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Tag:Tennessee Titans
Posted on: January 21, 2012 12:29 pm
 

Add New Mexico St RB Turner to "early entry" list

On Thursday the NFL announced that a record 65 underclassmen had officially been declared eligible for the 2012 NFL Draft. 

New Mexico State junior running back Kenny Turner's name was not on the list but due to the fact that he is five years removed from his high school graduating class, it didn't need to be. This is the same reason why Utah State's Robert Turbin's name was not on the list. 

Turner has had an circuitous route to the announcement, which was made via the official New Mexico State Athletics website. As NFLDraftScout.com's No. 32 rated running back of the class of 2013, the decision may at first appear surprising. 

Turner, 26, was viewed as one of the best athletes in the state of Florida when he allowed a momentary act of youthful self-preservation change his life. 

Turner and a group of friends, including current Jacksonville Jaguar wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker got into a heated verbal altercation with another group of young men outside of a Orlando, Florida gas station in July of 2002. The argument escalated into violence when a member of the other group fired a gun. Thomas, then 16, took a gun from the car in which his group was riding in and fired back, injuring two from the rival group. Despite his young age, the seriousness of the crime led to Turner being tried as an adult and for two counts of attempted murder. Prosecutors were willing to drop the two attempted murder charges if Turner agreed to plead guilty to one count of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. 

Turner was sentenced to and served five years in prison. 

Upon his release and with the urging of his friends, Sims-Walker and Tennessee Titans star Chris Johnson, Turner enrolled at Fullerton College. Before the first game of their season, however, Turner tore the ACL in his right ACL. After a year of rehabbing the injury, Turner now 22, was back at it. On a kick return in his second season with the Hornets, Turner again tore the ACL. Later that season he also tore the LCL (lateral collateral ligament), which required another surgery. 

Turner returned for a third season with the Hornets and enjoyed an All-American season, rushing for 1,513 yards and 18 touchdowns and helping lead Fullerton to a 10-2 record. His statistics caught the attention of FCS teams. So too did the fact that at 5-10, 192 pounds he ran a 4.37.

Turner signed with New Mexico State and took the first carry of his FCS career 18 yards for a touchdown. His statistics in 2010 were solid (461 rushing yards and two touchdowns and 25 receptions for 203 yards) but pale in comparison to Turner's breakout campaign this past season in which he led the Aggies with 1,074 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also finished second on the team with 46 catches for 514 yards and three scores. 

"First of all I would like to thank Coach Walker, Dr. Boston and the NM State administration for giving me the opportunity to play Division I football at New Mexico State," Turner said. "Coming out of junior college I had a few other offers to play Division I football, but after I visited New Mexico State I felt that it was home and I felt that it was the right decision for me. This was a very difficult decision I had to make but when it came down to it I was going to be 27 years old, and in the NFL and at the running back position, age is a factor. So I need to make the jump from college to the NFL. Again, I appreciate all the support and I enjoyed my time as an Aggie."

Considering Turner's age and past, he's going to have a difficult time finding a team willing to invest a draft pick in him, especially considering the running back position may just be the strength of the 2012 draft class. That said, look at the burst and agility he shows as a runner in scoring this touchdown as well as the ability to track the ball over his shoulder on this score. At minimum he'll get a tryout and should Turner get a real opporutnity (like the Scouting Combine) who knows what could happen.

One of the most tried and true strategies I use when evaluating prospects is to listen to other players. Who knows better than they which athletes really are a step ahead of the others? 

Sims-Walker certainly is going to be loyal to his friend but his strong words predicting Turner's future success in the pros doesn't just sound like loyalty. It sounds like an NFL athlete who knows the goods when he sees it.

"I keep telling everybody it's just a waiting game," Sims-Walker told Geoff Grammer of The New Mexican in August of 2010. When he (Sims-Walker), Turner and [Chris] Johnson work out together, he said, it is Turner who sets the pace. "New Mexico State got a steal, and I promise you he'll be (in the NFL). I'll put my house on it. Kenny Turner will be in the league."

Posted on: November 30, 2011 3:48 pm
 

Nick Foles signs with "super-agent" Dunn

With his collegiate career over, Arizona quarterback Nick Foles is looking ahead to the NFL.

The first step in that process is to determine which agent he'd like to sign with.

Check that step off the list.

According to Anthony Gimino of the Tuscon Citizen and a frequent contributor to The Sports XChange, Foles will sign with Athletes First, an agency presided by David Dunn, one of the bigger names in the business.

In signing with Dunn, Foles will prepare for the Combine and other individual workouts at Velocity Performance Center in Irvine, California. There, Foles will undergo training to improve his technique. Foles' father, Larry, told Gimino that his son will be working on his speed, agility and a "lazy foot" issue in which the record-breaking Arizona quarterback fails to point his lead foot in the direction he wants his pass to go.

Foles is expected to travel to Irvine and begin his training on January 3. Foles has been heavily rumored to be among the quarterbacks that several highly prominent all-star games (such as the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Game) have been considering inviting. The decision to start his training in early January will not affect Foles' ability to participate in one of these games should he be invited and choose to participate.

In three seasons as Arizona's starting quarterback, Foles produced some sparkling numbers. He completed 66.8% of his passes for 10,011 yards and threw 67 touchdowns compared to only 33 interceptions. This past season Foles broke several school and conference records. The signal-caller in a spread offense, Foles attempted (and completed) more passes than any quarterback in Pac-10 (or Pac-12) history. He finished the year completing 387 of his 560 attempts (69.1%) for 4,334 yards and 28 touchdowns against 14 interceptions.

There is a lot to like about Foles, not the least of which is the fact that at 6-5, 240 pounds he has the size NFL teams covet. There are some concerns about his arm strength, accuracy and mobility which have made some scouts skeptical about Foles' ability to transition to the NFL. Of course, another of Dunn's clients -- former Washington quarterback Jake Locker also had to answer plenty of pre-draft questions. He did so well enough to convince the Tennessee Titans to make him the No. 8 overall pick in last April's draft.  

Foles is currently NFLDraftScout.com's No. 8 rated quarterback potentially available in the 2012 draft. Only two senior quarterbacks -- Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill and Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden -- are currently rated higher by NFLDraftScout.com. He is viewed as a 3rd round value.

Posted on: October 26, 2011 4:06 pm
 

Dye, NFLDraftScout.com's No. 3 SS, out for season

It has been a rough season for head coach Rick Neuheisel and his UCLA Bruins. It got tougher Tuesday evening with the news that one of Neuheisel's best players -- senior strong safety Tony Dye -- will miss the rest of the 2011 season due to a neck injury.

Dye, who shared MVP honors last year with outside linebacker Akeem Ayers (the 39th overall pick in 2011 by Tennessee), entered the year ranked as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 2 senior strong safety. Considering that this appears to be the second consecutive weak crop of senior safeties, Dye's injury is potentially a significant blow to NFL teams needing help at the position.

Dye has not used a redshirt and thus could elect to petition the NCAA to gain a medical redshirt and return to the Bruins next season.

Dye entered the year having already started 26 games over his career. While viewed as one of the better open field tacklers at his position, he has not proven to be a big playmaker. Over his career, including the four games in which he played this season (three starts), Dye has only one career interception. He led the team in tackles (96) and passes broken up (nine) last season and was a more consistent player than his more hyped teammate Rahim Moore, a free safety whom the Denver Broncos invested the 45th overall pick into last April.

Dye suffered the neck injury early in the season and originally attempted to play through it. He's struggled with nerve damage since, however, as too often he's lost feeling in his arms as he attempted tackles.

Neuheisel told the media following Tuesday's practice that he knew Dye may consider taking time to heal the injury and elect to pursue the NFL. He advised against it, however.

Said Neuheisel, "Tony and his family will continue to look for maybe another way, but I just don’t think it’s the prudent thing to do. I think Tony need to get himself 100 percent healthy and hopefully come back and play for us next year."


Posted on: September 2, 2011 3:42 pm
 

Locker, Smith star in preseason finales

Many critics panned the San Francisco 49ers and Tennessee Titans for making Aldon Smith and Jake Locker the seventh and eighth picks of the 2011 NFL Draft.

While it is impossible to grade either team based on how their prized rookies performed in one meaningless preseason game, it is safe to say that the 49ers and Titans' staffs are feeling pretty good about their selections today. 

Locker completed 15 of 17 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown. Locker also led the Titans with 39 rushing yards, including escaping the pocket for a 22-yard touchdown. While accuracy was a huge concern for Locker throughout his time with the Washington Huskies, it was clear the improvement he was making while working with former NFL quarterback Ken O'Brien. I saw the improvement in his throwing motion and accuracy first hand, traveling to Mobile to scout Locker in person at the Senior Bowl, sitting in the stands at the Combine while he threw and later at his Pro Day, as well.

Smith was a terror off the edge for the 49ers in their final tuneup before the regular season. Operating as a reserve outside linebacker and defensive end, Smith led the 49ers with seven tackles, including 2.5 sacks and four pressures. 

I was among those who questioned if Smith would be able to make an immediate contribution as an outside linebacker in San Francisco's 3-4 scheme. A defensive end who owed a significant portion of his sacks to moving inside to defensive tackle during obvious pass rushing downs, I still worry that Smith lacks the agility and flexibility to ever be a star as a true outside linebacker. 

However, what I didn't realize when writing my off-the-cuff grades during draft weekend was the multiple roles the 49ers had planned for Smith. These roles were made clearer during training camp and in the impressive performance Smith had last night against the Chargers. Defensive coordinator Vinc Fangio had Smith operating as an outside linebacker, but also dropped him back down to defensive end. Smith was at his best when at defensive end, routinely collapsing the pocket due to his speed, long arms and aggressive scheming by San Francisco, which used stunts to free Smith up. 

Ultimately, the fourth preseason game for each player isn't likely to boost them into the starting role. Still, the strong performances were exciting for the development of two of the 2011 draft's most hotly debated prospects.   

Posted on: June 9, 2011 4:59 pm
Edited on: June 21, 2011 11:03 am
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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 3, 2011 8:35 pm
 

Finding the Fits -- The Quarterbacks


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.

Considering their importance to the game and the number of high profile passers who went early in the 2011 Draft, I'm starting off with the quarterbacks.

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

Good Fits:

Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers:
I will be the first to admit that I have not been as high on Kaepernick as many others are, but there is no denying that he was drafted into an ideal scenario with the 49ers and head coach Jim Harbaugh. Kaepernick has rare physical tools, as well as the intelligence and work ethic to be successful. Kaepernick's elongated throwing motion, however, is a concern of mine. I had reservations about it and know that some teams did too. I believe that when a club asks a quarterback to significantly alter their throwing motion it lessens the likelihood of the quarterback ever having success, which is one of the reasons why Kaepernick's fit with an NFL team was so important. The 49ers and Harbaugh, however, don't appear concerned with the hitch in his delivery . Harbaugh is widely credited with developing Andrew Luck's natural talents and preaches an offense that spreads the field and occassionally allows the quarterback the freedom to run -- all of which bode well for the former Nevada passer. Perhaps best of all, as a 2nd round pick, Kaepernick might be afforded the luxury of time to develop.

Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans: Assuming the Titans re-sign veteran Kerry Collins or add another veteran quarterback, Locker is in a position to succeed. Though a four-year starter at UW, he is not yet ready to make the jump into the NFL, as only his final two seasons were in a pro-style offense. His time spent at Washington under then-head coach Tyrone Willingham, was essentially spent as a running back taking snaps from center -- just as it was for him in high school. However, Locker has shown improvement in his technique since the season, leading many to believe that he is just scratching the surface of his potential. Furthermore, he is a nice fit in this scheme. Think about what the Titans do well... They feature the ultra-athletic Chris Johnson on the stretch play. A quarterback capable of bootlegs and play-action off of Johnson's runs will be successful.

Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings: While many jumped on the Christian Ponder bandwagon following the Senior Bowl or the Combine, I've been touting the FSU passer for quite some time and believe that he was the most pro-ready passer in this draft. It doesn't surprise me, quite frankly, that Minnesota head coach Leslie Frazier believes Ponder could be his opening day starter. Ponder has the intelligence to pick up Bill Musgrave's offense quickly, especially since many of Musgrave's West Coast Offensive principles tie in with what Ponder played with at FSU. Though Ponder doesn't have a big arm, his short to intermediate level accuracy, touch down the seam, and confidence in play-action make him a good schematic fit for the Vikings' run-heavy attack and focus on quick screens to take advantage of Percy Harvin's unique talent.

Questionable Fit:

Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers: Okay, you may have seen this coming, considering the fact that many have concerns about how well the No. 1 overall pick will be able to transition from a spread-option offense that was so perfectly suited to his wonderful athletic tools to Rob Chudzinski's multiple-formation, vertical-passing attack. I have no doubt that the Panthers already have a plan in place to cater their offense around Newton's unique skill-set, but this is a complicated scheme for any quarterback to master, much less a rookie. I do not have the concerns about intelligence or leadership that some others seem to have about Newton. I understand the physical comparisonst to Vince Young, but believe the mental toughness Newton demonstrated in fighting through all of the off-field distractions this season more than prove his ability to focus on game-day. I also like the talent around Newton in Carolina -- along the offensive line, running back and at receiver. I just have real reservations about any passer with only one year of starting experience at the D-I level making the jump to the NFL... and unlike the other players mentioned in this post, Newton won't have the luxury of time. The high price and attention of the No. 1 overall pick will almost certainly force the Panthers to play him immediately.
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.

 
 
 
 
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