AFC South: Clay Matthews

Projecting possible Jaguars picks

February, 13, 2014
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars fans, would you be happy if you came out of the upcoming draft with Mario Williams?

What about Clay Matthews? Or Tony Romo?

It's possible, sort of.'s Daniel Jeremiah took five of the top prospects in the NFL draft and compared their potential careers with NFL veterans. Among the five were three players the Jaguars could take with the No. 3 overall pick: Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack and Johnny Manziel.

Or, as Jeremiah compared them to: Williams, Matthews and Romo.

Jeremiah writes that the 6-foot-6, 258-pound Clowney compares to the 6-6, 290-pound Williams because of their size, length power and explosiveness. Houston bypassed several big-time offensive players, including quarterback Matt Leinart and running back Reggie Bush, and took Williams with the No. 1 overall pick in 2006. The Jaguars could do the same thing and take Clowney instead of the top quarterbacks in the draft, including Manziel.

If Clowney could mirror Williams' career, that would turn out to be a sound decision. Williams has 76.5 sacks in eight seasons, including 23.5 in his last two seasons in Buffalo.

The 6-3, 245-pound Mack compares to the 6-3, 258-pound Matthews because of his violent hands, explosion off the line of scrimmage and his relentlessness, Jeremiah writes. Matthews has 50 sacks in his first five seasons, including 23.5 in his first two years with Green Bay.

Jeremiah's Manziel-to-Romo comparison is based on the fact that both have strong enough arms to make any throw, are able to throw on the run and from unorthodox positions, have good pocket awareness and are able to escape pressure. The 6-1, 210-pound Manziel is a much better runner than the 6-2, 219-pound Romo, but it'd be hard to be disappointed if Manziel put up the same kind of passing stats that Romo has in 10 seasons: 64.6 completion percentage, 29,565 yards, 208 touchdowns and 101 interceptions.

My take: The Clowney-Williams comparison makes the most sense because both players have freakish athletic ability to go along with size and speed. If Clowney runs at next week's combine, he's going to generate amazing buzz because he's capable of running in the 4.4s. That seems absurd considering his size, but Jaguars receiver Ace Sanders, who played with Clowney at South Carolina, told me he witnessed Clowney run a sub-4.5 40.

The concern with Mack is the level of competition against which he played while at Buffalo, but he is quick, athletic and has good pass-rush skills. He also holds the NCAA career record for forced fumbles (16) and tied the career mark for tackles for loss (75). The previous record for forced fumbles in a career was 14 and it was held by several players, including Terrell Suggs and Ryan Kerrigan.

Comparing Manziel to any NFL quarterback is tough because he doesn't really completely match anyone. He's a better passer than Michael Vick and Colin Kaepernick, both of whom are better runners.

Wrap-up: Colts 30, Packers 27

October, 7, 2012
Thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' inspirational 30-27 win over the Green Bay Packers at Lucas Oil Stadium:

What it meant: The Colts improbably found a way to honor coach Chuck Pagano, who’s in the hospital fighting leukemia. This was their first game without him, and they played very well to beat a better team and match last season’s win total at 2-2. I don’t know how they’ll present Pagano with the game ball, but it’ll be in his hospital room in short order. Anyone who’s not a Packers fan would have a hard time not feeling good about that. When Andrew Luck ran in a draw for a touchdown, he ran to the “ChuckStrong” banner along the wall behind the end zone and banged on the orange ribbon as a salute. Robert Mathis held up a white board for fans late in the game with "ChuckStrong" written on it.

What I liked: The Colts fought back from a 21-3 deficit with a tremendous rally. The defense poured it on with five second-half sacks of Aaron Rodgers. The coverage, down a couple of key cornerbacks, did respectable work. Reggie Wayne was incredibly productive with 13 catches for 212 yards and the winning touchdown. The passing game was successful in part because of solid protection that arrived in spurts and a solid day from running back Donald Brown. The running back started inside and bounced outside with success often enough to run for 84 yards on 17 carries and added a two-point conversion on the final score with 35 seconds left (complete with a Discount Double-Check celebration). Mason Crosby's 51-yard field goal attempt with eight seconds left missed by plenty.

Daring: Coming out of the two-minute warning, Luck converted a key third-and-12. With linebacker Clay Matthews in his face, Luck connected with Wayne. A bit later, Luck set up the winning touchdown with a straight-ahead scramble and head-first dive for the first-down marker that was gigantically clutch. Wayne made a fantastic turn and reach for the game-winning 4-yard touchdown catch, but wound up limping off at the end.

What I didn't like: The slow start left the Colts down 21-3 with an awful lot to overcome. I expect a self-deprecating postgame line from interim coach Bruce Arians about throwing a challenge flag on a play that was ruled a Green Bay touchdown, a play that was not challengeable. The red flag produced an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Injury of concern: Mathis twisted his left knee in a sack of Rodgers, had it braced and attempted to return to action. But he couldn’t go, and now, with the Colts finally getting Dwight Freeney back, Mathis’ availability could be in question.

What’s next: The Colts travel to MetLife Stadium for a game against the New York Jets, who will be coming off a short week. The Colts can watch the Jets against the Houston Texans on "Monday Night Football."
Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

The Texans defense has a lot of fun in the locker room and beyond, says Tania Ganguli of the Houston Chronicle. “I think it comes to a point where you have to show your coaches that you can handle having fun when it’s time to have fun and working when it’s time to work,” safety Glover Quin said. “Long as you do that, long as you take care of your business, they’re all for it. This league is so hard, this job is so hard, you’ve got to have fun.”

To which I say: You hear things like this about most good teams. Playing well and getting results creates an atmosphere that’s a lot of fun.

Running back Ben Tate (toe) practiced on Saturday and looks like he will be good to go Monday night against the Jets, says Ganguli.

Is Arian Foster getting overworked? Lance Zierlein and Adam Kaplan discuss in this podcast for SportsTalk 790.

Indianapolis Colts

All is good,” Chuck Pagano emailed the Indianapolis Star from his hospital room. Writes Mike Chappell: “Pagano’s Colts carry on in his absence Sunday afternoon when the Green Bay Packers visit Lucas Oil Stadium. He urged the sellout crowd to help inspire his team to an upset.”

Every week, left tackle Anthony Castonzo draws a tough matchup, says Mike Chappell. This week it’s Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews.

To which I say: Castonzo has held his own against some top rushers and his growth is one bright spot for a team that has few good offensive linemen at this stage.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars lack edgy leaders, says Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. He talked to safety Dwight Lowery who told him: “I think we need to have an attitude off the field and on the field, and a little bit of edginess,” he said. “That will definitely translate onto the field. And it’s a mind-set. It’s not getting mad at each other. The reason I feel like this is … because I’ve been on a team that’s won games and played in big games. What separates those teams is attitude."

To which I say: A lot of guys talked about leading by example. No matter how good your example is, it’s not been contagious. A locker room needs a mix of guys, and some of those guys need to be louder leaders.

The Jaguars can expect problems protecting Blaine Gabbert considering how effective Chicago’s defensive front has been, says Alfie Crow of Big Cat Country.

Tennessee Titans

Writes David Climer in The Tennessean: “While (Jake) Locker needs all the experience he can get, the switch to (Matt) Hasselbeck might provide a boost in the near term. At 1-3, the Titans need to shake things up. In particular, his leadership skills can be an asset for a team that has been outscored 151-81.”

To which I say: Maybe Hasselbeck does provide a jolt. But Locker was playing fine. The team’s troubles are more about the people who surround him and the defense.

Tom Gower of Total Titans takes a close look at the how the Vikings are working and what the Titans will have to do to win Sunday in Minnesota.

Bruce Arians was already in a tough spot, coordinating a Colts offense lacking in some very important features -- namely, an effective offensive line or run game.

Arians, who was hired primarily because of his record with young quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, has done excellent work with Andrew Luck.

As he prepares for his first game filling in for Chuck Pagano, who was recently diagnosed with leukemia, Arians said a lot of the right things and a lot of smart things in his conversation with Indianapolis media.

I’ve knitted some together via the tweets of beat writers.

To which I say: Smart. They’ve got enough to worry about without letting Pagano’s illness enter their minds while they are on the field.

To which I say: This is specifically for Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis and, yes, even Andrew Luck. Who else do we rate as five-star right now?

To which I say: Here’s hoping it’s as easy a combo for him as he’s anticipating.
To which I say: I’m not expecting he’ll be on the headset calling for that any time Sunday against Aaron Rodgers considering two of the Colts’ top corners, Vontae Davis and Justin King, were not back to practice today.

To which I say: It’s the best blocking scheme for a top rusher like Matthews -- simply don’t set yourselves up to have to block him for very long.

With Kerry Collins on the roster and poised to take over as the primary backup to Peyton Manning, Curtis Painter fared much better working with the Colts’ offense.

In a 24-21 loss to Green Bay at Lucas Oil Stadium on Friday night, the Packers utilized one defensive element Manning typically helps Indianapolis avoid: the blitz.
Manning is masterful at making teams pay when they subtract from coverage to add to the rush. But Green Bay rolled out a steady stream of blitzes, many of which featured cornerback Charles Woodson, with no fear of such repercussions from Painter.

[+] EnlargeCurtis Painter
AP Photo/Michael ConroyWithout Peyton Manning, the Packers blitzed again and again on Curtis Painter.
Indy’s offensive line is still being sorted out, and the group didn’t do particularly well or get particularly good help in minimizing the pressure. Painter didn’t get hit so much as he had to hurry, and he was hardly at his best in such circumstances.

Desmond Bishop got flagged for roughing on one blitz, and Painter threw a ball away when Woodson looped between left tackle Anthony Castonzo and left guard Joe Reitz untouched. Another time, the quarterback made a nice throw to Reggie Wayne, who had a favorable matchup as Woodson came untouched.

No. 2 running back Donald Brown actually did reasonably well in blitz pickups, I thought, managing to keep himself between rushers and the quarterback on a couple of occasions. Still that rusher frequently contributed to a closing pocket.

The right side of the starting line, guard Ryan Diem and tackle Jeffrey Linkenbach, struggled with Clay Matthews, whose speed was more than they could handle.

Not every team is equipped to blitz the way the Packers are. But if it’s Collins instead of Manning on Sept. 11 in Houston, odds are the Texans will blitz more often and with less fear. And the Colts and Collins will have to be prepared to handle it.

Some other thoughts on what was nearly a rare Colts preseason win:

  • While Painter was better, it took a blown coverage that left Wayne wide open for a 57-yard touchdown to get him going. His second touchdown pass, to Chris Brooks, was very nice. Earlier Painter suffered because of a drop by Wayne and another by Pierre Garcon.
  • Ernie Sims was active in a lot of first-half action, his first since he signed with the Colts. Tommie Harris played for the second time, and made some plays with a sack and a tipped pass.
  • Jermichael Finley's touchdown catch on Pat Angerer was great. Angerer was tight but not turned. There aren’t many linebackers who could make a play against that.
  • According to CBS, Robert Mathis injured his hamstring in the first quarter hamstring and did not return. His counterpart at end, Dwight Freeney, made things very difficult on Green Bay tackle Chad Clifton, bulling over him a few times before using the patented spin move.
  • Diem, who false started too much last season at right guard, got called for one. An injury forced him from the game for a time, but he returned to action. Mike Pollak stepped in briefly. Jeff Saturday was the lone offensive lineman who didn’t play into the third quarter, as Pollak replaced him. Then the second-team offensive line was, left to right, Michael Toudouze, Kyle DeVan, Jamey Richard, Mike Tepper and Ben Ijalana. Richard was flagged for holding but it was declined.
  • I expect good things out of rookie running back Delone Carter, mostly because I very much like the idea of Carter. This team needs a short-yardage goal-line back. He was hardly working against front line defenders, I understand. But he not only got a tough yard -- converting a third-and-1 when there was nothing there -- but he had a couple of nice longer runs. A lost fumble was overturned by challenge, and a wide run with a spin move suggested he can be more than just a between-the-tackles pounder. He did look lost in one pass-protection situation.
  • Defensive back Chip Vaughn was waved off the field by Jim Caldwell after back-to-back penalties. After an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty worth 15 yards and a taunting penalty worth 11 yards, the Colts gave up a touchdown and a two-point conversion, lost an onside kick and saw Green Bay move to a game-winning field goal. Vaughn will not have a good weekend. And the Colts just about refuse to win in the preseason.
Reading the coverage …

Houston Texans

Five times last year the Texans were just a play or two away from winning. But Gary Kubiak doesn’t want to talk about luck, says Richard Justice.

Brian Cushing could be back to practicing Wednesday or Thursday, writes Justice.

Scouts, coaches and reporters seek every opportunity to compare Brooks Reed to Clay Matthews before Reed even plays his first NFL down for the Texans, says Craig Malveaux.

Reggie Herring likes how quickly Mario Williams is learning linebacker, say Dale Robertson and Malveaux.

The Texans finish their first week behind, but the rest of the league is too, says Robertson.

Andre Johnson was back in action.

Houston signed linebacker depth in Tim Dobbins.

The cases for and against buying into Wade Phillips’ defense, from Robertson.

Indianapolis Colts

If you're the backup to quarterback Peyton Manning, you're the worst-case scenario, the embodiment of a raised white flag, says Sam Farmer.

The extra five yards on kickoffs offer the Colts two forms of relief, says Phillip B. Wilson.

Getting to know Kavell Conner.

With the first week down, Chris Polian is pleased, writes Craig Kelley.

Pranks are a big part of Manning’s repertoire, says Sam Farmer.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars get back to “real” action Thursday night in New England, says Vito Stellino.

Mike Thomas has plenty of motivation, says John Oehser.

Tennessee Titans

Cortland Finnegan spent the weekend working on his backpedal, says Jim Wyatt.

Next Finnegan will blame the Titans’ mascot, says David Climer.

Who was better for the Titans at middle linebacker, Randall Godfrey or Stephen Tulloch?
A lot of you have wanted to see “Power Rankings” and “finale” in the same sentence for some time. Congratulations, today’s your day.

We wrap our offseason, conversation-starting series with the crown jewel: The top 10 best players in the NFL.

I represent the AFC South aggressively in Dan Graziano’s piece on the voting results and in the attached video.

Peyton Manning finished second to Tom Brady. You’ll hear my familiar refrain about Manning: He’s simply asked to do more than anyone in the league, and he does it very well.

Feel free to look back at this post from last summer, where I respond to the basic complaints of Manning’s critics.

None of this is meant as a slight to Brady, who’s obviously also a superb player.

I do think we blew it in the overall results. I completely understand being quarterback heavy. I probably could have and should have been more so. But chasing those quarterbacks down is a monstrous element of the game, and to not have at least one pass-rusher make this list is a mistake.

At any rate, here is my ballot. I remind you it’s just one eighth of the results that you’ll find in Graziano’s fine piece.
  1. Peyton Manning
  2. Tom Brady
  3. Drew Brees
  4. Aaron Rodgers
  5. Adrian Peterson
  6. Chris Johnson
  7. Andre Johnson
  8. Troy Polamalu
  9. Clay Matthews
  10. DeMarcus Ware
Cory from Dayton, Ohio, writes: Are you a fan of all four AFC South teams or not really a fan (more of an observer) of them? As a Colts' fan, I find it hard to imagine being a fan of any other team. I enjoy watching the other AFC South teams, but if it helps the Colts, I will always want them to lose (even if I like seeing them playing well).

Paul Kuharsky: I'm not a fan of any team except the Yankees and US Soccer, really. It’s not how the job or the business works. I root for good stories, returned phone calls, etc.

mlivey from Jasper, Texas, writes: Why does the National media think that Houston will draft a defensive end in the first round? The 11th pick of the draft should start. If Houston goes DE at 11, you tell me who you put on the bench. Antonio Smith is their highest graded lineman from last year or Mario Williams their best sacker. You can only play two. Look for Houston to draft an OLB or CB.

Paul Kuharsky: If there are multiple, high-quality defensive ends there, they can’t force it with another position that’s not as good. So they either take the best end and have great depth there -- being able to rotate three guys. Or they trade back to a spot where an OLB or something else of need will be the best value. Or, if they follow your instructions, they potentially force a pick to meet a need.

Pete Timm from Houston writes: You are either blind, haven't watched must football in the two years or are just plain stupid. Ranking Mario Williams over Clay Matthews for rushing the QB. Mario gets most of his sacks against sub-.500 teams and is NEVER doubled cause he sucks. Lost all respect for your NFL opinion.

Paul Kuharsky: A) Williams can’t help who his sacks come against. He’s asked to go get the quarterback, no matter who’s blocking him or who that quarterback is.

B) He’s is actually regularly doubled because no one else on the line is consistently threatening.

C) Matthews is great too.

Jason from Philadelphia writes: Your question and poll about the second most popular division player is a good one. If the voting for the cover of Madden 12 is any indication, Jones-Drew is more popular than Dwight Freeney and Andre Johnson is more popular than Chris Johnson. In my eyes it comes down to AJ vs. MJD with MJD taking the crown. AJ is great but I think his quiet demeanor keeps him under the radar more than MJD who can be pretty vocal at times.

Paul Kuharsky: I could go either way. Here’s the post with the current results. Good three-way race.

Narinder Singh from Panama writes: Here's a funny idea...where would you have ranked Tony Dungy in the coaches ballot?

Paul Kuharsky: I think second. I’ve been asked about Jeff Fisher too. He hurt himself a lot in 2010. But still, with the weaker guys in the back half of my Top 10, he would have been there.

Vic in Nashville writes: I've been reading that the Titans sent a huge contingency to Jake Locker's pro day, including offensive coordinator Chris Palmer. Not completely sure, but I don't think we sent those numbers to players like Ryan Mallett or Blaine Gabbert's pro day. The Titans aren't thinking crazy and considering drafting Locker with the No. 8 pick are they? I feel that would be a huge stretch. But I also highly doubt they can expect him to be there in the second round. I'm sure the new staff is looking for high integrity etc., but still, seems like a huge stretch to me.

Paul Kuharsky: I don’t see them taking Locker eighth. And I read nothing into how many people go to what workouts and how high-ranking they are. There are all sorts of variables there that can be completely disconnected from a team’s actual interest.

Do I overrate Dwight Freeney?

March, 22, 2011
Do I overrate Dwight Freeney?

The seven others who cast votes in’s balloting for the pass-rusher Power Rankings think so.

I ranked the Colts defensive end first in what I thought was an impossible ballot in which I found 17 players worthy of spots and where I might have leaned a little less on total sack numbers than some of my colleagues. A rusher can certainly be consistently disruptive and dictate a blocking scheme without always notching big sack numbers.

My rationale for Freeney over the Dallas Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware, who got all the other first-place votes?

Here’s what I told NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert, who wrote the main piece on the results.

“I’ve had coaches and scouts I trust tell me, repeatedly, that Freeney is the best pure pass-rusher in the league. They say he’s the guy they’d want if they could have anyone and the most difficult guy to stop because of the way he plots out his game. That’s stuck with me and was a big factor for me as I put together my ballot.”

Crush me for being a homer if you must -- and I’ve obviously seen Freeney way, way more than I have seen Ware, so it’s inevitable I get slanted there -- but I’ll stand by that.

Still, on a different day with Ware highlights running on my computer screen, I could certainly have made things unanimous.

Here’s my entire ballot:
  1. Dwight Freeney
  2. DeMarcus Ware
  3. Tamba Hali
  4. Mario Williams
  5. Clay Matthews
  6. Robert Mathis
  7. Jared Allen
  8. LaMarr Woodley
  9. Justin Tuck
  10. John Abraham

I was miserable about leaving off Julius Peppers, Osi Umenyiora, Trent Cole, James Harrison, Terrell Suggs, Cameron Wake and Elvis Dumervil.

If I re-voted right now, I could second-guess myself as much as you and do a lot of shuffling.

As for AFC South guys -- I absolutely believe Mathis is worthy of a spot here. He's a terror. I may have scored Williams too high based on all the potential he has and the attention he draws. Others have that and more production.

Peppers was my toughest call. I’m big on constant effort from my pass-rushers and I am not sure he gives it.

I also agree with NFC West blogger Mike Sando that the proliferation of 3-4s complicates things, because we sifted through so many players. This year’s Houston Texans will be the first 3-4 defense I ever cover, and I am sure my judgment of outside 'backers will evolve because of it.

That 4-3 bias didn’t hurt Hali, but I’m sorry if Matthews, Woodley, Harrison, Suggs, Wake and Dumervil suffered for it.
I am not surprised that Brian Cushing held onto the defensive rookie of the year award in the Associated Press’ revote.

The AP reported Cushing got 18 votes, Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd got 13 to finish second and Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews finished third with 10. Three voters were unable to return ballots and two abstained.

Why did Cushing retain his award after the positive test from September under the league’s policy against performance enhancing drugs?

I agree with this tweet from Stephanie Stradley (@StephStradley) that answers that question:
"Cushing retains DROY bc :1 He was best; 2. Discomfort in speed/change of AP DROY voting rules for just this; 3. No clear 2nd place candidate"

Also, Cushing was eligible to play in all 16 games last season, and the vote is based on what an eligible player did. My problem is as much with the testing/suspending process as the award.

He’ll serve the suspension when he has to. That, and a dented reputation, seem to me to be a just penalty for his violation. Stripping him would have set a new precedent. Some say that would have been a bold, good development. I think it would be complicated and sloppy and still wonder now what circumstances will produce the next revote.

So defensive rookie of the year remains a line on his resume. We’ll also remember that season is connected to the four-game suspension still to come.

One interesting connected note, courtesy of Manish Mehta: Cushing's USC teammate Mark Sanchez was blown away by the news of the positive test and
Projecting the playoff field with Dom Bonvissuto. He has Jags losing two, Titans winning two but not getting in and Texans losing two.

Brian Cushing and Jacob Lacey make Mike Tanier’s All-Rookie Team.

Jim Caldwell’s on Dave Goldberg’s list of the best coaches; Gary Kubiak’s among the worst.

Houston Texans

Arian Foster needs to take advantage, says Jerome Solomon.

Duane Brown (knee) may not be able to play, says John McClain.

The case for Matt Schaub as a Pro Bowler, from Mike Kerns.

Possible courses of action regarding Steve Slaton, from Battle Red Blog.

Rookie ratings from Lance Zierlein put Cushing first, Percy Harvin second and Clay Matthews third.

Indianapolis Colts

Peyton Manning is looking good in a poll of MVP voters, says Mike Chappell.

Over the past eight seasons, no team has turned the ball over less than Indianapolis, says Phil Richards.

After practicing Monday, Anthony Gonzalez was out Wednesday, says Chappell.

Ryan Diem isn’t slipping, Chappell says.

Adam Vinatieri says it’s a now or never type of thing, says John Oehser.

Seven surprising gifts the Colts got this year, including the development of Pat McAfee and Lacey, from Oehser.

Breaking down the strength of the Colts’ schedule compared to San Diego's, with Deshawn Zombie.

The Colts are the team to beat in the AFC, says Clifton Brown. (Vinnie Iyer says it’s the Chargers.)

Jacksonville Jaguars

History isn’t kind to the Jags against the Patriots or Tom Brady, says Vito Stellino.

Fred Taylor expanded on his remarks about the Jaguars, and said LA may be a better alternative, says Michael C. Wright.

Fearing “the banana cream pie effect” with Vic Ketchman.

Can the Jags finally get by the Patriots, asks Jonathan Loesche.

Tennessee Titans

Chris Johnson still thinks he has a shot at Eric Dickerson’s rushing record, says Jim Wyatt.

Rod Hood’s working in the place of the injured Nick Harper, says Wyatt.

Wyatt’s game breakdown.

Gerald McRath and Colin Allred feel ready to step in as the outside linebackers, says Terry McCormick.

McRath’s got the spotlight now, says Estwick.

Posted by's Paul Kuharsky

They are likely to be the best trio from the same position group at the same school to all be drafted in the first round. For years the debate may rage -- who's tops among the three USC linebackers of 2009?

The Texans had first choice of them, and went with Brian Cushing over Clay Matthews and Rey Maualuga. If the other two go before Detroit starts the second round with the 33rd pick -- and they are expected to -- it'll likely be a fun and lengthy conversation we have comparing and contrasting.

At 6-3 and 243, Cushing brings the size the Texans wanted so badly to add at the position. But as a Trojan, he had multiple shoulder injuries, as well as an ankle injury and a broken hand. With size the Texans sought ruggedness and durability. It's fair that the question he carries into the league is whether he can give it to them.

If he holds up, there is no reason to think he won't be a good pro and make a case for himself in his ongoing competition with Matthews and Maualuga for status.

First off the board, he's got an early 1-0 lead on them both.

Posted by's Paul Kuharsky

Houston Texans

  • Jerome Solomon says Bob McNair and the Texans have gotten better at this.
  • Players out of Texas taken high in the first round are hardly a sure thing, writes John McClain.
  • Past picks at No. 15 have been more fizzle than sizzle, says McClain.
  • McClain's final mock still has the Texans taking Clay Matthews.
  • Lance Zierlein makes a couple trades in his mock.

Indianapolis Colts

  • Bob Kravitz says this is when Bill Polian earns his money.
  • Free-agent corner Keiwan Ratliff signed with the Steelers, says Mike Chappell.
  • The Colts will watch a lot of things sort out before they get a sense of their possibilities at No. 27, writes Chappell.
  • No. 2 and No. 1 on John Oehser's list of the top 25 picks of the Polian era. This was a great idea that gave us a lot to ponder over the last several weeks.
  • Oehser reviews mock prognostications for the Colts.
  • Curse insurance. Peyton Manning's not the Madden cover boy.
  • June 6 is the day the Colts will hold an open practice at Franklin College. Tickets will be $10, says Oehser.
  • Polian can pronounce Peria Jerry's name, points out Oehser.
  • Oehser selects the best pick at each first-round spot for the Colts in their history.

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • The moment of truth has arrived for Gene Smith, writes Vito Stellino.
  • Peter King says the Jaguars turned down No. 23 and No. 47 from New England for No. 8.
  • Michael C. Wright is sticking with B.J. Raji for the Jaguars in his final mock draft.
  • A judge has been asked to revoke Jimmy Smith's bail, reports Jim Schoettler.
  • Gene Frenette says Smith has slowed down the timetable to become part of the Pride of the Jaguars that honors their all-time greats.
  • A look at the guy on the other end of the phone in New York, from Ryan Robinson of
  • Smith won't be unprepared, says Vic Ketchman of
  • Cole Pepper says it'll be Michael Crabtree at No. 8, and Malcolm Jenkins if the Jaguars trade back.

Tennessee Titans

  • The last four first-rounders were immediate contributors. Jim Wyatt asks whether the Titans continue the trend.
  • The guys at the Tennessean make their picks and sample the national choices.
  • Chuck Cecil isn't worried about the Titans replacing Albert Haynesworth, writes Jonathan Hutton.
  • Joe Biddle would like to see the Titans with Anquan Boldin or Braylon Edwards.
  • Wyatt runs through a mock draft done by a group of beat writers from around the country.
Posted by's Paul Kuharsky

NASHVILLE -- A while back, a reader asked about whether the high salaries attached to the earliest picks of the draft had altered the draft value charts around the league. Teams use such charts, which assign a point value to every pick, to weigh and balance trades. GMs and coaches like to talk about how theirs are different, but the general construct is similar.

I asked Titans GM Mike Reinfeldt this week if he's got a new chart and if he thought most teams had altered theirs.

"Some of the trade charts have changed addressing the trade value of those top picks and it has gone down," he said. "What those picks were, it's not that way anymore. I think it's there is a burden associated with having those top 10 picks.

"...But you have two sets of charts -- depending on which way you're going, up or down, you pull out the appropriate one," he added as we laughed.

The early phone check-ins are usually 50-50 with teams talking about expecting to look to move up or back, Reinfeldt said. This time more people are talking about moving back.

Here are a few highlights from the Titans' pre-draft news conference Thursday:

  • National supervisor of college scouting C.O. Brocato said USC linebacker Rey Maualuga can play inside or outside, and he thinks his college teammate Brian Cushing, an outside backer by trade, can play inside. He said he views the third USC linebacker, Clay Matthews, as strictly an outside guy.
  • Brocato likes the crop of linebackers and tight ends but said running backs have fallen off.
  • Scouting coordinator Blake Beddingfield said there "is a value on every player" and that the Titans hadn't taken anyone off the board. But he joined the laughter when asked if Florida receiver Percy Harvin was a seventh-rounder on the Titans' board.
  • I believe the Titans will steer clear of Harvin because of the issues surrounding him. But director of college scouting for the Eastern region Mike Ackerley said Harvin is "the most explosive player in this draft by far," that he has no doubt Harvin can run routes and be a top receiver who can also work as a return man and that "he can play wherever he wants."
  • Reinfeldt said a number of receivers have grades that would make them worthy of the 30th pick, and such grades mean those players should be able to be productive early.
  • Weight gained by Hakeem Nicks after the combine was not a concern, Ackerley said. So much of a premium is put on 40 times at the combine, everyone drops weight for that, then gets bigger and stronger by the time pro days arrive.
  • Malcolm Jenkins, Vontae Davis and Alphonso Smith have separated themselves into the first tier of corners, but there is not that much space between them and the next group, Ackerley said.
  • Reinfeldt was coy when asked questions that were clearly aimed at getting him to show if the Titans have any real interest in trading for Anquan Boldin or Braylon Edwards. He said at some point the Titans would like to add a veteran receiver to the mix, which made it sound like it wasn't going to be a top name. He mentioned that after the draft some veterans would shake free. Asked if the team has to have another veteran wideout, he said: "It would be nice; I don't think it's a necessity."
  • Brocato gave a rave review of Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman. "He's got everything you want for a quarterback," he said.
Posted by's Paul Kuharsky

Throw eight bloggers in a blender with the first-round draft order, hit stir, mix or puree and you get the NFL Blog Network's mock draft.

My comments seem to run the longest of anybody's and I don't want to repeat myself here.

But here is a quick look at my thinking and the primary alternatives:

No. 8: Jacksonville, B.J. Raji -- There may be character issues for the Jaguars with Raji. But in this scenario he seems the clear choice with the top two tackles and top two receivers gone. The better scenario is probably them trading down, handing over the pick to a team that covets Mark Sanchez and getting additional players later.

No. 15: Houston, Clay Matthews -- They may look to drop back a bit for him. If Brian Cushing or Malcolm Jenkins were there at 15, I think I would have gone a different direction and I can see the Texans going with either of them. There has been so much focus on linebackers, maybe it's all been a smokescreen. Or isn't it possible they decide the best way to help the defense is to get even better on offense? What if an offensive player is their highest rated when they go on the clock? Might they spring a surprise with Knowshon Moreno?

No. 27: Indianapolis, Hakeem Nicks -- This one is the least predictable, as Bill Polian could take a player form just about any position. In this scenario, maybe it's Evander Hood, maybe it's a guy a lot of experts consider a second-rounder and Polian considers a perfect fit for a role on the Colts.

No. 30: Tennessee, Alphonso Smith -- Tennessee has former NFL defensive backs as GM, coach and defensive coordinator and minimal depth behind its two starters and nickel. Perhaps the Titans prefer Darius Butler or Sean Smith at corner, perhaps they prefer the first of the next tier of outside linebackers, Connor Barwin or Larry English.