Chat with Gary Horton
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN's NFL "Caveman" -- and Insider -- Gary Horton, stops in to talk some football and other news from around the league.
Horton, from Scouts Inc., works year-round on ESPN's NFL-related shows, breaking down film, earning him his Caveman nickname.
Horton spent 10 years in the NFL as a scout and another 10 years at the college level as an assistant coach and recruiter. He is the founder and most seasoned member of the Scouts Inc. staff, and his extensive experience at all levels of football make him an excellent talent evaluator.
Send your questions now and join Horton Monday at 4 p.m. ET!
Buzzmaster (4:02 PM)
We've got Gary!
John Ruck (Boston )
10. Is the NFC poised to regain dominance?
Gary Horton (4:05 PM)
With two terrific teams in the NFC West in Seattle and San Francisco that aren't going anywhere, I think that's probably where the strength is right now. Although, having said that, the fact that the NFC East is not the division that it used to be right now, weakens the NFC. But when I look at the rest of the teams, you obviously like Denver and New England, I don't know if there's an AFC team that really scares you out there.
Which team has improved the most in the off season thru free agency and heading into the draft?
Gary Horton (4:07 PM)
I think Denver has had a good offseason to change the look of their defense, which was an area of needed improvement last year. It's hard to tell yet what the results will be, because a lot of these teams acquired veteran players that we don't know how much they have left in the tank. That will be a big key for the success of these early offseason acquisitions. What I do like, and what I saw a lot of this year, is teams concentrating on their own guys and re-signing them. Sometimes people find it exciting to go out and get new guys, but sometimes the best move is to just keep your own guys.
Al (Wausau, WI)
Gary, what are your thoughts on the NFL draft possibly expanded to 4 days long in the future? Why are they considering doing that?
Gary Horton (4:11 PM)
I'm sure with four days, they'd hope it would improve TV ratings. My guess is, in that format, we'd have Round 1 on the first day, second and third rounds on Day 2, 4-5 on Day 3 and 6-7 on Day 4. Though, I don't know how many people will tune into the final two rounds. It allows teams to look at more guys and zero in on guys that they maybe couldn't with a faster pace. I know there are mixed reviews of dropping the draft back to May. It's easy to over analyze. Something interesting to look at in the future is these extra two weeks give teams a lot more time to bring in players and put them through workouts. You wonder at some point if the player and the agent think they're working out too much. It may not be a factor, but we've seen some cases in the last couple of weeks where players just didn't want to work out any more.
Sir, what is your take on the Browns possibly signing Vince Young? I say he makes the team (and possibly starts if Browns don't draft a qb 1st rd) as Loggains was his qb coach at Tenn and OC Kyle Shanahan played with Vince at UT.
Gary Horton (4:12 PM)
I think they're just looking for a veteran arm right now, to get them through mini camps and maybe training camp. Obviously, they hope that Brian Hoyer will be healthy and you know they're going to draft a QB. So it would not surprise me at all to sign a veteran for the short term. But whoever they sign, I don't think they do it with an idea that this guy can really help us, unless they were surprisingly good.
Martin (New York, NY)
Gary - how would you rank the NFC East teams as they stand before the draft?
Gary Horton (4:15 PM)
Right now, I think Philadelphia would be the overwhelming favorite. You know their passing game will be good, even though they'll have some losses. Their running game is scary right now with McCoy and now Darren Sproles. Those two can also double as excellent producers in the passing game. They're trying to get their defense to catch up. This is a very important draft to try and get them to be a decent defense -- they don't have to be great. The other three teams all have weaknesses. I don't think any of them will be elite. They're all battling it out for second place. I think it will be the Eagles at 12-4 or 11-5 and everyone else fighting for 8-8.
John Ruck (Boston )
2. Has the Denver Broncos' time has passed?
Gary Horton (4:17 PM)
No, I don't think it's passed. Peyton is still a productive player and he has terrific weapons around him. I don't think there are a lot of questions on how good this offense will be, if they can pass protect for him. The key for the Broncos is to be decent on defense. With Peyton, they don't have to be great, but if they're in the middle, that's probably good enough. In the current makeup of the AFC right now, I don't see a lot of really tough matchups on the way to the Super Bowl, maybe with the exception of New England. I know a lot of things change during the season, but I think they learned a lot from their loss to Seattle and they will fix some of those weaknesses.
looking back now, how much did injuries derail the Patriots last year? Talib, Wilfork and Mayo...that's killer
Gary Horton (4:20 PM)
There is no question that really hurt the interior of their defense on the first two levels, which is how Bill Belichick builds a defense, from the inside out. Talib was the only guy who could take the opponents best WR out of the game. It really prevented them from making consistent stops and they could never really dominate on that side of the ball. And they also had problems on offense. They were never really healthy on the OL. This is an aging team that's still really good. They have a small window as long as Brady is still good. But they really need to stay healthy. They don't have enough difference makers to lose guys to injury. But if they are healthy, they can beat anybody.
Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina)
will i be the number 1 pick
Gary Horton (4:23 PM)
I think that's probably the consensus, although I'm not sure it will be Houston. I am not sure anybody now sees these QBs at No. 1. So, if Houston's moving out of there, it's probably either for a QB or Khalil Mack. But this draft is so deep at the top, that I'm not sure how many people want to trade up and give up picks. This is the year you want a second and third round pick, because you know you're going to get a good player. In my opinion, and I might be wrong, there are more teams than we suspect will stay in the draft and let the draft come to them. I think everybody likes Clowney, and maybe with the exception of Atlanta, they don't want to give up the farm for him.
The Pats had a lot of injuries on defense in 2013. With guys getting healthier, some free agent acquisitions, maybe some help from the draft and reasonable health, could they be a top 10 defense?
Gary Horton (4:25 PM)
Yes I think they could do. If Revis has anything left, he can give them a huge boost. They really need a healthy Vince Wilfork to clog the middle. I really like their LB group and I think they have some young players that we may not know very well that are ready to break out. It will be interesting to see how much they go on defense in the draft, with some serious needs in skill help on offense. But I definitely think that this could be a defense that's good enough to compete. With all of these great offenses, the defense doesn't have to be elite, just solid. The offense can carry the day most of the time.
Matthew (Boston )
Bill Belichick is so unpredictable with his draft moves, what do you think he will do with the 29th pick?
Gary Horton (4:29 PM)
They're always looking for a happy marriage between the best player available that also fills a need. One advantage they have is Belichick watches a lot of film and even watches some of these players in person. He has a better feel when it's their pick than a lot of head coaches. He has guys on his staff that he really trusts. They have very well defined skill sets that they're looking for at each position. Everyone in the organization follows that mantra. I have always thought that even though their high draft picks in recent years have been up and down like most teams, I really think he is good in the middle to late rounds in identifying players that fit. One unique thing about the Patriots is they don't ask a player to do everything, they find out what he's good at and then put him into that role. They like a lot of versatility, with a lot of moving parts. You don't have to be the perfect complete player to play for them, if they recognize a skill set that they deem special.
Gary Horton (4:30 PM)
I'm sure we all are anxious for May 8 to get here. As I say every week, I'm fascinated by the first hour of the draft, on what happens at the QB position. The closer we get, the more I think the first 10 picks may not have a lot of drama and players will come off the board close to what we expect without a lot of trades. But that's what makes this so fun, we never know.
Buzzmaster (4:30 PM)