ESPN NFL draft expert Todd McShay posted his third mock draft on Thursday. And for the second time in three mocks, McShay has the Colts selecting LSU offensive lineman La’el Collins with the No. 29 overall pick.
The Colts can go a number of different ways with their pick because they have an assortment of needs on their roster -- from offensive line to safety to pass-rusher to defensive line to running back.
Philadelphia, according to McShay, will select Alabama's Landon Collins, the best safety in the draft, at No. 20. Georgia running back Todd Gurley is still on McShay’s board when the Colts select, but he has them passing on him. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because Gurley is working his way back from a torn ACL, which happened last November. The Colts also like the running back depth in this draft.
Collins can play guard or tackle. Both of those positions are areas of concern for the Colts.
“Lots of teams have told me I am their favorite offensive lineman,” Collins said at the combine last week. “Lots of teams told me they asked me if I could slide to the right side and then in two years maybe come over the left. Could I come in right now and play left? I feel very confident in what I do, so for me it wouldn’t be a problem.”
It’s the little things Hasselbeck does that mean a lot to Luck and the Colts.
Hasselbeck spent the past two seasons joining coach Chuck Pagano, offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton and quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen as being an extra set of eyes for Luck.
Hasselbeck has seen a lot during his 16-year career that includes 34,948 yards passing, 203 touchdowns, 148 interceptions, three Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl appearance.
“I lean on him every week,” Luck said during the playoffs. “He is a huge part of helping me prepare, helping this offense prepare. He’s a great sounding board for any player on our offense. He has the answer to just about every question. If he doesn’t, he knows where to find it. He’s incredibly helpful, and in sort of uncharted territory for some of the guys, he definitely helps with some of the things outside of the game that you may not anticipate or expect.”
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper went with cornerback Trae Waynes (the fastest defensive back at the combine) and offensive tackle Ereck Flowers (who led all offensive linemen with 37 bench press reps) as the Houston Texans' picks in his mock drafts. His counterpart Todd McShay has stayed consistent in both of his postseason mock draft, giving the Texans Stanford offensive tackle Andrus Peat both times.
Peat is a 6-foot-6, 313-pound junior who has long arms, measured at 34 3/8 inches.
McShay notes Peat's arm length as a positive, and I know that's an area that could use improvement on the Texans' offensive line. Peat played left tackle in college, but McShay projects him here under the assumption that the Texans would be comfortable moving him to left tackle to replace Derek Newton.
I've maintained that I see bigger needs for the Texans than right tackle. I think the Texans will re-sign Newton and keep their offensive tackles intact. Their free agency doings will have a significant impact on the way they handle their draft, because it will dictate what their needs are. With quarterback Ryan Mallett, cornerback Kareem Jackson, outside linebacker Brooks Reed and safety Kendrick Lewis all unsigned, there are several potential holes for the Texans to fill.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In draft analysis circles, it’s difficult to find a less-than-stellar review of USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams.
But Greg Cosell, who studies players for NFL Films, has watched four game of Williams and isn’t overwhelmed.
"I’m going to be in the minority here, and I am sure there are a lot of people who think I am a moron, and it wouldn’t be the first time, but I’m not blown away by Leonard Williams," Cosell said in his weekly interview with my Nashville radio show, The Midday 180 on 104.5 The Zone.
"I think he tends to play high, I think he tends to show his chest, which is a really bad thing for a defensive lineman. I wouldn’t say he’s a natural pass-rusher. I didn’t think he played real well sort of in space. I thought there were too many snaps in which he was moved by double teams. I think that he’s flash player. Every once in a while you see a certain play and you go, 'Wow, that’s pretty good.' But I don’t see him as a purely explosive player the way you’d think of let’s say a Gerald McCoy coming out of Oklahoma or a Sheldon Richardson coming out of Missouri.
"Again, I’m not going to sit here and tell you he’s a bad player. But people are talking about him now as if he’s a Hall of Fame player. I’ve watched four games now, and some people would say that’s plenty, and I’ll probably watch even more because I know I’m in the minority and I want to make sure I’m not missing anything -- but that’s what I see on film."
If the Tennessee Titans have a similar feeling, I could see them concluding their bigger need isn’t on the line, but at outside linebacker, and looking to drop in the first round and land Dante Fowler Jr., Randy Gregory, Shane Ray, or Vic Beasley.
Cosell said Gregory is a better athlete, more explosive and more flexible, but not as strong as last year’s No. 1 pick, Jadeveon Clowney. Colleague Tania Ganguli reflected on that from a Texans’ perspective.
Cosell is also very high on Fowler, who he said could be a Clay Matthews or Justin Houston.
Listen to the whole Cosell interview here.
You can also check on Williams discussing his versatility and his relationship with the Titans' best defensive player, end Jurrell Casey.
So we'll take notice when, just a year later, Greg Cosell of NFL Films offers his thoughts on why he thinks there's an even better athlete in this year's draft. That would be Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory.
"Well he's a better athlete than Clowney," Cosell said when prompted by our friend Paul Kuharsky on Midday 180, a Nashville radio station. "He's more flexible. He's more explosive in his movement. Clearly not as strong. Clowney could get inside and push back. Clowney did not have the loose hips that this guy does. Gregory is a much more explosive mover, a much looser athlete."
The issue of the looseness of Clowney's hips caught my attention. Very shortly after signing his rookie contract with the Texans, Clowney had a sports hernia surgery that I've heard might have been an issue for a while before that. It's definitely an injury that could impact a player's flexibility and hip movements. Assuming Cosell's opinion was formed off college tape, which I think it was, that could explain some of what he saw.
Cosell went on to describe the difference in the two players' styles.
"It's like watching running backs," he said. "You know immediately when you watch running backs, the guys when they hit the point of attack are shifty and elusive versus the guys that are a little stiff and can't do that. Gregory's kind of shifty and elusive in his movement. He's a quick-twitch, explosive guy laterally. Clowney was more straight-line power."
You can listen to the full interview here. The extended portion about Clowney begins at the 12:28 mark. Earlier in the interview he talks about other pass-rushers, raving in particular about Florida's Dante Fowler Jr.
Several media members were invited to the event, and from their tweets, we learned a few things. Let's get to them, in list form, with the help of those reporters' tweets.
#Texans Quessenberry: "I'm officially in remission. Man, I love saying that."— Simone Eli (@SimoneEli_KPRC) February 25, 2015
My take: This is the best Texans news anyone will get all year. David Quessenberry was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins T lymphoblastic lymphoma last summer, spent the summer and fall undergoing aggressive treatments (read more about his journey here). Radiation followed chemotherapy and that process is now finished. In the aforementioned link, you'll read that this isn't the end of the road, but it's a very important and positive milestone for Quessenberry. Great news.
Mallett is still recovering from surgery on a torn pectoral muscle. "I've tossed it (ball) around a little. Its a day by day process. "— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) February 25, 2015
My take: Ryan Mallett said in December that he wants to be back with the Texans, and he repeated that Wednesday. He also provided this update on his pectoral muscle: He's started tossing the ball around, but is taking his recovery day to day. Mallett will hit free agency on March 10 if the Texans don't reach a deal with him before then. I'm betting it will happen.
My take: Chris Myers' future is an interesting one. He acknowledged to reporters that the business side of football comes into play. Simone Eli of KPRC tweeted that Myers has been working out with the team. Myers still has one year left on a contract he signed in 2012, and his salary-cap figure for that year is $8 million, which has spurred some of the discussion about his future.
As recently as Sunday, the Titans executive vice president of administration and facilities had a former player in his face belittling him for issues the alumni have with the team. That’s largely a problem or perceived problem created by coach Ken Whisenhunt, but MacLachlan was on the front line at a local radio station event.
He took what was dished out while staying calm and reasoned.
For a franchise that has become moribund in many ways, he brought constant energy and enthusiasm.
If McLachlan did resign, I suspect it was only because he was going to be fired. That the Titans had immediate word of some of the replacement plans indicate that this was in the works for at least a while.
So in exchange for being an administrative face of the franchise while the head of the team’s ownership group, the inexperienced and perhaps overmatched Tommy Smith, got to stay way in the background, MacLachlan got shoved out.
Both Smith and MacLachlan offered the standard press release line offering thanks.
I'm not impartial. I've known MacLachlan since 1996 and was a fan of the way he carried himself and the constant spark he brought. I like him professionally and personally.
The team’s bad year certainly extended beyond its 2-14 record. Following pledges from Smith that game-day operations would be enhanced, there was at least one game where there was a major backup at the gate that delayed fans from getting into LP Field. There were steady complaints about the new concessionaire, Aramark.
Maybe both sides ultimately needed a change.
But the move begs for Smith to step out from behind the guy who did most of his public PR and to explain what’s happened and the plan going forward.
“While we are sad to see Don go, we know there also is a great deal of work ahead of us to improve our organization, Smith said in a statement. “Over the last year, one of my primary objectives was to monitor how things have been operating within the team. This offseason, we have decided to make changes in a number of areas from both a personnel standpoint and a structural standpoint. As of today, we have hired or promoted some of these people already; and for some other positions, we are in the interview process. This is not an easy process, but these changes will reflect a shift in our approach and hopefully will result in making our fans proud.”
What’s the shift in approach? Could he be more vague?
MacLachlan’s departure came with an announcement of one in-house promotion and one outside hire with previous ties to the organization. Senior director of ticketing Marty Collins and director of ticket operations Tim Zenner were recently fired, the team confirmed.
Stuart Spears, who has been with the organization for a total of 28 years and has served most recently as vice president of business operations and sales, will become the team’s chief revenue officer. I know Whisenhunt quickly became very fond of Spears.
Spears is a hard-working guy who’s popular in the building and might be fantastic in his new role. But as Smith looks for a shift in approach, he’s promoting someone who’s been part of the franchise's approach since 1987.
Bob Flynn, who has most recently served as senior director of corporate partnerships for the NHL’s Nashville Predators, will become the Titans’ head of facilities and game day operations. Flynn previously was an Arena Football League general manager, including for four years with the Nashville Kats. The Kats were controlled by the Titans while Flynn was employed.
More news of new people and new roles is surely to come.
INDIANAPOLIS -- ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay was on ESPN’s "Mike & Mike" on Monday morning talking about quarterback Jameis Winston. McShay gave Winston, the front-runner for the No. 1 overall pick in the April draft, the ultimate respect when talking about draft prospects.
"Andrew Luck would be the only one [ahead of him]," McShay said. "If you're just grading off of what you see on tape, he'll have the second-highest quarterback grade that I'll have given in the last 10 years. If you really look at it, his anticipation, the accuracy, the way he can extend plays. I know he's not fast. We saw that. He didn't jump well. He didn't run well. Who cares? He extends plays with his strength, his anticipation, his feel inside the pocket. That's what's special about him."
That’s holding Winston in high regard, because Luck has come into the NFL and won every year since being taken with the No. 1 overall pick in 2012, with three straight seasons with 11 victories and three straight playoff appearances for the Colts.
Scouts Inc. has been grading draft prospects since 2004. Only three quarterbacks have graded out with the highest score of 99 since then: Luck (2012), Aaron Rodgers (2005) and Ben Roethlisberger (2004).
Winston currently has a grade of 95. Marcus Mariota, who is fighting Winston to be the first quarterback taken, has a 93 grade, according to Scouts Inc.
The release of Francois and safety LaRon Landry was expected. Colts general manager Ryan Grigson may not be done releasing players, either. Guard Donald Thomas has played just two games the past two seasons because of injuries. The Colts could save $3.25 million against the cap by releasing him.
"I think you have to be aggressive no matter what avenue you are going down to acquire players," Grigson said last week at the combine. "But you can't just do it for the sake of being aggressive and just get a name, or whomever. It has to be a name that you collectively feel will better your team. You don't always bat a thousand obviously. It's a case-by-case basis with each position group, but again, at each spot we are going to try and get guys that play at championship level."
Indianapolis will need as much money as possible to work with. For a team that reached the AFC Championship Game last season, it has a number of holes to fill.
The Colts need two starting safeties, a pass-rusher, bodies on the defensive line, a starting running back and depth at receiver.
Indianapolis only has four defensive linemen under contract: Art Jones, Montori Hughes, Zach Kerr and Josh Chapman. Veteran Cory Redding is a free agent and hasn't decided if he'll continue playing.
The Colts were one victory away from reaching the Super Bowl and the last thing they want to do is waste away quarterback Andrew Luck's talent with mediocre players on the roster.
"We've taken a significant step every year," Grigson said last week at the combine. "Our bottom line is what our bottom line is. Can we get better? Sure we can. We've made a significant stride every year getting closer to our ultimate goal. That was our ultimate goal in 2012, believe it or not. Like I've said many times, I don't know why you get out of bed in the morning and work these jobs in this league if you don't have that belief that you can win it all. I'd hate to be in that situation. So that's our goal and that's what we're trying to do every day, and every move we make has that in mind."
That’s according to an extensive look by ESPN The Magazine.
"[I]f you get so wrapped up in analytics, sometimes you lose a feel for the game. And to me, there is an emotional side of the game and there is also a feel for the game. When you see a guy like [Frank] Wycheck make a one-handed catch in the back of the end zone with the guy draped all over him, how do you put an analytic on that? I mean, I respect it, I respect the fact that you can do studies and that you can put time in about it. But to me ... there is a lot of feel and emotion involved."
I don’t know that I’d go so far as to say the Titans are complete non-believers, however.
In a recent conversation with general manager Ruston Webster I broached the subject.
“I think it is evolving,” he said of the Titans' use of analytics. “I think there is something to some sort of analytics as part of the equation, not the sole answer, but part of it…
“It’s something that I’ll ask for on a fairly consistent basis, just for more information, maybe sometime just to prove my own point. We do that from time to time when we are looking at our team, places where we need to get better more than anything else.”
Vice president of football administration Vin Marino and assistant director of football administration Dennis Polian are the guys Webster said he turns to for a study.
The envelope is way broader than that, though.
Whisenhunt and Webster both sound threatened by it when they talk about getting too wrapped up in analytics or about analytics not being the sole answer. Nowhere in the questions they were answering was there a suggestion they should turn so far toward analytics that they leave no room for feel for the game or other answers.
But there are mountains of information out there that can give a team an edge.
Sorting through it, finding what’s most pertinent that can help a team make more informed choices seems like it should be an obligation. That can help you get a feel for an opponent. It can help you make decisions -- during game-planning, during a game and in developing a roster.
Tapping into that sufficiently seems like a no-brainer.
This ESPN The Magazine story ranks no NFL team as “all-in.”
It's crazy to me that in 2015 there remains a tug-of-war about using analytics, that there is a fear from old-school people that new-fangled analytics can somehow be a dangerous force.
Read the assessment of the Ravens.
If I had a team I was rooting for, that’s what I’d want it to be saying about analytics.
However, general manager David Caldwell says that isn't necessarily the case. Though it's highly unlikely he'll take anyone other than a defensive end/pass-rusher with the No. 3 pick he said he won't bypass an available offensive player if he feels it's a good value.
"When you're 3-13 you still have to address every position on the draft board for the most part," said Caldwell, who used six of his nine picks in 2014 on offensive players. "We're young in this tenure here and we're a young team, so we're not in our window to say, 'Hey, we're going to be a perennial playoff team for the next six to eight years.' We're still looking for dynamic players and if somebody falls in the second round and it happens to be a skill position, a receiver or running back, we're not going to be afraid to take one of those guys knowing that we're still a ways away to be where we want to be."
It would be a surprise, though, if the Jaguars' first pick wasn't Leonard Williams, Randy Gregory, Shane Ray, or Dante Fowler Jr. Williams is a big end who can play inside while the other three are edge rushers and finding a young pass-rusher is one of the team's top priorities. The Jaguars have a huge need at right tackle but none of the offensive tackles are a fit that high. The Jaguars are planning on signing a veteran receiver in free agency so taking a receiver at No. 3 wouldn't make sense, either.
ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said it would be hard to make an argument for the Jaguars to draft any position but pass-rusher in the first round.
"I think if Leonard Williams was there you'd have to obviously look at that," McShay said on a conference call this afternoon. "I know that they have locked up Roy [Miller] and Sen'Derrick Marks at defensive tackle. They need a young pass-rusher and that's kind of what the strength of this group is.
"The tough part for me is that there's just not an offensive tackle there that fits the bill and when you need a pass-rusher as badly as they do I think that you've got an opportunity to get the best one, the best edge rusher in a good class. It would be tough to pass up on unless you got a deal to move [in a trade]."
After the first round, though, the Jaguars are open to anything. Their approach will depend on what they accomplish in free agency, but even if the Jaguars added a right tackle in free agency Caldwell's comments indicate they still could take one in the second or third round if they feel there's too much value to pass.
Those are the two internal questions for the Indianapolis Colts when talking about the pass-rushers they have on their roster.
But like any wise general manager, Ryan Grigson is greedy and wants to add as many players as possible to pursue the quarterback.
The Colts only had one fewer sack last season (41) than they did in 2013 (42) when Mathis led the NFL with 19.5. But what the Colts need is a player who causes the quarterback to search the field to see where he’s lined up, one that needs to be doubled-teamed and one that can get a sack without having defensive coordinator Greg Manusky calling a blitz package. Twenty-two of their 41 sacks last season came off of blitzes.
The Colts struggled putting pressure on pocket passers in the regular season. They sacked Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Romo and Peyton Manning only twice during the regular season. The Colts did sack Andy Dalton and Joe Flacco eight times in two games.
“It was a huge concern by everybody,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “Where are we going to get the pass rush from? We found a way to get to the quarterback. Like I said, we’ve got some guys coming back that we know can rush the passer but again, you can never have enough of those guys. We are always looking to evaluate wherever it is -- free agency, obviously we are going to look at guys in this combine and the draft coming up to see if we can improve in that area.”
The Colts will likely draft a pass-rusher, but the quickest way for them to get help in the pass-rush department is by signing a free agent because it usually takes rookies some time to adjust to the NFL. Grigson, like most other front office officials, will be keeping an eye on what’s going on with Jason Pierre-Paul of the New York Giants and Kansas City’s Justin Houston, the two premier free-agent pass-rushers. Both players will likely be given the franchise tag if they don’t agree to a deal with their teams.
Newsome, the Colts’ fifth-round pick from Ball State last year, led the team in sacks with 6.5 last season. The focus, though, will be on how Mathis returns from his torn Achilles. Mathis has recently posted messages on Twitter via Instagram about his determination to prove doubters wrong that he can still be one of the league’s premier pass-rushers in the league at the age of 34 next month.
Don't think for one second I'll let "experts" be right about what I can't do when I return.... http://t.co/HODZWLfjBS— ROBERT MATHIS The1st (@RobertMathis98) February 20, 2015
Nuff said. http://t.co/oQaXbdOkh8— ROBERT MATHIS The1st (@RobertMathis98) February 20, 2015
“We all know how Robert is wired,” Pagano said. “We know what’s in his DNA. If anybody can come back and be productive, it’s him. I have all the faith and trust that Robert is going to do everything within his power to get himself back and get back on the football field.”
The 2014 sixth-round pick is likely "the guy" for the 2015 Titans. But they hold the No. 2 pick in the draft and could get one of the top two quarterbacks, Florida State's Jameis Winston or Oregon's Marcus Mariota.
Speaking to media before taking the stage at 104.5 The Zone’s SportsFest in Nashville (disclaimer, I have a show on the station), Mettenberger said general manager Ruston Webster has been completely straight with him, with “no smoke and mirrors.”
As for Winston and Mariota, Mettenberger spoke respectfully.
“They are obviously very talented guys,” he said. “ … If they were here I think they would say the same thing: If we had to compete out there, I think I’d beat them out.”
Mettenberger’s appearance was with his close friend, the Titans' top pick in the 2014 draft, left tackle Taylor Lewan.
Lewan loves hearing Mettenberger speak confidently.
“I think any person that doesn’t say that is not going to be successful,” he said of Mettenberger saying he’d beat out a high pick. “There are only so many positions in the NFL you can be a part of. If another guy comes in that’s a first-round pick or a second-round pick or a higher pick than you were, you either fold it up or you can take that adversity and thrive with it.”
Mettenberger missed the final three games of the season with a shoulder injury. He said he’s 100 percent and has been throwing.
Lewan started six games after Michael Roos was hurt, then missed the remainder of the year with a high ankle sprain.
Lewan, too, said he’s 100 percent. He’s running and jumping and said he could have played in a game about a week and a half after the season ended.
- J.J. Watt serves as a role model: Friday afternoon, Texans' defensive end J.J. Watt tweeted these three words: "High motor guy." He didn't explain it, but that designation is one he's talked about in the past with some annoyance, as if Watt's "motor" is all there is to him. Obviously, the two-time defensive player of the year, who garnered 13 overall MVP votes this season, was much more than that. He'd be pleased to know that one of the most talented defensive linemen at the combine looks to his game for ideas. Southern Cal defensive end Leonard Williams watches a lot of Watt. "He’s very versatile, like I see myself," Williams said. "When I see the film, I see how the coaches try to make mismatches, like they do for him, at USC. I try to pattern myself after a lot of things he does." It's a lofty and worthy pursuit.Watt
- What of Kendrick Lewis and Brooks Reed: We've talked a lot about Kareem Jackson, who is a high priority for the Texans defensively. The Texans have four other players who started last season set to hit the market. Two of the most prominent are outside linebacker Reed and safety Lewis. Lewis had an outstanding season for the Texans, playing on a one-year deal. He's not a guy the Texans will rush to sign, but one they'd love to have back at the right price. The Texans have had meetings or set meetings with many of their pending free agents, but haven't started negotiations with Reed. The clock is ticking, and their pause might mean Reed hits the market, which would increase the chances the Texans lose him. General manager Rick Smith made it clear yesterday that just because a player gets to free agency, that doesn't mean the Texans don't want him back. Tight end Garrett Graham is an example of that. He re-signed with the Texans last March 13.
- Not lacking for confidence: Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston opened his Friday news conference by acknowledging his mistakes, but then had a couple of exceedingly confident lines. He said he wants to win the Super Bowl next year. He also said, "A lot of people thought I was fat, but I look good and I know it!" Winston's demeanor stood in stark opposition to the more subdued Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. While the soft-spoken Mariota chose humility, Winston was exuberant. They're both qualities that can work in a quarterback, and how they fit on a team depends on the makeup of that team and its coach. These players both should be well out of the Texans reach, but they provide an interesting contrast.
He could well be the Tennessee Titans' pick at No. 2 overall if they stay put in the spot.
Friday in Indianapolis he spoke to the media covering the combine and hit on a theme that will be big with the Titans, who love versatility.
"I actually did (enjoy all the adjustments). I’ve played D-line my whole life. I’d rather move around the whole D-line than stay in one spot the whole time. It was more fun to create matchups and be able to go against some weaker opponents every once in a while and getting to the quarterback. When the coaches switched it up for me, I liked it."
If he winds up a member of the Titans, odds are he’d be on the opposite end of the team’s 3-4 front from Jurrell Casey in the base defense. Casey is another USC Trojan, and Tennessee’s most effective defensive player. In nickel and dime they’d likely push together as the tackles with outside linebackers beside each of them.
"I’ve actually come into contact with (Casey) a few times as he visited USC," Williams said. "I actually had my first informal meeting with Tennessee (Thursday), and I got his number by the coaches and actually gave him a call last night and talked about it, and said we could actually be teammates.”
"That would be a lot of fun to play with a former Trojan. Trojans always have that connection. We’re a strong alumni. It would be great to play side-by-side with him. I know he’s been doing great in his profession so far."
Williams has not studied Casey’s game and knows they are different body types. Casey is listed at 6-foot-1, 305 pounds. Williams is more like 6-5, 302.
"(Casey’s) been causing a lot of destruction in the backfield," Williams said. "I can see myself doing that at the next level."