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Tag:New England Patriots
Posted on: August 30, 2011 9:01 am
Edited on: August 30, 2011 2:06 pm
 

10 Undrafted Free Agents Who Could Make the Cut

Those of us who root for the underdog seem to latch on to an undrafted free agent or two each summer in the hopes that our favorite NFL team has unearthed the next Tony Romo, Arian Foster or John Randle.

With limited opportunity to make a strong impression on coaches this year due to prolonged holdout and lack of mini camps, it has been a steeper climb than ever for undrafted rookies, and yet there are several throughout the league who appear well on their way to making active rosters.

These ten undrafted free agents have stood out for Brad Noel (a regular contributor to this blog, NFLDraftScout.com) and myself during film review of the first three weeks of the preseason.

If you feel there are other UDFAs we've missed, please don't hesitate to identify and provide your own scouting report in the comment section below. Brad and I are watching as much tape as possible, but we haven't seen every game. At least not yet...

Players are listed alphabetically.

1. Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks (Stanford): Had impressed brass with his reliable hands, route-running out of the slot and that was before he returned a kickoff 105 yards for a TD against Denver.
2. Nick Bellore, ILB, Jets (Central Michigan): Instinctive and a terrific open field tackler, Bellore made several standout plays Monday against the Giants.
3. Ryan Donahue, P, Lions (Iowa): Seems to have a legitimate chance of unseating veteran Nick Harris for the starting punting (and holder) positions for the Lions.
4. Kevin Kowalski, C, Cowboys (Toledo): I'm told Kowalski's solid play was one of the factors that led to the team's surprising release of former Pro Bowler Andre Gurode.
5. Josh Portis, QB, Seahawks (California of PA): Has easily won the Seahawks No. 3 position and some argue he holds more upside than current No. 2 quarterback Charlie Whitehurst.
6. Weslye Saunders, TE, Steelers (South Carolina): Big bodied blocker with the hands to be a threat in short yardage situations.
7. Ricardo Silva, S, Lions (Hampton): Appeared to be a loooong-shot heading into the preseason, but has proven to be a playmaker (two interceptions, fumble recovery) and is practicing ahead of veterans Aaron Francisco and Michael Johnson, among others. 
8. Willie Smith, OT, Redskins (East Carolina): The same athleticism that Brad and I found so intriguing before continues to be obvious. While there are concerns about Smith's technique and ability to handle the playbook, he played well as a second string left tackle against a physical Baltimore front last week. In fact, according to Brad, Smith outplayed veteran Sean Locklear (78 career starts for Seattle) who served as the team's second string right tackle in the same contest.
9. Cedric Thornton, DT, Eagles (Southern Arkansas): Andy Reid's willingness to shuffle the deck at defensive tackle makes listing Thornton a gamble, but he's shown good athleticism at 6-3, 310 pounds.
10. Will Yeatman, TE, Patriots (Maryland): Won't push Gronkowski or Hernandez for fantasy consideration, but is a big body (6-6, 270) who has stood out as a blocker.



Posted on: August 20, 2011 3:01 pm
 

Pryor dazzles 17 teams w/speed. Less so w/ arm?

Former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor proved both dazzling and perhaps a bit disappointing Saturday in hastily organized "Pro Day" workout at a Hempfield (Pa) high school in front of a collection of scouts, front office executives, Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin and even Indianapolis Colts' owner Jim Irsay.

Former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel was also on hand for the workout, showing his support for the player some blame for the program's recent troubles.

Measuring in at 6-5, 232 pounds Pryor wowed onlookers with his straight-line speed early in the workout, posting times between 4.38-4.41 seconds on a soft FieldTurf surface, according to Zac Jackson's Twitter feed. The soft turf generally slows a player down, at least in comparison to a hard turf or track surface. Therefore, these are lightning fast times for Pryor; ones certain to boost the intrigue of teams considering the playmaker.

As impressive as Pryor was running for the stopwatch, he did not run routes or catch passes as a receiver and was apparently less impressive when throwing the ball. While he threw a tight spiral on many of his throws, he also threw a "duck" after instructing one of his four receivers on hand which route to run and there were several incompletions, according to Jackson.

According to The NFL Network's Albert Breer, Pryor completed 27 of 39 passes. Of the 12 incompletions, Breer counted four drops.

Having not been at Pryor's workout, myself, I can't fairly grade his performance during the throwing session. I have been to multiple Pro Day workouts from quarterbacks, most notably Sam Bradford's, Mark Sanchez's and Jake Locker's. Passes rarely hit the ground during these orchestrated workouts with no defenders.

There were 17 teams present at the workout: Buffalo, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Miami, New England, New Orleans, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco, Tampa Bay and Washington.

While the fact that more than half of the league's teams were represented at the Pro Day shows that there is a great deal of interest in the former Buckeye, it also should be noted that there were only a few decision-makers on hand. Most of the scouts in attendance were lower-level area scouts, likely close by due to their normal scouting responsibilities at local colleges during the late summer months. The Steelers, not surprisingly given their close proximity, were well represented. Besides Tomlin, Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert was also reportedly at the workout. Irsay tweeted that his Colts are "not taking Pryor" though he also mentioned that his team is "evaluating the QB [situation]."

The workout, while exciting, isn't likely to change the opinions of teams heading towards Monday's supplemental draft. I've argued for a long time that Pryor is quite an intriguing prospect at wide receiver. He, however, has indicated a strong preference for remaining at quarterback, though he did tell teams and the assembled media at the workout today that he'd play any position asked.

As a quarterback, Pryor's average accuracy and decision-making means that he's at minimum a two-year project for playing the traditional quarterback role. He could, however, make a significant and exciting contribution early in his career as a glorified Wildcat option for a club.

His athleticism and size are such a unique combination that Pryor most likely will earn a middle to late round pick. Most expect that it will come in the 4th to 5th round.
Posted on: August 15, 2011 10:23 am
 

Mallett, Ridley impress in Patriots rout of Jags

Over the past few days, I've played catch-up, watching as much preseason tape as possible to get a feel how the rookies played in their first NFL games.

There were some impressive performances from rookies across the league. The Rams may have a young star at tight end in Lance Kendricks. The Seahawks' young right side of the offensive line (RT James Carpenter, RG John Mofffitt) effectively cleared holes against the Chargers. Wideout Dwayne Harris, one of my favorite "steals of the draft," certainly looked the part against Denver in his preseason opener, catching five passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns.

Despite Tom Brady not taking a snap, there were plenty of highlights for the Patriots in a dominating 47-12 victory over the Jaguars. Among them was the play of the team's two third round picks -- former LSU running back Stevan Ridley and Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett.

The Patriots leaned heavily on Ridley, giving the rookie 16 rushing attempts (for 64 yards, two touchdowns) and also completing seven passes to the 5-11, 225 pounder for another 47 yards. Ridley showed enough burst laterally to escape defenders and showed off the leg drive to get the tough yards.

Mallett's stat line is impressive (12 of 19 for 164 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions), but even moreso was Mallett's poise. The rookie played the entire second half and led the Patriots to touchdowns on each of his first four drives.  Of course, the tall quarterback proved that the strong and accurate right arm he had shown while at Arkansas (and previously at Michigan) was very much still there. Mallett took the vast majority of his snaps out of the shotgun, but also showed some mobility in escaping the pocket, even scrambling when the pocket broke down around him. Most impressive, of course, was his velocity. Mallett recognized holes in the defense and zipped passes through narrow gaps. Fans often equate arm strength with the deep ball. Mallett certainly has that skill, as well, but was most impressive about his ability to drive the football was on slants and crossing routes -- critical routes in the Patriots' offense.
 
Posted on: May 9, 2011 12:27 am
 

Finding the Fits -- Rookie impact TEs


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.

Tight ends and centers were viewed by most talent evaluators as the weakest offensive positions available in 2011. For the first time since 1999, no tight ends were selected in the first round. The Minnesota Vikings made Notre Dame's Kyle Rudolph the first tight drafted in 2011, taking him with the 43rd pick. This was the lowest the first tight end had been drafted since the Bills took Florida State's Lonnie Johnson with the 61st pick of the 1994 draft. It wasn't just the top-end talent lacking in this group. The depth was weak too. The 2011 draft saw 13 tight ends get drafted. The 2010 and 2009 drafts each had 20 get drafted.

There is, however, plenty of reason for optimism with this class, as there are some exciting schematic fits with this group.

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

Lance Kendricks, St. Louis Rams:

Kendricks signed with Wisconsin as a receiver and shows the body control, hands and athleticism normally associated with that position. He won't provide the Rams with  much as an inline blocker at 6-3, 243 pounds, but he is a matchup nightmare with the reliable hands to take advantage of Sam Bradford's accuracy down the seam.


Lee Smith, New England Patriots:
Smith is probably the least talked-about of the Patriots' haul this year, but he serves as one of the clearest examples of this year's draft of picking players to fill specialist roles. The 6-6, 269 pound Smith proved himself to be every bit as stout at the Senior Bowl as he had on tape, cementing his status as the draft's elite blocking specialist tight end. The Patriots already boast two exciting receiving threats at tight end in second-year standouts Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Tight end, like running back, has become a position of specialists not unlike the starting pitcher-middle relief-set up man-closer roles in baseball.  There aren't a lot of players at pick 159 that can make a real impact on a Super Bowl-contending team. Smith is one of them.

D.J. Williams, Green Bay Packers:
Just as Kendricks was a good fit for the Rams, Williams' athleticism and soft hands make him an intriguing mismatch in the middle of the Packers' aggressive passing attack. At 6-2, 245 pounds, he certainly lacks Jermichael Finley's size, but the 2010 Mackey Award winner is a reliable route-runner who will fit in immediately. Williams is also one of the more tenacious blockers of this class. His ability to latch on and ride defenders could lead to more big plays for his teammates.

Questionable Fit:

Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos: 

Thomas is a very intriguing talent who could pay off big for the Broncos with this pick. Denver has a need at the position and Thomas' athleticism and soft hands drew raves at the East-West Shrine Game. My concern is that Thomas is among the rawest of the 2011 tight end crop and that the Broncos seemingly could have used a player closer to starting. Thomas, like many before him, is a basketball convert. He played four years for Portland State's basketball team and walked on with the football team last spring. He'd only played one year in high school prior to that. John Elway knows full well the value of a security blanket over the middle. Thomas could become that security blanket, but he's far from the finished product right now.


Posted on: April 27, 2011 2:01 pm
 

Trade scenarios for bottom of 1st round

There has been a great deal of speculation that there will be a handful of quarterbacks selected in the first round. After the Jacksonville Jaguars (who own the No. 16 pick), however, there is only one team -- the Seattle Seahawks (No. 25) with an obvious need for a young passer.

So, unless we see several teams reach for quarterbacks in the first half of a draft loaded with talented offensive and defensive linemen, there is going to be a fair amount of trading into the second half by QB-needy teams if these predictions are to come true. One of the fascinating elements of this year's QB class is how widely disputed the ranking of the players is among NFL teams. I've spoken to clubs that see Washington's Jake Locker as the No. 3 quarterback of the class and TCU's Andy Dalton as seventh best option. Others have the two flipped, with every combination of Florida State's Christian Ponder, Arkansas' Ryan Mallett, and Nevada's Colin Kaepernick ranking 3rd-7th, as well. Auburn's Cam Newton and Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, of course, are each expected to be top ten picks.

Here is a look at the teams currently slated in the bottom half of the first round whose picks could be for sale.

Philadelphia (No. 23) -- Many throughout the league believe that the Eagles will be very tempted by Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith. While Smith is certainly a first round talent, his myriad of off-field concerns could push him out of the first. The Eagles could feel that they could land him five or ten spots lower and might be willing to trade as teams needing a QB jump ahead of Seattle.

Seattle (No. 25) -- Because Seattle has a clear need for a young quarterback, there is a belief among some that they'll reach for a quarterback at No. 25 if they have to. General manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll have noted on numerous occasions, however, their intent to beef up the offensive and defensive lines. It certainly could be smoke-screening on the part of the Seahawks, but with no third round (due to last year's trade for Charlie Whitehurst), the Seahawks will almost surely be entertaining offers to move down.

New England (No. 17, No. 28, No. 33) -- I list all three of the Patriots' picks within the top 33 selections because history tells us it is unlikely that Bill Belichick is going to keep all of them. Whether he packages some combination of the picks to move up for a pass rusher or moves down in an effort to be in the same position of power for next year remains to be seen. As I've mentioned before, one of the reasons that teams may look to trade into the late portion of the first round this year would be the longer contracts potentially available to players drafted in the first round. That will appeal to QB-needy teams like the Titans and Bengals, among others.

Posted on: April 21, 2011 6:56 pm
 

Transcript of CBS chat now available

Earlier today CBSSports.com national columnist Mike Freeman and I chatted with fans eager to talk about the NFL Draft. The topics discussed ranged from Ryan Mallett's off-field concerns to the likelihood of the New England Patriots trading up to what impact Andy Dalton's red hair might have in his draft grade.

For those of you who were unable to join us, here is the link to the transcript.


Posted on: March 16, 2011 10:51 pm
Edited on: March 17, 2011 12:15 am
 

Liuget stars, Wilson struggles at Illini Pro Day

Having been given a 3rd round grade from the NFL Advisory Committee and posting a rather ho-hum workout at the Combine, Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget was a player some scouts perceived to be a little bit overrated, considering the fact that he's been featured in many first round mock drafts.

With representatives from nearly every NFL franchise on hand for his Pro Day, however, Liuget turned in a workout that one long-time scout characterized as "one of the best workouts I've ever seen from a defensive lineman."

Liuget, 6-2 and 303 pounds, didn't run, jump or lift at the workout, but demonstrated great explosiveness, hip flexibility and quick feet during defensive line drills conducted by Chicago Bears' defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, according to the scout.

"A lot of [team representatives] went to this workout to see what kind of shape [Liuget] was in. He answered that in the workout. I'm not sure the kid broke a sweat. He had [Marinelli] working, not the other way around. I'm telling you, it was an impressive workout."

Also impressing scouts on hand was running back Mikel LeShoure. Weighing in at 232 pounds, LeShoure demonstrated very quick feet and soft hands catching passes. Like Liuget, LeShoure did not do any of the measureable drills Wednesday.

As good as his teammates workouts were -- and considering that he looked fantastic in the measureable drills at the Combine -- expectations were high for linebacker Martez Wilson.

Unfortunately, those expectations were dashed when Wilson struggled in positional drills, run by the Bengals' Jeff FitzGerald.

The scout, who works for a team unlikely to select a linebacker in the first half of the draft, didn't pull any punches.

"Everyone left that workout disappointed with [Wilson]. His footwork was bad, his hands were bad, even his countenance was bad. The other kids were having fun and seemed to enjoy the competition. He didn't look like he wanted to be there," the scout said. 

"It wasn't a good workout for him - but one more indicative of how he actually plays. He looked great in the measureables at the Combine and everyone was talking about him, but he's not a very instinctive player so that speed doesn't translate onto the field."

While most of the attention was heaped upon Illinois' three stars, a few unheralded players caught the eyes of scouts.

Cornerback Travon Bellamy (5-11 3/4, 198 pounds) was timed at 4.52 in the 40-yard dash and looked "dynamite" in the shuttle drills and position workout. 

Defensive end Clay Nurse checked in at 6-2 (3/8) and 261 pounds and was slower than scouts would like at 4.95-5.0 in the 40-yard dash, but looked very good in defensive line drills.

There were several decision-makers at the workout, including Jets' head coach Rex Ryan. Also present were Chicago Bears' Director of Player Personnel Tim Ruskell, New England Patriots' Director of Pro Personnel Jason Licht and New York Giants' defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. The St. Louis Rams were strongly represented with three scouts attending the workout, including Director of College Scouting John Mancini.

 


Posted on: March 10, 2011 1:06 pm
 

Virtual Who's Who of NFL expected at Miami ProDay

Though the top Hurricane prospects invited to the Combine -- cornerback Brandon Harris, defensive lineman Allen Bailey, wide receiver Leonard Hankerson, linebacker Colin McCarthy, offensive lineman Orlando Franklin, running back Graig Cooper and cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke, among them -- aren't expected to perform the measurables at today's Pro Day, a virtual Who's Who of NFL personnel is expected to be hand to see them perform their positional drills.

Head coaches Bill Belichick, Jack Del Rio, Tony Sparano, Mike Tomlin and Raheem Morris and high ranking front office personnel Gene Smith (Jaguars), Jeff Ireland (Dolphins), Kevin Colbert (Steelers) and Mark Dominik (Bucs), among many others are expected to attend this morning's workouts, according to Miami's official athletic website . According to Hurricanes' staff, 29 of the 32 NFL teams will be represented, with only the Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans not on the list. The Patriots have the largest contingent in Miami, with no less than seven representatives having checked in.

Interestingly enough, the Ravens and Jets have their wide receiver coaches on hand (Jim Hostler, Henry Ellard, respectively). Each club is thought to be high on Hankerson and may be considering the Miami receiver with their first round pick.

There are also a host of former Miami stars on hand to watch the workout, including Warren Sapp, Bernie Kosar, Willis McGahee, Jimmy Graham, Greg Olsen and DJ Williams.

Keep NFLDraftScout.com refreshed for updates as we get them.

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