C.J Fiedorowicz

Breakdown:

#86
Class: Senior
Height: 6’5 1/2″
Weight: 265 lbs.
School: Iowa
Bio:

  • First-team All-B1G (2013)
  • Team leading six receiving TDs (2013)
  • Finished his career with a 31 game consecutive catch streak
  • Honorable mention All-B1G (2012)
  • 2013 stats:  30 receptions, 299 yards and six TDs

Senior Bowl Notes

  • Fiedorowicz accepted an invitation to play in the 2014 Senior Bowl in Mobile.
  • The former Hawkeye had both good and bad moments in Mobile.  He competed hard and blocked effectively most of the week.  He caught the ball well enough.  However, he didn’t blow teams away and remains a solid late day two/early day three prospect.

Combine Notes

**Combine measurements

  • 40 yard dash – 4.76 seconds
  • Bench Press – 25 reps
  • Vertical Jump – 31.5″
  • Broad Jump – 9’8″
  • 3 Cone Drill – 7.10 seconds
  • 20 yard shuttle – 4.26 seconds

**Arm/Hand Measurements

  • Arm length – 33″
  • Hand size – 10 1/4″

Report

Newspapers.  Home phones.  Traditional tight ends.  What are things that we used to know?  What are things that died in the 2000s?  What are things we rarely can find in society in 2014?  Okay, so that’s a little over the top, I mean, you can find newspapers on a Sunday, no?

I kid, but the point is that a traditional tight end, as those of us in our 30s and 40s remember them to be, aren’t often found in college football anymore.  But, Iowa had one of the best ones in C.J Fiedorowicz.  Back in the early to mid-1990s, Fiedorowicz may have been an early second round pick, but given the NFL’s movement seemingly away from the hand in the dirt, lined up at Y, more blocking than receiving tight end, he won’t be.

However, the Patriots found a way to make Rob Gronkowski a star and he’s probably the closest comparison to Fiedorowicz already in the league.  He can do a little of everything but “move TE/H hybrid” types will get more acclaim.  But, hey, don’t we all like to read a newspaper every now and again?  You get the point.

CJ Mosley

BREAKDOWN:

#32
Class: Senior
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 232 lbs.
School: Alabama
Bio:

  • 2013 Butkus Award recipient – third Alabama player in history to win the Award
  • 2013 Rotary Lombardi Award Finalist
  • 2X Consensus All-American
  • 2X First team All-SEC, 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year
  • 2X Alabama Team MVP – also voted Team’s Most Inspirational Player in 2013
  • 2013 Stats: 108 tackles, 9 TFL & 1 Forced fumble

 

COMBINE NOTES

**Combine measurements

  • Vertical Jump – 35″
  • Broad Jump – 9’10”
  • 3 Cone Drill – 7.30 seconds
  • 20 yard shuttle – 4.40 seconds

**Arm/Hand Measurements

  • Arm length – 33 3/8″
  • Hand size – 10 3/4″

PROS

  • Feet never stop – excellent technique
  • Excellent in coverage, strong read recognition
  • Feet get him in position to make form tackle, doesn’t lunge
  • Completely in charge of the defense – makes checks to get out of stunts into another blitz
  • Matches slot receiver or back step for step in man coverage, quite impressive
  • Never plays laterally or backwards – always going forward and downhill
  • Explodes through ball carriers – wraps up on contact
  • Patient, doesn’t over pursue
  • Effective out in open field tackling/playing in space
  • Relentless and physical striker
  • Closing speed on quarterback or ball carrier in space is tremendous
  • His ability to find the ball and not get lost behind “trash” is stellar

CONS

  • Does false step on occasion
  • As with all linebackers, needs to be a bit more violent getting off of blocks
  • Got beat on slot WR nod/shake route
  • Gets “locked up” by OL size up front at times
  • Feet were stationary early in the season when he wasn’t fully conditioned
  • Late reacting to draw after clear run designation (resulted in long run early in game)
  • Stands too tall at times which makes it more difficult to redirect
  • Against slot WR, initially in great position, but loses him after taking eyes to QB
  • Will backpedal in pass drop, instead of turning and running

FILM ROOM

TSV videos provided by Draft Breakdown

1:36 explosive to the football – he scrapes and then bursts through the gap to make a play – stellar
2:17 The speed to close on a fast ball carrier like Everett Golson
4:28 play recognition on smoke draw, does not over pursue, redirects and makes TFL
5:44 play action, takes back out of backfield and shadows him (watch top of the screen)

TSV videos provided by Draft Breakdown

0:10 Takes on block, still needs some work shedding more violently, but makes tackle for short gain
0:45 Makes interception, matches RB out of backfield then reads eyes of QB for interception
1:33 Play recognition, sniffs out screen and makes a tremendous play for TFL
3:47 Tennessee’s physical OL got to him a little bit, trying to skate block and got out of position.

TSV videos provided by Draft Breakdown

0:09 The hit on QB after the blitz is legal, physical and a trendsetter early in the game
1:15 All 22 replay – can see his pass pattern recognition but needs to drive on dig when he sees it
1:57 Shows his uncanny ability on the blitz to seek and destroy the quarterback up in the A gap
2:57 Works through the “trash” to find ball carrier and make perfect form tackle – this is spot on.

REPORT

Mosley played an entire season in the middle of the Alabama defense in 2013, something that he was unable to do in 2012 due to an injury he had suffered in the 2011 BCS National Championship Game.  That’ll be the major question, in my opinion for Mosley – his health.  A number of Alabama players have come into the NFL with an injury history and Mosley has a similar history that could scare off some teams.  That said, he’s the most instinctive defensive player in the draft.  His ability to read and decipher an offensive gameplan is off the charts and he’s a plus tackler in space.  If he runs well at the Combine and/or his Pro Day, his stock will skyrocket.

In 2012, Mosley looked as fresh and healthy against Notre Dame as he had all season.  And, it showed.  Notre Dame got away from run game early due to Alabama’s big lead and it would’ve helped seeing Mosley take on more blockers.  But, this film shows the whole package for a linebacker ready for the next level.

Against Tennessee’s OL in 2012 knew it had to get a hat on Mosley and the Alabama linebackers.  He didn’t do a poor job against the consistent pounding, but it took a toll by the fourth quarter.  That said, watching him match TE, RB and slot WR in pass coverage is impressive.

Missouri’s offense provides a bunch of different idiosyncrasies and nuances but it couldn’t take advantage of Mosley due in large part to his patience and play recognition.  His ability to play in space and most importantly tackle one-on-one is impressive.

Texans Tuesday Morning Camp

Hopkins Looks The Part Early On

The Texans have been in desperate need of a WR2 who could threaten defenses down the field and who could be relied on to rack up catches when Andre Johnson was facing a touch matchup.  Kevin Walter was workmanlike (sorry, Kevin… I know it sounds so stereotypical), Jacoby Jones was inconsistent and had too many drops, Andre Davis was a mistake as a free agent signing and DeVier Posey got injured last season before he could show the Texans what he had.  Finally, it looks like the Texans have it right.

DeAndre Hopkins came into the draft as the WR whom I believed was the most NFL-ready of the early round players.  “Nuk” has solid hands, has enough game speed to get behind defenses and he’s showing that his ability to get out of his breaks is creating separation that the Texans didn’t usually see with Kevin Walter.  While it is very early into camp and the pressure will ratchet up, the thing that has impressed me most with Hopkins is that he looks very comfortable on the field and he doesn’t appear to be pressing much at all.

In one-on-one drills against the CBs, Hopkins made an difficult grab in the corner of the endzone with Roc Carmichael hanging all over him.  In the team portion down during redzone scrimmage against the defensive starters, Hopkins ran an out that shook Johnathan Joseph and created enough space for Matt Schaub to make a comfortable throw before Hopkins went out near the goal line.  Hopkins ability to threaten defenses down the field, with quick-release fades near the end zone and over the middle should give the Texans as potent a passing attack as we have seen over the last 2 or 3 season.

For fantasy football owners out there who are devouring everything they can in preparation for their drafts/auctions, anything less than 50 catches for Hopkins would seem disappointing to me at this early stage.  In reality, I think 52-60 catches is a very reasonable goal for Hopkins and I could see him with even more if Schaub continues to develop confidence in the young wideout throughout camp and in the pre-season.

Old Dog With New Tricks

Veteran NT Daniel Muir (#91), a six year veteran who has logged 24 starts with the Indianapolis Colts over four season with them, had a terrific practice.  Granted, much of Muir did was against the Texans #2 and #3 offensive lines, but he showed terrific power and penetration in the team scrimmage portion.  Muir isn’t known as much of a pass rusher, but did have a terrific spin move win in one of his reps.  Muir is bigger and stronger than the 1-gap NTs we usually see with the Texans and his power and experience will give him a shot to make the team.

Clash Of The Titans

There isn’t a defensive lineman in the game who is better than J.J. Watt so I was expecting G Brandon Brooks (#79) to get schooled in one-on-one pass protection drills thanks to Watt’s quickness, but that wasn’t the case.  Brooks had four reps against Watt over two sessions and he did a great job against Watt.  During the first session, Watt tried to make an outside move to set Brooks up with an inside spin, but Brooks timed his punch perfectly and jolted Watt outside of the pocket.  During the second session, Brooks used pure power to drive Watt to the ground on one of the reps.  It is worth noting that fellow TSV writer, John Harris, told me that Watt has been getting the better of those reps up to this point in camp.

Other Notes

  • I had a great football chat with former Patriots LB turned sports talk host Ted Johnson about the changing landscape of pro football.  He and I both agree that Chip Kelly’s tempo, much more than his offense, could change the way that NFL offenses operate in the future.
  • Rookie T/G David Quessenberry looks so smooth and fluid during running plays.  Quessenberry gets to the spot and gets guys walled off on the backside as well as any tackle the Texans have in camp and when he was at guard, he showed a seamlessness with getting up the 2nd level and getting his blocks on LBs.  Quessenberry did struggle to stay engaged at times on the 2nd level on a couple of snaps.  The one area that worried me during the draft and worried me today is that he has a tendency to get bull-rushed at times.  It will happen to every lineman from time to time, but Quessenberry doesn’t have as much core-strength as he needs and he really has to play with great technique and determination to battle stronger players.
  • Former Oregon State ILB Cameron Collins (#90) stepped up and made me notice him on a couple of snaps where he stuck his nose in the hole and snuffed out running plays.
  • During the run game portion of the practice, Case Keenum read the defense moving to a single-high safety look and audibled to an outside zone play that broke it open with undrafted free agent RB Dennis Johnson (#28) doing the legwork.
  • I thought potential starting RT Ryan Harris (#68) really struggled at times in the run game portion of practice and with some of his pass protection.  Harris has a tendency to bend and lean too much which causes him to get off balance.  Backup tackle Andrew Gardner (#66) put together a solid practice.
  • Rookie OLB Trevardo Williams continues to struggle in practice.  Williams looked out of place in one-on-one pass protection drills today and didn’t utilize his natural strength which is his quickness.  Williams has been getting swallowed up against the run and if he needs to show much more as a pass rusher.
  • Even if Jeff Maehl (#15) doesn’t make it with the Texans due to getting caught up in a numbers game, I definitely think he has the talent to catch on with another team. as a WR5.
  • RT Derek Newton (#75) had a nice practice today and was getting some reps with the starters today as well.  If I had a gun to my head, my guess would be that Newton would open week 1 as the starting RT, but there is still plenty of camp to go.
  • G Cody White had a completely forgettable practice today.  He ended up on the ground too often, was beaten on more than one occasion by Daniel Muir during team scrimmage and got pushed all over the field during one-on-ones against the likes of Earl Mitchell.
  • Former Texans DT Travis Johnson was in attendance and watching practice as a guest.  At one point during defensive line drills when practice slowed down, Johnson and Bill Kollar had a friendly conversation going on from about 50 feet away with Kollar telling him to “get out here on the field” and Johnson imploring Kollar to “tell them to get me some pads”.  Thanks, but no thanks, Travis.  I did, however, enjoy listening to him talk about pass rushing during pass protection drills.

Can a Quarterback’s Mechanics Be Altered?

Quarterback mechanics are one of the most highly debated aspects among NFL scouts and experts because they come in many different forms, few of which seem to be ideal. Whether it’s an old school sidearm style that Rich Gannon had, Tom Brady’s over-the-top delivery or Philip Rivers’ shot-put pass, the passers have shown that they can get to the ball out to their intended target with success. Neither of these are incorrect, but if they were deemed as such, could they be altered?

Some believe the mechanics of a quarterback can be altered, while others don’t. Because of this, I asked former NFL personnel man turned writer for RealGM.com Jeff Risdon if mechanics can indeed be altered:

“I believe mechanics above the waist can be fixed but it takes time and dedication,” Risdon stated. “I think it’s a delicate balancing act to try and do anything major (like Tim Tebow) but changing release points, follow through, back shoulder rotation, even how the football is held are all tweaks that can absolutely be done.”

He furthered comment: “You don’t want to change an unconventional throwing motion that clearly works, like Philip Rivers or Kerry Collins, but cleaning up the little intricacies can still be very effective. It’s remarkable how something as simple as holding the ball further back on the laces can impact accuracy. Footwork and waist/hips are more important but the kind of stuff that George Whitfield did with Cam Newton, altering his elbow angle and teaching him a consistent follow through and shoulder rotation can make a big difference.”

I also contacted NFL Films football guru Greg Cosell about the possibility of altering the mechanics of a quarterback and he immediately said “yes”.

Cosell expanded on his answer by stating that “anything that is mechanical can be altered, anything that is a function of a movement can be altered. There are four parts to throwing the football: legs, hips, shoulders and arm, which comes along for the ride when the others are done right.”

McCarthy-isms

Although there are many that don’t share Risdon and Cosell’s sentiments, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy does. McCarthy has run a “quarterback school” since 1993 that charts “quarterbacks in five footwork drills that rate agility and movement,” and focuses on “hand-eye coordination, finger dexterity, mechanics,” according to Greg Bishop of The New York Times.

McCarthy’s quarterback school paid off in a big way for signal caller Aaron Rodgers, who came into the league with quirky mechanics taught by the University of California’s infamous (in NFL circles) head coach Jeff Tedford and has since become arguably the league’s best quarterback.

Rodgers held the ball next to his ear when he was in a pre-pass triangle set at California. The mechanics appeared efficient at the time because he was able to get the ball out quickly in the Golden Bears short passing game, but he struggled throwing deep.

His throwing motion led to him throwing outside of his frame, which is not ideal and “stresses the shoulder” as quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. says, and his footwork also suffered as he was not able to get proper timing nor transfer weight with any consistency. Rodgers explained this in an interview with ESPN last year:

“When I first got into the league, I held the ball really high. That was the standard in college, and it messed up my timing a bit — the draw, bringing it back, then the release… You’re taught to get back as deep as you can, but you can never throw the ball out on time when you do that.”

Mechanical Changes Click For Rodgers

Under the tutelage of head coach McCarthy and quarterbacks coach Tom Clements, Rodgers pre-pass triangle set came down to between his numbers, consequently his motion became quicker, his power increased (also because of his cleaner footwork) and his timing improved. Now, Rodgers puts up video game numbers as he knifes through the heart of defenses with otherworldly throws.

“In Aaron Rodgers’ particular situation, he had a very high ball carriage which I felt there was a stiffness to the way he carried the ball,” McCarthy told our Adam Caplan during the 2010 NFL Scouting combine, “it wasn’t as natural because he is a very good athlete and it’s something you didn’t see in my opinion in his earlier days, how good of an athlete he was and I think it’s something we’ve adjusted and he’s very natural with it. Every quarterback that I’ve ever coached, you’re always looking to improve their mechanics.”

Furthermore, as Risdon noted, mechanics may be able to be fixed or altered but it takes “time,” which is exactly what Rodgers had as he honed his skills for three seasons while legend Brett Favre played.

In contrast, my colleague Lance Zierlein noted in a recent conversation that former Houston Texans quarterback David Carr didn’t have the same success when offensive coordinator Chris Palmerattempted to alter his release point. Carr played during this time, which was his only choice for the expansion Houston Texans, and his career ultimately ended in disaster as he ended up being a bust after taking a significant amount of beating behind a porous offensive line and never improving his mechanics.

Rodgers and Carr’s situations were entirely different, but they also help paint the picture of the possibility of altering mechanics. Mechanics can be altered by raising the elbow above the shoulder, making sure there is full extension and follow through after the release and then correcting footwork by stepping through the throw, bending at the knee of the lead foot and rotating the hips, so power is generated from the lower body opposed to the upper body as seen with Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

There are many avenues which coaches can take to improve a quarterback’s mechanics, which takes time and repetitions, but the biggest issue that they run into is one they can’t control: their quarterback’s reaction when the bullets are flying.

In most cases, quarterbacks will revert to their natural form when they are in pressure-filled situations, which is why the debate over mechanics will forever live despite the success of the Packers’ Rodgers. For every Aaron Rodgers, there is a Tim Tebow: a passer whose mechanics were altered temporarily opposed to permanently, resulting in a reversion to their natural and improper form once defenders invaded the quarterbacks comfort area.

Billy Turner

Breakdown:

#77
Class: Senior
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 315 lbs.
School: North Dakota State
Bio:

  • Four year starter, 3x FCS national champion (2011, 2012, 2013)
  • FCS Athletics Directors Association Offensive Lineman of the Year (2013)
  • 2x First-team All-Missouri Valley Conference (2012, 2013)
  • Consensus FCS All-American (2012, 2013)
  • Graded out at 90 percent, hasn’t given up a sack all season

Senior Bowl Notes

  • Turner accepted an invitation to play in the 2014 Senior Bowl in Mobile.
  • On Monday, Jaguars offensive line coach George Yarno got into Turner with a butt-chewing a couple of times as Turner failed to execute basic functions of the one-on-one drill.  Turner bounced back with good one-on-one pass pro reps against Deandre Coleman and Brent Urban handled himself well in the scrimmage portion at tackle and guard.
  • During Tuesday’s practice, Turner ad his worst day and perhaps the worst day that any player had at the Senior Bowl.  He struggled with Auburn DE Dee Ford’s speed.  He struggled with Arkansas DE Chris Smith’s whirling dervish, maniacal edge rush.  He struggled with power.  He lost his confidence and it was evident late in practice.

Combine Notes

**Combine measurements

  • 40 yard dash – 5.16 seconds
  • Bench Press – 25 reps
  • Vertical Jump – 28″
  • Broad Jump – 9′
  • 3 Cone Drill – 7.92 seconds
  • 20 yard shuttle – 4.71 seconds

**Arm/Hand Measurements

  • Arm length – 34″
  • Hand size – 10″

Pros

  • Uses quick, choppy steps in pass pro maintaining a good base
  • Competitive and aggressive up to the whistle
  • Flexible athlete who plays with determination and confidence
  • Able to get into space and make tough blocks on the move
  • Can recover and redirect on 2nd level or as a pass protector

Cons

  • Level of competition is a concern
  • Despite his athleticism, plays frenetically at times
  • Tends to drop eyes and lead with his head too often
  • High-cut with smaller calves and ankles
  • When he is threatened off the edge he seems to forget technique
  • Needs to mix up a vertical set and quick-set as a tackle

Film Room

TSV videos provided by Draft Breakdown

:23 Strong punch on DE trying to make an inside move
1:03 Plays with aggressiveness in running game
2:43 Patient with his punch as he lets his feet do their job
3:16 Quick off the snap and buries his target
3:50 Outstanding targeting and finishing of 2nd level LB
4:36 Drops head and fails to finish assignment
5:43 Notice how flexible his knees and ankles are while in stance
5:38 Kick step almost non-existent and loses edge

Report

Billy Turner absolutely dominated the competition and was named the Offensive Lineman of the Year by the FCS ADA.  Turner runs like a tackle 15 pounds lighter than the 318 he carries and his long arms allowed him to control the athletically inferior competition across from him.

Turner is a quick-twitch left tackle who has the feet to cut off the edge against speed and the arm length to keeep his hands on pass rushers using counter moves inside.  Turner shows great bend which allows him to play with better leverage.  He’s got plus lateral movement making him a fit for teams looking to attack the boundaries with their run game.

The big problem for Turner is that despite his athletic traits, he was exposed at the Senior Bowl one-on-one drills as a player who lacks the proper technique and confidence to come in and play right away.  While I felt like he had enough functional strength, his in ability to get to edge rushers and redirect them – despite his athletic traits – was a big concern for me and teams I spoke with in Mobile.  His draft grade was likely impacted by at least a round.  His final position might be at guard with a zone team.

Aaron Donald

Breakdown:

#97
Class: Senior
Height: 6’0 1/2″
Weight: 288 lbs.
School: Pittsburgh
Bio:

  • 2013’s most decorated & accomplished defensive player
  • Rotary Lombardi Award Winner – top interior lineman (2013)
  • Nagurski Award Winner – nation’s best defensive player (2013)
  • Bednarik Award Winner – nation’s best defensive player (2013)
  • First-team All-ACC (2013)
  • First-team All-Big East (2012)
  • 2013 stats:  59 tackles, 11 sacks and 28.5 TFL

Senior Bowl Notes

  • The nation’s most decorated defender accepted an invitation to play in the 2014 Senior Bowl in Mobile
  • Monday was a “show me” day for Donald.  He was matched up with Baylor G Cyril Richardson throughout the practice.  Richardson has four inches on Donald and nearly 50 pounds.  Yet, Donald whipped him all day long.  In run fit 1-on-1 Donald whipped the hulky Baylor Bear.  In pass rush, 1-on-1 Donald literally knocked Richardson on his backside.  During team drills, Donald was so quick off the ball that CSU C Weston Richburg couldn’t even get a hand on him.  Hopefully, Donald will get to face a few of the other North OL throughout the week.
  • One NFL defensive coach I spoke with said, “there are just too many guys who don’t have prototype bodies or size around the NFL who continue to produce on the defensive line” and that “teams have got to just look at how this kid plays – it’s that simple…. his game tape is good.”
  • Donald showed great anchor against double teams and was unblockable in one on one drills, but his size will be an issue as many teams have privately confided that they don’t know whether they can play him on non-passing downs due to his lack of size.

Report

Let’s me be as clear as possible, if Aaron Donald were 6’3″ and 300 pounds, there’s no question he’d be a top ten pick.  But, he isn’t and he won’t be because of it and only for that reason.  He has the full package every defensive lineman craves.  Power.  Quickness.  Feet.  Hands.  Hand placement.  Leverage.  He’s just short…er and small…er.

So what?  He can play.  He’s hellified disruptive, gets into OL quickly, takes away the separation easily, drives OL back into the backfield and is one of a rare breed of playmaking defensive linemen.  He’ll be under the microscope all week long down in Mobile as teams attempt to figure out where he fits best in their particular scheme.  He’ll show that he can play a number of different positions in odd or even fronts, but mainly that he can PLAY.  There’s no measuring stick needed to prove that truth.

Post-Draft Review/Future Outlook-New York Jets

Pre-Draft Needs

WR, ORT, OLB, SS, FS, ILB, DE

Draft Class

Round 1 – Quinton Coples/DE
Round 2 – Stephen Hill/WR
Round 3 – Demario Davis/LB
Round 6 – Josh Bush/S
Round 6 – Terrance Ganaway/RB
Round 6 – Robert Griffin/G
Round 7 – Antonio Allen/S
Round 7 – Jordan White/WR

Post-Draft Needs

WR, ORT, OLB

Analysis

After suffering through a non-playoff appearance in 2011 with an 8-8 record, the Jets are looking to bounce back this season with an influx of talent from this year’s NFL Draft. However, they didn’t have selections in rounds four or five. They did, however, have extra picks in rounds six and seven.

To start things off, the team addressed the depth at defensive end with first-round pick Quinton Coples. The issue with Coples has never been talent; it’s been about the desire to get better. When he’s at his best — as we saw during Senior Bowl week — he can be flat-out dominant. Coples, who is expected to start immediately, will line up at DE for the Jets’ 3-4 defensive scheme, but he could slide inside when they go to a 4-3 front. Coples played well inside during his junior season at the University of North Carolina.

Another need was filled in the second round with Stephen Hill. The Jets have needed speed and size for a while at wide receiver, and Hill fill both of those needs. However, he has a long way to go as a route runner and his college stats weren’t overwhelming, so Hill’s maturation process to the NFL level might take a big longer than expected. But as one personnel executive said, Hill’s size and speed makes him a very intriguing prospect for the long haul.

Not only will third-round Demario Davis fill a depth need at ILB, he has a good chance at starting in year two. That’s because current starting ILB Bart Scott, who turns 33 next August, has no guaranteed money left in his contract after this season. His cap number for 2013 is $8.65 million. It’s not a secret that there was a good chance the Jets would have cut or traded Scott had his $4.2 million base salary for this season not been fully guaranteed. One NFL executive said he could see Davis starting for 8-10 years, if healthy, for the Jets based on his talent level, which is strong. The only knock on him is he played against a lower level of competition at Arkansas St., which explains why he wasn’t selected higher.

The next selection, sixth-round pick S Josh Bush, has a legitimate shot to make the team as a fourth safety. A former cornerback in high school, Bush has decent range for a safety. The Jets seemingly had good depth at running back with Shonn Greene, Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell, but that didn’t stop them from selecting another one with their second of three six-round picks. Terrance Ganaway has good size (5-11, 240) for the position, but he will really need to have a strong training camp and preseason in order to make the team this fall. The final sixth-rounder, G Robert Griffin, has the size the Jets want at the position—big and strong. And because the team has little depth at guard, Griffin could make a strong push for a roster spot in training camp.

Seventh-round pick S Antonio Allen is a long shot to make the team, but has really good size the position. He figures to land on the practice squad this fall. Their final pick, WR Jordan White, suffered a broken foot during an OTA practice, so his chances of making the team aren’t good. However, it’s not like the Jets are deep at the position, either.

The Jets should get three starters out of this draft–and as early as year two. But you also can make a case that their top-three picks have a lot to prove based on various factors.

Grade: B

Aaron Colvin

Breakdown:

#14
Class: Senior
Height: 5’11 1/4″
Weight: 186 lbs.
School: Oklahoma
Bio:

  • 2x First-team All-Big 12 (2012, 2013)
  • Jim Thorpe Award Semi-finalist (2013)
  • Second-team Academic All-Big 12 (2013)
  • Three year starter – one year at SS, two years at CB
  • 2013 stats:  55 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 5 TFL and 1 INT

Senior Bowl Notes

  • Colvin accepted an invitation to play in the 2014 Senior Bowl in Mobile.
  • The former Sooner was easily the best cover corner on the South squad.  His press technique footwork needs a little work, but his recovery speed is ridiculous.  He’s fluid, moves smoothly and bends athletically.  He’s polished and had a solid first day in Mobile.
  • Colvin suffered a torn ACL on Tuesday during 1-on-1 drills, an unfortunate instance for a guy that was making a significant impact in Mobile.

Report

Colvin missed a pair of games throughout the season, but he showed up in big games for the Sooners in a big way.  Against Texas Tech in the rain, he had a pick, recovered a fumble and finished the game with seven tackles.

He was the most ballyhooed name going into the 2013 season and it was clear Big 12 teams didn’t want to throw his way.  QBs at the Senior Bowl won’t shy away from him, so this is a tremendous opportunity to get in the top five CB rankings with a strong showing in Mobile.

The NFL is Changing

They say the NFL is a copycat league and it is.  Teams mimic the success of others in an attempt to glean those same advantages.  It’s also been said that the NFL moves at a slow pace when it comes to change.  That has been true in the past.  Make no mistake that copying success and “changing” can be two very different things.

Fundamental changes in the way that NFL football happens sparingly and it usually happens over time.  If something isn’t being done en masse around the league, NFL types will tell you that “the league is cyclical” and that defenses will “catch up with” whatever the offenses might be doing at that time.

The “Wildcat” was a package that was limited and was a fad.  Aaron Rodgers said back in January of 2013 that the zone read would be gone soon enough:

“I think the league is cyclical,” Rodgers said on his weekly radio visit with ESPN Wisconsin, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Things have come back around that have been used 20, 30 years ago. But this, too, I think, will pass. Some of the pistol, read-option stuff will eventually pass.”

Aaron Rodgers is many things (including the most well-rounded QB in the league), but prescient isn’t one of them.  The irony of those comments paired with the Packers butt-kicking at the hands of the forward thinking Seahawks is certainly not lost on me.  Let’s see how the zone read stacked up in the 2012 season that Rodgers was citing versus the 2013 season.  Below are the top 10 teams who showed zone read looks for both seasons and the results of those running plays.

– Statistical analysis provided by STATS ICE and STATS GM of Sports Solutions, John Pollard.

RO% = Percentage of all offensive plays that feature the read option.

2012

Team Plays RO% Yds/Rush
(Read Op)
Yds/Rush
(No RO)
Carolina 987 8.2% 5.5 4.3
Redskins 994 6.7% 7.0 5.0
Seahawks 971 5.1% 6.7 4.6
49’ers 968 3.2% 7.1 4.9
Jets 1030 1.7% 4.5 3.8
Dolphins 978 1.2% 6.1 4.1
Bills 983 .3% 5.0 5.0
Titans 957 .2% 2.0 4.5
Steelers 1022 .2% 4.0 3.7
Ravens 1037 .2% 3.5 4.3
  • Carolina was easily able to utilize the zone read due to Cam’s familiarity with it in college and his ability to run without getting hurt.
  • The zone read was a massive component in the Redskins ascension to the top of the NFL in rushing.  Besides RG3’s rushing total, it helped open up running lanes for Alfred Morris.  Griffin dealt with injury issues thanks to too many direct run calls and consistently poor decision-making regarding sliding.
  • The Seahawks began 2012 in a very conservative fashion and didn’t open up with more zone read plays until later in the season.
  • San Francisco’s zone read % would have been much higher but they didn’t add that element until later in the year with their full-house concept after deciding on Kaepernick as the starter.
  • All four teams who used the read option at least 3% of the time saw an increase of 1.2 ypc or more for read option rushes over their standard rushes.
  • Of the top four zone read teams in 2012, three made the playoffs and two of those QBs were not drafted in the first round.

2013

Team Plays RO% Yds/Rush
(Read Op)
Yds/Rush
(No RO)
Eagles 1054 11.4% 6.7 4.6
Bills 1116 10.1% 4.7 4.1
Seahawks 972 8.4% 4.8 4.2
Jets 1019 6.3% 5.2 4.3
49’ers 961 5.4% 4.5 3.8
Redskins 1107 5.2% 6.1 4.1
Raiders 999 5.1% 5.0 5.0
Panthers 999 5.1% 2.0 4.5
Dolphins 1000 3.4% 4.0 3.7
Bengals 1096 2.1% 3.5 4.3
  • Chip Kelly’s offense features a high percentage of inside handoffs and zone read looks and many observers were astonished to see him continue to utilize zone read plays with the heavy-footed Nick Foles at QB.
  • Doug Marrone brought the college philosophy to Buffalo which included running more up-tempo offense which lead to 133 more plays and a much higher percentage of zone read looks.
  • With Russell Wilson having more experience under his belt, the Seahawks ran almost an identical amount of plays as 2012 but saw their zone read total go from 5.1% to 8.4%
  • The 49ers got away from so many zone read plays during the middle of the year after teams had made adjustments to slow their full-house package down.
  • The Panthers changed OCs and went to Mike Shula who promptly de-emphasized the zone read in the Panthers attack.  The Panthers went from 8.2% to 5.1% last year
  • The Dolphins figured out that the zone read might have some merit with a guy like Ryan Tannehill at QB, but only ran it 3.4% of the time.  Look for that 2014 number to be closer to 10%.

“What is clear from my interactions with our clients’ coaching staffs is that diversification; the ability to execute varied game play methods is a growing key ingredient in evolving offensive schemes,” noted STATS Sports Solutions Group GM John Pollard who works directly with teams around the league in integrating the STATS X-info data.  “I see this in terms of the tempo of play calling, numerous formation variations within personnel groupings, QB location and obviously the utilization of zone read conepts.”

NFL Making Rapid Changes

Make no mistake, the changes that you are seeing right now are not fads, they are fundamental changes.  Will everyone run the same offense?  Of course not.  Teams will operate differently and some of these trends will level out.  However, there is a big difference between leveling out and going away.

The Run-and-Shoot went away because it was too flawed and inflexible.  The concept made its way back into the league, but this time without the half-rollouts, with tight ends and with a greater understanding of pass protections.  Instead of scrapping ideas and concepts, more and more coaches are willing to improve and diversify their concepts so that it is more adaptable to their rosters.

Another fundamental change we are seeing involves tempo. Teams used to frown on anything that resembled a “gimmicky” college offense, but play tempo has been gaining steam for a couple of years now.  Two former college coaches, Chip Kelly and Doug Marrone, coached teams who were 1-2 in plays per minute in 2013 (2.50 and 2.43) with Kelly’s offense taking off and Marrone’s still needing work.  Some would see this is a shortcut due to both teams lack of a great QB, but that doesn’t really tell the story of why up-tempo is here to stay.

Two teams with dominant QBs in Denver in New England also used up-tempo and finished 3rd and 5th in the league in plays per minute (2.37 and 2.34).  Denver and New England ran completely different offenses than Kelly and Marrone but the idea was still the same –  keep defensive lines from substituting so frequently and to keep defenses in base packages.  This is a fundamentally sound concept which is why you will see the plays per minute skyrocket around the NFL.

For years now, defensive coordinators like Dick LeBeau of the Pittsburgh Steelers have had offenses playing a guessing game and he’s been able to make them timid.  So what did Kyle Shanahan do to the old master?  He went no-huddle in the second half of their week one game and gashed LeBeau’s defense.

“We became a little bit rattled and we can’t allow that to happen” said LeBeau.  “We’re working on it.”

Offensive coaches are fighting back with tendency busters thanks to their self-scouting through the use of data.  They are also fighting back with more fluid attacks that focus on formational flexibility, players with positional flexibility that generates matchup problems and through the use of the shotgun and pistol that allows them to disguise their run and pass intentions.

Is This a “Passing League”?

While everyone will say “this is a passing league” and the sheep will nod, I’m here to tell you that things aren’t quite what they seem.  This is a passing league for teams who have great QBs.  For everyone else, it is just a tail-chasing league if they play into the “passing league” notion.

Sure, teams will look for franchise QBs, but history has taught us that the chase for a franchise QB is frequently a futile endeavor.  Instead of trying to out-Manning, out-Brees, out-Rodgers and out-Brady those offenses with the likes of Romo, Cutler, Stafford and Dalton, teams are beginning to look at the running game and mobile QBs like Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Ryan Tannehill, Johnny Manziel and RG3.

Why not include the threat of these QBs running the ball to help strengthen a run game which, in turn, will cause teams to be less reliant upon upper-echelon QB play?

The running game is coming back, but it looks much different.  More teams than ever are relying on “11” personnel (1RB, 1TE, 3WRs) as their primary running formation because it takes a defender away from the box.  Fullbacks?  Those guys just invite another defender into the box.  Who needs that?  We are also seeing the running games originating from the shotgun.  Running from “11” and “12” (1RB, 2TEs, 2WRs) because they give OCs more flexibility to create matchup issues within run and passing games – especially if you don’t have a “running QB”.

“We are all familiar with the terms ‘system’ and ‘scheme’ in reference to offensive or defensive game-planning and perhaps we tend to believe that these terms connote a fixed and static set of ideas and philosophies,” notes Pollard.  “While this may historically be true, game plans and how teams are using personnel groupings are becoming much more fluid as teams are enhancing their ability to adapt quickly and seamlessly during a game.”

Teams rushing % from 11 Personnel

2011 – 27.6%
2012 – 28.6%
2013 – 29.5%
2014 – 31.9%

While this is only a one week sample size for 2014, I will guarantee you that the percentage of rushing plays from these 3-WR sets is going to stay above 30% for the year.  Another interesting trend that I found inside the STATS Ice X-info data was that teams were throwing at a higher percentage from the 12 personnel with features 2 RBs and has always been a run-heavy personnel grouping.

If you want to line up in conventional sets with your QB under center and try to run downhill against increasingly faster and stronger defensive fronts, then have at it.  And don’t forget to turn in your access card to the building on your way towards retirement.

“College Coaches” Bring Change

The notion of the college coach being unable to make it in the pros seemed foolproof after the failures of Steve Spurrier and Nick Saban, and that theory went hand-in-hand with the failed Run-and-Shoot offenses that fizzled out by the mid ’90s.  Robert De Niro was making important movies back then as well.  Things change.

Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh had pro football backgrounds that served them well in college and definitely helped them acclimate to the pro game quickly, but they also brought with them an open-mindedness to utilize some elements of the college game.  Chip Kelly came into the league and immediately proved that his offense could work and work with a QB who isn’t considered tailor-made for the offense in Nick Foles.

Playing the game in space utilizing zone-read package you can bet that more and more NFL teams will be looking for aggressive, offensive-minded head coaches because the NFL is a copycat league.  However, spreading the field, up-tempo offenses, zone-read packages and hybrid offenses aren’t going to be just copycat fads…. they will be part of the foundation of change that is the new NFL.  The more diversified offensive attacks are the more defensive coordinators have to prepare for.

“There are two primary constants in today’s game,” quipped Pollard.  “One is that there are only so many hours in a week to prepare and the other is inevitable change.”

The NFL believes the Read/Option is here to stay

So far this off-season, the “Pistol formation” originator, Chris Ault, got hired as a consultant, coaching staffs have spent time with collegiate teams like Alabama for help defending the read/option and front offices have pushed to conduct special research to find analytical trends regarding the read/option.  This off-season shows that NFL teams believe that the read-option won’t be going away anytime soon.

Our Tyler Oberly recently completed a read option study reviewing and compiling over 300 plays run last season by San Francisco, Washington, Seattle, Carolina, and Tennessee.  Here are some of the numbers behind the read option.

Seattle Seahawks

  • In games reviewed (weeks 12-17), Seattle ran the read-option an average of 9 times per game
  • Running backs averaged 7.2 yds/rush
  • Russell Wilson kept the ball 29% of the time (averaged 8.1 yds/rush)
    • Left: 46%
    • Middle: 13%
    • Right: 41%

Most common read-option formations:

Tennessee Titans

  • In games reviewed (weeks 13-17), Tennessee ran the read-option an average of 1 time per game
  • Running backs averaged 7.2 yds/rush
  • Jake Locker kept the ball 0% of the time
  • QB Option Movement:
    • Left: 20%
    • Middle: 0%
    • Right: 80%

Only read-option formation:

Carolina Panthers

  • In games reviewed (all 16 games), Carolina ran the read-option an average of 9.5 times per game
  • Running backs averaged 5.0 yds/rush
  • Cam Newton kept the ball 28% of the time (averaged 8.6 yds/rush)
    • Left: 45%
    • Middle: 31%
    • Right: 24%

Most common read-option formation: (variations of 1 wide-left, 3 wide-right):

Washington Redskins

  • In games reviewed (weeks 9-17), Washington ran the read-option an average of 11.4 times per game
  • Running backs averaged 4.9 yds/rush
  • RG3 kept the ball 44% of the time (averaged 9.5 yds/rush)
    • Left: 45%
    • Middle: 24%
    • Right: 31%

Most common read-option formation (going both directions):

San Francisco 49ers

  • In games reviewed (weeks 15-NFC Championship), San Francisco ran the read-option an average of 8.8 times per game
  • Running backs averaged 5.4 yds/rush
  • Kaepernick kept the ball 16% of the time (averaged 14.1 yds/rush)
    • Left: 32%
    • Middle: 14%
    • Right: 55%

Most common read-option formation (going both directions):