The declining value of drafting RBs 

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
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HydeAndrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsIs Carlos Hyde the only running back worthy of drawing interest in the first and early second rounds?
The past few years, we have seen the running back position on a steady decline in terms of positional value. In fact, last year was the first time a running back was not selected in the first round. Snapping a trend that dates back to 1936 and the soft running back market in free agency this past March, those are the clearest examples of why draft value has gone down.

There are many more factors that are playing roles in the devaluing of the running back, the most obvious being that the NFL, in general, is trending more toward a passing league. Offensive coordinators are becoming more creative in spreading the field with formations, motions and shifts and looking to create mismatches on the perimeter. In many ways, second down is becoming the new third down.

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Each day over the next nine days, we will focus on one position in the NFL draft by highlighting a prospect in Rounds 2-7 who might fit for the Dallas Cowboys. With so much attention placed on the first round in mock drafts, "Beyond the first round" focuses on lesser-publicized options after the first 32 picks. We continue the series with defensive ends.

Second round, Dee Ford (Auburn): He can play a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme or an outside linebacker in a 3-4. Ford's weight has fluctuated from 252 pounds at the combine to 244 at his pro day. He's got straight-line speed, ran a 4.5 40 at his pro day, and has good range against the run and makes plenty of tackles on the running back at the line of scrimmage. The only negative is he could be too small to play in a 4-3.

Third round, Chris Smith (Arkansas): Will owner Jerry Jones draft someone from his alma mater? Coach Jason Garrett likes players who were leaders on their college teams and Smith was a team captain at Arkansas. He's got an excellent upper body, bench pressed 28 at 225 pounds, and with long arms (34 1/8) he has the ability to keep defenders at bay. He doesn't play with a reckless abandon but he does rush the passer with a sense of urgency.

Fourth round, Demarcus Lawrence (Boise State): He was one of the 30 national visits at Valley Ranch. He proved to be a durable player in college because he didn't miss a game in two college seasons. However, he was suspended against UNLV in October and later for the Las Vegas Bowl against Washington for violation of team rules in 2012. He missed a game for disciplinary reasons against Tennessee Martin early in the season. Lawrence has above-average patience as a backside defender and has quick lateral movement.

Fifth round, Kareem Martin (North Carolina): Something that appeals to Garrett, he's a team captain. He has large hands (10 inches), long arms (35 inches) and was fantastic at the combine. He has fast straight-line speed (1.64 10-split and 4.72 40-dash) and high jumps (35.5 inch vertical jump and position-best 10 feet 9 inches board jump). He's been inconsistent at snap anticipation and there were too many times he got off the ball too late.

Sixth round, Jackson Jeffcoat (Texas): Can he play a 3-4 outside linebacker or 4-3 defensive end? Might be better suited to play in a dime package his rookie year to find out. His dad, Jim Jeffcoat, played for the Cowboys and the Buffalo Bills. Jeffcoat has quick hands and feet to slip past blocks.

Seventh round, Marcus Smith (Louisville): Smith is an athlete. He moved from quarterback to linebacker after one week in 2010 and to defensive end in 2011. He has active hands that makes it difficult to block. He also shows the ability to work inside after starting his pass rush outside. He reads quarterbacks well and has good route recognition in underneath zone. Maybe he's more of a 3-4 end than a 4-3, but he is worth a look.

Chat about the Packers today

April, 22, 2014
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- We're a little more than two weeks out from the NFL draft, which means speculation about who the Green Bay Packers will pick is growing.

Bring your draft questions -- or anything else Packers-related -- to our weekly chat. It starts today at 4 p.m. ET (or 3 p.m. if you’re in the surrounding area).

You can submit your questions ahead of time or do it live by clicking this link.

Note: This will be our last chat until the week of the draft because we're taking next week off for a little rest and relaxation before things ramp up again.
CINCINNATI -- Consider this Andy Dalton (with a little A.J. Green on the side) Day on the Cincinnati Bengals blog.

Whenever a quarterback talks, we in the media listen. Whenever a quarterback with a track record of being boring in news conference settings happens to do a 180-degree turn and showcases a more charismatic, carefree and talkative version of himself, then we really listen.

The latter was the case Monday when Dalton addressed for the first time this offseason his contract talks with the team. His rookie deal expires next March, but the Bengals have expressed interest in extending the contract this offseason.

Still, with Dalton near the end of his first deal and inching closer toward the possibility of playing a year in contract limbo, the "what if?" question pops up. What if the Bengals aren't able to sign him to the extension he seeks? What if they aren't able to franchise tag him next season? Then what?

Then they turn to this year's draft and try to hone a player from it who could eventually take over for him.

Dalton doesn't believe that's happening. He doesn't think he's getting replaced by anyone, regardless of whether a quarterback gets added to the Bengals' mix following next month's draft.

"There's been a lot of talk that they're going to draft another quarterback, but they're not bringing in another quarterback to replace me," Dalton said. "From everything they've told me they're not bringing in anybody to compete. So I'm not worried about it."

Cincinnati does need a backup just in case plans to extend Dalton fall through. The Bengals also need a backup in the event Dalton gets retained for the long haul because Jason Campbell has only been signed to a one-year deal, and could be out of Paul Brown Stadium this time next year. With Josh Johnson and Zac Robinson also nearing the end of their contracts, the Bengals would be wise to invest in a quarterback this offseason who could become a true backup to Dalton in the event any of the other three are cut this fall or not brought back next spring.

For now, there are any number of quarterbacks who the Bengals could draft. The more popular possibilities include Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and Georgia's Aaron Murray. Bridgewater has the higher grade of the two, although he has slipped out of top-10 selection material on some mock drafts to being completely out of the first two rounds. If by some stroke of luck Bridgewater is still on the board in the third round when the Bengals pick, it might not be too far fetched to believe they would go after him. A mobile runner with a big arm, he could fit new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson's system quite well.

Murray has garnered a lot of attention this spring primarily because he is the former quarterback at the University of Georgia. In addition to the Bengals' apparent penchant for drafting former Georgia products -- six former Bulldogs are currently on the roster -- he has experience having played with some of them. He spent one season at Georgia throwing to Green. Bengals offensive guard Clint Boling was on the offensive line that year, too. Bengals safety Shawn Williams also played with Murray, as did H-back Orson Charles, who played both college football and high school ball with him. Charles and Murray played at Plant High School in Tampa, Fla. at the same time.

Alabama's AJ McCarron and Pitt's Tom Savage are two other quarterbacks who could be on the board in the third-fifth rounds.

Whichever quarterback ends up in stripes, Dalton still isn't worried about his spot getting taken.

"I read something where we never drafted a quarterback to be the backup," Dalton said. "I heard it's been a long time since we've done that. But that's kind of what they're planning on doing."

The last time Cincinnati drafted a quarterback who didn't start right away was 2007, when Jeff Rowe was drafted in the fifth round. He played just one game. The year before that, Reggie McNeal was taken in the sixth round. Two years before that, Casey Bramlet was drafted in the seventh. The only other quarterback, aside from Dalton, the Bengals drafted was first overall pick Carson Palmer. He started from 2003 until Dalton took over in 2011. Later that season, Palmer was traded to Oakland before eventually moving on to Arizona. The Bengals face the Cardinals on the road this preseason.
Odell Beckham Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsOdell Beckham's ability to separate quickly from press coverage would aid Ben Roethlisberger.
We spend so much time during the draft process talking about the potential top-10 picks that one thing with the potential to get lost about this year’s class is just how strong it is overall, particularly in its depth. Teams are going to be able to find some high-level talents later in the first round, as well as the second round and afterward.

For this article, we’ve identified some perfect team-prospect matches featuring players who project to be taken outside the top 10 but could have a big impact in the NFL, particularly if paired with these specific teams.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU


Beckham isn’t likely to get past the first round, so outside of a trade situation, the Steelers would likely have to use the No. 15 overall pick to get him, and Pittsburgh could go in a number of directions with that pick. But Beckham feels like a really good fit with what the Steelers want to do offensively.

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Rex Ryan took the Jets to the AFC Championship Game his first two seasons as their head coach, winning two playoff games each of those years. One of those playoff wins was a 28-21 victory over the Patriots in Foxborough in 2010. It seemed unlikely at the time, but the Jets would not build on that success, but instead go on to finish 8-8 in 2011 and 6-10 in 2012.

There was speculation that they would let Ryan go and make it a clean sweep when they fired general manager Mike Tannenbaum following that disappointing 2012 season. Instead, they retained Ryan, but the speculation picked up again during last year's 8-8 season.

Following a 23-3 loss to the Dolphins in December of last year, ESPN New York Jets reporter Rich Cimini felt Ryan needed to win two of the last four games to keep his job, and Cimini didn't seem optimistic about it happening coming off that performance.

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The Washington Redskins can host up to 30 players before the draft, but who they do doesn't always tell the entire story of their interest. And we don't really know how what visits mean for this regime: How many of these players will they ultimately select? Some teams draft maybe one or two players that they actually hosted.

That said, some things are telling. First I'm going to take a look at the offensive players mentioned. What stands out: They've looked at several tackles. That's no surprise, but I think the plan all along was to look harder at the draft for this spot than free agency (where they brought in only Donald Penn).

It's also true that in some cases the Redskins might not want to draft certain players, but would bring them in because they want a book on them for the future -- in case they get cut or become free agents down the road.

Anyway, take the visits for what they're worth but the positions they're looking at are noteworthy. These are players who either have visited, will visit or have talked to them about visiting. I've used reports from the Washington Post, myself, ESPN980, SiriusXM radio and 106.7. I also used some info from draft analysts for ESPN.com, CBS Sports and NFL.com. And in finishing this item, I came across a similar format on a site called Pro Player Insiders.

Here are the offensive players who either have visited or will:


T/G Jack Mewhort, Ohio State

Projection: Third round

Comment: Mewhort played left tackle and both guard spots in college and was a solid player. He's athletic, but lean at 6-foot-6, 308 pounds. He's a much better fit in a zone blocking system, an outside one at that, than anything else. Which, of course, the Redskins use. I don't think he's going to overpower any defender.

How he'd fit: Mewhort would have to be viewed as the eventual starter at right tackle, but I'd be surprised if it happened right away. If he can't handle right tackle, he could always slide inside so if nothing else he'd find a way to be productive. However, he'd have to learn to consistently play lower if that were the case. It was an issue in college.

WR Cody Latimer, Indiana
Projection: Mid-to-late rounds

Comment: Coming off a 72-catch season. Has good size at 6-2, 215 pounds and excellent hands. But he's not a fast receiver and analysts worry about his ability to defeat athletic corners in the NFL.

How he'd fit: Developmental receiver and depth.

OT Morgan Moses, Virginia

Projection: Second round

Comment: He has clear ability, but for a guy who projects this high he also seems to be a bit of a project. He has good size at 6-6, 314 pounds, but doesn't always bend his knees. The fact that Washington is looking at him suggests the Redskins want to upgrade right tackle and might do so with its first pick.

How he'd fit: Despite faring better on the left side in college, he'd be the future starter at right tackle with Washington. Day 1 starter? Hard to see, but if you're a second-round pick you should be ready to start at some point that first season.

OT Cameron Fleming, Stanford

Projection: Second round

Comment: He's not considered a fast or agile tackle, so I wonder how he'd fit in with Washington. He's considered by analysts to be better as a drive blocker. But he did not receive high marks for his pass protection skills. Honestly, after reading more about him, I'm not sure why he's projected to this round.

How he'd fit: I really don't know based on his fit with a zone scheme. Perhaps they view him more as a guard long-term than anything else.

WR Brandon Coleman, Rutgers

Projection: Late rounds

Comment: He attended Bishop McNamara in Forestville, Md. He's 6-6, which is great except that there aren't many receivers that size in the NFL. It can be tough to get in and out of breaks when you're that tall. But he'd make an inviting red zone target if nothing else, though it takes more than size to excel here. He caught 92 passes in college (20 for touchdowns).

How he'd fit: Developmental guy. The Redskins could afford to bring him along slowly. Nothing wrong with that.

OT Antonio Richardson, Tennessee

Projection: Second, possibly third round

Comment: He has good size (6-5, 336) and long arms, two welcomed traits at tackle. Richardson received higher marks for his pass protection skills than anything. He's considered to have good enough quickness to handle the right side.

How he'd fit: Eventual starter at right tackle. Day one? Tough to say, but has traits worth grooming.

RB Charles Sims, West Virginia

Projection: Mid-to-late rounds

Comment: He has excellent hands and quickness. Has good speed, though not a burner. Analysts consider him a better fit in a zone system (like the Redskins).

How he'd fit: A third down pass-catcher. The Redskins have Roy Helu and Chris Thompson as possibilities here, but both have question marks.
Mock drafts will surrender to the actual draft on May 8. It's still a long wait.

In his first two mocks, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. had the Tennessee Titans taking Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan at No. 11. In Kiper's third draft he changed the selection to Anthony Barr, the UCLA linebacker.

Outside of running back, which the Titans won't be drafting in the first round, they have no glaring need.

But there are a number of spots where they can get better, deeper and/or younger -- including outside linebacker, on the defensive line, inside linebacker, tight end, tackle and cornerback.

In Kiper's mock draft 4.0 he has the Titans taking ...


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The Carolina Panthers have the 28th pick in the 2014 NFL draft after finishing last season with a 12-4 record. Their primary needs remain offensive tackle and wide receiver after free agency, with tackle holding a slight edge.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest mock draft is out on ESPN Insider today. He picks the top two rounds for each team, and his latest for the Panthers are players whose stock are on the rise.


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The Jacksonville Jaguars have the third overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft and most people assume the team is going to take either a pass-rusher or a quarterback, which are clearly the team’s two biggest needs after winning just six games combined the past two seasons.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.’s fourth 2014 NFL mock draftInsider is out on ESPN Insider today and his choice is a departure from what he predicted the Jaguars would do in his first three mock drafts.


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IRVING, Texas -- So far Mel Kiper Jr. has followed the Dallas Cowboys' draft needs in his mock drafts.

In his first two mocks, he offered up Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round. In his third, he went with Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan. In his Grade A mock, he went with Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

In Kiper's Mock draft 4.0 , he has gone away from the defensive side of the ball.


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The NFL draft is exactly three weeks away. When the Cincinnati Bengals make their first pick, they'll do so late in the first round at No. 24 overall.

They have needs at cornerback, quarterback, outside linebacker, safety, defensive end and on the offensive line. They also could add a running back or receiver at some point during the draft. Just whom will they wind up selecting with their picks in the first two rounds? ESPN's Mel Kiper has made his predictions. His second-round pick is a player who once had a first-round projection.


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ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. made another switch for the New Orleans Saints in his latest mock draft, version 4.0Insider.

And this time, Kiper went with a player he dubbed as the fastest-rising player on his board for the Saints at No. 27 overall.


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Analyzing Kiper Mock 4.0: Colts 

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
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ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. posted his mock draft 4.0Insider earlier Thursday.

Who needs a first-round pick? Not the Indianapolis Colts, so we’ll skip ahead to the second round when they pick at No. 59.


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A 7-9 record in 2013 earned the New York Giants the No. 12 pick in next month's NFL draft. After an offseason that has seen them sign 15 outside free agents, they still have needs at tight end, wide receiver and on the offensive line, one of which could reasonably be addressed with that pick. It also wouldn't be out of character to see them add a defensive lineman if that's who they felt the best player was at No. 12.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper's latest mock draft is up today here on ESPN.com. It's two rounds long this time, and you have to have Insider access to read it. His picks for the Giants are aimed at finding some help for quarterback Eli Manning.


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