AFC South: Daniel Loper

In general, we expect too much from late-round picks. (And from overall draft batting averages.)

In a recent conversation with former Denver general manager Ted Sundquist, he pointed to an article he once read in Ourlads by Joe Landers. Apologies, I couldn’t find the link.

“Using some common sense and a little investigative research, you'll find that it's rare, at least according to Landers’ study, to find a cornerback or running back or wide receiver that's really going to help you in the last three rounds,” Sundquist said. “And yet you'll find teams constantly take a reach on one of these positions.

“Evidence shows you're more likely to find a defensive tackle, offensive lineman, safety or tight end in the later rounds. Why? Most conventional wisdom says don't draft a safety or tight end high due to escalating rookie salaries and the going market at the position. As for defensive tackles or offensive linemen, it’s probably because of the greater numbers at the position. Both circumstances force down talented players at those positions.”

I went back and combed over the AFC South drafts since 2002, to see how many picks they spent on each side of the ledger Sundquist sets forth and how often the Colts, Jaguars, Texans and Titans did well with a fifth-, sixth- or seventh-round pick at those spots. This is, of course, highly unscientific. Metrics guys can probably shred it. But I thought it worth fiddling with.

Notables are players who played significantly, even if it’s been with another team, or recent picks who appear on track to contribute.

Houston Texans

WRs, RBs. CBs: 9

DTs, OL, S, TEs: 14

Most: Six safeties, four receivers, corners and defensive tackle

Notables: Colts

WRs, RBs. CBs: 7

DTs, OL, S, TEs: 13

Most: 13 offensive linemen

Notables: Jaguars

WRs, RBs. CBs: 12

DTs, OL, S, TEs: 9

Most: Five receivers, four offensive linemen

Notables: Titans

WRs, RBs. CBs: 14

DTs, OL, S, TEs: 16

Most: Seven offensive linemen, six wide receivers

Notables:
Of the notables from the division drafted since 2002, 73 percent (19) have been from the positions Sundquist says teams should concentrate on late while 27 percent (seven) play positions he believes should generally be avoided.

I'd be fine with the Titans not wasting yet another late pick on a receiver and with the Texans using late-rounders on something other than corners and receivers for sure. But it's not like Houston's spending late picks on safeties or the Colts use of such selections on offensive linemen have paid huge dividends either.

I'd love to read your thoughts.
Quality read

Mike Tanier shares thoughts on the toughest college programs to evaluate.

Houston Texans

John McClain thinks the Texans will go running back in Round 1.

An offensive value board from a Texans perspective courtesy of Lance Zierlein.

Indianapolis Colts

Melvin Bullitt and Dan Muir signed their tenders, says Phil Richards.

Assessing the defensive line with John Oehser.

Ryan Lilja didn’t love the way the Colts line was talked about but is moving on, writes Oehser.

Stampede Blue found an interesting NFL venue ranking that put Lucas Oil Stadium at the top of the list. I agree it’s a great venue, but if you factor in the bad food and limited dining options I think No. 1 is a bit of a stretch.

A quality Q&A with Mike Chappell.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars are being proactive in trying to trade out of No. 10, says Vito Stellino.

Vic Ketchman contemplates the need for buzz.

The Jaguars are looking for more draft-day steals, says Chris Harry.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans see a lot to like in Gerald McRath, writes Jim Wyatt.

LenDale White signed his tender, says Wyatt.

Wyatt thinks the Titans will look to bring back Daniel Loper. I think Loper’s chances hinge on what the team thinks of Mike Otto and Troy Kropog.

Cortland Finnegan makes Andy Benoit’s list of the league’s top 10 corners.

Voice of the Titans' Mike Keith is impressed with how Vince Young is carrying himself.
The acknowledged top prognosticator of compensatory draft picks was a little more off than in the past as far as the AFC South is concerned.

In this post on March 9, we pointed to the nearly fearless (he’d be completely fearless if he used his name) AdamJT13 who said the Titans would get a third and three sevenths and the Jaguars would get a sixth.

Adam Schefter on Monday reported Tennessee officially got a third (97th overall), a sixth (207th), and a seventh (241st). Jacksonville got a sixth (203rd) and Indianapolis got two sevenths (240th and 246th).

These additional picks are awarded based on a formula that factors in free agents lost last year, their contracts and their production in their first year elsewhere.

A third-rounder is the highest possible. Picks in the seventh round basically allow teams to lock in players they would have pursued as undrafted rookies.

The picks cannot be traded.

From the league release that followed, here are the guys who factored in:

INDIANAPOLIS
Lost: Darrell Reid, Hunter Smith
JACKSONVILLE
Lost: Khalif Barnes, Mike Peterson, Gerald Sensabaugh

Signed: Sean Considine, Tra Thomas
TENNESSEE
Lost: Chris Carr, Albert Haynesworth, Brandon Jones, Eric King, Daniel Loper, Chris Simms

Signed: Jovan Haye, Mark Jones, Nate Washington

Compensatory pick predictions

March, 9, 2010
3/09/10
11:12
AM ET
The primary prediction of the compensatory picks the league will award based on 2009 free-agent losses are out, and here’s what AdamJT13 says:

The Titans get a third for Albert Haynesworth, and three seventh-rounders for Chris Carr, Eric King and Daniel Loper.

The Jaguars get a sixth for Mike Peterson.

That third for the Titans has been expected -- that’s as high as a team can get -- and helps ease the sting of not having a second-rounder (from the trade for a third-rounder last year that netted them Jared Cook.)

Compensatory picks are not tradeable.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Often times mock drafters or fans (or mock drafter fans) who aren't fully aware of a team's depth chart will connect the easiest dots.

The Titans, for example, lost Albert Haynesworth, therefore a lot of people presume they automatically need a replacement defensive tackle and put them down for one at No. 30.

 
  Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
  Just because the Titans lost Albert Haynesworth through free agency doesn't mean they are dead-set on a replacement in the first round.

Except that the Titans drafted Jason Jones in the second round last year and he was impressive as a rookie, with five sacks in 13 games. They signed free agent Jovan Haye, a favorite of defensive line coach Jim Washburn. They like starter Tony Brown very much, and they like Kevin Vickerson as their biggest body -- enough so that he got a contract extension during the 2008 season.

The Titans may well be in best-player-available mode and if Evander Hood is there at their spot and they see him as a great value they could take him.

But it's hardly a foregone conclusion.

Similarly, I believe it's a mistake to cross left tackle off the list of potential picks for Jacksonville just because they signed free agent Tra Thomas. They still need a long-term solution, and if the best tackle at No. 8 is a better value to them than what's left at receiver, defensive tackle or cornerback -- or if they aren't taking a quarterback or trading the pick to someone who wants one -- they may well take a potential offensive line anchor.

The Scouts Inc. needs board looks pretty good to me, so I'd keep an eye on that. It gets adjusted based on any new developments.

Meanwhile, here's an up-to-date rundown of the primary needs, in my view, for the teams of the AFC South:

HOUSTON TEXANS

Defensive tackle: Amobi Okoye needs some help inside to be the player the Texans envisioned, and an effective tackle who demands attention will help the continued push to upgrade the line and produce more consistent pass pressure.

Defensive back: There is evidence that Jacques Reeves wasn't as bad as portrayed last year as the corner opposite Dunta Robinson once Robinson returned from injury. But competition for the second and third spots would be good to add with Reeves and Fred Bennett. And none of the top three safeties are overwhelming -- Eugene Wilson at free and Dominique Barber at strong are the starters, with Nick Ferguson as depth. The Texans should add the best overall defensive back they can find, maybe a couple.

Outside linebacker: The Texans can use a bigger, more rugged outside 'backer who can rush the quarterback and drop into coverage.

Running back: Steve Slaton was a godsend in the third round last year. Now the Texans need to find a bigger guy to take some of the carries and serve as a heavier changeup.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Defensive tackle: The Colts lost the big bodies in the middle of their line, space-eating run-stuffers Quinn Pitcock and Ed Johnson, right at the start of last season and they need to spend to get quality replacements.

Receiver: Anthony Gonzalez can become a full-time guy with Marvin Harrison gone, and he or Reggie Wayne can kick into the slot in the often featured three-wide sets. Still, a third quality wideout is a necessity, and it won't be a surprise if Bill Polian uses No. 27 to address the position.

Outside linebackers: This group needs to be replenished as two guys who've seen significant time in the last two seasons, Freddy Keiaho and Tyjuan Hagler, appear out of the picture. But the Colts restock their linebackers often through the draft and with undrafted rookies.

Running back: Was Joseph Addai banged up and suffering behind an injured line, or is he not going to be able to carry the load? The Colts like Mike Hart, who's coming off a bad injury. But they haven't re-signed Dominic Rhodes and need more.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Receiver: A perpetual need. They are down Reggie Williams, a free agent they have no interest in, and Matt Jones, who was cut after a new round of trouble. To get a true read on David Garrard, he needs real weapons on the outside.

Defensive tackle: GM Gene Smith has talked a lot about building from the inside-out and the Jaguars thrived when John Henderson and Marcus Stroud gave th
em an identity. Their plans to replace Stroud after a trade failed, and they need a better partner for Henderson that will help toughen them and could be a good influence on him.

Cornerback: Brian Williams can play opposite Rashean Mathis or he can play safety. Free-agent safety addition Sean Considine is an X factor here. But even if he's in the lineup and the Jaguars have their two starting corners, they need nickel candidates and depth badly.

Left tackle: As mentioned above, the addition of Thomas does not mean the Jaguars are done addressing this spot. Garrard needs not only better weapons but better protection and the offense is built around running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who needs consistent long-term blocking.

TENNESSEE TITANS

Receiver: They hope for big things from free-agent addition Nate Washington, but considering how long they've lacked a dynamic weapon outside, they can't have enough candidates for the role. A legitimate big-play threat can help create things for Chris Johnson, the running back who's the centerpiece of the offense.

Cornerback: Beyond starters Cortland Finnegan and Nick Harper and nickel Vincent Fuller, the Titans have only unproven Cary Williams. The expectation is the Titans will draft a corner who would be in line to replace Harper in 2010 and they need the depth now after losing Eric King and Chris Carr in free agency.

Outside linebacker: Stalwart Keith Bulluck is heading into a contract year and should the Titans have trouble holding on to him or decide not to, they could use an heir in place and it's unclear if Stanford Keglar can be that guy. Better depth and a player who could be a big special-teamer will be nice to have in 2009.

Offensive tackle: Daniel Loper was a versatile swing guy who backed up both Michael Roos and David Stewart and could move inside to play guard. He went to Detroit as a free agent. Maybe Mike Otto is the new third tackle, but a versatile lineman is a need for depth.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Houston Texans

Cornerback Jacques Reeves wasn't great, but he was better than a lot of fans thought, blogs John McClain.

Megan Manfull says the Texans are counting on a big Year 3 jump from Amobi Okoye.

Lance Zierlein ponders Andre Smith.

Indianapolis Colts

John Oehser says don't wait on the Colts to re-sign Marvin Harrison or Edgerrin James, if James gets out of Arizona.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Gene Frenette makes the case for the Jaguars to trade down in the first round.

Charges against free-agent receiver Reggie Williams have been dropped, reports Michael C. Wright.

Tennessee Titans

The National Football Post says a trade that would have sent Torry Holt to the Titans fell apart. I expect Tennessee will show interest now that Holt's been release, but if he wouldn't restructure his contract for a trade, he's likely going to have to reassess his value if he's to land in Nashville.

Free-agent offensive tackle Trai Essex visited the Titans Friday, says Terry McCormick. The Titans need a backup tackle after losing Daniel Loper as a free agent to Detroit.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Three teams seem quiet Friday afternoon, but the Titans have some action and Jim Wyatt's had a busy day...

  • Tennessee re-signed punter Craig Hentrich. He faded at the end last season and was upset he was unable to cure problems as quickly as he had in the past, but if he's close to his usual form they're lucky to have him and his knuckleball.
  • The Titans need a new swing tackle to backup Michael Roos and David Stewart after Daniel Loper agreed to a one-year deal with Detroit. The writers who cover the Lions are getting an excellent quote. Ask for his Mack Brown story.
  • The Titans continue to look at veteran corners. Friday it was Packers restricted free agent Jarrett Bush.

Tracking free agency a week in

March, 6, 2009
3/06/09
12:40
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Our NFC West ace Mike Sando has been keeping track of free-agent movement by division and put together this excellent chart, which doesn't factor in any deals that may have been completed Friday morning.

Division Starting UFA Current UFA
Percent Still Unsigned
NFC North
40 33 .825
AFC West
34 28 .824
NFC West
58 45 .776
NFC East
33 25 .758
AFC North
46 32 .696
AFC South
39 26 .667
AFC East
45 28 .622
NFC South
41 22 .537
Who's still out there from the AFC South teams?

The most significant names by team, with asterisks denoting players still believed to be of interest by their current clubs:

Houston Texans

Cornerback DeMarcus Faggins, safety Nick Ferguson*, defensive tackle Jeff Zgonina*, fullback Cecil Sapp*.

Indianapolis Colts

Safety Matt Giordano, linebacker Tyjuan Hagler, cornerback Keiwan Ratliff, running back Dominic Rhodes*, punter Hunter Smith, defensive end Josh Thomas.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Tackle Khalif Barnes, guard Chris Naeole, linebacker Mike Peterson, safety Pierson Prioleau, safety Gerald Sensabaugh, receiver Reggie Williams.

Tennessee Titans

Corner/returner Chris Carr*, punter Craig Hentrich*, cornerback Reynaldo Hill, tackle Daniel Loper*, receiver Justin McCareins.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

We link to a player blog for the first time this morning (see Jaguars). Know of any others? Please point me to them with a note in my mailbag.

Houston Texans

Megan Manful blogs that the Texans still have a lot of depth issues to address.

Alan Burge thinks the Texans and Dunta Robinson need to make peace. I don't see a problem with Rick Smith's plan to let things settle down while other issues qualify as more pressing.

Indianapolis Colts

Jeff Saturday's deal could be worth $13.3 million and came with a $7.45 million signing bonus, reports Mike Chappell. Also, tackle Ryan Lilja took reduced base salaries and Adam Vinatieri restructured in moves that got the Colts additional cap room. And Freddy Keiaho visited Buffalo.

Ace Seth Wickersham looks at how the late increase in the salary cap helped keep Jeff Saturday a Colt.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jags are not interested in Terrell Owens, says Michael C. Wright.

Tight end George Wrighster recently reached out to the AFC South Blog to point us to his own blog. I'm just catching up now, and he recently wrote he's expecting to be traded.

Tennessee Titans

Albert Haynesworth tells Jim Wyatt how close he was to a deal with the Titans last year,

Wyatt offers a solid analysis of what's to come as the Titans figure out Vince Young's future.

Daniel Loper is scheduled to visit the Falcons on Friday, says Wyatt.

Look for the Titans to just say no to T.O., writes Terry McCormick.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Mike Mayock of NFL.com lists the top five draft prospects by position.

Houston Texans

With Cedric Benson back in Cincinnati, the Texans will likely look to the draft for a back to join Steve Slaton and Ryan Moats, writes John McClain.

Indianapolis Colts

New site alert, or at least new to me: Check out John Oehser's The Indy Football report.

Peyton Manning talked to a giant group of Boy Scouts in Birmingham, says the Birmingham News.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Tra Thomas' talks with the Jaguars were very informal and didn't include an official visit, reports Michael C. Wright.

Clark Judge looks at good free-agent signings from the recent past and includes Jaguars defensive back Brian Williams on his list.

Drayton Florence landed in Buffalo and Tim Graham blogged about what it means for the Bills.

Cole Pepper considers how adding Thomas would work for the Jaguars.

Maurice Jones-Drew spoke with Dave Richard about his desire for a new contract.

Tennessee Titans

Titans free agents are traveling Wednesday: Chris Simms to Denver, Daniel Loper to Detroit. Gary Estwick with details.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Houston Texans

Cedric Benson talks about a visit with the Texans Monday that didn't produce a deal, writes John McClain.

Richard Justice says he'd like Benson in Houston but offers a reminder of the downsides.

In his new mock draft, Lance Zierlein has the Texans taking Brian Cushing.

Indianapolis Colts

Nothing Tuesday morning.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars are now looking closely at Philadelphia free agent tackle Tra Thomas and Jets defensive lineman C.J. Mosley. The team has also laid off eight employees, reports Michael C. Wright.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans introduced new signees Nate Washington and Jovan Haye, writes Terry McCormick.

The Tennessean's look at the signings from Gary Estwick.

Punter Craig Hentrich has told the Titans he wants to return and the team's indicated it will sign him, says McCormick.

A look at the free agent plans for Chris Carr and Daniel Loper from McCormick.

Tennessee UFAs to be

January, 13, 2009
1/13/09
3:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

By popular demand, here's the list of the Titans' unrestricted-free-agents-to-be.

 
  AP Photo/John Russell
  When the dust settles this offseason, Albert Haynesworth could be the richest defender in the NFL.

They are in rough order of importance, with comments.

We'll give you similar lists for the Texans, Colts and Jaguars soon.

  1. Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth: In line to be highest-paid defender in football. A critical piece of what the Titans do.
  2. Quarterback Kerry Collins: The right guy for this team right now, on the field and in the locker room.
  3. Nickelback Vincent Fuller: Has provided continuity and steady play at a crucial spot.
  4. Tight end Bo Scaife: A quality target, but could end up being overpriced.
  5. Kicker Rob Bironas: Big, strong leg has been clutch for the most part.
  6. Return man/cornerback Chris Carr: Provided a huge boost to return games and was quality depth on defense.
  7. Punter Craig Hentrich: Has been great for them, but his game had dropped off some and he's talking retirement.
  8. Offensive lineman Daniel Loper: They like him a lot as a versatile backup.
  9. Cornerback Eric King: Finished hurt, but provides excellent depth when healthy.
  10. Wide receiver Brandon Jones: Coming off his steadiest season, but may be a No. 3 at best.
  11. Quarterback Chris Simms: He likes the team, the team likes him. But the No. 3 job is probably all the Titans can offer.
  12. Wide receiver Justin McCareins: Hard to imagine they can't or won't upgrade opposite Justin Gage.
  13. Cornerback Tyrone Poole: A veteran who was added late as insurance but never really needed.
  14. Cornerback Reynaldo Hill: The team made it clear by hurrying him to IR that he's got no standing left.

Rapid Reaction: Titans 47, Lions 10

November, 27, 2008
11/27/08
3:47
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

DETROIT -- What did the Titans' shellacking of the Lions at Ford Field today mean?

Not that much.

Just like it would have been a mistake to read too much into last Sunday's loss to the Jets, the Titans' first defeat of the season, it would be a mistake to put too much into this lopsided victory.

The winless Lions are horrifically bad, and the Titans did what a good team should do when given such an opportunity: They efficiently stormed to a comfortable win, establishing their ability to run, winning on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and never giving their hosts a chance to feel like this would be a competitive game.

So thorough was the beating, the Titans turned to second-string quarterback Vince Young for the final nine minutes of the game and he worked with reserves Daniel Loper as his left tackle, Leroy Harris as his center and Lavelle Hawkins as one of his receivers. The Titans emptied the bench on defense late as well.

Tennessee now has an extended rest until its Dec. 7 home game against Cleveland. The Titans are looking at it like a mini-bye. They certainly can feel good about themselves while they get some rest and enjoy a weekend.

They head home having completed a successful four-pack of games against the NFC North. They won at Chicago and Detroit and took care of Minnesota and Green Bay at home.
Go ahead and eat. I'll be back with a lot more later.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- He is the rowdy voice, if not the face, of Monday Night Football.

And during the intro to this week's telecast, the lyrics of his "All My Rowdy Friends are Comin' Over Tonight" will include this:

The Colts and Titans LIGHT UP the marquee
It's gonna get nasty in ole' Tennessee
We're gonna blow the roof off Nashville tonight

Tennessee's own Hank Williams Jr. will also sing the national anthem at LP Field before the Colts and Titans kickoff.

I had a winding 10 minute phone conversation with him recently, during which he talked about being a Steelers fan first and a Titans fan second, recounted his friendships with players like Ken Stabler and Derrick Thomas and talked proudly of his association with Monday night telecasts.

"It's the ultimate," he said. "I've got some awards in cases. But when we visit a hospital or something and a 10-year old says, 'Oh my God, you're the Monday night man,' that is the supreme award right there. How could you imagine a one-year deal was going to turn into, in the words of Al Michaels, an American signature?

"I'm not sure I can explain it. People love their football and that song is the song that people are waiting to hear when that game starts. It's just one of those magical things. They probably know that I am into it, that I enjoy what I am doing instead of 'Oh, God, another one of those.' That ain't the way it works."

Colts center Jeff Saturday still listens to Williams sometimes, but not as often as he did when he was a high school wrestler looking to get pumped up for a match.

"I've been to a couple of his shows and he threw some good ones down in Atlanta," Saturday said. "When you are growing up I think you can relate to a lot of his tougher man songs, 'Country Boy Can Survive.' You can connect with struggling and fighting through things."

Tennessee quarterback Kerry Collins hopes to get a chance to say hello to Williams before or after the game.

"That would be cool, I'm a big fan," Collins said. "My favorite song is 'Family Tradition,' without question. I think the line, 'I have loved some ladies, I have loved Jim Beam, they both tried to kill me in 1973' that's one of the greatest lines ever in a country song. I just like what he's all about. It's kind of that outlaw deal."

"We're going to do that," Williams said of meeting Collins. "We might even get some guitar lessons worked in."

Williams is still that outlaw, but he concedes he's settled down and is now more in line with his 1981 hit, "All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down)."

"I'm in Henry County, Tennessee, I take an 11-year old to school about every morning, and I do a mile-and-a-quarter with two Labradors," he said. "I'm out there with the McCain-Palin camp. You can't do what I do and my kind of regimen and not be taking care of yourself pretty good. I like my cigars, like I am having right now, and I still like to go to training camps."

His daily walk and the time he spends hunting and fishing qualify as quality creative time, he said.

He's connected to a younger crowd through a close relationship with Kid Rock, proudly pointing out that on Kid Rock's album titled "American Bad Ass" he's mentioned in four different songs.

Williams was with Kid Rock when Titans reserve offensive lineman Daniel Loper met him at Agave, a Nashville nightspot.

"He seemed like a real nice guy, down to earth, and apparently a country boy can survive," Loper said. "His family is the cornerstone of country music. A lot of my years growing up were listening to Hank Junior. I have a lot of favorites, but the best song hands down is 'Country Boy Can Survive.'"

Williams didn't offer much when asked to review the state of rebel country mainstream music these days.

He's currently recording an album he promises "is going to be completely loaded" and willingly listed artists he enjoys: Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams, whose work is regarded by some critics as following in the tradition of Hank Williams Sr., and more mainstream country artists like Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney and Brad Paisley.

He lists all of his kids when he's asked about Holly Williams, but she's a recording artist and he said he can envision her taking over for him on Monday nights some day.

"I'm all for it, why not?" he said. "I taught her to aim high, so why not?"

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

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