While we were taking volunteers to field our BTB Community Mock, my fellow front-pagers and I were getting our own Mock Draft activity under way. O.C.C., Rabble, Archie, Tom and Coty have joined me in being assigned each of the 32 first round slots and making GM decisions for the teams in question.
Fortunately, we’ve had a week of free agency to help shovel in some initial holes, unlike last year, so teams aren’t using the draft to fill their biggest needs.
Now while the community mock will only cover the first round, we’re probably going to take the writer’s mock as far as it can go, since it moves at a much quicker pace. Last year, we successfully completed two rounds. Each article will feature eight selections at a time, and you’ll have your chance to vote on which selection you think was the best for the specific team.
Without further ado, here are the first eight picks from the 2012 Writer’s Mock Draft.
|Draft Pick||Team||2011 Record||Assigned Writer||Selection|
|1||Indianapolis||(2-14)||OCC||QB Andrew Luck|
|2||Washington||(5-11)||Coty||QB RG III|
|3||Minnesota||(3-13)||KD||LOT Matt Kalil|
|4||Cleveland||(4-12)||Tom||WR Justin Blackmon|
|5||Tampa Bay||(4-12)||Archie||CB Morris Claiborne|
|6||St. Louis||(2-14)||Rabble||RB Trent Richardson|
|7||Jacksonville||(5-11)||Coty||OT Riley Reiff|
|8||Miami||(6-10)||Archie||QB Ryan Tannehill|
Follow the jump for pick justifications from each writer, as well as some IMPORTANT INFO on the BTB Community Mock process, including dates and how to submit your picks.
Indy: Stanford QB Andrew Luck
I was sorely tempted to pick RGIII for the Colts, just to mess with CotySaxman who has the next pick and has probably already prepared an extensive write-up on RGIII. But Luck it is. Even with Luck, the Colts will likely need a while before they are relevant again as they embark on a major rebuilding project. But at least they have a franchise QB to help get them started.
Washington: Baylor QB Robert Girffin III
The Redskins have been struggling for what seems like the past couple decades due largely to their lack of a franchise quarterback. The trade to get here made headlines; no surprises here.
Minnesota: USC LT Matt Kalil
After failing to acquire more picks for the #3 slot, the Vikes decide to go with the best tackle prospect in years. They may not really believe in their quarterback solution, but they at least believe in protecting their investment. Kalil should give them the blindside protection to give Christian Ponder all the time in the world to prove he doesn’t belong.
Cleveland: Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon
It was a very close call between him and Morris Claiborne. On my last Averaging the Mocks, they are just about a toss up for BPA, so neither could be considered a mistake. Since the team looks to have a little more need on offense, Blackmon gets the nod here.
Tampa Bay: LSU CB Morris Claiborne
Even though the Bucs signed cornerback Eric Wright in free agency, Claiborne is the BPA on the board. He is the best cornerback in the draft and a great pick to upgrade the Bucs secondary. Trent Richardson was another option here, but this time the elite cornerback trumps the elite running back.
St. Louis: Alabama RB Trent Richardson
Rams take running back Trent Richardson. After feverishly working to broker a trade, St. Louis takes the best player on the board, and the best collegiate runner since Adrian Peterson. Richardson will team up with Stephen Jackson to take a lot of pressure off of franchise QB Sam Bradford.
Jacksonville: Iowa OT Riley Reiff
After witnessing Gabbert’s struggles remaining upright in the pocket, Jacksonville decides to bolster their offensive line. With the signing of a deep threat receiver in Laurent Robinson, Gabbert will need more time in the pocket. Reiff will be drafted to play right tackle, but can eventually develop into a left tackle, giving the Jaguars flexibility in the future.
Miami: Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill
The Dolphins are considering Matt Flynn, but are out of the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. Tannehill gives them a franchise quarterback to begin building around. If they did sign Flynn, I would make a defensive pick here. (Flynn has since signed with Seattle)
BTB COMMUNITY MOCK NEWS!
Over the weekend, we took assignments for the BTB Community Mock here. We will try to get these done one per day. This is where I will present a full work-up of each of the top candidates. The community mocker will be responsible for emailing me between 1-3 paragraphs on why they made that specific pick. I will provide a wrap-up of evaluations on said player. This will be one per day and move quickly, so you MUST EMAIL ME SO I CAN LET YOU KNOW THE PRIOR PICK TO YOU AS SOON AS IT COMES IN.
Email me now at KDP10For10@gmail.com
Subject Line: BTB MOCK [Your BTB Name] [Your Mock Pick Number]
ex: BTB MOCK n8dgr8 Pick #1
I am aiming to post the first community pick on Wednesday, March 21st. I appreciate your compliance and remember, don’t re-enact scenes from Platoon with Charlie Sheen.
Over the weekend, NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock released an updated, post-Combine version of his top five players per position (full rankings here). The Cowboys have been very busy in free agency so far, but there still are a number of positions of need for the Cowboys. Notably, the Cowboys haven’t made any free agency moves so far along the defensive line, so we’ll look at the defensive line and other positions of need as we review how Mayock’s rankings have changed since his pre-Combine version from February.
Defensive Tackles: A popular topic among many Cowboys fans is the idea of drafting a big guy for the middle of the defensive line. While it remains to be seen whether the Cowboys have any interest in doing that, it is also clear that outside of Kenyon Coleman, Jay Ratliff is the oldest Cowboys defender currently under contract: he’ll turn 31 at the start of the season.
|Rank||Previous Ranking (2/14)
||Updated Rank (3/16)
|1||Michael Brockers, LSU||Dontari Poe, Memphis|
|2||Jerel Worthy, Michigan State||Fletcher Cox, Mississippi St.|
|3||Dontari Poe, Memphis||Michael Brockers, LSU|
|4||Devon Still, Penn State||Jerel Worthy, Michigan State|
|5 (tie)||Fletcher Cox, Mississippi St.||Kendall Reyes, UConn|
|Kendall Reyes, UConn||Devon Still, Penn State|
|Brandon Thompson, Clemson|
Mike Mayock gets off the Michael Brockers train and elevates combine phenom Dontari Poe to the number one spot. Fletcher Cox also sees his stock jump dramatically as he moves into the number two spot. The 6-4, 298-pound Cox is gaining momentum as the flavor-of-the-week candidate for the Cowboys as a defensive end, and he could be available at the #14 position.
After the break, we look at offensive linemen, corners and defensive ends and OLBs.
Interior Offensive Linemen
|1||David DeCastro, Stanford||Peter Konz, Wisconsin|
|2||Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin||Philip Blake, Baylor|
|3||Amini Silatolu, Midwestern State||Ben Jones, Georgia|
|4||Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State||David Molk, Michigan|
|5||Brandon Brooks, Miami (OH)||Michael Brewster, Ohio State|
Where Mayock had previously lumped the interior linemen together in one top five list, he has now split them out by position. Not much has changed for the guards, save for the addition of Brandon Brooks as the fifth-ranked guard.
Mayock does not seem to share the medical concerns that have been associated with Peter Konz, and keeps him atop the center board. Of note, some of the names on the center list are projected to go as late as the fifth/sixth rounds. If the Cowboys want a center, they’ll likely find one waiting for them in almost every round.
David DeCastro remains the fan favorite for now, but many of the other names on this list are also worthy of consideration in a trade down scenario or with later-round picks.
Cornerbacks: With the acquisition of Brandon Carr, it seems unlikely that the Cowboys will use their first pick on a corner. But the Cowboys will probably have a keen eye on any corners who start slipping on draft day, as cornerback is widely believed to have some of the best depth in this draft and the Cowboys can always use more corners.
|Rank||Previous Ranking (1/24)
||Updated Rank (2/14)
|1||Morris Claiborne, LSU||Morris Claiborne, LSU|
|2||Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama||Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina|
|3||Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama||Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama|
|4||Trumaine Johnson, Montana||Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama|
|5||Leonard Johnson, Iowa State||Josh Robinson, Central Florida|
Unfortunately, if you had harbored hopes of perhaps snatching up Stephon Gilmore with the Cowboys’ second-round pick, those dreams are likely over. Similarly, many mock drafts had Josh Robinson as a later-round favorite for the Cowboys, but his exceptional combine showing has him being talked about as a potential first-rounder.
Defensive Ends/OLBs: Even though the Cowboys slapped the franchise tag on Anthony Spencer, the Cowboys are still likely to look for ways in which to improve their pass rush. The latest rumor, according to Calvin Watkins at ESPNDallas, is that there is mutual interest between the Cowboys and outside linebacker Erik Walden. Regardless of how that turns out, an improved pass rush must rank at the very top of the Cowboys’ to-do list entering the draft.
|Rank||Defensive Ends (3/16)
|1||Quinton Coples, North Carolina||Melvin Ingram, South Carolina|
|2||Courtney Upshaw, Alabama||Whitney Mercilus, Illinois|
|3||Nick Perry, USC||Andre Branch, Clemson|
|4||Vinny Curry, Marshall||Ronell Lewis, Oklahoma|
|5||Jared Crick, Nebraska||Shea McClellin, Boise State|
DEs and OLBs are another position that Mayock had lumped together in his previous positional rankings, and he pulls them apart this time. Notably absent from both lists: Bruce Irvin, who had turned heads at the combine and is another fan favorite as a Cowboys pick, but who may have hurt his draft stock a little with an arrest on Saturday for allegedly breaking a sign in a Jimmy Johns Sandwich Shop.
The Cowboys showed a lot of interest in J.J. Watt last year. Whether the Cowboys try to improve their pass rush via a DE or OLB remains a topic of much debate. But we do already have one hint of where they may be leaning: OLB Ronell Lewis has received an invitation for an official pre-draft visit with the Cowboys.
Overall, many of the dark horses that we had been secretly hoping would be available in the later rounds for the Cowboys are making a push for the top: Stephon Gilmore, Josh Robinson, Fletcher Cox or Shea McClellin are no longer flying under the radar – if they ever were.
The strength of this year’s draft class is in the middle rounds. This year’s class features numerous starters and potentially outstanding players likely to be taken in the second and third rounds.
There are two scenarios in which a draft can be spoken of highly due to the talent available after the first 32 picks. The first is it being a really top-heavy class, full of elite prospects. That’s partially true this year. The second, however, is the talent available after the first round is worthy of a first-round pick, but size or experience cause them to fall.
That’s a bit more fitting with this year, but each year brings with it more and more high-level talent not possessing prototypical physical stats (see: Brown, Antonio, 6th Round Steal).
Here are a few prospects I can see getting selected in the second or third rounds, and making an impact in the NFL.1. Doug Martin, RB, Boise State - Martin is a very good RB prospect with all the tools to be a dominant back. He has good speed (4.47 was his fastest time), great power, great vision, and a violent, violent stiff arm. He has the build of Ray Rice and the vision of Maurice Jones Drew and could be one of the biggest steals in this years draft. Some mocks even have him falling into late first round consideration.
2. Tommy Streeter, WR, Miami - if Stephen Hill is the most physically gifted WR in this class, Tommy Streeter is a close second. He ran a 4.40 at the combine which is incredible because he is 6’5″ 220 pounds. He is an above average route runner, has good hands, and knows the game but for some reason his production at Miami was not very good. However, as a mid second round pick a team is getting a player with top 10 potential.
3. Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers - Unlike Streeter, Sanu had a “bad combine” according to the experts. He ran a paltry 4.65 on both attempts. However, that does not really mean anything. This is a guy who caught 115 balls at Rutgers (a Big East receptions record) while being double or triple teamed on every single play and catching passes from one the worst QB in Division I football for half the year. ESPN’s Todd McShay says he can’t get open. That’s not what I see. While Sanu may never be the elite No. 1 receiver that Hill, Blackmon and Floyd might become, he should be a very good No. 2 WR and a possible landing spot for him is back with his college head coach Greg Schiano in Tampa Bay.
4. Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin - Here is a Steelers prospect. Zeitler is the No. 2 rated guard in this draft and has all the tools to be dominant guard in all the phases. He is an excellent run blocker, a good pass blocker and has great strength. He is also versatile and has been working out as a center for some teams. Due to that versatility and talent, as well as the four-year body of work he has, he is a very likely pick for the Steelers if he makes it to them in the second round.
5. Mychal Kendricks, ILB, California - Kendricks is about as safe as they come in terms of Day 2 prospects. He has the game film, production and the Combine performance to make scouts and GMs comfortably believe they are getting a good player with elite upside. The one knock on Kendricks is that he is only 5-foot-10, but he should be able to make up for that with a 38-inch vertical. Kendricks is also very versatile and can play really and of the linebacker spots in a 4-3 or a 3-4 but the Buck in a 3-4.
6. Dwight Bentley, CB, Louisiana Lafayette - Bentley is flying up draft boards and for good reason. He has the potential and ability to be an absolute lockdown corner at the next level. While at Louisiana Lafayette, he simply dominated the weaker competition he faced. Time after time after time he lined up in one on one coverage with a WR with no safety help and stone walled them every time. He could very well end up being a first round prospect and the second cornerback taken. He has no personal baggage and it’d be a steal to get him in the second round.
In the lead-up to free agency, we’ll be looking at each Patriots free agent and projecting whether or not they will re-sign with the Patriots this offseason;
Status: Unrestricted Free Agent
2011 Stats: 15 games, 1 game started, 37 tackles, 1 pass defensed
Overview: Since coming to the Patriots via trade from the Eagles, veteran linebacker Tracy White has been one of the very best special teams players for the Patriots. However, in the 2011 season, White actually stepped up and played a more significant role on defense. He started at OLB in the 4-3 and also played some MLB. He wasn’t terribly effective or consistent, but he occasionally made some decent plays. In fact, it was his pass deflection against the Redskins that led to Jerod Mayo’s game-sealing interception in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. While White did perform adequately at times in 2011, it became clear that giving White a role as a full-time defender going forward probably wouldn’t be in the team’s plans. Nonetheless, White is still valuable as a special teams player, and is one of the very best in the league when it comes to that role. The Patriots obviously aren’t going to break the bank on a player like White, but if he’s willing to come back on the cheap, I’m sure the team would be happy to have him back.
Prediction: Re-signs on a one year, million deal
If you thought the Combine would lead to some new names being mocked to the Cowboys, you may be in for a surprise as you read through our mock draft roundup this morning.
While there were many prospects who stood out at the Combine and possibly improved their draft stock, the mock draftniks this week are a conservative bunch, sticking to the names they’ve been mocking to the Cowboys for the last few weeks.
Cornerback and O-line remain the two positions mocked most frequently, with Dre Kirkpatrick and David DeCastro still the odds-on favorites. In fact, it’s hard finding mocks that don’t have either of the two mocked our way.
In today’s round-up, we look at the latest post-Combine mocks from Foxsports, SBNation and Draftek, a whole Armada of mocks from NFL.com and many others, including one from the illustriously named website Fantasy Knuckleheads.
All the mock draft goodness after the break.
Peter Schrager, Foxsports, 2/29/2012: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Will [the marijuana charges being dropped] be enough for some teams to get over the incident? For many teams, maybe not. For the Cowboys? Sure. A six-foot cornerback with top-flight speed (think Patrick Peterson speed), Kirkpatrick is the rare tall cornerback who can keep up with the game’s fastest receivers (think Patrick Peterson).
The Cowboys are desperate for some depth and some young talent at cornerback. Kirkpatrick would be a steal at No. 14.
Ryan van Bibber, SBnation, 2/29/2012: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
Dallas might fill their cornerback needs in free agency, targeting either Brandon Carr or Cortland Finnegan. If they do, they would be under no pressure to grab one in the first round of the draft. DeCastro matches need and draft spot as one of the more promising interior linemen since Steve Hutchinson.
Drafttek, 2/29/2012: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
How can you tell when Cuzzin Jerruh is lying? His lips move . . . but for the sake of argument, let’s take him at his word that needs will be filled in free agency and the Cowboys will adopt a “BPA” policy for the 2012 Draft. In this horrific simulation, the top 2 CB’s (Claiborne #3 to Minnesota and Kirkpatrick #5 to Tampa Bay) are both off the board, the “People’s Choice” OG David Decastro goes to Kansas City at #11, and even “Super Soph” DE Michael Brockers is gone (#9 to Carolina).
So looking at the Big Board, the two best values remaining are RB Trent Richardson and ILB Luke Kuechly . . . of the 2 positions, RB appears to be in better hands with Murray/Jones/Tanner than ILB with Lee/Carter/Lemon. The potential injury concerns are prevalent at both positions . . . but only Lee has proven he can play in the NFL. We hope Carter is starting material, but we don’t know . . . Kuechly is the best ILB prospect in this year’s draft. Don’t you always take “the best”???
Ryan McCrystal, DraftAce, 02/29/2012: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Rob Ryan recently stated that he wants the Cowboys to focus on the secondary this offseason, and I suspect Jerry Jones will listen. Charges were recently dropped against Kirkpatrick in his marijuana arrest, which help alleviate any concerns teams may have about his character. Then again, the Cowboys aren’t the type of franchise that pays much attention to those types of concerns to begin with, and for that reason Janoris Jenkins may be an option here as well.
Steve Wyche, NFL.com, 02/29/2012: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Dallas could make a surprise pick and snap Boston College ILB Luke Kuechly. It’s a need, but the secondary is more pressing.
Chad Reuter, NFL.com, 02/29/2012: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Terence Newman won’t be in Dallas much longer and Kirkpatrick’s combine workout showed he has enough speed to stay with NFL receivers. He didn’t run agility tests, however, and only weighed 186 pounds, so Dallas may not have a problem picking him up in the mid-first round.
Albert Breer, NFL.com, 02/29/2012: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Don’t be surprised if Dallas signs a free agent corner (Brandon Carr, Cortland Finnegan) and drafts one. Rob Ryan can’t have enough of them.
Bucky Brooks, NFL.com, 02/29/2012: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
After watching receivers routinely run past Terence Newman and Co., Jerry Jones is intent on fortifying the secondary. Kirkpatrick is a solid all-around corner with the size and length to challenge the big receivers that rule the roost in the NFC.
NationalFootballAuthority, 2/29/2012: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
The ‘Boys need an upgrade at the corner position and Jenkins makes sense here; only because it seems as though he has made serious strides to clean up his act. His off the field antics forced his path to UNA as many will recall. There are some other interesting options here, and if it’s not Jenkins it could be Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick.
NFLmocks.com, 2/28/2012: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
DeCastro only plays guard which could push him down the board. Konz on the other hand is a center which holds more value. You say, but Jesse where is the cornerback? Well one of the combine rumors is that the Cowboys will be signing Brandon Carr, the Kansas City Chiefs cornerback, as soon as free agency opens and that they are looking at OL. Tyron Smith is moving to LT also in case you missed that. Center though remains a problem. Konz, to me, is better than Mike Pouncy last year.
NePatriotsdraft, 2/29/2012: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Even if the Cowboys sign Brandon Carr or another veteran CB, they could still use another piece to their secondary. Jenkins has some well known character issues, but he’s also an extremely talented player who can bump at the line and turn and run with even the fastest WRs.
Dallas Cowboys Mock Draft overview (min. three rounds deep)
|Site||Date||1st Round||2nd Round||3rd Round||4th Round||5th Round||6th Round|
|Draft Tek||2/29||Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College||Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia||Kendall Reyes, DE, Connecticut||Josh Robinson, CB, Central Florida||Ryan Lindley, QB San Diego State||Kevin Koger, TE, Michigan|
|Walter Football||2/29||Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama||Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse||Tank Carder, ILB, TCU||Jared Crick, DE, Nebraska|
|Fantasy Knuckleheads||2/27||Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama||Bobby Wagner, OLB, Utah State||Senio Kelemete, OG, Washington||Duke Ihenacho, SS, San Jose State||Quentin Saulsberry, C, Mississippi State||George Bryan, TE, NC State|
|Sideline Scouting||2/23||David DeCastro, OG, Stanford||Alameda Ta’amu, NT, Washington||Trumaine Johnson, CB, Montana
||Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon||Janzen Jackson, S, McNeese State||Brandon Lindsey, OLB, Pittsburgh|
The Combine continues plowing away (see what I did there?), and today’s participants in the Underwear Olympics are the linebackers and the defensive linemen.
If the combination of offensive linemen and tight ends (Saturday) and the wide receivers and running backs (Sunday) was interesting, today will be downright riveting.
Lots of potential impact players will be identified today, and both figure to be priority positions for the Steelers in the upcoming draft.
We get to set our sights on a duo of inside/middle linebackers, Dont’a Hightower and Vontaze Burfict, as well as one hulking nose tackle from Memphis, Dontari Poe.
The Steelers are likely to speak with all three of these players, if they have not yet already done so. But more than anything, this is really the time to identify middle and later round picks.
You know the drill by now; if you see a guy you like, mention it in the comments, keep the discussion going. If there are some of interest to you, we’ve got our own Seton Hall and Steelers working to line up interviews to run in the very near future, so throw out some names, see if he can track them down.
A month ago, Don Banks of SI.com put out a 2012 NFL mock draft that had the Kansas City Chiefs selecting DT Devon Still. Today, Banks’ latest mock draft has the Chiefs selecting OT Jonathan Martin out of Stanford.
The Chiefs have to upgrade at right offensive tackle, and Martin is the most obvious direction to head with both Kalil and Reiff already gone. An inside linebacker like Boston College’s Luke Kuechly or a defensive tackle like Memphis’ Dontari Poe would fill other areas of need with players who will wind up with grades in the top 15-20 range.
In this scenario, both Matt Kalil and Riley Reiff are off the board, which leaves Martin (and Mike Adams out of Ohio State) as the next best offensive tackle.
This jives with Adam Teicher’s suggestion this morning that the Chiefs should draft an offensive tackle. You’d get a right tackle for next season and some insurance for the season after that depending on how Branden Albert’s contract situation plays out.
One interesting situation that presents itself in this mock draft is Texas A&M’ QB Ryan Tannehill being available at the 11th pick. I’m not saying the Chiefs should take him but, in this scenario, the Seattle Seahawks are right behind the Chiefs. They very well could take a quarterback, which makes the Chiefs position one spot ahead of them potentially desirable for a trade down. Something to remember is that teams will trade up for a quarterback. Maybe not many other positions, but a quarterback they will.
Any strong feelings one way or the other on the Chiefs trading down?
When Philadelphia Phillies slugging first baseman Ryan Howard grounded weakly to second to shockingly finish off the 2011 season against the eventual World Champions St. Louis Cardinals, an immediate impact on the 2012 opening day lineup was born.
Howard not only made the final out of the Phillies’ most successful season (regular season record-wise) but he also blew out his left achilles tendon in the process. Affectionately known as “The Big Piece” by Phils skipper Charlie Manuel, Howard was undergoing surgery five days later and the prognosis was quickly released as being out for five-to-six months. Manuel will have to start the season with a big missing piece right in the heart of the lineup.
Also gone from 2011 will be left fielder Raul Ibanez. Ibanez finished second on the team behind Howard in games played. Howard played in 152 games while Ibanez participated in 144. Most would be surprised to know that Ibanez, not Victorino, Utley or Rollins, was also second on the team in home runs and RBI.
Phils GM Ruben Amaro Jr. went out and found plenty of options for Manuel to work with to replace Ibanez and hold down the fort until Howard is due back, which can be anywhere from early May to the All-Star break.
First, Amaro signed former Phillie and future Hall-of-Famer Jim Thome. Thome will turn 41 in September and hasn’t played first base in the field since the 2007 season, just four games since being traded from the Phillies after the 2005 season. So it still remains to be seen how many games Thome can play at first. He might be more of a replacement for the departed left-handed pinch-hitting specialist Ross Gload.
A little after the Thome signing, Amaro swung a deal with the Colorado Rockies to bring in versatile slugger Ty Wiggington. Wiggington was a 2010 All Star for the Baltimore Orioles and played 98 games at 1B that season. Last year, Wiggington played 3B primarily but still saw 36 games at 1B and 21 in left field. Without a doubt, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to play all three of those positions this season while hopefully still knocking the ball out of the park on occasion.
Next, the Phillies surprisingly gave 1B/OF Laynce Nix a two-year contract. Nix set career-highs in games played in 2011, playing in 124 for the Washington Nationals. 85 of those games were in the outfield (73 in left) and he also chipped in nine games at 1B without making an error. Nix also slugged 16 home runs in 2011 and could possibly surpass that in the much more HR-friendly Citizens Bank Park.
The trio of Thome/Wiggington/Nix have one more teammate that should assist in making up for the Howard injury and Ibanez departure. John Mayberry was one of the bigger Phillies surprises in 2011. In just 267 at bats, Mayberry hit .273 with 15 Home Runs and 49 RBI.
Big John played primarily CF in 2011 but he also played 21 in LF and 18 at 1B. So again, Manuel has four options for LF and 1B come opening day: two left-handed sluggers in Thome and Nix and two righties in Mayberry and Wiggington.
The rest of the every-day players will look very familiar. Two of them, 2B Chase Utley and 3B Placido Polanco have been given clean bills of health after injury riddled seasons in 2011. SS Jimmy Rollins will return after signing a three-year contract in the offseason.
CF Shane Victorino is coming off one of his better seasons while RF belongs to Hunter Pence, who will make his first Phillies opening day lineup. Lastly, Carlos Ruiz returns to handle the pitching staff while providing the Phils with one of their more clutch bats.
So how does this all shake out? I really don’t think Jim Thome can just dust off his first baseman’s mitt and go out there and not be a liability. The Phillies bats aren’t what they used to be and they tend to play a lot of close games.
Due to Thome’s age and lack of defense to back up their fine pitching rotation, he’ll be resigned to late inning pinch-hitting duties. That leaves Laynce Nix to play either 1B or LF vs. right-handed pitching and Ty Wiggington will play 1B vs. left-handed pitching, leaving LF for John Mayberry. Mayberry might also get the opportunity to play full-time if he has a strong spring, no matter who is pitching. Here’s how it all shakes out for opening day:
1. Jimmy Rollins, SS
2. Placido Polanco,3B
3. Chase Utley, 2B
4. Hunter Pence, RF
5. Shane Victorino, CF
6. John Mayberry, LF
7. Laynce Nix, 1B
8. Carlos Ruiz, C
1. Jimmy Rollins, SS
2. Placido Polanco, 3B
3. Chase Utley, 2B
4. Hunter Pence, RF
5. Shane Victorino, CF
6. John Mayberry, LF
7. Ty Wigginton, 1B
8. Carlos Ruiz, C
Couple of notes. If Polanco shows signs of not being 100 percent this spring, look for him to drop down to seventh in the lineup like late 2011. Victorino would then move to second with Mayberry protecting Pence at fifth. That scenario is much more likely versus lefties, as I don’t think Manuel wants two RH hitters back-to-back at the fourth and fifth hole vs. right-handed pitching. Nix would probably move to fifth vs. righties.
The NFL draft may still be a couple months away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions. This took a lot of time and I will hope all NFL fans will be able to relate to this mock draft. So without further … [visit site to read more]
In the first three parts of this series, I looked at last year’s “little board,” assembled from players invited to Valley Ranch for “Dallas Day,” then zeroed in on the offensive players from that board (part II), followed by the defensive guys (Part III). In doing so, I confirmed what people with access to Valley Ranch have been saying for years: that Dallas Director of Pro Personnel Tom Ciskowski (and, before him, Jeff Ireland) do a masterful job identifying potential Cowboys and building a draft board.
Still, as I admitted at the time, those conclusions are based on a great deal of conjecture, as we cannot know exactly where each of the players was drafted; the “little board” upon which all of this is based is largely speculative. For example, did the Cowboys see DeMarco Murray as a third rounder? A second rounder? If so, how high a second rounder? In short, its difficult to ascertain how accurately the Cowboys judged 2011′s incoming talent without knowing exactly where they were slotted.
Which brings me to the famous “leaked” 2010 draft board. Immediately after that draft, you may recall, several intrepid BTBers, among them JBell523, Theebs, Cowboysaficionado, 24Hz and Requiem, managed to piece together the Dallas War Room’s big board from video that had been taken during the draft. From this information, they were able to assemble an almost complete version of the Cowboys board (hit the above link and scroll down), thus providing us with a cornucopia of highly valuable information. Most importantly, by comparing where the Cowboys slotted certain players versus where they were actually drafted, it give us some idea of how Ciskowski and his team of scouts stack up against the rest of the league as talent evaluators.
Some cool stuff after the jump…
For the purposes of this exercise, I have focused on players who Dallas seemed either to over- or underrate relative to the rest of the league. I have created two tables, one for guys who were drafted two or more rounds before the Cowboys thought they should go (according to their board) and another for those selected two or more rounds later than where Dallas slotted them. In looking at their performances after two years in the league, I’m hoping to determine whether, for example, the Cowboys under-rated certain players or some other team overrated them.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the first group, the guys drafted earlier than they appeared on Dallas’ board:
|Team and Round (pick #)||Position on Dallas’ Board (round, slot)||Games Played/ Starts||Position on Depth Chart (as of today)||
PFF Grades 2010/ 2011
|Total Snaps 2010/ 2011||Two year AV 2010/ 2011|
|Anthony Davis||SF 1 (11)||3, 2||32/ 32||1 (RT)||-28.1/-17.1||1011/ 1164||7/ 6|
|Ryan Matthews||SD 1 (12)||2, 12||26/ 22||1 (RB)||-1.3/ 10.5||291/ 532||6/ 13|
|Patrick Robinson||NO 1 (32)||3, 4||26/ 11||2 (RCB)||0.2/ 1.4||289/ 833||2/ 4|
|Rodger Saffold||STL 2 (33)||3. 17||25/ 25||1 (LT)||-12.4/-14.7||1068/ 618||6/ 2|
|Zane Beadles||DEN 2 (45)||3, 26||32/ 30||1 (RG)||-8.6/ -25.7||949/ 1215||6/ 5|
|Javier Arenas||KC 2 (50)||4, 2||31/ 3||2 (RCB)||2.2/ 3.4||516/ 381||2/ 0|
|Vladimir Ducasse||NYJ 2 (61)||4, 3||18/ ??||2 (RT) Also TE?||2.9/ -5.6||70/ 97||0/1|
|Torell Troupe||BUF 2 (41)||4, 8||20/ 2||3 (LDT)||-6.3/ -3.4||303/ 94||2/ 0|
|Linval Joseph||NYG 2 (46)||4, 12||22/ 15||1 (LDT)||-1.8/ 1.1||63/ 614||1/ 6|
|Ben Tate||HOU 2 (58)||4, 18||15/ 2||2 (HB)||NA/ 8.3||NA/ 333||0/ 7|
|T.J. Ward||CLEV 2 (38)||4, 23||24/ 24||1 (SS)||-0.1/ 5.6||1077/ 478||7/ 0|
|Jason Worilds||PIT 2 (52)||4, 27||26/ 7||2 (ROLB)||2.2/ 4.5||43/ 521||2/ 5|
|Jared Veldheer||OAK 3 (69)||6, 1||32/ 27||1 (LT)||-27.2/ 5.9||916/ 1097||6/ 8|
|Mike Kafka||PHI 4 (122)||7, 3||4/ 0||3 (QB)||NA/ -0.6||NA/ 33||0/ 0|
Some thoughts: Several of the players on this list haven’t seen the field much. This might mean that they are on the verge of becoming busts (like Vlad Ducasse, who couldn’t unseat the mediocre Wayne Hunter), or simply that they have been playing behind a solid veteran starter and will soon get a chance to shine (as is Patrick Robinson’s likely path). Given that so many of these guys were drafted in the “premium” rounds, however, the fact that more of them haven’t acquitted themselves better suggests that, as a collective group, the Cowboys were more right than wrong about them.
One subgroup here that seems to have logged a goodly amount of games and starts are the offensive linemen. Yet, a closer look suggests that its not necessarily because they have played well. For example, Anthony Davis, who received a third round grade from the Cowboys, immediately took over at right tackle for a good 49er offensive line. But his AV is only so-so and his PFF grades are abysmal; in fact, he received the offense’s worst grade in 2010 and was in the bottom three last season. The same could be said of Denver OG Zane Beadles and Rams and Raiders left tackles Roger Saffold and Jared Veldheer. All three were O-linemen of interest to Cowboys fans who Ciskowski and Co. seemed to have rated lower than expected. Thus far, they have all played a lot; however, the early indications are that they haven’t necessarily played well.
On the other hand, two players from this list that Dallas seems to have underrated were Oregon Safety T. J. Ward and Virginia Tech DE/ OLB Jason Worilds. They saw both players as fourth-rounders, yet both have prospered in a similar defensive scheme (both Cleveland and Pittsburgh run 3-4s; Ward played for current Cowboys DC Rob Ryan in 2010). Worilds in particular seems poised on the cusp of excellence–if only he can squeeze in more snaps with Lamar Woodley and James Harrison manning the Steelers‘ OLB positions.
Alright, now lets take a look at the players that Dallas appeared to value more highly that the rest of the league in April 2010:
|Team and Round (pick #)||Position on Dallas’ Board (round, slot)||Games Played/ Starts||Position on Depth Chart (as of today)||PFF Grades 2010/ 2011||Total Snaps 2010/ 2011||Two year AV 2010/ 2011|
|Sean Lee||DAL 2 (55)||1, 14||29/ 15||1 (RILB)||9.4/ 13.7||169/ 863||2/ 8|
|NaVorro Bowman||SF 3 (91)||1, 20||32/ 17||1 (ILB)||3.7/ 32.2||217/ 1012||2. 19|
|Morgan Burnett||GB 3 (71)||2, 7||20/ 20||1 (SS)||-2.1/ -0.6||200/ 1166||2/ 5|
|Brandon Ghee||CIN 3 (96)||2, 15||13/ 0||2 (LCB)||-0.9/ 0.0||11/ 2||0/ 1|
|Joe McKnight||NYJ 4 (112)||3, 6||24/ 1||3 (HB)||-0.2/ 2.3||72/ 112||2/ 9|
|Carlton Mitchell||CLEV 6 (177)||4, 9||17/ 0||3 (SE)||0.1/ -1.0||12/ 42||0/ 0|
|Tony Pike||CAR 7 (204)||4, 22||1/ 0||waived injured in August 2011||-1.1/ NA||22/ NA||0/ NA|
Some thoughts: The most obvious is that Lee and Bowman, Dallas’ two first-round, Penn St. linebackers (guys who most of us slotted in the third or fourth round–where a lot of draft gurus had them–when we heard that they were Dallas Day invitees in early April 2010), seem to have fulfilled the promise the Cowboys saw in them (and the rest of the league doesn’t seem to have). For their work on Sean Lee and NaVorro Bowman, Ciskowski and Co. get gold stars.
-The defensive backs on this list offer less shining examples: although Morgan Burnett has earned a starting safety position in Green Bay, the Packers pass defense has been suspect (on the other side of the coin, Burnett’s 2011 PFF grade was the highest in the Packers’ secondary). Brandon Ghee, the kind of size/ speed ratio DB who peaked the Cowboys’ interest in recent years (along the lines of Tracy Porter, Charles Godfrey and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah), has done little to nothing of note in Cincy.
-Nobody on this second chart received the egregiously low PFF grades that Davis, Beadles and Veldheer carry. As a result, its hard to say that the Cowboys overvalued anybody. An notable exception might be the aforementioned AOA, who was drafted about where Dallas rated him. Because of this, we cannot know what the rest of the league felt about his skill set. Given that he’s been a washout thus far, a strong argument can be made that the Cowboys overrated him.
To Ol’ Rabble, still haunted by the memory of disastrous drafts during the Larry Lacewell years, when Dallas was drafting guys like Shante Carver in the first round when they carried seventh-round grades in Green Bay (according to Ron Wolf), the fact that Dallas’ current draftmeisters seem, at the very least, to be in accord with–if not slightly ahead of–the rest of the league in terms of talent evaluation is a welcome sight. These numbers seem to agree with Valley Ranch insiders: CIskowski and his guys do an excellent job setting up the Cowboys draft board. The league appears to agree: Ciskowski was on the short list to replace Bill Polian as the Colts‘ GM.
As we know all too well, the problem in the past has been that Jerry Jones has listened too much to his head coaches (AOA was a Wade pick, after all), allowing their opinions to outweigh that of the team’s scouts. But Jason Garrett is no Wade; he comes from a scouting family and is exponentially more likely to respect Ciskowski’s board–something we got a taste of in April 2011, when Dallas stayed put and took their guys. Because of this, there is a glimmer of hope not only for April 2012, but also–and more importantly–for a steady upswing in the Cowboys’ ability to draft consistently well in coming years.