Friday, April 3, 2009


Every year I follow the combine and pro-day workouts leading up to the NFL Draft in late April. And every year, I become enamored with certain players and hope that the Hawks draft them. Sometimes I gravitate toward a player because he fills a perceived Hawks need, sometimes I just think that the guy is really good and that the Hawks can always use good players.

In the leadup to the 2004 NFL Draft, the object of my draftaffection was Jason Peters from Arkansas. I never saw the guy play, but I saw what he did during workouts and was blown away. Yes, I know, beware of workout warriors. But hear me out. He played tight end for the Razorbacks, which isn’t remarkable. He was remarkable because of his size and the fact that he played TE in the first place. Here is a sampling of some of his workout numbers:
Height: 6’4 ½
Weight: 328 lbs
40 Time: 4.93 (at the combine); 4.85
(at Arkansas’s pro day)
Bench 225 lbs: 21 (at the combine); 25 (at Arkansas’s
pro day)
Vert: 29 (at the combine); 33 ½ (at Arkansas’s pro day)
Jump: 9’ 7”
Simply put, there is no way that a guy that size should be able to move like that. He was projected to be a tackle in the NFL simply because of his size (which makes me wonder what the hell Arkansas was doing playing him at TE). Because of the position switch, he wasn’t going to be a high draft pick, but it seemed like a team should definitely take a flyer on in the third or fourth round. I desperately wanted the Hawks to do so. Instead he wound up not getting drafted at all. Tell me, how does a guy with that much crazy, freaky ability not get picked? He turned out to be one of the best LTs in the game as evidenced by being selected to the Pro Bowl in ’07 and ’08 and was second team all pro both years. How can I, with no playing experience beyond bad high school football, be pining for this guy (and be right about him) when all 32 other teams take a complete pass on him? I don’t get it. Sure, hindsight is 20/20, but I wanted him then, as well as now.

As I dismount from my high horse, it’s only fair that I get my foot caught in the stirrups and fall flat on my face because I was over-the-moon enamored with Champ Bailey’s younger brother, Boss, who ended up getting drafted in the second round by the Detroit Lions in ’03. He has had a decent, but not fantastic career and is now in Denver with his brother earning 17.5M over 5. I couldn’t get over his size 6’3 235 and numbers, which were an astounding 4.38 40 and 48 inch vert. Cornerbacks and receivers would bury their mothers for those numbers and this was a guy who played at a high level in the SEC at Georgia finishing second in both the Butkus and Lombardi awards (linebacker and lineman/linebacker awards). His production and numbers convinced me that he’d be a fantastic linebacker in the NFL and I was wrong, he’s merely decent.

Also, in the ’05 draft I wanted the Hawks to take OLB Daryl Blackstock out of Virginia. Instead they drafted both Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill. I guess I’ll give them a “pass” on those two.

Most recently, I’ve focused on production in college with the caveat that if a player is surrounded by subpar talent then he’s upgraded in my mind.

There are many objects of my draftaffections this year based on what I’ve seen and they are as follows:

First-Round Guys
· Eugene Monroe, 6’5 309 LT, University of Virginia
I’m going off of the guys from National Football Post on this one. The Hawks need a good LT and they seem to agree that this is the guy. Jason Smith out of Baylor is supposed to be amazing as well, but he might end up in Detroit and if not there, then most certainly he’ll go to St. Louis since Orlando Pace wasn’t resigned (and hasn’t been the same in two years, good luck with that, Chicago.)

It’s difficult for normal fans to “scout” offensive lineman (on TV) since we really don’t know what to look for and the focus isn’t on them. We certainly can tell if they continually maul someone or if they give up sacks, or if they get blown up on running plays (like Chris Gray did two years ago and Rob Simms did last year, and the year before. Look, I love Chris Gray, the guy was very solid, but he got his ass handed to him on several occasions. I guess playing with a possible broken neck isn’t very good for you).

I’m told that Monroe is technically sound, strong, and athletic. If he falls to the Hawks, they’ve got to take him.

· Knowshon Moreno, HB, Georgia, 5’11 217
He’s an electric runner who did some pretty damn amazing things at Georgia the last few years. When I watched him play, I saw a shifty back who makes people miss and can catch the ball. He ran pretty pedestrian times at the combine and at Georgia’s pro day (4.6ish), but his initial burst is what makes him interesting. Plus, he’s bigger than I thought he was. I figured he’d be around 190, maybe 200, but he’s nearly 220. I don’t know if he gained weight after the season (which would explain the slower times) but if he’s able to run like he did in college at that size, he’s going to be really good.

He’s probably going to go in the first round anyway, and the Hawks certainly shouldn’t pick him at No. 4, but if he does fall out of the first round, I hope that they nab him.

· Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia (6-2, 225)
· Mark Sanchez, QB, USC (6-2, 227)

I’m torn between these two guys. I liked both of them during the year. They’re nearly identical physically at 6’2 and around 225, although their weight must be distributed differently because Stafford kind of looks fattish (like Rex Grossman) and Sanchez almost looks skinny. Both of them seem to be smart and affable. Both are very similar athletically: they ran 4.8+ 40s and had nearly the same verts, 32.5 for Sanchez 30.5 and for Stafford, and broad jumps 9’8 for Sanchez and 8’11 for Stafford).

Statistically, they were eerily similar last year:

235-383 3459 yards 61.4% 9.03 per attempt 78 long 25 TDs 10 INTs 17 sacks 153.54 rating

241-336 3207 yards 65.8% 8.76 per attempt 63 long 34 TDs 10 INTs 17 sacks 164.64 rating

Stafford has a ton more experience than Sanchez and has a stronger arm, but I don’t know how much that matters if the arm is good enough. The knock on Stafford is that he lacks sound decisionmaking at times and trusts his arm too much because it is so strong. Maybe that’s true, but if it is, I’m fairly certain that kind of thinking would be beaten out of him by an NFL QB coach, offensive coordinator, and head coach. Either that or the 30 interceptions he’d throw during the year would get him to change his stripes.

Sanchez does not have the same stunningly-strong arm that Stafford has, but his gun is plenty strong enough. He is also very poised in the pocket. I like his completion rate a little better than I like Stafford’s, he was simply more efficient with his throws.

I’ll put it this way, I would be happy with either one of these guys and if one or both is available at No. 4, I’m hoping that the Hawks take one of them. I’d love a lineman, but these guys are good players and I’m very concerned about Hasselbeck’s ability to stay healthy this year and next.

· Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri, 6-0, 198
· Percy Harvin, WR, Florida, 5-11, 192

These two guys exemplify what’s wrong with perceptions and workout numbers. Anyone watching these guys play last year and previous years can tell that they both possess explosive, gamebreaking speed and agility. But the lament from scouts is that neither one of them put up insane 40 times. The fastest time that I’ve seen for Maclin is a 4.43 and the fastest I’ve seen from Harvin is a 4.41 that he ran at the combine. Were they supposed to run 4.2s? Would 4.39 have been fast enough? These guys can catch the ball, separate, make people miss, and score. I’d love to have either one playing for the Hawks. I’d take Maclin over Harvin because it seems like he’s a better route-runner and doesn’t get hurt as much as Harvin does, but I’d take either one in a heartbeat. Of course, the Hawks will pick neither one at No. 4 and they’ll be long gone by the time they pick in the second round.

· Clay Matthews, OLB, USC, 6-3, 240
I’m hoping that Matthews falls out of the first round on draft day, although he’ll probably go in the teens. He’s got fantastic size, speed, and explosiveness. The National Football Post guys had a great article on the 10-yard dash part of the 40-yard dash and how that time is the true measure of a defensive end/linebacker. Clay Matthews turned in a time that would have been outstanding for a cornerback, which means the guy can get off of the ball and make things happen, which is exactly what he did for USC last year.

Second-Seventh-Round Guys

· Brian Robiskie, WR, Ohio State 6-3, 205
Now here’s a guy that the Hawks have a shot at in the second or third round. He has good-enough speed (ran a 4.49 at the combine), but I’m more impressed with what scouts are saying about his “polished” route-running ability and great hands. It would be ridiculous if those things weren’t the case since his dad is a damn WR coach in the NFL, but still. Also, I didn’t know he was as big as he is. I’d absolutely love it if the Hawks picked him up.

· Sean Smith, CB, Utah 6-4, 214
A big CB is just what the doctor ordered for this Hawks team. Evidently the guy ran his 40s in the high 4.4-range at Utah’s pro day, but more impressive than that was his agility and smoothness during his position drills. I read that he moved around like he was 5’10, which if he was that height, the Hawks would knock over their grandmother’s to draft because they love undersized CBs. They need a guy like this back there. Badly.

· Willie Tuitama, QB, Arizona 6-3, 234
He’s probably a 5-7th round guy and it would make a ton of sense for the Hawks to go after him that late. He’s a very accurate passer (64.9% … 23 TDs 8 INTs) who is marginally athletic, but who would be perfect to groom for a starting job down the line. I saw him light up UW like a brushfire on several occasions, but that’s not saying much.

Thoughts on Jay Cutler
I have a friend, Mike, from Chicago and I was going to tauntingly call him on Wednesday and say something stupid like “It’s too bad the Bears don’t need a QB because Cutler’s available.” Since I thought it would be dumb and mean for me to do, I didn’t make the call. They, along with Seattle, were about the last teams that I thought would actually pull the trigger on a deal to land him. He’s handled this thing like a spoiled kid with bad Donald Trump hair. I don’t care if McDaniel’s screwed this thing up, it’s never good to act like a petulant baby; it just doesn’t keep with being a leader, but maybe he doesn’t care about that.

Nevertheless, he’ll be very good for Chicago, however, they need some receivers in a bad way. He’s not throwing to Eddie Royal and Brandon Marshall anymore (although, it could be said that those guys were made better because of Cutler… I suppose we’ll see).

Denver came out of this looking OK. They’re getting a guy in Kyle Orton who is not terrible, necessarily, but certainly not in the same stratosphere as Cutler. But is he much different than Matt Cassel? If McDaniel is as good of an offensive coach as he seems to be, then Orton is going to be fine, and so is Denver’s offense; but it wasn’t the offense that screwed them last year.

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