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: February 15, 2010 3:12 pm

The new prototype on-sides kick

One of the rule changes for the 2009 season was that teams could no longer put everyone on the same half of the field for on-sides kick attempts.

The Falcons may have introduced the prototype on-sides kick play to the league in their first game against the Saints.  Never mind the official game film.  It was a nationally televised game, so pretty much everyone had a chance to see it.  The Falcons had to do it twice, so everyone got to see two variations of it.  The ringer:  it worked BOTH times.

I'm guessing that most teams had worked out the basics even before the start of the season.  But after the Saints used the on-sides kick to start the second half against the Colts, it's kinda cool to know that the Falcons were the team that demonstrated to the league - and especially to the Saints - that it can work even better with the new rules than the common versions did before.

The key to the whole thing is that it's an option play.  The kicking team doesn't decide ahead of time which way they're going to kick the ball.  The kicker makes that decision on the spot.

Even if the receiving team expects an on-sides kick, they'll still have to keep at least one man deep, and possibly two.  The kickoff is a live ball, so they'd be taking a huge risk lining everyone up within 15-20 yards of the kicking line.  If a speedster on the kicking team got downfield, it could be an instant touchdown for the kicking team.

That leaves at most 10 players up front.  Including the kicker, the kicking team has 11.   The question is how to take advantage of the extra man.

In the classic on-sides play where everyone lined up on the same side of the ball, the receiving team still had a huge edge.  The kicker typically wouldn't get involved after the kick, so it was basically 10 vs 10.  The receiving team was already in the area waiting for the ball to come to them, and the kicking team had to run at least 10 yards to have a shot at it.  Result:  the kicking team only recovered about one out of six on-sides attempts.

That's where the new rule actually helps.  The classic play wasn't a particularly good one.  Now teams have to change over to plays that have a better chance of success.

The new prototype is to line up four players to the left of the kicker, four to the right, and the kicker plus two others in the middle.  They don't have to be spread way off to the sides.  A "normal" kicking formation should work just fine - especially if you want to pull it as a surprise.

The players are assigned the roles of "goons" or "hands".  The hands guys are the ones that run straight to the ball to recover the kick. 
The goons are on a seek-and-destroy mission, running straight at the players on the receiving team and knocking them away from the ball, clearing the way for the hands guy to make the recovery.  The kicking team has three goons and one hands man on each side, and the two in the middle with the kicker are goons.  The kicker takes the hands role in the middle zone.

The kicker sees the formation and decides whether to kick the ball left, right, or straight ahead.  It's not a complicated read - with one guy back, it's impossible for the receiving team to match the kicking team man for man in all three areas.  At least one of the three zones will give the kicking team a one-player advantage.

That edge is more significant when it's four vs three than it would have been at eleven vs ten.  It's simply a better play.  The new rule simply forced teams to discover an improved method that was there all along.

Category: NFL
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: December 10, 2009 6:31 pm

injury update - 12/10/09

If anyone missed the news, Chris Houston is OUT for this weekend against the Saints with a bad hamstring.  Justin Peelle has a concu...  er, "head injury".  He hasn't officially been scratched yet, but that's likely to change with tomorrow's injury report.  I've already scratched him from my projected lineup. 

Jonathan Babineaux, Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, Sam Baker and Will Svitek are all limited but practicing.  If they hold up, they'll all be available.  The question is how effective they'll all be.  We've seen Baker get torched while trying to play hurt earlier this season, and Roddy wasn't particularly effective either the first couple of games after he got banged up.  So while Jenkins might be in the lineup, it's questionable how effective he'll be.

Todd McClure returned to limited practice today.  He's going to try to play this weekend if the medical staff will clear him.  They probably will. 

Harvey Dahl isn't doing quite so well.  He has been resting his ankle and working with the trainers rather than practicing.  He'll start with the training staff tomorrow before practice.  If all goes well, he'll be listed as "questionable" on tomorrow's injury report and will be a game time decision. 

Best guess...  Baker and McClure play.  Brett Romberg will be active but will NOT start for Dahl since McClure is also dicey.  Quinn Ojinnaka likely starts at right guard.  The backup tackle will be a game time decision between Svitek and Garrett Reynolds.

The best news of the week:  Chris Owens is fully back in action.  Unless something happens to him in practice tomorrow, he'll probably start this weekend.  No word yet on who will start across from him, but it's not all that significant since the coaches are expected to once again rotate the remaining corners. 
And of course the story all the media is covering:  Michael Turner and Matt Ryan are both still being held out completely.  The team hasn't announced that either of them will be scratched, and the official word from the coaching staff is that the team hopes they'll both be able to play.  Unfortunately, the unofficial word is that the chances are less than 50/50 that either of them will see the field this weekend.  It's possible, but they'll both have to make some significant progress in the next two days. 

So we'll probably be up against the undefeated Saints without our starting quarterback or running back to go along with our patchwork defense.  It's a good thing I'm not in Vegas like last weekend.  I'd be tempted to put a chunk of money down AGAINST us this week - regardless of the spread.

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.) 

Posted on: December 12, 2008 2:50 pm
Edited on: December 12, 2008 3:33 pm

Video review: why this DT thing is KILLING us

I'm sure everyone is sick by now of hearing me preach that we're badly undersized in the middle of the defensive line.  But it is an Achilles Heel type of weakness -  if exploited properly, it can bring down our entire defense.

The first team to take advantage of it was...  Tampa, in week two.  And this weekend, we get the Bucs again - and with major postseason implications for both teams.

Everybody knows about the interception that Matt Ryan threw in the first quarter last week, which killed a likely scoring drive for Atlanta and led to a touchdown for New Orleans instead.  And everyone knows all about how the kickoff coverage unit suddenly forgot how to tackle, giving up an 88-yard return to set up the winning score for New Orleans.

But if you have the video handy - either from the original broadcast, the NFL Replay version on NFL Network, or streaming video, it's time for a little more video review.  Let's take a good, hard look at exactly WHY this whole undersized DT thing is so important...


First New Orleans play from scrimmage:  the Saints start out in a 3 wide receiver plus tight end set.  The Falcons counter with their nickel package (Chevis Jackson comes in, Curtis Lofton goes out) and start with Babineaux and Moorehead at DT.  (Babineaux lists at 284 pounds, Moorehead at 299.)

The TE sets up in the backfield but then shifts to the end of the line, leaving a single back set.  At the snap, one WR runs across the backfield (faking the reverse) but the handoff goes to the single back, who runs straight up the middle. 

The important part is the blocking scheme. TE and RT block the DE and one of the two LBs.  There's no need to double team either DT, so the guards and center have an extra man free to move downfield and block the other LB.  (For most of the game, the guards will block the DTs with the center moving downfield on the LB.)

On this particular play, the TE takes the DE, the OT takes Boley, and the interior lineman moves out to block Brooking.  Chevis Jackson runs right into Brooking and falls down, taking himself out of the play.  Brooking somehow beats both his blocker and Jackson and makes the tackle, but the play results in a seven yard gain. 

That's not a killer, but it shows that New Orleans came into this one already knowing that the way to open up the run is to get bodies downfield on the LBs.



First Saints play after the INT:  same personnel packages as before.  The Saints play a 3 WR plus TE package, this time with Reggie Bush as the single back.  The Falcons again go to their nickel package with Moorehead and Babineaux as the DTs.

This time, instead of shifting the formation, faking the reverse, etc, the Saints call a simple draw. Using Bush as the single back may have helped with the illusion of a pass play. 

(A well-executed draw is the opposite of the play-action fake handoff.  Instead of faking the run to hold the safeties and linebackers, it fakes the pass to lure the defensive line into pass rush mode.  The offensive tackles allow themselves to get "beaten" around the outsides, letting the defensive ends simply run themselves away from the play, which goes up the middle.)

The TE (Shockey) goes out for the pass, is covered by one of the two linebackers (Boley), and then blocks that LB.  Again, the interior linemen have no need to double up on the undersized DTs, leaving a free man to slide downfield and block the other LB (Brooking).

The announcers pointed out that Milloy missed a tackle.  Actually, so did Coleman.  But what the announcers didn't mention is that it didn't really matter, because that was already a full 20 yards downfield. 

And that's the essence of the Falcon predicament. There's always an extra defender somewhere to match up with the ball carrier. The goal of the offense is to try to man up so that the extra defender is as far away from the ball as possible. The Saints showed pass, the safeties set up in their deep zones, the offense managed to get bodies on both linebackers, and the result was that nobody could even TOUCH the running back until he was 20 yards downfield and running at full speed. (And since both safeties whiffed, the play went for 43 yards, setting up first and goal.)


First play of the second quarter:  this one scares me even more than most of the others, because the Falcons were in the standard 4-3 package WITH Grady on the field.  The center rubbed Grady just enough to make sure that the guard had position and then moved downfield to block Lofton. 

In other words, they didn't even bother double-teaming Grady. The implications of that are really, really bad for Falcons fans.

This particular play was another draw.  The TE (Shockey) went out and drew pass coverage from a linebacker (Brooking), basically taking him out of the play.  The center slipped downfield and blocked Lofton.  The play ran away from Boley.  It went for 18 yards.

Smitty wasn't happy about this one.  But if he and VanGorder don't dial up something fast, we'll just see a re-run this weekend. 



9:49 remaining, second quarter. Saints have 1-10 at their own 23:  this time they fake the draw (basic play-action).  By now the team has been burned on so many runs that the LBs can't help but bite on any fake handoff. 

The catch is that the LBs have the underneath zone responsibility in pass coverage.  So when they step up on the fake handoff, they're leaving a huge gap in the middle of the field, between themselves and the deep safeties.  Shockey went right into this gap and was wide open. 

Fans tend to fume if the cornerbacks get beaten by a WR and give up a 21 yard reception.  But think carefully -  this is much worse.  Every Falcon on the field was doing his best, all of them were essentially doing the appropriate thing, and yet nobody could stop the offense from executing a childishly simple pitch and catch for 21 yards in the dead center of the field.

Two plays later, the Saints hit us with another draw.  We're in the basic 4-3, but Grady is off the field (with Jason Jefferson as his replacement).

Once again, no double team is necessary on the DTs.  Once again, the center slips out to block Lofton downfield.  The Saints shifted the WRs before the snap, and Brooking was pushed into coverage duty away from the play.  The fullback blocked Boley.

So yet again, the offense is able to get a body on every defender in the same ZIP code as the ball, leaving a deep safety as the extra man.  Lofton was able to recover and make the play downfield, but it was yet another 18 yard gain.


2:54 remaining in the 3rd quarter, New Orleans has 2nd and 10:  Ho-hum, another draw against the nickel package.  This one only gains 8 yards.  Gosh, it must have been a busted play for the offense.

1:35 remaining in the 3rd quarter, New Orleans has 1st and 10:  and yet another run up the middle against the base 4-3 (with Grady out, replaced by Jefferson).  This time the FB blocks Abraham, the TE takes Jamaal, and THREE offensive linemen are free to block the three linebackers.  The Saints staff in the upstairs box must have been giddy to see even this one go for 14 yards.

You can do this to the Falcons all day long.  If you didn't believe it before, the Saints just proved it.  They DID do it to us all day long.


First play of 4th quarter:  hmmm... what else can the Falcons try on defense?  Bring on the Gritz Blitz! 

There's just one catch.  If it doesn't get there, plays like this are the result. Brees gets the ball away, it's caught, and the WR is off to the races for 36 yards. 

The announcers raved about the WR's quick hitch route, but somehow they were completely oblivious to the fact that Atlanta sent SEVEN pass rushers.   

I don't mind that one so much though.  At least it showed that our coaches were aware of the problem and were trying to dial up some answers.  In this same game last year, the only thing our alleged coach dialed up was an airline reservation...


I'm not going to claim that getting bigger at DT will solve all of the Falcons problems and make the defense invincible.  But I do claim that UNTIL we fix the middle of our D-line, whatever other problems might pop up on defense don't even matter.  If we give up that kind of yardage on simple draw plays throughout the game, other teams won't even need to throw the bomb or attack us in any other way.

We have to solve this problem FAST, or we won't go anywhere even if we do make the playoffs.  And unfortunately, our current 53-man roster doesn't appear to have the personnel to fix things within our current scheme. 

We'll either have some personnel changes (maybe even this week), lean on some interesting gimmicks (and hope they work), or wait until next year...

Posted on: December 7, 2008 10:03 am
Edited on: December 7, 2008 3:35 pm

a few quick notes before Da Saints, Round Two

A key piece of the Falcons-Saints rivalry will be lost on Monday.  Morten Andersen will officially announce his retirement.  He had planned to sign with New Orleans to kick in today's game before retiring, but the league - definitely back in NO FUN LEAGUE mode - nixed the idea.   If Andersen had kicked today, he would have surpassed George Blanda as the oldest player to appear in a game -  by one day.

The Falcon web site has a weekly "Ask The Coach" feature, where one of the players will pose one question about the upcoming game to one of the position coaches.   This week we get two questions, sort of...   Roddy asks about the keys to the game, and we also get to hear from one of my favorite Falcons, our international practice squad player Noriaki Kinoshita.   (Great observations, Nori.  Just like the coach, I couldn't agree more !)


Home field advantage will be big for New Orleans this afternoon.   No NFC South team has beaten a division rival on the road so far this season.  In fact, the conference as a whole is 22-2 at home.  The Falcons and Saints have each lost one home game, while Carolina and Tampa are undefeated at home.   We're not the only team that lives to defend the Dome.

The media has focused on the return of Reggie Bush, but I note that one other player returning for New Orleans could make an even bigger difference.  The Saints were without starting center Jonathan Goodwin in November and had to play Matt Lehr.  That's a difference of 28 pounds and even more power.  In the November matchup, the backup DTs weren't outsized by Lehr the way they are against most teams.  The Falcons only notched one sack but were able to harass Brees the entire game.  It might not be so easy this time around.

We'll get an interesting combination of announcers today.  Dick Stockton is scheduled to do the play by play, with both Brian Billick and Brian Baldinger as commentators.   Baldinger did the Falcon preseason games, and for those who still don't know, Billick and Smitty coached together and are also brothers-in-law.  (Their wives are sisters.)

In addition to Lehr, ex-Falcons Joey Harrington, Montavious Stanley and Antwan Lake are now backups for New Orleans.  Safety Chris Reis signed with the Falcons as an undrafted free agent out of Georgia Tech and was in camp under Jim Mora (Jr).  Also, Falcon starters RB Michael Turner and TE Justin Peelle were teammates with Saints QB Drew Brees in San Diego.

With safety Kevin Kaesviharn now out, New Orleans is up to 15 players on injured reserve.  Sounds like Atlanta last year...    The Falcons have seven players on reserve status, and only one (TE Ben Hartsock) has been lost during the season.   Two of the Falcons (Renardo Foster, Trey Lewis) are still out rehabbing from their 2007 injuries, and the other four (CB Von Hutchins, OT Pat McCoy, RB Thomas Brown, LB Robert James) were hurt before the regular season began.


Category: NFL
Tags: Falcons, Saints
Posted on: November 6, 2008 3:15 pm
Edited on: November 7, 2008 5:33 pm

early notes for the Saints game

THE BAD NEWS for fans of both teams:   FOX has assigned our old pals Ron Pitts and Tony Boselli to broadcast the game.   (Saints fans -  I apologize in advance and suggest that you keep a radio handy.)

For New Orleans, Reggie Bush does not expect to play.  At this point, it appears Jeremy Shockey will play.

For Atlanta, Sam Baker is almost certainly out (it's not *official* yet) but everyone else is in reasonable shape.  Grimes, Grady Jackson, and Weiner are still nursing bad knees.  Snelling has been sick.  

Domonique Foxworth is now listed as a starter in the press guide and the depth chart.   He's the most experienced cornerback on the roster, but since the team only acquired him in Week 1, the coaches needed time to get him up to speed on the defensive schemes. 

No word yet on which of Grimes or Chevis Jackson will play the nickel corner spot once Grimes is back to speed.

Still no word from the league on possible suspensions for Grady and several Saints players over that water pill investigation.  However, the players can appeal if a suspension is announced between now and Sunday, so they can all remain available for this weekend's game.

Also no word on who will return punts for Atlanta this weekend.  Coach Smith said he thought Harry Douglas did a nice job but that the team hasn't decided who will handle that job this weekend.   And for those who think Jennings may be headed out the door, here's a little extra fodder:   when asked about the WR corps, Smith named all of the receivers EXCEPT for Jennings.

FRIDAY UPDATE:   Reggie Bush and center Jonathan Goodwin are both out.  Sam Baker is now officially out for Atlanta.  Shockey will likely play.  The banged-up Falcons are all listed as "Questionable" -  which seems to be the standard practice this season.  They include Grimes, Grady Jackson, Weiner, and McClure.  Best guess is they'll all be available. 


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