer was a nice find by the Patriots and can play both left and right tackle when needed. But Carimi is arguably the best tackle prospect in a weak class, and clearly its best pass protector. So New England can stand pat and add a potential top prospect to eventually replace a 32 years old Matt Light.|
|23||Green Bay||Akeem Ayers*||LB/UCLA|
|Analysis: Brad Jones developed quickly into a solid football player after being a late round addition. But he, nor any other Pack linebacker, present the rush ability to bookend Clay Matthews III. Ayers is an exceptional athlete off the edge to perform that very function.|
|Analysis: This particular cornerback class as a whole is intriguing, because there are multiple talents which could find their way into the first round. Settling with Brown, the Eagles are only looking to add to an already young and improving team at a premium position.|
|Analysis: The Achilles heel for the Ravens this season may be their bruised and battered secondary. The great Ed Reed’s future has already been in question. Two starting corners are suffering through injury. Dowling has the potential to play and/or start at both cornerback and safety.|
|26||Arizona||Kyle Rudolph*||TE/Notre Dame|
|Analysis: A quarterback’s friend can be their tight end. With Kurt Warner’s retirement, and the debacle of Matt Leinart now in the rear view mirror; Derek Anderson takes his turn. A once and future starter who does not possess passable accuracy. By adding a large target in Rudolph, it can only help their quarterbacks in the long run.|
|Analysis: Marcus Spears has been somewhat of a disappointment since he stepped foot in Dallas under Bill Parcells. He has never lived up to his potential and could eventually find himself off the roster. Jenkins, could replace, and certainly provide talented depth along a defensive front crucial to their scheme.|
|28||San Diego||Jared Crick*||DT/Nebraska|
|Analysis: Unbelievably, Antonio Garay finds himself in the starting nose tackle position for the Chargers. The same Garay who was out of football a few years and only played in two games a year ago. While Crick would not be his immediate replacement, it is an indictment of the talent (or lack thereof) along this particular unit.|
|29||NY Jets||Jeremy Beal||DE/Oklahoma|
|Analysis: The project that was Vernon Gholston at outside linebacker has finally been dashed. Leaving Bryan Thomas, Calvin Pace, and Jason Taylor to man the position. None of the aforementioned names shall be under the age of 30 by the end of this season. Beal presents a package of athleticism and ability to develop into a 34 outside linebacker down the road.|
|30||Minnesota||Christian Ponder||QB/Florida State|
|Analysis: Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. If you say his name three times, does he go away? It is too much to think this could *actually* be his final year? And the team’s actions have spoken volumes regarding his back-up Tavares Jackson. Ponder has all the makings of becoming the type of quarterback Coach Childress could love in his system.|
|31||Indianapolis||Anthony Castonzo||OT/Boston College|
|Analysis: Tony Ugoh has been waived. Charles Johnson is solid but can definitely be upgraded. Castonzo is the type of technician that would slide seamlessly into the team’s starting left tackle role.|
|32||New Orleans||Greg Romeus||DE/Pittsburgh|
|Analysis: A talented team with the ability to take best available. Will Smith finally lived up to all of his potential a year ago becoming a monster off the edge. But he has never had a true bookend to compliment the pass rush. Romeus is chalk full of potential, if he can become consistent on a down-by-down basis.|
|33||St. Louis||DeMarco Murray||RB/Oklahoma|
|34||Detroit||Derrek Sherrod||OT/Mississippi State|
|35||Tampa Bay||Pernell McPhee||DE/Mississippi State|
|36||Kansas City||Cliff Matthews||DE/South Carolina|
|37||Washington||Stefen Wisniewski||C/Penn State|
|40||Seattle||Greg Little||WR/North Carolina|
|43||Denver (from Miami)||Aaron Williams||CB/Texas|
|46||NY Giants||Marvin Austin||DT/North Carolina|
|48||New England (from Carolina)||Mark Herzlich||OLB/Boston College|
|49||San Francisco||Jerrod Johnson||QB/Texas A&M|
|52||Pittsburgh||Chimdi Chekwa||CB/Ohio State|
|53||New England||Niles Paul||WR/Nebraska|
|54||Cincinnati||Greg Jones||LB/Michigan State|
|55||Philadelphia||Justin Boren||OG/Ohio State|
|56||Green Bay||Davon House||CB/New Mexico State|
|60||San Diego||Leonard Hankerson||WR/Miami|
|61||NY Jets||Orlando Franklin||OT/Miami|
|62||Minnesota||Kendric Burney||CB/North Carolina|
|63||Indianapolis||Rodney Hudson||OG/Florida State|
|64||New Orleans||K.J. Wright||LB/Mississippi State|