The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Breaking Down Cowboys’ 2012 Draft: Tyrone Crawford, DE, Boise State

Jonathan Bales

With the chaos of the draft subsiding, I’ve had a chance to review some of the Cowboys’ 2012 draft picks in greater detail.  Up first:  Boise State defensive end Tyrone Crawford.

Scouting Report

At 6’4”, 275 pounds, Crawford is a long, lean player who can add bulk to his frame as he develops into a five-technique defensive end for Dallas.  In a league that is more and more about speed every season, I like the fact that Crawford is “undersized” for a 3-4 end.  The Cowboys desperately need some sort of pass rush out of their defensive ends, and Crawford could potentially give that to them.  He racked up 13.5 sacks in only 11 career starts at Boise State.

Crawford is very raw, playing just one season of major college football after transferring from junior college.  You can see a lack of experience reflected in his mechanics; Crawford is unpolished and will need time to develop in the NFL.  At this time, he isn’t a great rusher off the edge, lacking a great “get-off” and showing little burst.  The good news is he’ll be an end in Dallas, not an outside linebacker, and elite explosiveness at that position is rare.

Crawford can have trouble getting off blocks in the run game.  He’s a strong player with long arms, so the skill set is there to develop into a better run defender.  Again, he’ll need some time to develop.

Like all Jason Garrett draft picks, Crawford is a hard worker.  He’s absolutely relentless on the field, never giving up on a play.  Although his play recognition is suspect, that’s to be expected with an inexperienced player.  You can see a glimpse of Crawford’s potential impact at the 2:42 mark above.

Career Projection

In 2012, I think you’ll see Crawford contribute on nickel downs.  Along with Jason Hatcher and Sean Lissemore, Crawford will probably rotate in as a situational pass-rushing five-technique until he adds a little bulk.  Although Crawford doesn’t necessarily have all the tools to make a big impact as a rookie, his career outlook appears brighter.  The skill set is there to develop into something special, but Cowboys fans will need to be patient with this one.

Pick Grade: C+

By Jonathan Bales

Potential Cowboys’ Third-Round Selections in 2012 Draft

Jonathan Bales

After sleeping on it, I’m liking the Cowboys’ first-round trade-up for LSU Morris Claiborne a bit more.  I hate losing this year’s second-rounder, but that’s not a bad price to pay for such an elite player.  You can review my thoughts on the trade and watch Claiborne’s highlights/scouting report here.

The worst part of the Claiborne trade is that the second-round just became a whole lot less interesting.  Let’s take a look at the top players left on my board, along with their original rank:

12. Vinny Curry, DE/OLB, Marshall (First Round) ***

15. Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson (First Round) ***

18. Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford (First Round) ***

21. Devon Still, DT, Penn State (First Round)

23. Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford (First Round)

24. Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State (First Round) ***

25.  Jamell Fleming, CB, Oklahoma (First/Second Round) ***

26.  Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida/North Alabama (First/Second Round)

31. Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia (First/Second Round)

33. Rueben Randle, WR, LSU (Second Round)

35. Josh Chapman, DT, Alabama (First/Second Round) ***

36. Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson (First/Second Round) ***

37. James-Michael Johnson, LB, Nevada (First/Second Round) ***

38. Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State (First Round/Second)

39. Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers (Second Round) ***

41. Ben Jones, C, Georgia (Second Round)

42. Brandon Brooks, G, Miami (OH) (Second Round) ***

43. Brandon Washington, G, Miami (Second Round) ***

44. Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama (Second Round) ^^^

46. Lamar Miller, RB, Miami (Second Round)

47.  Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech (Second Round) ***

48.  Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska (Second Round)

49. Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech (Second Round)

50. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon (Second Round)

51. Brandon Taylor, S, LSU (Second Round)

52. Brian Quick, WR, Appalacian State (Second Round) ***

53. Marcus Forston, DT, Miami (Second Round) ***

54. Jaye Howard, DT, Florida (Second Round) ***

56. Mychal Kendricks, LB, Cal (Second Round)

57.  Josh Robinson, CB, UCF (Second Round)

58. Nigel Bradham, LB, FSU (Second Round) ***

60. Emmanuel Acho, LB, Texas (Second Round) ***

61. Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati (Second Round) ***

62. Ladarius Green, TE, Louisiana-Lafayette (Second Round) ***

63. Matt McCants, OT, Alabama-Birmingham (Second Round) ***

64. Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State (Second Round) ***

65.  Josh Norman, CB, Coastal Carolina (Second Round) ***

66. Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska (Second Round)

67. DaJohn Harris, DT, USC (Second Round) ***

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Of those players, the best prospect who could legitimately drop to the Cowboys’ third-round selection is Alabama DT Josh Chapman.  I love Chapman, grading him far ahead of others as a late-first/early-second round talent.  Check him out:

Chapman can get blown back at times, and he needs to work on his conditioning.  However, he possesses a good pass rush, including one of the best swim moves of any defensive lineman in this class.  Chapman is likely going to drop because he’s only 6’1” with 32-inch arms, and he’s not an elite athlete by any means, even for his size.

For Dallas, Chapman has the size to play the nose and five-technique.  Jason Garrett loves versatility, and Chapman could provide the team a lot of flexibility inside.  He just seems like a Cowboys type of guy.

Here are the other prospects the ‘Boys might seek in Round 3:

Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson (First/Second Round)

  • Let me preface this by saying Allen is unlikely to fall into the third round.  You can click the link to see why I like him so much, though, and with no tight ends off the board, he could fall some.  If Georgia tight end Orson Charles sneaks ahead of Allen, he might just be an option.

Ben Jones, C, Georgia

Brandon Brooks, G, Miami (OH)

Brandon Washington, G, Miami

  • I have these players ranked back-to-back-to-back on my Big Board, all of them with legitimate second-round grades.  You’d think at least one of the trio will fall, and there aren’t many other players I’d prefer over Jones and The Brandons.

Brandon Taylor, S, LSU

Markelle Martin, S, Oklahoma State

  • Why not cap off the secondary transformation with a safety?  Martin in particular seems like a likely target for Dallas.  He’s intelligent and versatile enough to play either safety position.

Marcus Forston, DT, Miami

Jaye Howard, DT, Florida

DaJohn Harris, DT, USC

  • Defensive tackle is by far the most loaded position left on the board at this point.  If Chapman isn’t an option in the third, any of the players above might be.  I have second-round grades on all of them.

Ladarius Green, TE, Louisana-Lafayette

  • If the Cowboys hadn’t traded their second-rounder, I think tight end was a legitimate option for them at that point.  With Allen likely to fall, Green could be the Cowboys’ guy.  He’s a different sort of player than Martellus Bennett, though, so if the coaches are looking for a blocking replacement, this isn’t it.

Cam Johnson, DE/OLB, Virginia

Malik Jackson, DE/OLB, Tennessee

  • The edge-rusher cupboard is bare.  I didn’t put Vinny Curry on this list because I can’t imagine him falling, and Courtney Upshaw will obviously be off the board as well.  After those two, these are my top guys, ranked all the way down at No. 69 and No. 76, respectively.

By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys Draft LSU Cornerback Morris Claiborne in First: Scouting Report, Highlights

Jonathan Bales

The Cowboys gave up their first and second-round selections to move up to No. 6 overall for LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne.  A couple thoughts:

  • Even though I love Morris Claiborne, losing the second-rounder is costly.  I’m indifferent right now because I really do love Claiborne.  He was No. 5 overall on my Big Board.
  • What will the Cowboys do now in the secondary?  Brandon Carr and Claiborne play outside, which means Mike Jenkins will need to move into the slot.  Could the team look to trade Jenkins?  He has some value going into the final year of his contract, and no one is going to be trading for Orlando Scandrick.  If Jenkins stays, the ‘Boys would be paying $27 million to a fourth cornerback.

Nonetheless, the Cowboys secured a play-making cornerback who has the potential to be a difference-maker on defense.  I did a scouting report on Claiborne early in the draft process, and I really studied a lot of his film.  Here’s what I had to say:

At 6-0, 185 pounds, Claiborne (#17) has pretty good size.  He could stand to add some bulk to his frame; his strength is only average.  Despite being lean, Claiborne is not afraid to stick his nose in the running game (see the 29-second mark in the first video below).  Claiborne won’t be doing a lot of sideline-to-sideline chasing, as in that clip against Cam Newton, but it shows his athleticism and willingness to tackle.

There is a difference between being willing to tackle and doing it efficiently, and Claiborne is the perfect example.  He misses a lot of tackles because of poor technique.  Although tackling form can be coached, a desire to tackle cannot.  Claiborne will improve at bringing down ball-carriers in the N.F.L.

In the passing game, Claiborne excels at using his body to wall off receivers. On deep balls, Claiborne “boxes out” receivers, all while turning his head to locate the football and avoid pass interference.  His awareness of the receiver’s location is uncanny.

One of the reasons Claiborne plays the deep ball so well is that he’s adept at flipping his hips.  The fluidity he displays from his backpedal to a turn-and-run position is outstanding.  Claiborne’s quick hips allow him to let receivers eat up his cushion before he turns to run if they go deep.  In turn, Claiborne can then squat on routes like comebacks and curls, knowing he has the quickness to recover if the receiver reaches his hip.

You can see an example of Claiborne’s deep ball technique at the 4:01 mark in the video above.  From an off position, he lets the receiver eat up his cushion before flipping his hips, running stride for stride, turning to locate the football and making the interception.  That’s an elite play.

Claiborne is versatile; he’s sharp in both press and off coverage.  He seems most comfortable at the line, however, where he can use his long arms to disrupt receivers as they try to get into their routes.  In the N.F.L., Claiborne will need to limit contact after five yards.  In college, he was physical with receivers well into their routes.  In the pros, that will be flagged, so expect Claiborne to see his fair share of penalties early in the 2012 season.

Claiborne is at his best in zone coverage.  He has a really solid understanding of zone concepts and spacing.  He is constantly coming off his receiver in zone to make plays, all while maintaining his responsibility.  You can see an example of this at the 8-second mark in the Oregon game.  Claiborne is in Cover 2 and recognizes an out-breaking route very early, coming off the receiver already in his zone to get into position for a big hit.  He does this multiple times a game, which is why he will excel in a zone-heavy defense in the pros.

Claiborne’s route recognition is the best of any cornerback I have studied thus far in the 2012 class.  You can see that during the last play in the video below.

In the clip, Claiborne appears to be in either Cover 2 or Cover 2 man under (both of which give him safety help over the top).  A lot of cornerbacks would play over top of the receiver in that situation, but Claiborne knows he has deep help, so he squats on the route.  Claiborne’s intelligence, grasp of defensive schemes and route recognition translate to a pick-six.

At this point, his biggest weakness is his coverage of in-breaking routes (like slants, digs and so on).  On these routes, he often finds himself on his heels, incapable of breaking quickly on the ball.  Note that on almost all such routes, Claiborne would only follow the receiver in man coverage.  Again, he has a chance to excel for a team that plays primarily zone.

The Cowboys play more man coverage than most teams, and that isn’t Claiborne’s strength.  That’s not to say he’s poor, because he’s the top overall cornerback in this class.  He simply is dominant in zone, but he has the hips to play any scheme.  His long frame will come in handy at the line in press coverage, and like I said above, he doesn’t get beat deep.  Along with Carr, the ‘Boys suddenly because dominant at cornerback.

More to come in a bit.

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By Jonathan Bales

Introducing “Running the Numbers” at DallasCowboys.com

Jonathan Bales

I told you yesterday I had some big news coming.  Starting today, I will be doing a blog at DallasCowboys.com called “Running the Numbers.”  My first post is an analysis of historic draft data, both from a Cowboys and league-wide perspective, on the five positions I deem most suitable for the ‘Boys tonight and tomorrow.  Click here to read the full analysis.

The conclusion of that study is that that two specific positions are undervalued in the draft, and they happen to be two spots the Cowboys could go with either of their first two selections.  I think the analysis provides some insights on which prospects the Cowboys might be targeting most heavily tonight.

As far as The DC Times goes, I will continue to post here regularly.  I will post to my “Running the Numbers” blog about twice a week to start, so continue to check both there and here.

I am headed off to Radio City Music Hall for the big night.  Don’t forget to check the Twitter account periodically for any updates.

By Jonathan Bales

Final 2012 NFL Mock Draft, Version 4.0: Cowboys Locked In on Barron?

Jonathan Bales

I will be posting throughout the day, so check back for more updates in a bit.  Here is my final mock:

1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

  • Other: None

2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

  • Other: None

3. Minnesota Vikings: Morris Claiborne, CB, L.S.U.

  • Other: Matt  Kalil, OT, USC

4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

  • Other: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

5. Tampa Bay Bucs: Matt Kalil, OT, USC

6. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

7. Jacksonville Jaguars:  Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

9. Carolina Panthers: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina

10. Buffalo Bills: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

  • Other: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

11. Kansas City Chiefs: David DeCastro, G, Stanford

12. Seattle Seahawks: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

  • Other: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

13. Arizona Cardinals: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

14. Dallas Cowboys: Mark Barron, SS, Alabama

15. Philadelphia Eagles: Fletcher Cox, DT/DE, Mississippi State

16. Jets: Quinton Coples, DE, UNC

17. Cincinnati Bengals: Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse

18. San Diego Chargers: Nick Perry, DE/OLB, U.S.C.

19. Chicago Bears: Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia

  • Other: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

20. Tennessee Titans: Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

  • Other: Doug Martin, RB, Boise State

22. Cleveland Browns: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor

  • Other: Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State

23. Detroit Lions: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

  • Other: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State

24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

  • Other: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State

25. Denver Broncos: Jerel Worthy, DT/DE, Michigan State

26. Houston Texans: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech

27. New England Patriots: Shea McClellin, DE/OLB, Boise State

28. Green Bay Packers: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State

  • Other: Shea McClellin, DE/OLB, Boise State

29. Baltimore Ravens: Dont’a Hightower

  • Other: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech

30. San Francisco 49ers: Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford

31. New England Patriots: Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida/North Alabama

  • Other: Reuben Randle, WR, L.S.U.

32. New York Giants: Doug Martin, RB, Boise State

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Justin Shoemaker’s 2012 Mock Draft

  1. Colts- Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
  2. Redskins- RGIII, QB, Baylor
  3. Vikings- Matt Kalil, OT, USC
  4. Browns-Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
  5. Bucs-Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
  6. Rams-Justin Blackmon, WR, OK State
  7. Chargers (Trade with Jaguars)-Mark Barron, S, Alabama
  8. Dolphins-Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
  9. Panthers-Fletcher Cox, DT, Miss St
  10. Bills-Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
  11. Jets (Trade with Chiefs)-Melvin Ingram, OLB, South Carolina
  12. Seattle Seahawks-Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
  13. Cardinals-Riley Reiff-OT, Iowa
  14. Cowboys-David Decastro, G, Stanford
  15. Bears- (Trade with Eagles) Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
  16. Lions (Trade with Chiefs via Jets)-Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
  17. Bengals- Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia
  18. Jaguars (Trade with Chargers)-Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
  19. Eagles (Trade with Bears)-Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
  20. Titans- Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
  21. Bengals-Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
  22. Browns-Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
  23. Chiefs (Trade with Lions)- Amini Silatolu, G, Midwestern State
  24. Steelers-Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama
  25. Broncos-Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan St.
  26. Texans-Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
  27. Patriots-Nick Perry, OLB, USC
  28. Packers-Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse
  29. Ravens-Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
  30. Niners-Kendall Wright, WR Baylor
  31. Brows (Trade with Pats)-Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State
  32. Giants- Kevin Zeitler-G, Wisconsin

By Jonathan Bales

2012 Final Big Board and Position Rankings: The Top 162 Players

Jonathan Bales

My final 2012 Big Board is up at the NY Times.  You can see my top 162 players there, as well as my individual positions rankings below.  Note that I have made a few minor alterations in the last couple days.

Cornerbacks

1. Morris Claiborne, LSU (First Round)

2.  Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina (First Round)

3. Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama (First Round)

4.  Jamell Fleming, Oklahoma (First/Second Round) ***

5.  Janoris Jenkins, Florida/North Alabama (First/Second Round)

6.  Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech (Second Round) ***

7.  Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska (Second Round)

8.  Josh Robinson, UCF (Second Round)

9.  Josh Norman, Coastal Carolina (Second Round) ***

10.  Chase Minnifield, Virginia (Second/Third Round)

11.  Brandon Boykin, Georgia (Fourth Round) ^^^

12. Ryan Steed, Furman (Fourth Round)  ***

13.  Trumaine Johnson, Montana  (Fourth Round) ^^^

14.  Coryell Judie, Texas A&M (Fourth/Fifth Round)

15.  Dwight Bentley, UL Lafayette (Fifth Round)

16. DeQuan Menzie, Alabama (Fifth/Sixth Round)

17.  Casey Hayward, Vanderbilt (Fifth/Sixth Round) ^^^

18. Asa Jackson, Cal Poly (Sixth Round)

19. Leonard Johnson, Iowa State (Sixth Round) ^^^

20. Omar Bolden, Arizona State (Sixth Round)

Wide Receivers

1. Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (First Round)

2. Michael Floyd, Notre Dame (First Round)

3. Kendall Wright, Baylor (First/Second Round)

4. Reuben Randle, LSU (Second Round)

5. Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers (Second Round) ***

6. Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech (Second Round)

7. Brian Quick, Appalacian State (Second Round) ***

8. A.J. Jenkins, Illinois (Second Round) ***

9. Marvin McNutt, Iowa (Second/Third Round) ***

10. Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina (Third Round) ^^^

11. Chris Givens, Wake Forest (Third Round) ***

12. Nick Toon, Wisconsin (Third Round)

13. TY Hilton, Florida International (Third/Fourth Round)

14. Marvin Jones, Cal (Fourth Round)

15. Jarius Wright, Arkansas (Fifth Round)

16. Juron Criner, Arizona (Fourth Round)

17. Joe Adams, Arkansas (Fifth Round)

Edge-Rushers

1. Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina (First Round)

2. Vinny Curry, DE/OLB, Marshall (First Round) ***

3. Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina (First Round)

4. Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois (First Round)

5. Shea McClellin, DE/OLB, Boise State (First/Second Round) ***

6. Nick Perry, DE/OLB, U.S.C. (First/Second Round)

7. Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama (Second Round) ^^^

8. Cam Johnson, DE, Virginia (Second Round)

9. Malik Jackson, DE, Tennessee (Second/Third Round) ***

10. Bruce Irvin, OLB, West Virginia (Second/Third Round)

11. Chandler Jones, DE/OLB, Syracuse (Second/Third Round)

12. Jonathan Massaquoi, DE/OLB, Troy (Third Round) ***

13. Andre Branch, DE/OLB, Clemson (Third Round) ^^^

14. Kyle Wilber, OLB, Wake Forest (Third Round) ***

15. Ronnell Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma (Third/Fourth Round) ^^^

16. Tyrone Crawford, DE, Boise State (Fourth Round)

17. Brandon Lindsey, DE/OLB, Pitt (Fourth Round)

18. Oliver Vernon, DE/OLB, Miami (Fifth Round)

19. Donte Paige-Moss, DE/OLB, UNC (Fifth Round)

20. Jack Bequette, DE, Arkansas (Fifth Round) ^^^

21. Jacquies Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri (Fifth Round)

22. Julian Miller, DE, West Virginia (Fifth/Sixth Round)

Defensive Tackles

1. Jerel Worthy, Michigan State (First Round) ***

2. Brandon Thompson, Clemson (First Round) ***

3. Devon Still, Penn State (First Round)

4. Dontari Poe, Memphis (First/Second Round)

5. Josh Chapman, Alabama (First/Second Round) ***

6. Fletcher Cox, Mississippi St (Second Round)

7. Michael Brockers, LSU (Second Round) ^^^

8. Marcus Forston, Miami (Second Round) ***

9. Jaye Howard, Florida (Second Round) ***

10. Jared Crick, Nebraska (Second Round)

11. DaJohn Harris, USC (Second Round) ***

12. Alameda Ta’amu, Washington (Third Round) ^^^

13. Kendall Reyes, UConn (Third Round)

14. Mike Martin, Michigan (Fourth Round) ^^^

15. Derek Wolfe, Cincinnati (Fourth/Fifth Round) ^^^

16. Kheeston Randall, Texas (Fifth Round)

Quarterbacks

1. Robert Griffin III, Baylor (First Round) ***

2. Andrew Luck, Stanford (First Round)

3. Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M (First/Second Round)

4. Kirk Cousins, Michigan State (Second Round) ***

5. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State (ThirdRound) ^^^

6. Nick Foles, Arizona (Third Round)

7. Russell Wilson, Wisconsin (Third Round)

8. BJ Coleman, UT-Chattanooga (Fourth Round)

9. Brock Osweiler, Arizona State (Fifth Round)  ^^^

Running Backs

1. Trent Richardson, Alabama (First Round)

2. Doug Martin, Boise State (First Round)

3. David Wilson, Virginia Tech (First/Second Round)

4. Lamar Miller, Miami (Second Round)

5. LaMichael James (Second Round)

6. Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati (Second Round) ***

7. Chris Rainey, Florida (Second/Third Round) ***

8. Chris Polk, Washington (Third Round)

9. Ronnie Hillman, San Diego State (Third /Fourth Round)

10. Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M (Fourth Round)

11. Bernard Pierce, Temple (Fourth/Fifth Round) ^^^

12. Robert Turbin, Utah State (Fifth Round)

13. Tauren Poole, Tennessee (Fifth Round)

14. Vick Ballard, Mississippi State (Sixth Round)

Offensive Tackles

1. Matt Kalil, USC (First Round)

2. Riley Reiff, Iowa (First Round)

3. Jonathan Martin, Stanford (First Round)

4. Zebrie Sanders, Florida State (First Round) ***

5. Mike Adams, Ohio State (First Round/Second)

6. Matt McCants, Alabama-Birmingham (Second Round) ***

7. Jeff Allen, Illinois (Second/Third Round)

8. Brandon Mosley, Auburn (Third Round)

9. James Brown, Troy (Third Round)

10. Mitchell Schwartz, Cal (Third Round)

11. Bobby Massie, Mississippi (Third Round) ^^^

12. Markus Zusevics, Iowa (Third Round)

13. Nate Potter, Boise State (Fourth Round)

14. Andrew Datko, Florida State (Fourth Round)

15. Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State (Fourth Round)

16. Matt Reynolds, BYU (Fourth/Fifth Round)

17. James Carmon, Mississippi State (Fifth Round)

Interior Linemen

1. David DeCastro, G, Stanford (First Round)

2. Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia (First/Second Round)

3. Ben Jones, C, Georgia (Second Round)

4. Brandon Brooks, G, Miami (OH) (Second Round) ***

5. Brandon Washington, G, Miami (Second Round) ***

6. Kelechi Osemele, G, Iowa State (Second Round)

7. Amini Silatolu, G, Midwestern State (Second/Third Round) ^^^

8. Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin (Second/Third Round) ^^^

9. Jeff Allen, G, Illinois (Third Round)

10. Philip Blake, C, Baylor (Third Round)

11. Lucas Nix, G, Pitt (Third Round)

12. Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin (Third/Fourth Round) ^^^

13. Michael Brewster, C, Ohio State (Third/Fourth Round)

14. Tony Bergstrom, G, Utah (Fourth Round)

15. David Molk, C, Michigan (Fourth/Fifth Round) ^^^

Safety

1. Mark Barron, Alabama (First Round)

2. Brandon Taylor, LSU (Second Round)

3. Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State (Second/Third Round)

4. Harrison Smith, Notre Dame (Third Round) ^^^

5. Trenton Robinson, Michigan State (Third Round)

6. Kelcie McCray, Arkansas State (Third Round) ***

7. Aaron Henry, Wisconsin (Third/Fourth Round)

8. Tramain Thomas, Arkansas (Third/Fourth Round)

9. George Iloka, Boise State (Third/Fourth Round)

10. Corey Mosley, Virginia Tech (Fourth Round)

11. Janzen Jackson, McNeese State (Fourth Round)

12. Christian Thompson, South Carolina State (Fifth Round)

Linebacker

1. Luke Kuechly, Boston College (First Round) ***

2. James-Michael Johnson, Nevada (First/Second Round) ***

3. Mychal Kendricks, Cal (Second Round)

4. Nigel Bradham, FSU (Second Round) ***

5. Dont’a Hightower, Alabama (Second Round) ^^^

6. Emmanuel Acho, Texas (Second Round) ***

7. Lavonte David, Nebraska (Second/Third Round) ^^^

8. Bobby Wagner, Utah State (Third Round)

9. Ronnell Lewis, Oklahoma (Third/Fourth Round)

10. Tank Carder, TCU (Fourth Round)

11. Zach Brown, UNC (Fourth Round) ^^^

12. Sean Spence, Miami (Fourth Round)

13. Jerry Franklin, Arkansas (Fifth Round)

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Justin Shoemaker and I will be taking off for the draft tomorrow, and we plan to give you as much news as possible through our Twitter feeds (click here for Justin’s and mine).  I will post a sync our Twitter accounts to the site tomorrow as well, and hopefully we can bring you some updates before they’re on television.  I also have some big news coming later today or tomorrow, so be sure to check back.

Below, you can see Justin’s Top 32 prospects.

1. Andrew Luck

2. Matt Kalil

3. Robert Griffin III

4. Trent Richardson

5. Justin Blackmon

6. Morris Claiborne

7. Melvin Ingram

8. Luke Kuechly

9. David DeCastro

10.  Quinton Coples

11.  Jonathan Martin

12.   Janoris Jenkins

13.  Riley Reiff

14.  Devon Still

15.  Dre Kirkpatrick

16.  Fletcher Cox

17.  Michael Floyd

18.  Vinny Curry

19.  Stephon Gilmore

20.  Jerel Worthy

21.  Mark Barron

22.  Brandon Thompson

23.  Courtney Upshaw

24.   Whitney Mercilus

25.  Dontari Poe

26.  Donte Hightower

27.  Ryan Tannenhill

28.  Michael Brockers

29.  Doug Martin

30.  Peter Konz

31.  Kendall Wright

32.  Ronnell Lewis

By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys Potential 2012 Draft Pick: Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame

Jonathan Bales

Some of you were disappointed I rated Harrison Smith so low in my Linebacker and Safety Rankings.  My scouting report on Smith at the NY Times will provide more details on why I did it:

Harrison Smith is a strong safety all the way.  He is listed as a free safety in most rankings, and the N.F.L. safety positions are becoming more interchangeable, but Smith is not a turn-and-run, play-the-deep-middle type of safety. He thrives in the box and when he is near the line of scrimmage.  He i’s a good blitzer, as you can see at the 39-second mark.

Smith plays almost as a small linebacker, reading plays and flying up to make hits.  When he is allowed to roam near the line, Smith can be a really good player. He can cover running backs and some tight ends effectively, and he can even line up in the slot at times. Smith excels in underneath zone coverage. He will not be able to consistently play man against receivers.

Some have labeled Smith as a ballhawk, but I do not see that.  When asked to play the deep middle, Smith looks stiff.  His instincts are not bad and he reads plays well, but he really is not a rangy defender.  His stiffness shows up as a tackler in space (see the 1:42 mark).  In traffic, however, Smith displays excellent wrap-up tackling technique.

I don’t think Smith has very good hips, and he’s not sudden out of his breaks.  He can’t cover slot receivers, and I’m not sure he would succeed in the deep half.  I would be disappointed if the Cowboys grabbed Smith if he’s available in the second round.

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By Jonathan Bales

NFL Draft Spotlight: Rueben Randle, WR, LSU

Jonathan Bales

Only a few more days until the start of the 2012 NFL Draft, and thus only a few more scouting reports to come.  My Big Board will be posted at the NY Times tomorrow morning, and I will follow up with position rankings here as well.

In another installment of my “NFL Draft Spotlight” Series at Roto Experts, I just published a scouting report and fantasy outlook for LSU wide receiver Ruben Randle.  After watching more tape of Randle, I actually moved him up on my Big Board.  Here’s a clip of the report:

At 6’3”, 210 pounds, Randle has prototypical wide receiver size. Randle won’t overwhelm with speed, but he still has the ability to eat up a cornerback’s cushion. You can see Randle get deep at the 35-second mark in the video below. He does the same thing on the next play. Randle is a long-strider whose ability to press cornerbacks vertically is underrated. It’s enough that Randle can keep them honest, later working slants and digs underneath. Inversely, Randle’s ability and willingness to succeed over the middle allows him to challenge cornerbacks vertically.

Randle has adequate, but not great, speed for his size. His quickness isn’t outstanding either. Randle is an ‘X’ receiver all the way, and I really don’t think you’ll see him in the slot much in the NFL. Nonetheless, Randle can move the chains. He possesses great hands and uses them well in traffic, snagging the ball out of the air as opposed to letting it get into his body.

As a route-runner, Randle doesn’t waste much motion. Despite a lack of elite quickness, he’s still quite sudden out of certain breaks. On routes like posts and slants, Randle shows this burst. He has trouble when asked to break down and change direction, such as on comebacks or curls.

Head over to Roto Experts for the full article.  For fantasy owners, I think Randle offers an intriguing mix of size and big-play ability.  He’s probably not much of an option for redraft owners, but you could easily make a case for him being worthy of the No. 3 rookie receiver label in dynasty leagues.

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By Jonathan Bales

2012 Draft Rankings: Safeties and Linebackers

Jonathan Bales

These are my final position rankings.  You can find the rest here: cornerbackdefensive tackle, interior line, edge-rusher, offensive tackle, and skill positions.  I hope to have a Big Board up by early next week.

Notes

  • The round listed after each prospect’s name is the grade I have provided him, NOT where I think he will get selected.  I view players with two rounds listed as on the border of each.
  • Players with the *** designation are higher than consensus rankings, while those with ^^^ after their names are lower than the consensus.
  • Linebackers are all non-rushers (4-3 linebackers or 3-4 inside linebackers).  You can find 3-4 backers in my edge-rusher rankings.

Safety

1. Mark Barron, Alabama (First Round)

2. Brandon Taylor, LSU (Second Round)

3. Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State (Second/Third Round)

4. Harrison Smith, Notre Dame (Third Round) ^^^

5. Trenton Robinson, Michigan State (Third Round)

6. Kelcie McCray, Arkansas State (Third Round) ***

7. Aaron Henry, Wisconsin (Third/Fourth Round)

8. Tramain Thomas, Arkansas (Third/Fourth Round)

9. George Iloka, Boise State (Third/Fourth Round)

10. Corey Mosley, Virginia Tech (Fourth Round)

11. Janzen Jackson, McNeese State (Fourth Round)

12. Christian Thompson, South Carolina State (Fifth Round)

Linebacker

1. Luke Kuechly, Boston College (First Round) ***

2. James-Michael Johnson, Nevada (First/Second Round) ***

3. Mychal Kendricks, Cal (Second Round)

4. Nigel Bradham, FSU (Second Round) ***

5. Dont’a Hightower, Alabama (Second Round) ^^^

6. Emmanuel Acho, Texas (Second Round) ***

7. Lavonte David, Nebraska (Second/Third Round) ^^^

8. Bobby Wagner, Utah State (Third Round)

9. Ronnell Lewis, Oklahoma (Third/Fourth Round)

10. Tank Carder, TCU (Fourth Round)

11. Zach Brown, UNC (Fourth Round) ^^^

12. Sean Spence, Miami (Fourth Round)

13. Jerry Franklin, Arkansas (Fifth Round)

———————————————

A few thoughts. . .

  • I wasn’t originally extremely high on Barron, but he’s grown on me in the last few weeks.  I’ve watched a whole lot of his tape, and although I don’t think he’s a top 15 talent, I wouldn’t be totally bummed if the Cowboys grab him at No. 14.
  • Harrison Smith just doesn’t do it for me.  I’m sure he’ll be a solid pro, but I don’t see the upside here.  He’s not rangy in the least, and he might need to come off the field in nickel.
  • Watch out for safety Kelcie McCray.  No competition at Arkansas State, but he has big-time range and is a play-maker in the deep half.
  • I actually like quite a few linebackers in this draft class.  Kuechly is a can’t-miss guy and, although he plays a relatively “invaluable” position, I think he’s worthy of a top 10 pick.
  • No one has James-Michael Johnson rated anywhere near as high as me, but I think he has superstar potential.  He’s a heck of an athlete, has great feet, and can turn and run.  The same goes from FSU’s Nigel Bradham, who, unlike Johnson, played top-notch competition.
  • Both Dont’a Hightower and Zach Brown have poor hips, in my opinion.  I know that isn’t as important at linebacker as safety or cornerback, but neither plays shows the change-of-direction you’d like in a linebacker.

By Jonathan Bales

2012 Draft Series: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

Jonathan Bales

In my 2012 Skill Position Rankings, I had Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III ahead of Stanford’s Andrew Luck.  Today, I posted my scouting report on RGIII over at Roto Experts.  From that report:

Robert Griffin will probably be the second-most athletic quarterback in the history of the NFL, behind only Michael Vick. He possesses natural feet and can make things happen on the ground. Despite his speed, Griffin keeps his eyes downfield at all times. His arm is his primary weapon, and his legs are a nice backup option.

As a passer, the main thing I like about Griffin is his ability to throw from different angles. Great quarterbacks find a way to get the receiver the football, and Griffin can do that regardless of the position of his arm. He has good but not great arm strength, but plenty of touch.  When pressured, Griffin can re-set his feet as quickly as any quarterback I’ve seen.

Some of you asked how I could put RGIII ahead of Luck, and there’s your answer.  I realize Luck is a very athletic, but there’s a difference between proficient running ability and play-making running ability.  Luck will stay out of trouble with his legs.  RGIII, although not quite Vick, will make plays with his legs.

For dynasty fantasy owners, I like RGIII’s long-term upside more than that of Luck.

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