Play Fantasy Use your Fantasy skills to win Cash Prizes. Join or start a league today. Play Now
 
Tag:Atlanta Falcons
Posted on: December 1, 2011 3:44 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2011 3:44 pm
 

Rookie QB T.J. Yates could surprise with Texans

NFL teams have been impressed thus far with the development of the class of 2011's quarterbacks. Cam Newton has already emerged as one of the league's most exciting players and Andy Dalton has the Bengals in the thick of the playoff hunt. Though wins and big plays have been tougher to come by for Christian Ponder (Vikings) and Blaine Gabbert (Jaguars) thus far, each have shown flashes.

The relative success of his young peers bodes well for the Houston Texans and their rookie quarterback, T.J. Yates.

Yates, graded as a sixth round pick last year by NFLDraftScout.com, was the Texans' 5th round pick (No. 152 overall).

A year earlier, the idea of Yates being drafted at all would have been considered a long shot.

As a junior Yates completed barely 60% of his passes and threw more interceptions (15) than touchdowns on the season (14) despite being surrounded by a lot of NFL talent, including current Cleveland Browns' rookie Greg Little and rising 2012 prospect Dwight Jones, among others.

Yates, however, showed remarkable poise a year later during the scandal that eventually led to year-long suspensions of Little, defensive tackle Marvin Austin and defensive end Robert Quinn, among others.

While everything around him was crumbling, Yates developed into a legitimate pro prospect, completing 66.% of his passes for 3,418 yards and a 19-9 touchdown to interception ratio. For his improvement, Yates was named an honorable mention All-ACC pick and helped lead the Tar Heels to a dramatic double overtime victory over Tennessee in the Music City Bowl.

When Yates entered last Sunday's game against the Jaguars, he did so with the same poise and leadership he'd demonstrated while at UNC. The moment wasn't too big for him -- a testament to the calm he's gained as a three-year starter while at UNC.

Certainly there are other quarterbacks with greater talent. Yates, in fact, will be playing opposite one this week in Atlanta's Matt Ryan. Like Ryan, however, Yates is more than the sum of his parts. While he doesn't have a howizter or great mobility, he's already a savvy enough player to spread the ball out to Houston's playmakers and manage a game.

For the AFC-South leading Texans, that may be all he has to do to help them reach the playoffs.


 

Posted on: August 4, 2011 11:49 am
 

OSU WR/RS Rodgers allowed "limited" practice

Oregon State wideout and returner James Rodgers -- the older brother of former Beaver and current Atlanta Falcons running back Jacquizz Rodgers -- has been granted clearance to practice in a "limited fashion" when camp opens Monday, according to head coach Mike Riley.

The 5-07, 188 pound James hasn't received the nation-wide attention that his brother did during their respective careers at Oregon State, but James has actually been the more statistically productive of the two. Like his brother (who was drafted in the fifth round, No. 145 overall), James was viewed as a potential later round pick due to his lack of preferred size, but is a legitimate playmaker who could surprise in the NFL. What the Rodgers brothers lack in stature, they certainly make up for in toughness and instincts. Jacquizz has already impressed Atlanta coaches and scouts during the preseason, according to Peter King of SportsIllustrated.com.

Unfortunately, James suffered a horrific knee injury against Arizona last season that ruined his chance at joining Jacquizz in the 2011 draft. James was granted a medical redshirt after tearing two ligaments -- reportedly including the ACL -- in his left knee. He underwent the first of two surgeries on October 28. The next one occurred in late February. Since, Rodgers has been ahead of schedule in his recovery, but Riley has understandably been hesitant to push his All-Pac-10 star too hard.
“We will have more information after another meeting with the physician and our trainer at some point next week,” Riley said.
James was voted to the First-Team all-conference squad after the 2009 season after breaking the school record with 91 receptions for 1,034 yards and nine touchdowns. He also set the school record for the most all-purpose yards in one season by accumulating 2,328 yards as a receiver, punt returner, kick returner and runner during the 2009 season. He entered the 2010 season second in the country among active players with 5,077 career all-purpose yards. Due to the questions about his injury, however, Rodgers is currently only rated as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 54 receiver potentially available for the 2012 draft.

Rodgers is not expected to resume all of his past roles with the Beavers this season. As Bob Clark of The Register-Guard notes, Riley would rather use Rodgers at flanker rather than returner next season due in part to their plan to ease him back onto the field and because the Beavers like their depth at punt and kick returner.

The Beavers begin their season at home against Sacramento State on September 3.
Posted on: May 9, 2011 4:41 pm
 

Finding the Fits -- The Offensive Line

Over the next two weeks I will be highlighting a different position each day in an attempt to Find the Fit -- identifying 2011 prospects who are a particularly good schematic fits for the club that selected him. I'll also highlight one player per position who I believe could struggle in his new NFL role. Too often in the past rookies who have struggled in the NFL have done so because they were simply drafted into schemes that didn't fit their individual strengths.

After several strong years in a row for offensive tackles, the 2011 crop was lacking in elite talent -- at least when it comes to blindside protectors. The strength of the 2011 class lay on the opposite side, as many of the top blockers -- while left tackles in college -- will be asked to switch to the strongside in the NFL. This is likely to be the case with virtually all of this year's top tackles, including the first one selected (Tyron Smith) and the most celebrated offensive tackle of the class (four-year starter Gabe Carimi, the reigning Outland Trophy winner).

With Mike Pouncey and Danny Watkins each top 23 picks, some have mislabeled the 2011 crop of interior linemen as a very good one. In reality, the depth inside was worse than outside this year.

There are, however, plenty of intriguing schematic fits for this year's class.

This is the last of the Finding the Fit breakdowns for offensive prospects. Earlier, I broken down the quarterbacks , running backswide receivers and tight end fits.

Players are listed alphabetically.
Good Fits:

James Carpenter, Seattle Seahawks: Many were surprised to see Carpenter make the first round, though I was not . Carpenter had been steadily rising up draft boards following a quietly impressive week at the Senior Bowl in which he demonstrated the athleticism, versatility and toughness to "plug and play" at any of the four exterior positions. Some pegged quarterback as the Seahawks' greatest need, but considering the fact that the Seahawks received zero or negative yardage on a staggering 26% of their runs last season, upgrading their offensive line was clearly a focus. Carpenter isn't flashy, but he's the physical road-grading right tackle the Seahawks have been missing for years.

Anthony Castonzo, Indianapolis Colts:
The knock on Castonzo was he wasn't as physical as some teams would prefer. Though he's made massive gains in the weight and strength department in his four seasons at Boston College (after starting as a 260 pound RT), he is still not the intimidator in the running game that most OL coaches are looking for. Castonzo does, however, possess good lateral agility, long arms and the dedication to play well immediately. For a team needing immediate help up front to keep Peyton Manning upright, Castonzo was the ideal fit. Castonzo, in fact, was the best fit for the Colts among any of the eight offensive linemen drafted in the first round.

Marcus Gilbert, Pittsburgh Steelers: As I mentioned previously, I had forecasted the Steelers taking an underrated and athletic left tackle from the SEC in Carpenter in the first round. With Carpenter off the board, the Steelers built their defensive line instead with Ohio State's Cameron Heyward at No. 31 overall, but found a similar blocker in Florida's Gilbert at No. 63. At 6-6, 330 pounds, Gilbert is bigger than Carpenter (and more ideal for Pittsburgh's preference for extra large blockers) and yet plays with a similar brand of physicality and toughness. He's capable of competing immediately for playing time at either left or right tackle.

Rodney Hudson, Kansas City Chiefs: A two-time winner of the Jacobs' Blocking Trophy as the best offensive lineman in the ACC, Hudson's consistency and athleticism are unquestioned. At only 6-2, 299 pounds (he played closer to 280 at Florida State), Hudson lacks the girth most teams prefer and will almost surely be asked to switch from his customary left guard position to center by the Chiefs. Kansas City operates out of a zone-blocking scheme, however, that places a premium on athleticism over mass in its offensive linemen. Furthermore, head coach Todd Haley prefers smaller, quicker offensive linemen, as well. I'm not as high on Kansas City's draft as some appear to be. Hudson is a significant exception, however. I believe he'll prove a Pro Bowler one day.

Andrew Jackson, Atlanta Falcons: Just as Hudson was an ideal match for the Chiefs due to his quick feet, "The President" is an intriguing fit for the power-based Atlanta attack. Jackson isn't a nimble athlete, but his size (6-5, 299), strength and tenacity could make him a pleasant late round (7th round, No. 210 overall) surprise for a Falcons team potentially in need of reinforcements up front with guards Harvey Dahl and Justin Blalock scheduled for free agency. Jackson would have gone a few rounds higher had he not lost most of his senior season to a nagging ankle injury.

Questionable Fit:

Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys:
There is no denying Smith's athletic upside. If there is a tackle in this class who could wind up being a perennial Pro Bowler a few years from now, Smith is the favorite. That said, due to his athleticism, Smith's best position in the NFL will ultimately be on the left side -- a position he never played while at USC. Jerry Jones would like to believe his Cowboys were only a player or two away from legitimate Super Bowl contention... and perhaps he's right. Smith, however, is likelier to struggle as a rookie than star, making him an questionable choice for a team largely built to win now.
Posted on: May 7, 2011 12:28 pm
 

Finding the Fits -- Wide Receivers


Over the next two weeks I will be highlighting a different position each day in an attempt to Find the Fit -- identifying 2011 prospects who are a particularly good schematic fits for the club that selected him. I'll also highlight one player per position who I believe could struggle in his new NFL role. Too often in the past rookies who have struggled in the NFL have done so because they were simply drafted into schemes that didn't fit their individual strengths.

The 2011 wide receiver class was a unique one. While all of the attention was understandably heaped upon A.J. Green and Julio Jones, the so-called second tier talent of this group intrigued me. There wasn't a great deal of pure speed available in this class, but the number of elusive returners, tough slot receivers and big, physical possession wideouts made it a underrated strength of the 2011 draft. It will be interesting to see how many of these college stars prove to emerge as true No. 1 targets in the NFL. While I have some reservations about how many will be able to do precisely that, I am confident that a number of them will make immediate and lasting impacts at the pro level.

Earlier this week I broken down the quarterbacks and running back fits.
Good Fits:

Dwayne Harris, Dallas Cowboys:
Quite frankly, I wasn't as high on the Cowboys' draft as many, but I did love the value of Harris in the sixth round. In Harris, I see the same type of toughness, wiggle and secure hands that I saw in Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby (now with the Cincinnati Bengals) and Davone Bess (Miami Dolphins) when they starred in college. Considering the talent outside in Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, Harris could slide right into the slot and prove a steal.

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons:
Let's be clear. I thought Atlanta paid too much to acquire Jones. With that said, it is easy to see why they made their aggressive trade, as Jones is the most physically-prepared receiver to make an immediate impact in this draft and is an ideal fit for Atlanta's offense due to his size, strength, and run-blocking. He is not as fast on the field as his 4.34 second time at the Combine might suggest, but at 6-3, 220 pounds, he is tough to bring down in the open field. Considering the other weapons the Falcons possess, he'll rarely see double coverage early in his career, meaning that Jones will often be only one broken tackle away from big plays.

Greg Little, Cleveland Browns:
Little and Jones will forever be linked due to the fact that Cleveland used one of the picks they received from the Falcons to select a similarly built (6-3, 231) and skilled wideout 52 picks later than Atlanta selected Jones. Like Jones, Little uses his extraordinary combination of size, strength, underrated speed (4.53) and body control to be effective. A former running back, Little's RAC skills could result in plenty of big plays in Cleveland. He is one of the few wideouts in this class who I believe could ultimately emerge as a true No. 1 target. It will be interesting to compare in a few years to take a look back and see what kind of value the Browns got with Little at No. 59 compared to what the Falcons got out of Jones at No. 7.

Greg Salas, St. Louis Rams:
I could have just as easily listed the first wide receiver the Rams selected in 2011 -- former Boise State star Austin Pettis (No. 78 overall) -- as an ideal schematic fit, but with Salas taken 34 spots later, he could ultimately prove the better value. Each are tall, well-built possession receivers whose game is built on precise route-running and soft, reliable hands -- precisely the type of wideouts Sam Bradford so desperately needed last year.

Titus Young, Detroit Lions:
Young was hyped by some draft analysts as the No. 3 receiver in this class, but inconsistent route-running, hands, toughness and slim build (5-11, 174) kept him as my No. 7 rated wideout (No. 6 by NFLDraftScout.com). There is no denying, however, that Young fits in well schematically with the Lions, who needed a big play threat opposite Calvin Johnson and to take advantage of Matt Stafford's amazing arm. 

Questionable Fit:

Jon Baldwin, Kansas City Chiefs:
Considering the success that Scott Pioli had in helping build the Patriots' dynasty as well as the successful renovation of the Chiefs, it might be seen as almost blasphemous to knock one of his first round picks. And yet, here I am doing it. I understand the Chiefs' need to add a secondary receiver to take pressure off of Dwayne Bowe and certainly acknowledge Baldwin's extraordinary combination of size (6-4, 228), speed (4.49), explosiveness (42" vertical jump led all Combine WRs), but quite frankly, on tape Baldwin isn't the sum of his parts. He isn't as physical as his size would suggest, nor as fast as he timed. Baldwin struggled against press coverage in college and will only face more of it in the NFL. He is blessed with a great deal of natural talent and Todd Haley has shown the ability to coax such talent from surly receivers throughout his career. There is no denying, however, that Baldwin was a significant gamble at No. 26 overall.
Posted on: May 4, 2011 8:24 pm
 

Finding the Fits -- Running Backs

Over the next two weeks I will be highlighting a different position each day in an attempt to Find the Fit -- identifying 2011 prospects who are a particularly good schematic fits for the club that selected him. I'll also highlight one player per position who I believe could struggle in his new NFL role. Too often in the past rookies who have struggled in the NFL have done so because they were simply drafted into schemes that didn't fit their individual strengths.

With quarterbacks the focus yesterday , I'll move to the next highest profile prospect on the offensive side of the football with the running backs.

Before I break down a few backs that I believe are great (or in the case of one, troubling) fits with their respective NFL franchises, I did want to point out the statistical anamoly that was last year's running back class. There were 24 running backs selected in 2011 -- exactly double the number of runners who were drafted a year ago. The 12 true running backs selected in 2010 was the lowest total in modern league history.

Anyway, back to the point. Here are a few backs whose fit in their NFL schemes I believe could result in surprising success.

Players are listed alphabetically, not in the order in which I see their fit with their respective teams.

Good Fits:

Jamie Harper, Tennessee Titans: The Titans boasted one of the more exciting 1-2 punches in football just a few short years ago with Chris Johnson and LenDale White. White's penchant for trouble, however, led to his trade to Seattle and ultimately his falling completely out of the NFL. Harper, at 5-11 and 233 pounds, has a similar powerful build as White and might possess the softest hands of any back in this draft.

Roy Helu, Washington Redskins: Mike Shanahan is well known for his ability to find late round diamonds in the rough at running back and in Helu, he may have scored yet another one. Helu is an upright runner who didn't always run with the toughness and physicality some teams would prefer. He does, however, possess the ability to stick his foot in the ground and get downhill quickly. With very good straight-line speed (4.40), he is an ideal fit in Shanahan's zone scheme.

Kendall Hunter, San Francisco 49ers:
The 49ers obviously boast one of the league's best all-around backs in Frank Gore, so Hunter isn't about to win the starting job here. However, the 49ers best back-up to Gore is another powerful runner in Anthony Dixon. Hunter's agility, speed and hands out of the backfield make him a nice fit for the 49ers, especially considering the fact that the sooner they play rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the more likely they are going to need secure outlet receivers.

Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta Falcons: Rodgers is in a similar position behind Michael Turner in Atlanta as Hunter is behind Gore in San Francisco. The former OSU standout, however, is actually a very different back than Hunter, though the two are similarly sized. Rodgers is a good fit in Atlanta's drive-blocking, power-base rushing attack. Rodgers, all 5-6, 196 pounds of him, is a surprisingly powerful runner who will score his first NFL touchdown by burrowing his head into the chest of an unsuspecting defensive back rather than dancing around him. How do I know? I've watched him win First Team All Pac-10 honors all three years of his career at OSU. He'll prove a steal at the No. 145 pick.

Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins: It is a shame that Thomas' name is last alphabetically, as I believe he could have the most immediate impact of this year's rookie runners and therefore should be more prominently featured. The Miami Dolphins are thought likely to consider adding a significant free agent runner like DeAngelo Williams since they're likely to lose Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, but considering how much emphasis Tony Sparano places on running the football, Thomas could still impress as a rookie. Thomas runs a bit too upright for my taste, but has good vision, is surprisingly agile and possesses good acceleration for a back of his size (6-0, 230). Depending on what the Dolphins do in free agency, you could be looking at a potential Offensive Rookie of the Year in Thomas, who led the Big 12 in rushing yards his only two seasons in the conference. 

Questionable Fit:

DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys drafted Murray to potentially fill-in or replace the big play potential lost whenever Felix Jones is sidelined. While they received better value in Murray in the third round than they did with Jones as the No. 22 overall pick of the  2008 first round, the team could be getting a similarly finesse back who relies on his speed and hands to make big plays, rather than demonstrate the instincts or toughness to be a consistent force. The Cowboys, of course, boast lots of talent in the backfield and won't have to lean on Murray to be a feature back. Murray has fantastic hands out of the backfield and in that way is a nice schematic fit, but in the physical NFC East division, his role could be just that and very little more.
Posted on: May 1, 2011 9:49 pm
 

2011 NFL Draft -Twitter chat Monday 1pmET/10amPT

It seems that there are plenty of people who disagree with my team grades of the 2011 NFL Draft. I'm sure there are plenty of other questions out there, as well.

Why did Ryan Mallett fall as far as he did? How much of a "reach" was James Carpenter to the Seahawks at No. 25 overall? Is Julio Jones worth the gamble the Falcons took in their big trade up?

Rather than answer question by question on the blog, I thought I'd take as many questions as readers would like to ask in a Monday question-answer session on Twitter.

All you have to do is follow me on Twitter and send me questions @RobRang. I've done dozens of radio interviews throughout the draft weekend and today, but rather than just talk to radio DJs, I want to reach out to the ones that matter -- the passionate, intelligent fans out there. I know first-hand that sometimes the fans know their teams and the players every bit as much (or more) than the so-called experts.

My only request... let's leave the courtroom drama for the lawyers. There are plenty of NFL reporters out there more qualified to answer your questions about the labor unrest.

I'd rather talk draft and how your favorite teams, players, etc. did. 

Again, just follow me on Twitter and send me any and all draft questions at @RobRang. I'll do the rest...  If you'd like, send in your questions now. I'll get to them tomorrow during the scheduled "chat" hour of 1-2 pm Eastern/10-11 am Pacific.

"See" 'ya then

-- Rob Rang

Posted on: April 28, 2011 7:30 pm
 

Falcons moving up for a WR?

Jay Glazer of FoxSports.com (and working today for The NFL Network) is reporting that the Atlanta Falcons are talking trade with the Cleveland Browns in an attempt to get Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones.

The deal would make a great deal of sense for the Falcons. They have one of the league's best wideouts in Roddy White, of course, but, didn't get enough production from their secondary targets. Other than future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez (arguably the best 35 year-old player in history), the Falcons' next most productive "receiver" was running back Jason Snelling -- who caught 44 passes for 303 yards.

Jones is the big, physical and fast wideout the Falcons were hoping to get when the previous regime invested a late first round pick in Michael Jenkins. Jones, of course, was viewed as a clear second option behind Georgia's A.J. Green -- until he beat Jones in virtually every measurable category at the Combine.

On tape, however, Green is a significantly more reliable route-runner and pass-catcher than Jones -- which is why I have the Georgia receiver as one of the four elite players of this year's draft and Jones as a very (but not elite) prospect as the ninth best prospect. There is no doubt, however, that Jones would be perfectly suited as the "secondary target" for the Falcons, rather than expected to come in and be an immediate No. 1 target as Green will no doubt be. 

The potential to move down also makes a great deal of sense for the Browns. Cleveland's biggest need is in transitioning from a 3-4 defense to the 4-3. With few defensive linemen currently on the roster that fit the scheme -- and run on such linemen expected to occur in the late first round -- the move makes sense. It also, of course, would give a young Browns' team more picks with which to grow.
Posted on: April 11, 2011 5:48 pm
 

Hawaii RB Alex Green rising as draft approaches

One of the more interesting things about the final few weeks before the draft is watching players move up (or down) draft boards. Often this is the result of surprising workout results or off-field concerns.

Every now and then players start to move up the board simply because teams are dedicating more time to watching the film.

Hawaii running back Alex Green could be the latest prospect to get this late, preferential treatment.

Much of Hawaii's offensive success in recent years has, of course, been through the passing game. The 6-0, 225 pound Green, however, gave the Warriors' their first 1,000 yard rusher since 1992 and surprised scouts with his natural running skills at the East-West Shrine Game and speed (4.45) at the Combine.

Teams are starting to look at Green as a legitimate middle round possibility, ahead of some very big names at the running back position.

The St. Louis Rams have recently been tied to Green as they are looking for a big back to get meaningful snaps behind star Steven Jackson. I've been able to confirm that the Rams are bringing in Green for a visit, but St. Louis is far from the only stop on his schedule.

In fact, the Eagles, Titans, Lions and Falcons have all either already flown Green in or will be doing so over the next few days.

Green is currently rated as a 5th round prospect and the No. 14 rated running back by NFLDraftScout.com -- though it appears that perhaps we are rating him far too low...


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