Posted on: April 12, 2010 1:13 pm

This year's best mock draft

We're ten days and counting from showtime.  It's time for the mock drafts out there to start putting in their final entries -  the ones that really matter.

The best one I've seen yet this season was in the Chicago Tribune this weekend.  It's not a one-guy-picks-all deal like we'll get from the so-called gurus who don't spend more than ten minutes becoming familiar with any given team.  Instead, this one is a collective effort, with the beat writers from local papers around the country representing the teams they cover.

So D-Led made the Falcons pick, Rick Stroud of the St Petersburg Times picked for Tampa, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic made the Cardinals pick, etc, etc.   It was compiled by the Trib's Sam Farmer, who did NOT make a pick himself since Da Bears sent their first rounder to Denver last year.

It still has all the flaws of other mocks in that it leaves out trades, is based on voices/opinions from outside team compounds, etc.  But at least the people involved are intimately familiar with the teams they are representing.  That puts it a step ahead of anything we might hear from Todd McShay, Pete Prisco, Don Banks, Peter King, or Darth Helmet Hair this week.

Spoiler alert...   Lindsay Jones of the Denver-Post saved us by taking D-Led's man-crush away from him at #11...

Here are the picks:
1. Rams: QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma. (pick by Jim Thomas, St. Louis Post-Dispatch) "They're doing everything but stitching his name on his jersey."

2. Lions: DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska. (Nick Cotsonika, Detroit Free Press) "Suh is the smart, multidimensional and productive player the Lions want."

3. Buccaneers: DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma. (Rick Stroud, St. Petersburg Times) "If McCoy or Suh is there, the Buccaneers will run to the commissioner with the card."

4. Redskins: OT Russell Okung, Oklahoma State. (Rick Maese, Washington Post) " Donovan McNabb will have someone to protect his blind side, a luxury Jason Campbell didn't often have."

5. Chiefs: S Eric Berry, Tennessee. (Adam Teicher, Kansas City Star) "It's been close to 10 years since the Chiefs have had a playmaking safety in the secondary."

6. Seahawks: OT Trent Williams, Oklahoma. (Danny O'Neil, Seattle Times) "His athleticism makes him a better fit than Iowa's Brian Bulaga for Alex Gibbs' zone-blocking scheme."

7. Browns: QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame. (Mary Kay Cabot, Cleveland Plain Dealer) "The Browns could try to trade the pick, draft Clausen and trade him or draft him and keep him. They also like Colt McCoy."

8. Raiders: OT Bruce Campbell, Maryland. (Jerry McDonald, Oakland Tribune) "There's a 50-50 shot they take Campbell, but they'd probably take Trent Williams over him."

9. Bills: OT Brian Bulaga, Iowa. (Mark Gaughan, Buffalo News) "The left tackle position torpedoed the entire team last year. The Bills would be happy to get any of the top guys."

10. Jaguars: ILB Rolando McClain, Alabama. (Vito Stellino, Florida Times-Union) "The Jaguars are short on linebackers. Question is, is McClain better than the best defensive end on the board?"

11. Broncos: C Maurkice Pouncey, Florida. (Lindsay Jones, Denver Post) "This is a bit high for a center, but the Broncos don't have one. If they were to line up today, they'd have nobody to snap the ball."

12. Dolphins: WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State. (Omar Kelly, South Florida Sun Sentinel) "Dez Bryant is looking for a father figure, and Bill Parcells wouldn't mind being one. The Dolphins need a difference maker at receiver."

13. 49ers: CB Joe Haden, Florida. (Matt Maiocco, Santa Rosa Press Democrat) "The 49ers need help in the secondary, and their corners aren't great. Haden would be a good pick at a high-profile position of need."

14. Seahawks: RB C.J. Spiller, Clemson. (O'Neil) "Seattle is one of four teams not to have a 1,000-yard rusher in any of the past four seasons. Spiller would be an instant upgrade at the position."

15. Giants: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida. (Ralph Vacchiano, New York Daily News) "He's a freakish athlete, and the Giants have some uncertainty at the position, especially with Osi Umenyiora unhappy."

16. Titans: DE Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech. (Jim Wyatt, The Tennessean) "The Titans are in desperate need of an impact player at the position after losing Kyle Vanden Bosch in free agency."

17. 49ers: OT Anthony Davis, Rutgers. ( Dan Brown, San Jose Mercury News) "The 49ers sorely need offensive line help, and Mike Singletary's presence will help allay concerns about Davis' character."

18. Steelers: G Mike Iupati, Idaho. (Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) "The Steelers need to start getting some studs on their offensive line, and Iupati certainly is that. He's a safe pick for them."

19. Falcons: OLB Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri. (D. Orlando Ledbetter, Atlanta Journal-Constitution) "With Mike Peterson turning 34, the Falcons need a run-and-hit linebacker who's adept in coverage."

20. Texans: S Earl Thomas, Texas. (Jerome Solomon, Houston Chronicle) "The Texans really need some help in the secondary, and Thomas has the type of ballhawking skills they could use."

21. Bengals: TE Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma. (Joe Reedy, Cincinnati Enquirer) "Tight end is a real weakness for the Bengals. They need a guy who can both block and stretch the field."

22. Patriots: OLB Sergio Kindle, Texas. (Karen Guregian, Boston Herald) "Kindle fits the physical prototype the Patriots like for an OLB/DE. They also like Michigan's Brandon Graham."

23. Packers: CB Patrick Robinson, Florida State. (Bob McGinn, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) " Al Harris is 35 and coming off reconstructive knee surgery; Charles Woodson is 33. Robinson fills a real need."

24. Eagles: CB Kyle Wilson, Boise State. (Jeff McLane, Philadelphia Inquirer) "With Sheldon Brown gone to Cleveland, the Eagles need a cornerback who can step right into the starting lineup."

25. Ravens: DT Jared Odrick, Penn State. (Jamison Hensley, Baltimore Sun) "The Ravens need youth on the defensive line, and Odrick would fit right into their 3-4 scheme."

26. Cardinals: DT Dan Williams, Tennessee. (Kent Somers, Arizona Republic) "The Cardinals have been searching for a 3-4 nose tackle ever since Ken Whisenhunt arrived. They need somebody who can hold the middle."

27. Cowboys: OT Charles Brown, USC. (Clarence Hill, Fort Worth Star-Telegram) "With Flozell Adams gone, the Cowboys have a hole at the position. Brown not only fills an area of need, but he fits in that draft slot."

28. Chargers: RB Ryan Mathews, Fresno State. (Jay Paris, North County Times) "LaDainian Tomlinson is gone, and the Chargers have a void at running back. They'll hope to get Alabama DT Terrence Cody in the second."

29. Jets: DE Brandon Graham, Michigan. (Rich Cimini, New York Daily News) "One of the problems the Jets had on defense was they had to blitz a lot of guys to get pressure. They need a pass rusher."

30. Vikings: CB Devin McCourty, Rutgers. (Judd Zulgad, Minneapolis Star Tribune) "Depth at corner is a problem for the Vikings, who have had health problems at the position. They really like McCourty."

31. Colts: DT Brian Price, UCLA. (Mike Chappell, Indianapolis Star) "The Colts failed in their attempt to get better on the defensive line last offseason. The bid continues this year."

32. Saints: OLB Jerry Hughes, TCU. (Mike Triplett, New Orleans Times-Picayune) "Hughes might be a 'tweener for a 4-3 defense, but defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will find a way to fit him in."

Posted on: January 2, 2010 10:38 am

The list of affected free agents

The NFLPA has always voiced strong opposition to the salary cap system, and has always insisted that the final year under each CBA be uncapped.  The purpose of this is that if no new agreement is reached and a stoppage occurs, the status quo will be without a cap.

The wisdom or absurdity of the union's position is fodder for another time.  For now, the key point is that when the owners brought in the cap system, the concession they offered as a trade-off was early free agency.  Before the cap system, players had to have six years of service to become true (unrestricted) free agents.  Until they reached six years of tenure, they could only be restricted free agents.  But with the salary cap in place, unrestricted free agency began after four years of service.

The catch is that since we don't have a new CBA in place for 2011, 2010 stands to be an uncapped year.  And when the cap goes, so does the early free agency.  So all over the league, guys with four or five years in the league who would become free agents will find themselves RFAs (restricted free agents) rather than UFAs.

Their current teams will be able to tender (offer) them standard one year contracts.  There are several levels of tenders.  If the tender offer is a higher level, the team will get draft picks as compensation if another team signs that player away.  At the highest tender level, the price tag is a first round AND a third round pick.

Also, the current team has the right to match any offer made to a tendered RFA to keep the player.  It becomes that team's choice - match the offer and keep the player, or let the other team sign the player away and take the draft picks.

According to several reports, there are currently a total of 212 potential free agents that will be affected.  These are players who would become true (unrestricted) free agents if we get a new CBA to restore the cap before March but will drop back to RFAs without a new deal. 

Here's the list:

Atlanta Falcons - T/G Tyson Clabo, G/T Harvey Dahl, T/G Quinn Ojinnaka, RB Jerious Norwood, P Michael Koenen, S Charlie Peprah, S Jamaal Fudge.

Arizona Cardinals – SS Hamza Abdullah, FB Justin Green, G Duece Lutui, K Mike Nugent, WR Jerheme Urban and NT Gabe Watson.

Baltimore Ravens – G Chris Chester, WR Mark Clayton, K Billy Cundiff, P Sam Koch, SS Dawan Landry, T Tony Moll, TE Quinn Sypnieski, T Terry Adam, CB Favian Washington and WR Demetrius Williams.

Buffalo Bills – OLB Keith Ellison, QB Gibran Hamdan, G Richie Incognito, TE Joe Klopfenstein, SS George Wilson and CB Ashton Youboty.

Carolina Panthers – OLB James Anderson, OLB Thomas Davis, TE Jeff King, CB Richard Marshall and T Rob Petitti.

Chicago Bears – DE Mark Anderson, FS Josh Bullocks, NT Dusty Dvoracek, FS Danieal Manning and OLB Jamar Williams.

Cincinnati Bengals – MLB Abdul Hodge, OLB Rashad Jeanty, LB Brandon Johnson, G Evan Mathis, and DE Frostee Rucker.

Cleveland Browns – SS Abram Elam, LB Arnold Harrison, RB James Harrison, LB D’Qwell Jackson, FS Brodney Pool, LB Matt Roth and FB Lawrence Vickers.

Dallas Cowboys – WR Miles Austin, DE Stephen Bowen, CB Cletis Gordon, DE Jason Hatcher, WR Sam Hurd, T Pat McQuistan, C Duke Preston, G Cory Procter, SS Gerald Sensabaugh, DE Marcus Spears, SS Pat Watkins and K Shaun Suisham.

Denver Broncos – LB Elvis Dumervil, G Chris Kuper, WR Brandon Marshall, QB Kyle Orton, TE Tony Scheffler and DE Le Kevin Smith.

Detroit Lions – SS Daniel Bullocks, C Dylan Gandy, DE Jason Hunter, WR Adam Jennings, G Daniel Loper, FS Ko Simpson and LB Cody Spencer.

Green Bay Packers – SS Atari Bigby, CB Will Blackmon, G Daryn Colledge, FS Nick Collins, DE Johnny Jolly, FB John Kuhn, FS Derrick Martin and C Jason Spitz.

Houston Texans – FS John Busing, T Rashad Butler, TE Owen Daniels, RB Ryan Moats, SS Bernard Pollard, LB DeMeco Ryans and C Chris White.

Indianapolis Colts – WR Hank Baskett, FS Antoine Bethea, FS Aaron Francisco, LB Tyjuan Hagler, CB Marlin Jackson, CB Tim Jennings, T Charlie Johnson, LB Freddy Keiaho and CB T.J. Rushing.

Jacksonville Jaguars – LB Clint Ingram, DT Montavious Stanley and WR Troy Williamson.

Kansas City Chiefs – OB Brodie Croyle, LB Derrick Johnson, LB Corey Mays, C Rudy Niswanger, T Ryan O’Callaghan and FS Jarrad Page.

Miami Dolphins – RB Ronnie Brown and TE Anthony Fasano.

Minnesota Vikings – T Ryan Cooke, DE Ray Edwards, NG Red Evans, QB Tarvaris Jackson, CB Karl Paymah and FB Naufahu Tahi.

New England Patriots – K Stephen Gostkowski, G Logan Mankins and LB Pierre Woods.

New Orleans Saints – RB Mike Bell, T Jammal Brown, G Jahri Evans, DT Tony Hargrove, SS Roman Harper, FS, Hernandez Jones, WR Lance Moore, WR Courtney Roby, T Zach Strief, TE David Thomas and CB Leigh Torrence.

New York Giants – LB Chase Blackburn, G Kevin Boothe, FS C.C. Brown, NT Barry Cofield, CB Kevin Dockery, WR Derek Hagan, WR Sinorice Moss, T Guy Whimper and LB Gerris Wilkinson.

New York Jets – QB Kellen Clemens, CB Drew Coleman, WR Braylon Edwards, NT Howard Green, G Wayne Hunter, WR Brad Smith, SS Eric Smith, RB Leon Washington.

Oakland Raiders – LB Jon Alston, T Khalif Barnes, LB Ricky Brown, QB Charlie Frye, LB Thomas Howard, LB Kirk Morrison and CB Stanford Routt.

Philadelphia Eagles – WR Jason Avant, C Nick Cole, LB Omar Gaither, LB Chris Gocong, CB Ellis Hobbs, G Max Jean-Gilles, TE Alex Smith and RB Leonard Weaver.

Pittsburgh Steelers – T Willie Colon.

San Diego Chargers – LB Tim Dobbins, WR Malcom Floyd, DT Antonio Garay, C Eric Ghiaciuc, LB Marques Harris, WR Vincent Jackson, DE Travis Johnson, T Marcus McNeill, LB Shawne Merriman, RB Darren Sproles and QB Charlie Whitehurst.

Seattle Seahawks – LB Lance Laury, P Jon Ryan, G Rob Sims, C Chris Spencer and DE Darryl Tapp.

San Francisco 49ers – G David Baas, LB Ahmad Brooks and CB Marcus Hudson.

St. Louis Rams – DE Victor Adeyanju, FS Oshiomogho Atogwe, T Alex Barron, RB Sam Gado, DT Gary Gibson, WR Ruvell Martin and G Mark Setterstrom.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – WR Mark Bradley, WR Brian Clark, LB Matt McCoy, T Donald Penn, LB Barrett Ruud, WR Maurice Stovall, T Jeremy Trueblood, RB Carnell Williams and LB Rod Wilson.

Tennessee Titans -  DE Dave Ball, DT Tony Brown, TE Bo Scaife, LB Stephen Tulloch, DT Kevin Vickerson and RB LenDale White.

Washington Redskins – QB Jason Campbell, SS Reed Doughty, DT Kedric Golston, LB Rocky McIntosh, DT Anthony Montgomery, C Will Montgomery and CB Carlos Rogers.
Posted on: September 4, 2009 2:37 am

First notes from the Ravens game

I was glad to have the chance to see this one in the Dome.  I travel a lot and miss most of the home games.  The new vid screens are sweet.

I recorded the broadcast but haven't watched it yet.  From my vantage point, I didn't get to see detail of the backup offensive linemen (Adam Speer, Ryan Stanchek, Jose Valdez, Ben Wilkerson, Mike Butterworth) who are in the hunt for the last roster spots and/or practice squad jobs.  I know the mop-up unit as a whole didn't look as good as the regular second unit, but that's obviously no surprise. 
I'll have to watch the broadcast tomorrow to see how well each one of them did individually.  


Quick takes from the Dome:  the offensive play calls were way too basic and conservative.  The defense did pull some blitzes, but those seemed pretty tame as well.  The two that I remember most were both delayed blitzes that were too slow in developing to have any chance of success.  Again it felt like the coaching staff kept things simple to evaluate how well the kids did the basics. 

I may change my mind on that one after watching the TV broadcast, but that's how it felt - this was all about evaluations, and the coaches didn't put much effort into actually trying to win this one.  Some fans booed when the team ran on third and long to end the opening drive.  I understand their frustration - everyone in the Dome knew that was the end of the night for the starters, and it felt like the coaches were packing it in just to get them off the field.   

Christopher Owens had a bad game.  A *really* bad game.  I know lots of fans want the Falcons to start him instead of Brent Grimes, but he proved he isn't ready.  He's a fine prospect, but you really don't want rookies or even second year players to start in the secondary if you can avoid it.  (Yes, the Falcons are doing it.  But that's exactly why we've all complained about the secondary for the last two years...)

Chris Houston had another off game.  I'll bet we'll soon start hearing speculation that Tye Hill will replace him instead of Grimes.  Don't blame Houston for that first TD pass though.  Mike Peterson had the coverage on that one and got torched.

I've posted a few times that Keith Zinger struck me in practice as the most improved Falcons player since last season and that I wouldn't be surprised if he landed the #3 job.  I say he nailed it tonight.  Tony Gonzalez starts, Justin Peelle is the #2, and Zinger is the #3.  Considering Zinger was the fifth string TE even for the Rams game, that's a nice accomplishment.  

Robert Ferguson may have lost his roster spot.  Eric Weems stepped up and had another solid game.  Ferguson didn't. 

If the Falcons only keep five WRs, Weems made a pretty strong case that he should be the #5.  Also, Weems and Chandler Williams have been the main candidates (virtually the only candidates) for the punt return job.  So the Falcons will either have to (a) keep six WRs, (b) keep Weems or Williams instead of Ferguson, or (c) find another punt returner that hasn't had many reps in preseason.  After this game, Ferguson can only hope for (a) - and then hope he's the #6 instead of Troy Bergeron or Williams.

Vance Walker has played well enough to win a practice squad spot, but it's tough to say he's going to make the roster.  Thomas Johnson has had the inside track as the fourth DT and has been pretty solid, but Walker also had good game and is getting better every day.  He clearly beat out Tywain Myles and Jason Jefferson, and he's making it extremely tough to cut him.  

The twist is that whoever wins the fourth DT job will be on the inactive list every week unless someone else gets too banged up to play.  If the coaches figure that Walker will have a few more weeks of practice before he sees action, they might choose to keep him rather than risk losing him to another team by putting him on waivers and sending him to the practice squad.

Kroy Biermann bulked up in the offseason and it showed.  He may have been playing against the second unit, but he had a monster game.  (If a second string DE plays lights out against the second unit OL, that still counts as a good performance.)  I say the Falcons will use one of the extra roster spots to keep all five defensive ends. 

Maurice Lucas had a sack tonight, but I don't know if he's earned a practice squad job.  I'm guessing the sack won't make a significant difference - if he hadn't won it already, he still hasn't won't it after this game.

I saw Jamie Winborn make two solid plays and botch one pretty badly.  Offhand, I really don't remember too much from Spencer Adkins or Robert James.  They each had a few tackles but nothing that stood out (either good or bad) in my mind. 

Coy Wire and Tony Gilbert are set as the #4 and #5 LBs.  Winborn probably has the edge for the #6 spot.  Adkins and James are both eligible for the practice squad if they don't make it as a seventh linebacker or beat out Winborn for the sixth spot. 

I'll have to watch the broadcast in detail, but NONE of the backup safeties really jumped out at me during the game live. 

Finally, on the QBs -  John Parker Wilson started out rough and looked a little gun-shy.  But he got it together and had a couple of really solid drives.  He showed he has some solid potential - it was pretty obvious why Mike Mularkey says he really likes the kid. 

I still feel JPW and DJ are both good candidates for the #3 job but that neither of them is ready for real game action.  Bulldog and Crimson Tide fans will feel differently about it, but frankly it doesn't matter which one wins the #3 spot.  If either one of them sees the field this year, it's a disaster.

So it's Redman as the #2 unless the team picks up someone from outside the organization.  And as I mentioned in a thread on the Falcons message board, Smitty was asked point blank after practice yesterday if Redman would be the backup QB again this year.  Smitty dodged the question. 

I thought that was rather interesting.  Considering Redman was highly respected as the backup last season and that Smitty said he had a great game against the Chargers, it's hard to understand Smitty not being willing to say Redman is his #2.  I say the team might be considering an upgrade after the Saturday roster cuts.  This year's #2 QB might be someone not currently in the Falcons organization...

Posted on: April 22, 2009 1:13 am

Ten things I would have done differently...

Obviously things didn't go well for the Falcons in 2007, and (even more obviously) 2008 was a much better year in Flowery Branch.

There are many things going back many, many years that the team has done that made me cringe, knowing deep inside that once again the Falcons had shot themselves in the foot.  (Hiring Marion Campbell a second time.  Drafting an unknown punter who wasn't even Div 1-A in the third round.  Drafting a small school WR who was awaiting sentencing on his manslaughter conviction, etc...)

The full list would be WAY too long to post.  And some of the things I would have done differently might not have turned out any better than the things the team actually did.  But I still wouldn't have made many of the same moves the team made even in the last couple of years. 

So here's another list of tens, this time covering some things that I would have done differently if I had been the one in charge of the team, from January 1, 2007 to right now. 

Some of them may be improvements, others not so great.  But these are the main things that jump to my mind over the last two years and four months where I heard the news and immediately thought "I wouldn't have done that".  In chronological order:


1)  I wouldn't have fired Jim Mora. 

Yes, the team had a second straight late season collapse, and he made a few mistakes.  But the decision to fire him on January 1, 2007 hit me as a bit rash.  In spite of a talent-thin lineup, he had the team in the postseason one year and in the wild card chase right through to the final week in his other two seasons. 

Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp had to go.  But for better or for worse I would have given Mora one more year. 

In hindsight, I find it absolutely hilarious that that the last straw was Mora joking that he'd leave the Falcons to take on the college job. 



2)  I would have named Chauncey Davis the starter at DE even before the 2007 draft.

Forget about how things have turned out so far with Jamaal Anderson.  I know everyone hates that draft pick and wants to run the kid out of town.  That's irrelevant since it all came later.  This has NOTHING to do with Jamaal, because he wasn't even on the team at the time.

Focus strictly on Chauncey Davis instead. 

He had put in fine efforts as a backup and truly had earned the right to step up as Patrick Kerney's replacement.  If Mora had been the coach, Davis would have been the starter.  We also had out-of-nowhere guys Paul Carrington and Josh Mallard as potential backups.  They may not be the world's greatest DE trio, but for the defensive schemes we had been running, they were capable of doing those jobs. 

By ignoring their contributions, the team gets the message right away that the new coach is a my-way-or-the-highway guy who intends to replace established players with HIS own guys.  If you're a proven winner as a head coach, that's acceptable.  If you're about to coach your very first game, it's a big red flag.  (Ground control to Major Booby:  work with what you have.  You can't replace a whole team in one offseason.)  
And second, it wasted an opportunity to go after another position with that first draft pick.  We lost Kerney, but we still had Abraham.  DE didn't have to be tops on the shopping list.  Petrino pushed for the Matt Schaub trade because he said he needed "players". But he had a bunch of them already here, and he ignored or released them instead of putting their talents to use.


3)  I would have kept both kickers, Billy Cundiff and Matt Prater, for the 2007 season. 

Cundiff had been out of the league while recovering from injury.  But he kicked well in camp and was reliable in preseason.  The downside was that he didn't have a great leg for kickoffs.  At the time, kickoff coverage was a glaring weakness for our Birds.  (And that continued throughout the season - we later allowed Tampa their first kick return touchdown in franchise history.)

When prospect Matt Prater became available only days before the final roster cuts, Bobby Petrino saw part of a workout and signed the kid immediately - having him kick the final preseason game and releasing Cundiff the next morning.  Prater was the obvious solution to the kickoff return problem.  He can put it in the end zone for a touchback every time.

The catch is that he was an unproven rookie who had just one workout before suiting up for one preseason game - and he shanked one of his three field goal attempts during the game.  Giving Cundiff the pink slip was, to say the least, a major risk.

I was in favor of keeping Prater, but I would NOT have released Cundiff.


4)  I would have kept Frank Omiyale as the backup left tackle for 2007. 

This one is probably a bit obscure for most fans, who might not even know who Frank Omiyale is or that he was orignally with the Falcons. 

Petrino shoved aside some of our backups to make room for "his" guys.  Allen Rossum was ditched to make room for Antoine Harris.  Tommy Jackson was let go in favor of Montavious Stanley. (To a lesser degree, our new coaching staff has done the same thing.  It's pretty common when you have a change at coach.)

But the one that bothered me most was the way Petrino handled Mora's two draft picks on the o-line, Quinn Ojinnaka and Frank Omiyale.  To make room for Renardo Foster, Petrino moved Omiyale over to the right side and put him in direct competition with Ojinnaka for one backup spot at RT.  Meanwhile, he had undrafted free agent Foster compete with journeyman Leander Jordan (who wasn't really even a tackle) for the backup job on the left side.  That guaranteed that one of our more experienced backup tackles would be shown the door in favor of keeping Petrino's undrafted kid from Louisville in a crucial role. 

Instead, I would have started Renardo Foster on the practice squad and kept Omiyale and Ojinnaka as the two backup tackles.  When Wayne Gandy struggled and then got hurt in week five, Omiyale would have been his replacement.

I don't know how well it would have worked out or if Omiyale would have been injured like Gandy, Foster, Todd Weiner and Terrance Pennington (yes, we put FOUR left tackles on IR in one season!).   But I certainly wouldn't have just thrown away a fine up and coming left tackle prospect like that.  (The Panthers scooped him up from waivers in a heartbeat.  He was their backup LT for the last two seasons, and this year he signed a free agent deal with the Bears, hoping to win a starting job.)


5)  There's no way on earth I would have cut Grady Jackson during the 2007 bye week.  Montavious Stanley should have been the one released instead.  (And as a follow-up, I would have tried to re-sign Grady as a backup this offseason rather than letting him slip away to the Lions.)

After the week five fiasco against the Titans (perhaps the worst coaching I have ever seen at the NFL level), I was silently hoping that Arthur Blank would come to his senses, realize he made a horrible mistake in hiring Petrino, and fire him right after the last game before the bye week.  That would allow a new coach to evaluate the players on hand over the rest of the season and get a great headstart for 2008.

I also remember being glad it was the bye, thinking that at least Petrino couldn't screw up and cost the Falcons a win that week as he did in at least three of the team's losses to that point.

Wow, was I ever dead wrong about that one!

Petrino decided to name rookie Trey Lewis as the starting NT ahead of Grady Jackson.  No problem there.  But once again Petrino gave favoritism to one of his Louisville guys at the expense of the team as a whole.  Instead of releasing #5 DT Montavious Stanley, who really wasn't a good fit for the NT spot anyway, he cut Grady.

And neither Petrino nor defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer ever gave Grady any explanation as to why.  They didn't even give him the news in person, instead leaving it to an assistant in the personnel office to call in Jackson on one of those days off to clear out his locker.

That was what made it such a joy to see Grady return during training camp in 2008.  It was a great big one-finger salute to Coach Booby. The guy he cast aside like trash is still around, while Petrino is the laughing stock of the NFL.  Take THAT, you great big steaming pile of hog-sooey!


That's five from Petrino's reign of terror.  Now for five more from our new regime...

6)  I would not have released Alge Crumpler before camp in 2008.

Right before the late February roster cuts, the AJC ran an article listing 11 players that might be on the bubble.

I posted a piece on the team message board going through that article and making my own guesses on whether each of those players would stay or go.  I was right about 10 out of the 11.  The only one that surprised me was Crumpler.

His contract had a $4.9 million base salary for 2008, but he had a little over $4.8 million in bonus money that had yet to count against the salary cap.  The bottom line was that we got no benefit from casting aside the guy who might have been a young quarterback's best friend.

At the very least, we should have waited and let him work with Ryan in camp.


7)  I would have made the big trade with the Ravens in the 2008 draft.

I focus heavily on the salary cap, and the main thing I wanted to see from new GM Thomas Dimitroff was for Atlanta to get rid of the salary cap woes that had crippled the team for at least five years and get ahead of the cap curve once and for all.

I also wanted to see the team start stockpiling future draft picks to use as trade ammo.

This one is the ultimate alternate-universe scenario for the Falcons.  Instead of Matt Ryan, we would have ended up with Joe Flacco.  We might also have ended up with Jeff Otah instead of Sam Baker, and we probably would have had more picks in round two than just Curtis Lofton

The story is that the Ravens were interested in Matt Ryan. They tried to swing a last minute trade with the Rams (who had the #2 pick) to get ahead of Atlanta and draft him.  The offer was a sweet package of picks, but St. Louis asked for more.  And the Rams apparently also tried to squeeze Atlanta for an extra pick, wanting us to trade up from #3 to #2 in order to block the Baltimore trade.

The moment the story broke (or the moment St. Louis called wanting us to make the #3 for #2 trade) I would have asked the Ravens if they would offer the same package to us for the #3 pick instead of to the Rams for the #2.  And once I had moved to Baltimore's #7 spot, I would have traded down one more time (as did the Ravens) to land in the mid teens.

Obviously things have worked out quite well with Matt Ryan.  We might not even have to fear the salary cap consequences of his huge contract, as it now seems possible that the next CBA might ditch the salary cap system entirely.  My choice might not have gone so well for the 2008 season. 

But at the time, the team was in rebuilding mode and the main thing that had held us down for years was an ongoing problem with the cap.  I would have made the trades to get out of #3 and into cheaper territory in order to get us out of those cap woes once and for all.

As it stands, we might be right back in the soup by 2011 if the new CBA restores the cap.


8)  I would have drafted a nose tackle prospect (probably Frank Okam) and signed at least one more as a UFA.

On the Falcons team board, we were all quite pleased with the first day of the draft.  There was a moment of fear when the Sam Baker trade was first announced, as ESPN reported it as a three pick for one pick deal.  (They didn't go out of their way to make the correction known, as the other picks Atlanta received were not in the draft's first day.  Dimitroff made it quite clear that night, however, that the network was mistaken.  It was a three for three deal.  The Falcons moved down with two picks in order to move up with one and take Baker.) 

The elation of the first day disappeared throughout day two.  With the QB, LT, and LB addressed by the end of the second round, most of us KNEW that help at DT was on the way.

The Falcons didn't have Grady, had cut Rod Coleman, and had heard Trey Lewis would be out for at least the first month of the season after falling on the stairs. All we had on the roster were Petrino's man Montavious Stanley, Buffalo's castoff Tim Anderson, and some bargain rack free agents in Rashad Moore and Kindal Moorehead.  You didn't have to be psychic to know that one of the three third round picks would be a solid DT prospect.

They took a cornerback...  okay, no problem, we can use another one of those.  Wide receiver...  not sure why, but he's also a return man, so it could work.  Safety... ummm, didn't think that was an immediate need...

Ouch.  Well, maybe they're targeting someone like Frank Okam, who projects as a fifth rounder.  We have two picks in that round.  It's gotta happen then...

Linebacker...  he's a good prospect, but fear is starting to creep in.  Small school linebacker / defensive end... ouch.  This is getting serious.  We're into the late rounds now.  Well, Trey Lewis was a sixth rounder, so maybe we'll get a decent one.

Running back...  5'9" cornerback... tight end.  And no DTs among the announced UFAs the next day.

We knew even then that Dimitroff had let us down on the defensive line.  No DTs, and the only DE drafted was really a linebacker who didn't even play 1-A ball.

Even if it was just a guy who would otherwise be a practice squad prospect from another team, I would have had at least one more big man on the main roster at all times. 


9)  I would have waited at least a month before starting Matt Ryan.

It's not that Ryan wasn't ready or wasn't our best QB option.  He certainly was.  The problem was that our offensive line hadn't had much time working together as a unit. Many of the starting jobs had been up for grabs right until the end of preseason, and the communications and teamwork was a bit shaky.

The line gave up seven sacks in those first four games, compared to only 10 total sacks in the remaining twelve games.  The Falcons went 2-2 in that first month, with the two wins coming against hapless Detroit and Kansas City, who played Tyler Thigpen as their starting quarterback that week.

Even in retrospect, while it may have helped to get Ryan in there ASAP to shake off any rookie jitters, I still feel we would have been just as well off letting Redman take the snaps that month instead of risking our $70 million babyface against the likes of the Tampa and Carolina pass rushes.



10)  I would not have traded Laurent Robinson.

The only way this deal makes sense to me is if the coaches had already decided Robinson was going to be cut this summer.  Otherwise, the value they got in return for him is a joke.

The team moved up about 20 spots in rounds five and six.  If you look at the point chart (you DID read those blog entries, right?) you'll see that the combined value of moving up both picks is a mere 18 points.  That's the equivalent of the 183rd overall pick of the draft.

Robinson has health questions, but he has good hands and made quite a few impressive catches in clutch situations over the last two seasons.  We essentially traded our up and coming #4 WR for a sixth round draft pick.

We'll have to see what our coaching staff does with the upgraded draft picks this weekend, but I'll go ahead and say it:   No thanks.  I'd rather keep the wideout.

Posted on: February 21, 2009 2:36 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2009 8:21 pm

The Chart - part two (2008 draft day trades)

Okay, last time we saw the actual numbers of the standard NFL draft pick point value table, commonly known as The Chart.  A quick recap:  I want to stress that the chart does NOT try to say whether a team should make specific trades or what specific players are worth.  It is simply an index to help us all understand what kind of market value teams have put on specific draft picks in the past, based on all pick-for-pick trades over many years.  It tells us what is, not what is right or wrong.

The version of the chart that I posted was the copy that the NFL sent to every team in the league before the 2007 draft.  To get an idea of its ongoing accuracy, let's look at the trades that teams made during the draft in 2008. 

The short version is that there were 23 trades that were strictly pick for pick within the 2008 draft (no future picks, no players).  Of those, only one broke from the chart by more than 10% (for early round trades, where the numbers are big) or 11 total points (for later rounds, where the numbers are smaller).  And that one trade was a four for one deal, with the one pick carrying the higher point value.  Seven out of the nine first-day deals were within 5%.

For those who want the details (or want to see the proof), here's the list of first-day deals...

The Saints moved up from #10 to #7, also giving #78 to the Patriots and receiving #164 in return.  Looking at the chart, the Saints received 1526 points worth of picks in exchange for 1500 points.  That's a difference of only 1.7%.   (New Orleans selected Sedrick Ellis.  The Patriots selected Jerod Mayo.)

The Ravens broke from the chart in the day's second trade, moving down from the #8 pick and receiving picks 26, 71, 89, and 125 from the Jaguars.  They gave up 1400 points and received only 1127 in return, and the 273 point imbalance (or 24% of the 1127 points received) was the farthest any deal broke from the chart during the entire draft.  But note that it was a four for one deal, which might have made it a little more enticing for Baltimore.  The Jags made the deal to select Derrick Harvey

The Chiefs moved up in a deal with the Lions, giving Detroit picks 17, 66, and 136 in exchange for picks 15 and 76.  That's a 1248 for 1260 deal, with the mere 12 point difference representing less than 1% of the point total given by either side.  Both teams used the top picks to select offensive linemen, with KC taking Branden Albert and Detroit selecting Gosder Cherilus.

The Ravens moved back up to draft Joe Flacco, giving the Texans the 26 and 89 they had received from Jacksonville plus the 173rd pick in exchange for pick #18.  That's 867 points given up to receive a 900 point pick.  The 33 point difference makes a 3.8% windfall for Baltimore.  

The Falcons moved up to draft Sam Baker, giving the Redskins picks 34, 48, and 103 in exchange for picks 21, 84, and 154.  Atlanta did pay a premium of 8.8%, giving 1088 points and receiving 1000.  That was the second highest differential of the draft. 

But it wasn't as bad as initially reported - ESPN originally announced the trade as a 3 for 1 deal, saying that Atlanta had only received pick #21.  GM Thomas Dimitroff emphasized that evening that the TV reports were incorrect and that it was a 3 for 3 swap.  The team was willing to pay a slight premium (the 88 point difference is exactly the value of the fourth round pick #103 that the Falcons gave up) because Baker was the last of the top-tier offensive linemen on their board.  The Carolina Panthers had just moved up to #19 to draft Jeff Otah, giving up their 2009 first rounder as part of the deal, so the Falcons knew they couldn't wait to get a top lineman.  And considering Atlanta selected Harry Douglas and Kroy Biermann with the other two picks, Falcon fans probably shouldn't be upset with the results.

The always trade-happy Cowboys made their first deal of this draft by giving picks 28, 163, and 235 to the Seahawks for pick #25.  Based on the chart, Dallas gave up 687 points (assuming a 1 point value for #235) for a 720 point pick.  That's a 4.8% differential.  It could be argued that Jerry Jones made the deal just for the sake of making a deal, but the Cowboys theoretically made the trade in order to get DB Mike Jenkins.  Seattle used the #28 to select Lawrence Jackson.

Seattle moved down again with the #30 pick, sending it to the Jets for picks 36 and 113.  That's a mere two point difference, with 618 points received for a 620 point pick.  New York made the move to get TE Dustin Keller.

Baltimore and Seattle were the most active dealers of the day.  In the second round, Seattle moved up to #38 (to select TE John Carlson), sending the Ravens picks 55 and 86.  The 20 point differential is 3.9% of the 510 points Baltimore received.   

Philadelphia and Minnesota also made a second round deal, with the Eagles sending picks 43 and 152 to the Vikings for picks 47 and 117.  That's 511 points for 500, or a 2.2% differential.  The Vikings selected Tyrell Johnson at 43, while Philly picked up DT Trevor Laws with the 47th pick.

There were three other trades that involved picks from #1 to #64.  The most significant was that Carolina sent the Eagles picks 43, 109, and their first round pick of 2009 in exchange for Philadelphia's pick #19.  The catch is that the major pick that Philadelphia received was the future first rounder. 

The key question is how much to discount a future pick.  For the sake of demonstration, I'm going to assume that the Philly braintrust used a 50% discount factor as their guideline.  Neither side knew exactly where that pick would fall, but both likely anticipated that it would be a later pick.  From Philadelphia's perspective, the pick received would be no worse than #32.  That pick rates 590 points on draft day.  Applying a 50% discount factor for the one year wait, the Eagles were receiving 295 points or more for that future pick.  That would give Philadelphia at least 851 points for their 875 point pick.

Obviously, the team giving up the future first round pick is taking a risk, not knowing where that pick will fall.  If Carolina also used a 50% discount factor and had confidence that they would draft no earlier than #22 in 2009, then they would value that future pick at 390 points or less.  For them, the deal would be at most 946 points given away in exchange for the 875 point pick, for a premium of 8.1% or less.   

But there's one other important note here -  when a team moves up the way Carolina did (or Atlanta did two picks later), they aren't acquiring a draft pick.  They know exactly what player they will select with the pick they acquire.  So the other major factor is how the team values that specific player.  I'll cover that in more detail in the next post...

The Buccaneers and Jaguars swapped second rounders, with Tampa sending pick 52 (at 380 points) to Jacksonville for picks 58 and 158 (348 points combined) plus Jacksonville's 7th rounder in 2009.  It's hard to imagine any team putting much value on that particular future pick, but the 32 point difference is within 10% even if it carries no value at all.

And finally, the Miami Dolphins traded pick 64, acquiring picks 66 and 176 from the Lions.  That's a 4.1% windfall for the Fins based on the chart.  I mention it because even though it was the first pick of the third round, that pick would ordinarily have been the last pick of round two.  (There were only 31 picks in the first round, as the Patriots forfeited their own first rounder over the videotaping incident.) 

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com