AFC South: NFL draft 09
USA Football put together a list of information about where the 256 players drafted into the NFL in late April played their high school ball.
Twelve high schools were represented by two players, and three AFC South players were part of those pairing:
- Bishop McDevitt (Harrisburg, Pa.): RB LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia/Rd. 2), G Jaimie Thomas (Indianapolis/Rd. 7)
- J.H. Rose (Greenville, N.C.): RB Andre Brown (New York Giants/Rd. 4), DB Derek Cox (Jacksonville/Rd. 3)
- Vigor (Mobile, Ala.): DB Ellis Lankster (Buffalo/Rd. 7), DT Sen'Derrick Marks (Tennessee/Rd. 2)
The folks at whatifsports.com wait eagerly for the draft, because only with rookies lined up with teams can they begin work on their projections for the season.
Draft day signifies the beginning of one of our busiest times of the year as we work on our comprehensive, full-season preview. For the preview, we project stats for every single player and team in the league by simulating each game on the schedule 10,000 times. Coming up with statistical inputs is relatively easy for veteran players as most tend to play to a predictable performance trend as they age and take on different roles.
Rookies present the biggest challenge. To come up with statistical inputs for rookies, we run a very complex set of algorithms that factors collegiate performance, role in college, strength of collegiate competition, "measurables," likely NFL role, previous performance of a similar player in that NFL role for this coaching staff and trends of similar rookies in the past. This gives us the player's projected ratio stats (expected yards per carry, completion percentage, etc.), as well as his forecasted usage for the upcoming season. From there, we can compare all rookies based on who we think will make the biggest positive impact for his new NFL team in his first year. The Top 100 from this ranking are listed below.
We have done pretty well with this approach. Leading into the 2008 season. Last season's ranking is located here. As you can see, not only did this methodology correctly rank first round draft choices like Jonathan Stewart, Jerod Mayo, Jake Long and Sedrick Ellis among the top ten, it helped to point out some steals like Steve Slaton, Charles Godfrey, Matt Forte, Trevor Scott, Jamaal Charles and Cliff Avril.
Here's how they ranked AFC South rookies:
98. Jaimie Thomas, OL, Indianapolis
97. Terrance Taylor, DT, Indianapolis
91. Sen'Derrick Marks, DT, Tennessee
84. Jared Cook, TE, Tennessee
70. Jarett Dillard, WR, Jacksonville
65. Fili Moala, DT, Indianapolis
54. James Casey, TE, Houston
46. Antoine Caldwell, OL, Houston
41. Austin Collie, WR, Indianapolis
29. Eben Britton, OL, Jacksonville
26. Eugene Monroe, OL, Jacksonville
20. Connor Barwin, DE, Houston
18. Brian Cushing, LB, Houston
12. Donald Brown, RB, Indianapolis
And just one in the top 10.
8. Kenny Britt, WR, Tennessee
Tennessee is another team in desperate need of a go-to wide receiver. The Titans have not had a wideout eclipse 750 yards since Derrick Mason in 2004. In 2008, Justin Gage led the way with 651 yards on just 34 catches. Britt, who has prototypical size and athleticism for the position, should be the long-term answer for the Titans. With an excellent running game and a veteran quarterback, he has a good chance of breaking out this season. In the latter weeks and in the playoffs, look for Britt to become an intimidating weapon for Kerry Collins.
The highest picks from each team that didn't make the cut: Jacksonville third-round defensive tackle Terrance Knighton; Indianapolis third-round cornerback Jerraud Powers; Tennessee third-round corner Ryan Mouton; Houston fourth-round safety Glover Quin.
We'll keep an eye out for those projections, coming in mid-June.
The Jaguars' new veteran receiver, Torry Holt, was asked about the team's three rookie receivers on Thursday.
Holt met with the local media in Jacksonville as the team gets set for its minicamp starting Friday.
When Holt was asked which draft pick was most like him, here's what he said:
Fifth-rounder Jarett Dillard: "The one who's most like me I would say probably would be Dillard. Incredible hands, smooth, does a really good job with his routes. Has an incredible vertical leap, does a really good job with attacking the football."
Fourth-rounder Mike Thomas: "Mike Thomas was real strong, a very good stride, I think he will come in and can help us in the return game as a punt returner and as a kickoff returner. And also give us some depth at the receiver position, too. Put him at the slot but he's also strong and big enough where you can move him and play him outside at the Z or the X."
Seventh-rounder Tiquan Underwood: "Underwood, who played some special teams in college, played receiver there at Rutgers and he played on the other side of Kenny Britt. So he knows how to play. He knows how to play his role obviously, so I thought that they did a really good job with the draft this year."
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
It can be too easy to go with the position coach of the first-round pick as the guy who's got to do good work to help a draftee have some instant impact.
But the Titans are returning 11 of 12 starters on offense and defense and adding an explosive playmaker on offense was a priority. Enter Kenny Britt out of Rutgers with pick No. 30.
Wide receiver coaches for the Titans are regularly subject to criticism, but I think it's tough to pin the lack of development of players at the position on them. After all, we've seen Alan Lowry, Steve Walters, Ray Sherman and now Fred Graves all hold the job. Have all five of them been bad at polishing young talent into AFL-caliber weapons?
I argue the failures at the spot fall more on Jeff Fisher for philosophically de-emphasizing the position and the front office for what they've provided those assistants to work with in that environment.
Graves has been given a first-round talent now. Offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger raved about how Britt comes into the league already able to get off press coverage, something most rookies struggle to figure out.
Graves is occasionally unconventional -- his guys regularly catch bricks to work on their hands.
If Britt's able to contribute early, Graves will get some of the credit. If Britt's not one of the team's top three receivers early on, Graves will get a share of the blame.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Big in the middle is something that's more often been talked about than put into practice for Polian's Colts.
But if Moala and Taylor do good work and eat up multiple blocks, the Colts see their smaller, quicker ends and linebackers getthing loose to make more plays.
And such a boost should mean an improvement in defensive third-down efficiency, a weakness last season.
The man who will try to sculpt Moala and Taylor into productive NFL players is defensive line coach John Teerlinck -- a respected veteran coach who's been in his post since 2002.
Teerlinck knows plenty about defensive tackle play. He played three seasons at the spot for the San Diego Chargers in the mid-1970s.
Too often, Teerlinck's had to try to make it work with smallish guys who might work as hard as possible but still simply not be able to hold their ground, or gain any. He has to be excited about the new possibilities and ready for everyone to ask constantly about the progress of his two new pupils.
Andy Heck is the junior member of the AFC South offensive line coaching fraternity. By a lot.
Heck's is 42, with 18 years of experience. That trails Houston's 68-year old Alex Gibbs (24 years as an NFL coach), Tennessee's 49-year old Mike Munchak (25 years as a Hall of Fame player and a coach) and Indianapolis' 67-year old Howard Mudd (40 years as a coach and player).
Quick aside: By title, Gibbs is assistant head coach/offense and 45-year old John Benton is offensive line coach, with five years in the league. But Gibbs works with Benton and the line on a daily basis.
This hardly means Heck can't match the efforts of those veterans. In some instances younger is better. And when Jack Del Rio's Jaguars have been at their best, Heck's guys have been a key.
Under first-year general manager Gene Smith, the Jaguars looked to reload on the offensive line. They hope first-rounder Eugene Monroe and second-rounder Eben Britton wind up their long-term O-line bookends.
Sooner is better for the Jaguars, who will benefit from getting younger. If the kids can be effective early, their growth curve will accelerate if they are playing.
Heck will have to get Monroe, regarded as an excellent pass blocker, to better learn how to run block for a run-first team built around Maurice Jones-Drew. And Britton comes into the league regarded as a better drive-blocker than pass protector.
How well Heck is able to round each into a complete tackle will have a giant bearing on the fate of the Jaguars over the next several years.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
"When his technique catches up with his work ethic, then you're going to really have somebody special."
Well, Bill Kollar already ranked as a huge guy for the 2009 Texans, who as a team had just 25 sacks a year ago, 12 of them from Mario Williams.
The team's new defensive coordinator is expected to keep Williams' career on the rise, to squeeze maximum production out of free agent addition Antonio Smith who will play end and tackle, to get Amobi Okoye back on track after a high ankle sprain slowed him in Year 2 and to up the production of the rest of the group.
Now, too, he'll be expected to show Barwin how technique can turn that excellent work ethic into NFL production.
I talked to Kollar for a recent blog column, which you can find here is you missed it or care to revisit.
- Clark Judge likes the Texans' draft. A lot.
- A winning season and playoff berth could get coach Gary Kubiak a contract extension; a season short of that could get him fired, writes John McClain.
- Center Antoine Caldwell was surprised to get the call from the Texans but is familiar with zone blocking concepts, says Alan Burge.
- A recap of McClain's recent chat.
- The Colts are close to bringing back linebacker Freddy Keiaho, reports Mike Chappell.
- Bob Kravitz on running back Donald Brown.
- Chappell takes questions.
- A look at the Colts' undrafted free agents, from John Oehser.
- Pondering the status of Ryan Lilja in an Oehser mailbag.
- In discussing Curtis Painter, Oehser tells a good story about drafting a quarterback viewed as a value when you may not really need one.
- Will the Colts be able to stretch the field? Oehser's thoughts.
- A look at cornerback Derek Cox from a Virginia perspective, from John Harvey.
- Jim Wyatt talks to former Pro Bowler Rod Smith about receiver Kenny Britt.
If the Texans suggest a haircut, first-rounder Brian Cushing will head to the barber.
He covered that in this recent interview on Sports Radio 610 in Houston.
What makes him a good football player?
"I think my intensity, work ethic, and my ability to adapt and learn as fast as possible. I played three different positions at USC and I think I can compete at any of them... I think the biggest thing for me is my drive, my passion, my work ethic -- I think without those I'd just be another average football player."
Yes, Eugene Monroe is one of 16 children and he has a 60-year-old brother.
He talked about that, his lack of contact with the Jaguars outside of his pro day and how calm he was on pro day in a recent interview with WJXL in Jacksonville.
Here's a partial transcript and a link from our friends at sportsradiointerviews.com.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
SportsNation's PollCenter wants your input on the five pressing questions facing every team in the AFC.
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We'll try to check back in a couple days to react to the response.
Houston Texans fans are wondering how the team didn't address its one pressing offensive need with their draft eight picks.
They want a bigger back who can get tough inside yards working with Steve Slaton.
Denver has loaded up with running backs in free agency and drafted Knowshon Moreno in the first round. Ultimately, the Broncos will purge more Mike Shanahan guys as they move away from his system.
With Alex Gibbs running that very system in Houston, runners who looked good in it in the Rockies are smart projections for the Texans if they come free.
Props to Marvez for the quality forecast.
As for his remaining needs:
- I believe the Colts have moved on and we're unlikely to see Marvin Harrison return. Between fourth-round pick Austin Collie and holdovers Roy Hall and Pierre Garcon, they think a reliable third option will emerge.
- While the Jags would like another veteran receiver, they can be OK with Torry Holt, Mike Walker, Dennis Northcutt, Troy Williamson and draft picks Mike Thomas and Jarett Dillard.
- And when Craig Hentrich decided to keep playing, the Titans didn't hesitate to re-sign him. Josh Miller could well be brought back to help in camp and be around as an insurance policy.
Teams take different approaches when it comes to bringing in their rookies for the first time.
Tennessee's will arrive in Nashville Thursday evening and have practices on their own Friday and Saturday. They will go home with an idea of how the Titans run things, and then join the veterans later.
Jack Del Rio is doing something far different in Jacksonville. His team's full minicamp is this weekend, and he'll throw the rookies right into the deep end.
"Yes, they're going to be swimming, they're going to be challenged, and we really want that this year. Last year I got away from bringing in the rookies right after the draft and I wanted that shock factor. I want these guys to hit Jacksonville and be shocked by me, be shocked by the veteran players that have been here working out. They may think they're in good shape. They'll get here with our veterans and will realize they're not in good shape, so that shock factor is something I covet. And we're going to get started with that starting Thursday night ...
"In terms of getting the mentality in line, right from the get-go, establishing what things are going to be like here and making sure they understand just how hard they're going to have to work. As much as I just got done telling you how much I love this class, and I really do like the class that we've added, all they are is prospects; all they are is draft selections. They've got to come here, get signed, get to camp and fight for a spot. And they're grown men that are not wanting to be displaced that are in the way, and so it should make for a very competitive camp."
Both ways can work. The Jaguars drafted a lot of guys they view as leaders. The shock factor shouldn't last too long, and they should go back to school with an excellent idea of what they need to do to be ready the next time they are on the field with the veterans.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
The draft could be heading to prime time, writes Rick Gosselin.
- The Texans got stronger, faster and tougher, says Jerome Solomon.
- Mark Sanchez of the Jets, San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree, Seattle outside linebacker Aaron Curry, Arizona running back Beanie Wells and Buffalo defensive end Aaron Maybin are five of the No. 1 draft choices the Texans will play against next season, says John McClain.
- A look at two undrafted running backs the Texans picked up and a review of McClain's Monday chat.
- A review of Houston's second day picks, from Lance Zierlein.
- Alan Burge has some links to stories about Texans undrafted rookies.
- Mike Chappell looks at how the Colts' draft met their needs.
- The Colts' undrafted free agents include a local.
- Don't panic over no linebackers, says John Oehser in his draft review.
- Bigger defensive tackles were the one chance in philosophy for the Colts and Bill Polian, says Colts.com.
- Five locals sign as undrafted free agents around the league.
- Gene Frenette passes out draft grades.
- Eugene Monroe talks to WJXL in Jacksonville.
- Bo Scaife signed his franchise tender and joined the offseason workout program, writes Jim Wyatt.
- Accounts of the Titans' contact or attempted contact with the Cardinals to discuss Anquan Boldin don't line up. Ken Somers has Arizona's side here, while Titans Radio provided this audio from Jeff Fisher's radio show. It's probably all moot now.
- The Titans' undrafted rookie class is in.
- A draft review with grades from Terry McCormick.
- Joe Biddle wants a salary cap for rookies.
- The case for Kenny Britt from a Rutgers blogger through the New York Times.
Peyton Manning wasn't necessarily expecting the Colts to take a running back with their first-round draft pick, but he wasn't surprised by it either.
Manning was a guest on "Kravitz and Eddie" on 1070 the Fan in Indianapolis Monday.
"Obviously I was interested, like everybody else, what we were going to do," he said. "I wasn't 100 percent sure in what direction we were going to go in. I thought it might be a receiver, a defensive linemen; I did think a running back was a possibility -- just some of the things that I had heard. I saw Bill [Polian] a week before the draft. Bill kind of stays underground for three months before the draft and stays pretty low and keeps his choices kind of close to the vest. So I wasn't 100 percent sure before the pick."
Here a link to some more transcription courtesy of sportsradiointerviews.com, which links to The Fan's audio.