While the entire NFL world has been fixated on every detail and development in his year-plus battle with his neck issues, Peyton Manning wasn't the only player who had his 2011 ruined by injury. His lost season just happened to generate more media coverage than the plight of all other injured players combined, given that his absence set off a chain of events that rendered it the most impactful injury in league history.
With the draft and free agency having reordered depth charts around the league, it's time to take stock of the positional battles that will be worth watching unfold once training camps open. Here are 10 intriguing depth-chart competitions that warrant our attention this summer:
First up this morning: A history lesson. We'll never see two months like we've just seen in any offseason. Ever. To recap:
The 2012 NFL Draft illustrated teams' focus on the passing game, with quarterbacks, cornerbacks and pass rushers flying off the board. Teams can now afford to be much bolder at quarterback thanks to the rookie salary slotting system, allowing them to take guys higher than graded and to give up on former first-rounders quicker than before. Next year's class doesn't have an Andrew Luck in it, so predicting the top QB picks will be tougher, but teams will always find players to fit that need.
When the Colts selected Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish with the 253rd and final selection in the NFL Draft Saturday, it signaled the start of the undrafted free agent frenzy. In my years as GM of the Vikings, we called this John Randle time.
The nation waits with bated breath. Who, they wonder, will the Indianapolis Colts take on draft day? Will it be Penn State's Derek Moye? Maybe University of Nevada corner Isaiah Frey? Marquis Maze of Alabama and Syracuse's Nick Provo could get the nod, as well.
NEW YORK -- Musings, observations, and the occasional insight as we review the doings of day two, and rounds two and three, of the NFL Draft Friday night in Radio City Music Hall....
NEW YORK -- The Morris Claiborne story fell into the laps of America on day one of the NFL Draft Thursday night, the same way Claiborne found himself a Dallas Cowboy.
NEW YORK -- Musings, observations, and the occasional insight as we absorb the dizzying events of round one of the NFL Draft Thursday night in Radio City Music Hall...
The dramatic, out-of-nowhere rise of Victor Cruz last season is only the latest glaring reminder. When it comes to talent evaluation, the NFL can miss on a grand scale. Not only did the New York Giants' dance-happy, second-year receiver go undrafted as a rookie in 2010, but he also wasn't even thought highly enough to warrant an invite to the league's scouting combine in Indianapolis, a cattle call of an event that annually draws more than 300 NFL prospects to the Midwest.
Suspense is making a comeback at the NFL Draft. Executives at both ESPN and the NFL Network know how much you dislike when they foreshadow or tip picks before the official announcement, so both networks pledged during interviews with SI.com last week that broadcast cameras will no longer show first-round draftees on the phone with their teams before being selected.
Prognosticators have their opinions on the players rising in the draft, but what about the people inside the league who make the decisions? There are always a number of surprises throughout the draft's seven rounds, as players gain momentum late in the process and move up boards. Here are 15 names to remember, some well-known and others true sleepers, who could be drafted much earlier than most project.
On Thursday night, inside a production truck on a side street near Radio City Music Hall, Charlie Yook will be making multiple decisions about what you see during the NFL Draft.
Michael Brockers is hot, Ryan Tannehill may not be. The old draft trade chart is out the window, the Jags have an itchy trigger finger, Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd have the attention of the Rams, Seattle may not want to move as much as the current rumor suggests and, speaking of rumors, I'd advise you not to believe many of them about moving up.
By now, the name is so familiar, bordering on ubiquitous. Everybody knows the Robert Griffin story. We've scarcely been able to get enough of it in the months-long buildup to the 2012 NFL Draft.
'Tis the season for NFL scouts. With two weeks until draft day, teams are making their lists and checking them twice -- and more. As the old carol goes, they've "got to find out who's naughty and nice."
It's rare that I begin with the Stat of the Week in this column, but there's a method to my statness.
It's unlikely helicopters will be involved in the news coverage of where fourth-year Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn lands in free agency, but that doesn't mean the pursuit of the second most sought-after passer in this year's market will lack for significance or intrigue.
The St. Louis Rams took advantage of some of the best leverage in NFL history this week -- and Friday night confirmed that they'd finalized one of the biggest trades in league history with the Washington Redskins.
The awards season might be over for the movies now that the Oscars have wrapped, but the dog and pony show known as the NFL's scouting season is just getting started with the week-long NFL Scouting Combine over in Indianapolis.
The road map to success in today's NFL starts with the quarterback and revolves around the passing game. Look at the league's top teams -- the Super Bowl champion Giants, runner-up Patriots, regular-season-best Packers, etc. -- most boast top QBs and highly productive pass offenses.
Here are two questions for you to start your Championship Week: What would have happened if Ernie Accorsi hadn't had such a backbone on April 24, 2004? And what would have happened if A.J. Smith had played hardball with Accorsi as the clock wound down on the fourth overall pick of the 2004 NFL Draft, with just seven minutes to go and the Giants on the clock?
Three bowl games separate us from the Allstate BCS National Championship Game. While New Orleans is beginning to buzz for the Alabama-LSU matchup, there are NFL draft prospects looking to stand out in this weekend's contests. Below, a breakdown of the players to watch, as well as a projection as to where they'll be drafted. (*denotes underclassmen)
Six bowls take place Monday, headlined by the Fiesta Bowl, featuring Andrew Luck and the Cardinal and Justin Blackmon's Oklahoma State. But there are NFL prospects in each of the day's games. Below, a breakdown of the players to watch, as well as a projection as to where they'll be drafted. (*denotes underclassmen)
Below, a breakdown of the players to watch Monday, as well as a projection as to where they'll be drafted. (*denotes underclassmen)
After 11 weeks of columns focusing on prospects moving up draft boards, enough players to fill the first three rounds of next April's draft, its time to focus on the sliders. Here are 15 prospects, including some big-time college players, who have watched their draft stock fall since the college season began three months ago.
It was a weekend of upheavel in college football, and the end result is mayhem in the BCS rankings. On the scouting front, however, the weekend left smiles on the faces of most NFL decision-makers. Several defensive line and pass-rushing linebacker propsects are finishing off strong seasons with a final surge. Here's the final installment of players rising up boards during the 2011 college season.
In a league where the quarterback news cycle never really ends, we've got plenty to chew on again this week: Matt Schaub out for the time being and maybe longer in Houston, with Matt Leinart getting an unexpected chance to restart his career for the first-place Texans; Tyler Palko taking over for the injured Matt Cassel in Kansas City; John Skelton's continued emergence in Arizona, and his outperforming of injured starter Kevin Kolb thus far.
As we leave October behind with a snowy weekend in the Northeast, more teams in college football suffered their first loss of the season. But there were some stellar performances from NFL prospects in both winning and losing causes. Here are the 10 players who improved their draft stock in Week 9 as we enter the last month of the college season.
As the college football season reaches the midway point, it's time to look at the players expected to impact the first two rounds of April's NFL Draft. It'll be an offense-heavy class at the top of the first round, with a majority of the players selected coming from the junior class. (* denotes underclassman)
In July, someone close to Cincinnati owner Mike Brown explained to me clearly the near- and long-term future of Carson Palmer, the quarterback who said he'd rather retire than return to play for the Bengals, though he had a contract with Cincinnati through 2014.
Week 7 in the college season saw a number of teams fall from the ranks of the unbeaten. It was also a weekend where several highly regarded NFL prospects turned in breakout performances and helped lead their teams to victory. Here are the nine top performers from Saturday's games and notes on a prospect previously mentioned as a riser.
In a week that saw college football's top teams affirm their national rankings, including LSU's win over Florida and Oklahoma's defeat of Texas, several defensive prospects took center stage. The eclectic mix ranged from potential first-round prospects to less known names. But some skill position players got in the mix, too, and a big-name quarterback is mulling whether to enter the draft this year.
Week 4 in the college season saw a shakeup at the top of the national rankings, as well as several NFL prospects that answered questions scouts have about their ability. A number of under-the-radar players continued to build buzz for themselves, while the top-rated senior prospect is drawing the ire of NFL scouts. Here are 10 players rising up draft boards after this weekend's action.
Week 3 in the college season offered a number of standout performances from many of the top teams in the nation. Several well-known NFL prospects impressed pro scouts, but so did a few players flying under the radar. Here are 10 players who really caught the eye of NFL decision-makers.
The irony, of course, is that the long-awaited return of labor peace in the NFL will set off perhaps the most tumultuous week in league history from a player movement standpoint. Starting Tuesday, things will be anything but peaceful in the NFL that Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith supposedly returned to normalcy with Monday's freshly-struck collective bargaining agreement.
The feeding frenzy to gobble up the remaining undrafted players is about to get started after a two-month delay due to the lockout. More than 300 players who were not selected in April's draft will be signed by NFL clubs in the coming days. So who could end up as this year's LeGarrette Blount or Sam Shields -- players who slipped through the cracks in the 2010 draft and went on to produce every Sunday after signing as free agents? Here are 10 names to keep an eye on.
It's a subjective call, but to me, John Clay serves perfectly as the current face of the NFL's lockout and labor stand off. The former Wisconsin Badgers running back and 2009 Big Ten offensive player of the year is one of the hundreds of undrafted collegiate free agents who are trapped in limbo by the stalemate. Their college careers are over, but their pro careers aren't likely to begin until the league and its players come to terms on a new CBA.
I spent a couple of days with the 49ers around the draft, and one thing became clear: Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick are going to get along very well together.
The book is barely closed on the 2011 NFL draft, but it's never too early to start thinking ahead. Information about next April's selection process is already circulating, and it looks as though it will be another draft driven by underclassmen. Offensive tackles and pass rushers will fill draft boards around the NFL, which will bring a smile to many league decision makers. Here's a list of the top 40 draft eligible players who have the potential to impact the draft next year.
If we were to follow the logic that the best college football teams produce the most NFL draft picks, we would be left to deduce that the 2010 season did not go according to plan. Apparently in some parallel universe -- or at least one without NCAA investigators -- USC and North Carolina were meant to play for last season's national championship, while Auburn and Oregon were meant to play in the Music City or Las Vegas bowls.
The book is closed on the 2011 NFL Draft as 254 players were selected over the seven rounds. As is the case every year, there were some head-scratching moments as highly-rated prospects slipped through the cracks while several were selected much earlier than their talents warranted. Here's a look at the steals and reaches:
NEW YORK -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we wrap up day three of the NFL draft and the entire seven-round pick-fest at Radio City Music Hall ...
NEW YORK -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight from an intriguing second and third round of the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall ...
So dizzying was the trading action at last year's NFL Draft that the 24th overall pick went from Philadelphia to Denver to New England to Dallas in the span of about an hour. In the end, the Cowboys used it to take the most enigmatic player in that draft -- Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant.
Well, now we have the proof: Even if the NFL shuts down completely, the draft will thrive. When the world ends, the only things that will survive are cockroaches, Keith Richards, the NFL Draft and Mel Kiper's hair.
Kevin Basped didn't spend draft day at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, or in the family room of his parents' Sacramento home glued to a TV. Instead, the All-WAC defensive end from Nevada who declared early for the 2010 NFL Draft stayed in his room and played Call of Duty. "I didn't want to be that guy who was too eager, looking at the screen all day, expecting something that wasn't going to happen," he said last week.
There's a different feel to this draft. It's somewhere between indifference and total confusion. Last week, co-hosting the Sirius NFL Radio "Opening Drive'' show with Bob Papa, we had only two callers on hold midway through the show, at 9 a.m. "That's how it's been like almost every morning,'' Papa told me off the air. "Last year before the draft, the lines were jammed every day. Now, not so much.''
On March 18, New England offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien flew to Fort Worth to work out TCU quarterback Andy Dalton.
One of the underrated mysteries of the first round of the NFL draft 16 days from now is in which spot will defensive end Adrian Clayborn be taken. It's not just the mystery of which team will take the former Iowa Hawkeye that's interesting, but also how he got to this point in life, overcoming an accident at birth to do so.
Von Miller stories in the SI Vault
It's a fun time to be a football fan. Sort of. The draft is 24 days away, and we're going to talk quarterbacks this morning, with only one little side trip into the biggest court case in recent NFL history. The one little side trip is because all of you care a little bit, if only to find out how long this lockout can potentially last.
The draft, the only thing you can love in this wasteland of an offseason, starts one month from today. I'm here to give you 10 truths about what's still a very cloudy draft, with an assist from draftologist Mike Mayock. I also want to discuss five other things on my cranium this morning, as Myron Cope was fond of saying:
NEW ORLEANS -- A.J. Green or Julio Jones? That is the question for many receiver-needy teams in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft on April 28.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight from day three of the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium ...
INDIANAPOLIS -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight from day two of the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium ...
The next phase of scouting for the 2011 NFL Draft begins in earnest this week as franchises send scouting departments, coaching staffs and medical personnel to Indianapolis to inspect the 325 prospects on hand for the combine.
INDIANAPOLIS -- As the ongoing NFL labor negotiations proceed onward in the background, the league's annual scouting combine opens Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium. Of course, no one knows exactly when this year's crop of collegiate talent will get to strut its stuff on an actual NFL playing field.
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock says the Senior Bowl is his favorite time of the year. It is there, on the turf of Ladd-Pebbles Stadium in Mobile, Ala., that the NFL prospects he has studied on film suddenly spring to life. The players either confirm Mayock's initial assessment or prompt him to intensify his film study.
Excerpted from SCORECASTING: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won, by Tobias J. Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim. Copyright 2011 by Tobias J. Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim. Published by arrangement with Crown Archetype, an imprint of the Crowne Publishing Group, a division of Random House Inc., New York.
With the college season completed and another SEC team crowned national champion, the scouting process for the 2011 NFL Draft moves to its next phase. The Jan. 15 deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft is fast approaching and the Jan. 29 Senior Bowl is right around the corner. Then, everyone heads to Indianapolis for the combine. Before that all comes to fruition, here's a quick breakdown of the top 25 players in April's draft. (*Denotes underclassman)
Week 7 on the college football schedule saw another change at the top as Ohio State fell from the ranks of the unbeaten. It also provided evidence that the 2011 NFL Draft will offer a large number of quality prospects on the defensive line as several players from that position continued to impress NFL scouts. (*Denotes underclassmen)
With college football kicking off this weekend, here's a look at the top offensive prospects for the 2011 NFL Draft. For a look at the top defensive prospects, click here.
It's the NFL first-rounders who grab draft-day headlines. But often times late-round picks and undrafted free agents make the biggest impact down the road.
While most of NFL nation is gearing up for the start of training camps at the end of the month, the scouting process for next April's draft is already in full swing. Grades for more than 1,400 draft eligible college seniors recently were sent to league franchises by National, the predominant scouting organization in the NFL.
SECAUCUS, N.J. -- Five compelling storylines from baseball's annual First-Year player draft, and just the second to run in primetime.
Charlie Whitehurst is getting used to a new life in Seattle, a life with a little more pressure than he had as the number three quarterback in San Diego. There will be expectations now -- that he can push Matt Hasselbeck for the starting job, and even if he loses that competition, that he'll be ready to play at a moment's notice for the Seahawks this year. Until now, the thickly brown-bearded, long-haired Whitehurst has been known for one thing as a Charger: his resemblance to Jesus Christ, at least to how Christ looks in the photos and images we've become used to seeing.
I've thought all along that Tim Tebow would need a redshirt year, but two things now tell me I might be wrong.
In sports television there are few segments more irksome than those featuring contrived arguments. ESPN has had its share of spectacularly annoying examples in this genre, and the summa cum laude of such nonsense came a few years back when the network pitted Sean Salisbury, a loquacious ex-quarterback with a my-way-or-the-highway style, against longtime NFL reporter John Clayton, a bespectacled, John Hodgman look-alike nicknamed "The Professor." The segment, dubbed "Four Downs," came off so comically forced that it usually mitigated the moments Clayton and Salisbury made salient points.
RENTON, Wash. -- My favorite draft weekend story: The Man Who Said No to the NFL.
Musings, observations and the occasional insight from the third and final day of the NFL Draft, when a couple teams way out west -- Oakland and Seattle -- thrust themselves into the spotlight with some eye-opening headline moves. ...
Breaking down the best and worst of each team's selections from the 2010 NFL draft. ...
NEW YORK -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight from the second night at the NFL draft, where rounds two and three unfolded with another dose of quarterback-inspired drama and intrigue ...
So you probably know that I was a draftnik before that word was cool. Oh, wait, that word is still not cool. OK, so, to rephrase -- I was a draftnik when it was ESPECIALLY uncool to be one. My buddy Robert and I used to skip school to watch the draft, an astonishingly sad thing to do, looking back.
We've finally found the one group that uniformly agrees about Tim Tebow's prospects this month:
For the first time, the National Football League will hold its draft in the evening, giving football junkies the chance to watch 300-pound young men become millionaires in prime time.
One of the reasons Gil Brandt, the godfather of the NFL Draft, thinks this one will have more "I'm shocked" moments is because of the pre-draft smokescreens by the teams picking high this year. Washington GM Bruce Allen and coach Mike Shanahan have always been pros at disguising their draft intentions. Scott Pioli, in his second draft in Kansas City, has his front office locked down. The Seahawks, Bills and Jags have muzzles on too. With those five teams in the top 10, Brandt's theory -- which is correct, I believe -- will bear fruit this year. One or more of those teams will pull off a shocker.
There's pressure on everyone to figure out which draft picks will prosper and which will bust in their NFL career. There's pressure on the players too -- particularly the highly drafted ones. The 10 people on draft weekend who should be feeling the most heat:
Playing the comparison game when it comes to NFL draft prospects is always a bit too easy -- dubbing Gerald McCoy the next Warren Sapp -- but there is one unmistakable echo of the past that keeps reverberating in my head when I peruse 2010's first-round storylines.
While we can debate the wisdom/insanity of trading an in-his-prime quarterback within the division to a rival that desperately needs a QB, we won't know for two or three years whether Eagles coach Andy Reid did the right thing for his franchise Sunday night in dealing Donovan McNabb to the Redskins.
Last year's inaugural Wes Welker Watch List not only highlighted 10 off-the-radar NFL prospects who had a shot to make the league even if their names weren't called on draft weekend, but also managed to uncover the next best thing to Welker himself in Julian Edelman, the former Kent State quarterback turned Patriots rookie receiver/return specialist.
When rumors get thrown out at this time of the draft year, you have to take them with not a grain of salt, but with a salt-shaker. I usually do. But not when Gil Brandt speaks. He is money on the draft, and he knows things the rest of us don't. And he said something today on our Sirius NFL Radio show that made my eyelids hit the ceiling regarding Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, who most of the western world has already assigned to St. Louis with the first pick in the April 22 first round.
ORLANDO -- There's a widespread belief within the NFL that the 2010 draft represents one of the deepest and most promising pools of collegiate talent in years. But in addition to the vast potential of this year's draft class, numerous NFL personnel evaluators told SI.com they are concerned about the increased number of prospects who have a history of marijuana use in their background, with players often acknowledging a failed drug test for pot in college in interviews with team executives.
One of the most intriguing players in the draft is a receiver from Georgia Tech named Demaryius Thomas. In 2009, Thomas averaged 25.1 yards per catch (for his career, it was 19.5, on 120 catches), and at 6-foot-3 and 224 pounds, Thomas has the size and route-running ability to be a solid starting NFL receiver -- if not a star.
Almost one week of the NFL's free agency period is in the books, and that means some of what we thought we knew about the first round of this year's draft is already painfully out of date. Here's a look at 12 teams that have had their draft wish list impacted in some way by key gains or losses in free agency, or in the case of the Jets, a key trade just before it began: (Editor's Note: A full mock draft is scheduled for Tues., March 16).
Three Things I Think I Think on this fine Tuesday:
INDIANAPOLIS -- NFL decision makers and scouts gathered at Lucas Oil Stadium today for the final day of the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine. They were on hand to watch the 58 defensive backs who were invited to work out.
INDIANAPOLIS -- On Monday, it was the defensive linemen and linebackers' turn to take the field at the NFL Scouting Combine. The performances on the field ranged from outstanding to awful.
Two weeks after the Super Bowl, three days before the Scouting Combine, two weeks before free agency, here are four NFL observations -- including one that stunned a lot of people in the football business -- and one regarding Tiger.
There are times when the pace of activity in the NFL's long offseason actually seems busier than in the six months in which the games are being played. That's why I always laugh when people ask me what I cover once the Super Bowl is over. My answer? More football. Just no games.
ORLANDO -- After moving around in recent years, the annual East-West Shrine Game has finally found a long-term home in Orlando. As a result, NFL scouts, coaches and general managers descended upon the Sunshine State for the first of two important college all-star games down south. (The Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., is next week.)
This week, a bumper crop of talented underclassmen officially made themselves available for the 2010 NFL Draft (Full list here). Juniors will lead the way at almost every position in April with almost 20 currently graded as first-round picks.
The eyes of the football world will be on Pasadena this week as Alabama squares off against Texas in the national championship game. NFL decision-makers have a keen interest in this game as four defensive prospects could be first-round picks in April's draft. Overall, almost a dozen players in this game have the chance to be selected before the third round of the draft concludes. Here are the top 15 NFL prospects playing in the BCS Championship Game. (* denotes underlasssman)
The college football bowl season is a nice way for players to end their careers as a collegian. It also marks the last chance to make a mark on NFL scouts in a traditional game setting. Here's a look at the best pro prospects playing in the four BCS bowl games.
The college bowl season has kicked off in earnest and offers another phase of scouting for NFL franchises. Much of the focus will be on the high-profile players over the next three weeks but NFL scouts are just as interested in the talent not as well-known to football fans. Here's a list of legitimate NFL prospects who scouts will be closely monitoring in non-BCS contests: (*denotes underclassmen)
1. Randy Moss to the Patriots from the Raiders for a fourth-round pick; April 29, 2007 On draft weekend, the team-minded Patriots shocked the NFL by dealing for Moss, whose talent as a game-changing receiver had supposedly atrophied during his two mostly desultory seasons in Oakland. But Moss, as it turns out, was merely disinterested in losing, and his reemergence in New England coincided with the team's history-making Super Bowl season. Moss caught 98 passes for 1,493 yards and had a single-season NFL record 23 touchdowns. All in all, not bad production in exchange for a fourth-round pick that Oakland used to select little-known University of Cincinnati cornerback John Bowie.
The SEC Championship Game between Florida and Alabama will be played Saturday, giving the country a preview of some of the players who will be competing on Sundays a year from now. Here's a look at the top NFL prospects playing in the title game, listed as they rank on the 2010 NFL Draft board today (*denotes underclassmen):
The college football season has come to an end for a number of teams around the nation and several highly-rated underclassmen have decisions to make. With the deadline for application to the NFL draft seven weeks away, the non-seniors must decide whether they should opt for April's event. Scouts expect a record number of underclassmen to enter next year's draft, so this week's column concentrates on the draft stock of a dozen non-senior prospects.
NFL prospects continue to rise and slide on draft boards as the college season enters the final weeks, but injuries continue to dominate the news.
Less than a month remains in college football's regular season and the rankings witnessed another big shakeup at the top this weekend. The situation is a little different on NFL draft boards as, for the most part, the players graded highest at the start of the year have maintained their rankings. This week, we focus on several unheralded prospects with the potential to shake up the early and middle rounds of next April's draft.
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