One more game to go... is it me? or does the season just seem to go by at lightning speed? As much as I am disappointed in not making the playoffs this season, I honestly and truly feel like we are literally a few players away from being there. I still believe that there needs to be some coaching changes at certain positions on top of getting those few players. The one thing we do know, is the best we can finish this year is the same way we started the season off; with a .500 winning percentage. I am all for it...as long as we keep getting better 1 game more per year, then at least we are headed in the right direction.
Anyhow, this will be the last position to focus on with the offseason discussion threads. This time we will look at the top 5 free agents and prospects for the safety position that will be available in the 2010 season. Smileyman of course will be zeroing in on the free agents and I will take on the rookies coming in. Also we will be taking an in-depth look at both the NFC/AFC North to analyze each teams specific need.
Next week (when the regular season is over) we will be creating an "Official User Mock's Post". Included in the post will be individual mocks done by me and smileyman. We will ultimately do 3 before the draft. The first one we will do will be our 1.0 version which we will execute next weekend. The second one will be our 2.0 version which will be done after the Superbowl. And the final one, the 3.0 version, will be done the the week of the 2010 NFL Draft.
At the very bottom of the article, I will list the current standing of draft order post week 16.
Ok, now that the explanation is out of the way, we can focus in on the discussion of the safeties and linebackers.
First off the rookies coming in to the NFL...
TOP 5 NCAA SAFETIES
[# 14] Eric Berry S Tennessee (Junior):
Berry is considered by most to be the second best pick in the entire draft in 2010 next to Ndamukong Suh, from Nebraska. I happen to agree with the majority. Earlier in the season I didn't see his full potential, but as the season progressed for the Volunteers I soon realized that he was bar-none the best safety in college football. There is no doubt in my mind. There has been quite a bit of buzz going around NinersNation about trading up for Berry and I find it to be very intriguing possibility. Berry possesses just about every element you could ever want in a safety. He zones in on passes and has the ability to jump up and pluck them out of the air. He does not shy away from contac and in most cases invites it. He does his job and takes on his assignements with little to no error. Berry is 5'11" tall and weighs 203 LBS. His career stats are: 241 Tackles, 2 Fumbles Forced, 14 INT's, and 3 Sacks on safety blitzes.
[# 2] Taylor Mays S USC (Senior):
Mays is a bone crusher in the secondary. He is built like a college linebacker but has NFL safety speed. Mays will be drafted as a free safety or strong safety in the NFL. There have been rumors that Mays will be converted in to a speed rushing outside linebacker but I cannot see that happening. He is far too valuable in the secondary. The senior safety picks things up very wuick and learns new schemes quickly which will make it easier for him to learn an NFL playbook. There are few things that he will need to change in adjustment when he gets to whatever team that drafts him. He sometimes takes hard angles and this leaves him exposed at times. Mays will need to go to a team with a solid DB's Coach in place. If he does that, he has the chance to be an elite safety in the NFL. If Berry is gone, it is my assumption that Mays won't last too much longer after that. Mays is 6'3" tall and weighs 235 LBS. His career stats are: 268 Tackles, 1 Fumble Forced, 5 INT's.
[# 12] Earl Thomas S Texas (Sophomore):
Thomas is great in the secondary as far as tracking down passes and stepping in front of them while in the air to either bat them down or intercept them. He has struggled at times to wrap guys up in open field and his weakness is definitely is wrapping up. Alot of times he tries for the strip and fails to bring the runner down. He has prospered a few times in stripping the ball, but overall he misses more than he gets it out. If he can work on this, he too will have the opportunity to be a very good safety in the NFL. He has also prospered from the 7 guys in front of him that play like mad men. Thomas is ranked higher on ESPN's draft board than Mays but I have a feeling that Mays could be selected before Thomas unless he has a stellar game on the National stage. The championship game against Alabama will make or break Thomas' stock in the 2010 Draft. Thomas is 5'10" tall and weighs 197 LBS. His career stats are: 128 Tackles, 5 Fumbles Forced, 10 INT's.
[# 2] DeAndre McDaniel S Clemson (Junior):
I just got through watching McDaniel play yesterday evening for the last time this year. I am not sure if he has declared but if he has, someone will be very very fortunate to get him. Watching him all season long definitely gave me a slight bias for McDaniel, however, it is definitely warranted. He must have made half the tackles by himself last night and seemed to be in on every single play. This junior has the skill-set to start in the NFL. He is a hard hitting ball-hawk that hasn't received much national attention this year. If he enters, he is in mind the biggest sleeper in the draft. McDaniel is 6'1" tall and weighs 210 LBS. His career stats are: 200 tackles, 4 Fumbles Forced, 11 INT's, and 2 Sacks on safety blitzes.
[# 9] Reshad Jones S Georgia (Junior):
Jones has played well all year long. He has been pretty high on most boards this year and pretty much played consistant enough to stay that way. He, like the others, has the ability to track down balls before they reach their intended targets. However, he has struggled from time to time in run support and much like Earl Thomas benefited from a very good front 7. I did not have the chance to watch him this afternoon in his bowl game so I am not sure how well he helped his stock status. I do know that much like McDaniel, Jones will be a steal for a team in the mid rounds. I am excited to see this guy at the next level. He is 6'2" 212 LBS. His career stats are: 194 Tackles, 1 Fumble Forced, and 10 INT's.
Now smileyman shows us who is available (assuming a new CBA is in place) in free agency (*Note: He also included outside linebackers for those of you who think we need to get one):
TOP FREE AGENT SAFETIES
Seasons in the League: 5th Season
Salary: $3.05 million
Stats: 52 tackles, 1 sack, 12 PD, 6 INTs
Summary: Collins has consistently played great ball for Green Bay since being drafted in 2005. He's one of the more underrated players in the league, but he managed to earn a Pro-Bowl inviation last year. He sometimes finds himself out of position but has the elite speed to recover quickly and make the play. I expect that the Packers will sign him to an extension in the off-season.
Seasons in the League: 4th Season
Stats: 94 tackles, 5 PD, 4 INTs, 2 FF
Summary: Bethea is an excellent safety. He doesn't get as much attention as Bob Sanders but his play is every bit as good and he stays healthy. He takes excellent angles on the ball and has great closing speed. I would expect the Colts to resign him though if they don't we should go after him.
Seasons in the League: 4th season
Stats: 99 Tackles, 1.5 sacks, 5 PD, 2 FF
Summary: Harper is another underrated safety. His run support is among the best in the league and he'll have over 100 tackles before the year is done. The Sants are in a sticky situation because they have three very important players coming up for FA this year (Jahri Evans, Roman Harper, Darren Sharper).
Seasons in the League: 5th season
Salary: $6.342 million
Stats: 74 tackles, 1 sack, 5 PD, 2 INT, 3 FF
Summary: These are pretty impressive stats considering they're through 12 games. He was on pace to have his best year ever before he was placed on IR. His contract situation in St. Louis is sticky--they franchised him last year after being unable to come to an agreement on an extension. I think that if we were to acquire a FA safety he would the eastiest one for us to get since I get the feeling he doesn't want to be in St. Louis anymore.
Seasons in the League: 13th season
Salary: $1.7 million
Stats: 71 tackles, .5 sacks, 15 PD, 9 INTs, 3 TDs,
Summary: Sharper is a high risk, high payoff kind of guy. He's only adequate in run support and he'll gamble on pass coverage to make the big play. When he makes the big play it is generally very big. He's tied for first in the league with 9 INTs, and his 3 INTs returned for TDs highlights his big-play ability. He struggled in Minnesota before landing in New Orleans and his age is definitely a factor. If he's willing to resign for around $2 million I expect that the Saints would be willing to keep him. Any more than that and they'll release him.
TOP FREE AGENT OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS
Seasons in the League: 5th season
Salary: $2.19 million
Stats: 61 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 5 PD, 2 INTs,
Summary: Those are very impressive stats for someone who's only played 7 games this year. Davis was placed on IR earlier this year and had reconstructive knee surgery on Nov 30 for a torn ACL. He's an excellent OLB who made the move from FS early in his career. I expect the Panthers to offer a short-term contract to him to make sure he's healthy.
Seasons in the League: 4th season
Stats: 59 tackles, 2 PD, 1 FF
Summary: Again impressive stats from a player who has only played 6 games this year. He had a 154 tackles last year which is actually 13 more than our own P. Willis. If we were to sign him there would have to be a showdown to see who got to keep #52. I would be very surprised if the Browns didn't extend him, especially with Holmgren running the show. He's one of the few positive pieces they have on that team.
Seasons in the League: 4th season
Stats: 76 tackles, 2 sacks, 5 PD, 1 FF.
Summary: Howard's best season as a pro was actually his rookie year when he notched 110 tackles. He had 95 in 2007 and 97 in 2008. He's a solid OLB who has decent pass protection. He has a tendency to be overpowered by blockers which makes his run support suspect. Not really an upgrade for us and I expect the Raiders to extend him anyway.
Seasons in the League: 13th season
Salary: $1.1 million
Stats: 41 tackles, 7 sacks, 4 PD, 1 INT, 3 FF
Summary: It's amazing how well Jason Taylor continues to play. He's now mostly used as a rushing OLB for Miami but he's had a very solid season for them. I will be shocked if he goes anywhere else after this year. He had a chance to sign with the Patriots in the off-season and chose to sign with the Dolphins instead. I expect him to either sign a new one or two year deal or retire.
Lets now take a look inside the AFC North put together by smileyman.
AFC NORTH TEAM NEEDS:
Team Offense Rank: 20th (6th in the run, 22nd in the pass)
Team Defense Rank: 5th (15th vs the pass, 3rd vs the run)
Everything has finally come together for the Bengals. They've teased their fans for many years with flashes of greatness but it never went anywhere. They swept their division this year (very impressive considering it's possibly the toughest division in the league), and have potent offensive weapons with Cedric Benson, Larry Johnson, Carson Palmer, and Chad Ochocinco. They don't have any real receiving threats opposite Chad Ochocinco Their defense is solid with two of their rookie starters (DE MIchael Johnson and LB Rey Maualuga) making FO all rookie team.
Needs: WR, backup RB, secondary
Team Offense Rank: 13th (15th passing, 7th rushing)
Team Defense Rank: 4th (7th passing, 6th rushing)
Baltimore has a solid team. Flacco defied rookie expectations and had a phenomenal year last year. Ray Rice from Rutgers is going to be a great back. They've got a pretty good backup in Willis McGahee. Their offensive line has two great tackles in Jared Gaither and Michael Oher and their defense has future HOFers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Their backup QB Troy Smith has said he wants to get playing time and has asked for a release. Their third string QB is John Beck who was originally drafted by Miami before being cut this year.
Needs: WR, backup QB, safety and LB (Ray Lewis and Ed Reed won't be around forever)
Team Offense: 8th (7th passing, 22nd rushing)
Team Defense: 7th (17th passing, 4th rushing)
The Steelers have been exposed. With Polamalu out their defense practically collapsed for 5 games before starting to figure things out a bit more. They desperately need help in the secondary so that this doesn't happen again. They have decent WR, a pretty good QB and an averag O-line.
Needs: Secondary, offensive line (to help with the run blocking)
Team Offense: 32nd (passing 32nd, rushing 10th)
Team Defense: 32nd (passing 29th, rushing 28th)
What can you say about the Browns that hasn't already been said? One of the worst teams in the league with very few bright spots. Interestingly enough their 4 wins and these passing stats 26/70 for 300 yards. They've got a decent LB, a great return man in Josh Cribs, and a running back who has been barely used until the last two games when he set a team record with 286 yards against the Chiefs (only 11 yards shy of the all-time record). He rushed for 148 yards against the Chiefs. Not surprisngly the Browns won both games.
Needs: Everything. The Browns need a QB, WR, defensive help all the way around. My guess is that they go for best player available when it's their turn to draft.
NFC NORTH TEAM NEEDS:
Offense: Passing- 19th Rushing- 31st
Defense: Passing- 6th Rushing- 26th
Needs and possible draft: WR, RB, OL
Offense: Passing- 12th Rushing- 13th
Defense: Passing- 20th Rushing- 4th
Needs and possible draft: S, CB, ...longshot but QB
Offense: Passing- 8th Rushing- 14th
Defense: Passing- 11th Rushing- 1st
Needs and possible draft: OL, S
Offense: Passing- 21st Rushing- 24th
Defense: Passing- 32nd Rushing- 24th
Needs and possible: OL, DL
NFL DRAFT ORDER THROUGH WEEK 16 (Strength of schedule percentages included for tie-breakers)
1. RAMS (1-14)
2. LIONS (2-13)
3. CHIEFS (3-12) [.532]
4. BUCS (3-12) [.541]
5. REDSKINS (4-11) [.474]
6. BROWNS (4-11) [.571]
7. BILLS (5-10) [.462]
8. SEAHAWKS (5-10) [.462]
9. RAIDERS (5-10) [.500]
10. BRONCOS FROM BEARS (6-9)
11. JAGUARS (7-8) [.425]
12. 49ERS (7-8) [.450]
13. DOLPHINS (7-8) [.521]
14. TITANS (7-8) [.550]
15. 49ERS FROM PANTHERS (7-8) [.569]
16. STEELERS (8-7) [.483]
17. JETS (8-7) [.496]
18. FALCONS (8-7) [.508]
19. SEAHAWKS FROM BRONCOS (8-7) [.521]
20. GIANTS (8-7) [.565] Note: (The Giants are out of the playoffs, therefore cannot be in the top 21 picks).
21. TEXANS (8-7) [.529]
22. RAVENS (8-7) [.541]
23. CARDINALS (10-5) [.431]
24. PACKERS (10-5) [.447]
25. BENGALS (10-5) [.470]
26. PATRIOTS (10-5) [.541]
27. COWBOYS (10-5) [.567]
28. VIKINGS (11-4) [.479]
29. EAGLES (11-4) [.508]
30. CHARGERS (12-3)
31. SAINTS (13-2)
32. COLTS (14-1)
Rec it if you want to keep the convo rolling...