Archive for the ‘NFL Draft’ Category

After what seemed an eternity of drafting, the NFL now has its newest crop of young talent ready to display before the masses.  There were trades galore during the primetime event Thursday, Friday and throughout out the day on Saturday.  Most of them were for good causes as fans and teams alike were delighted by the free movement in and out of rounds that allowed teams to actually get what they coveted.

As a southern style blog/report, we will focus mainly on the NFC South as I may choose to review others as I see fit(or upon request).  The Southern Division had two clear winners as the other two were riddled by either previous trades or penalty by the league.

The Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cleaned up early and often in hopes of returning to the forefront of a division they not too distantly controlled before.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

The Bucs really went after it in this draft.  First they traded down out of the top 5 and had a hand in making Cleveland trade up one spot for RB Trent Richardson.  With the 7th pick they took Alabama SS Mark Barron.  Instantly they gave themselves production in the back 7 they sorely needed.  Next at the bottom of the first they traded back in to select Boise St RB Doug Martin, complementing Blount in the backfield.  Hopefully this will take some pressure off of the struggling QB Josh Freeman.  In the 5,6, and 7 rounds they added youth and depth at positions of need adding a linebacker a corner, another running back and a tight end.  The first round alone is enough to give the Bucs an A but they kept at it in the later rounds giving this team a new look and hope for the near future.

Grade: A

Carolina Panthers:

Early on the Panthers looked to be the team that would land the top D-Tackle prospect in the draft were they to select Mississippi St. bulldozer, Fletcher Cox, in a mild upset the Panthers elected to go with the super talented inside linebacker Luke Kuechley.  Immediately fans jumped all over the pick wondering why they would pass on such a glaring need such as DT in lieu of a linebacker.  The Panthers would not be swayed as their very next selection caused even more heads to tilt in wonder when they selected a D-II offensive guard, Amini Silatolu.  After the early misdirection the Panthers got back on track using all of their remaining picks to hit major areas of need: DE, CB, WR/PR, and S.  After the initial shock of the early rounds(and a couple YouTube highlight videos) my nerves calmed and I began to appreciate the direction and overall quality of Carolina’s decisions.  Kuechly will be a stud and Silatolu will be a monter in the middle and Carolina is fast approaching one of if not the most talented Special teams units in the League.

Grade:B+

Atlanta Falcons:

Not much to see here as they gave up the farm last year to acquire WR Julio Jones.  Two offensive lineman, a full back, defensive end, strong safety and a d-tackle.  Most everything this team needs on defense was addressed in the draft.  The only thing missing now on defense is talent.  Julio better be good next year because they are going to have to score a lot of points in this division.

Grade: C

New Orleans Saints:

Oh boy, where to begin with the continuing disaster that is the NO Saints offseason?  How about the first round, no? Okay then how about the 2nd?  Not there either?  The 3rd? Yes finally the 3rd round selection of the Saints was a DE from Regina, Akiem Hicks.  And that pretty much does it for name recognition for the Saints draft.  A WR, SS, G, and Tackle  round out the late rounds.  Look on the bright side New Orleans, you still have Drew Brees, right???

Grade: D+

There you have it folks, NFC South draft wrap ups and grades to drink in.  The South should be interesting at the least to watch.  We very well could see a reversal of fortune for those that have held this division under there thumbs for a few years now.  The Panthers and Bucs are seriously gaining ground on Atlanta and New Orleans is only one more scandal away from being the ‘Aints again.

Keep it glued right here on True Talk, your source for Southern Sports!

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The day is now upon us.  Gathered like children round the Christmas tree with butterflies and knots in our stomachs, anxiously awaiting the arrival of that final piece or maybe the cornerstone to a bright new future.

Football fans everywhere are checking Twitter feeds and Facebook posts hungrily devouring every draftniks newest trade scenario and mock draft.  Each one providing their own insight to what is, without a doubt, the most unpredictable spectacle in all of sports.

Now that we are entering the 11th hour, every GM, coach and owner is up to speed on the players they want in the draft and even a few that they think could be there with their pick.  The stage has been set, and the most prolific collegiate football players in the nation will gather with friends, families and former coaches and wait to hear the commissioner  announce their name and placement in America’s favorite sport.

The suspense is palpable and every nerve in the body is rapid-firing signals back to the brain faster than they can be decoded.  A hush comes over the capacity crowd in the Radio City Music Hall as NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, makes his long walk to center stage, note card in hand.  Lightly he adjusts the level of the microphone before making his opening remarks.  The buzz begins to build in anticipation of the draft’s most famous words before they are uttered for the first time in 365 days.  Teeth clinch, heart rates jump, sweat beads on the brow of fans all over the world as Goodell announces, “And with the first pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts select…”

As fans we all have our preferences and predictions, both positive and negative, as to what direction our favorite teams will go.  Lost in all the hustle and bustle of this modern “holiday” is the birth of hope.  With each pick and trade that comes off the board hope replaces the anguish and frustration that all but one team felt as the final seconds ticked off of the clock signifying the end of the season.

With that new-found hope message boards, forums, team websites, fan pages and, yes, blogs much like this one, will collectively rejoice the coming of a new season.  And whether you take the time to think about it or not, you are filled with great expectations as whatever team you pull for is right back in the hunt for that ever so elusive Lombardi Trophy.

Every Team is back at 0-0 and with that beautiful statistic in place the mind can drift, wonder, and maybe even dare to dream that at the end of it all your team will be the one left standing in a perpetual blizzard of confetti as the star player looks into the camera in front of millions of fans to proclaim, “I’m going to Disney World!”

As I leave you with the taste of victory lingering on your mental pallets, just take a moment and remember the feeling that hope provides.  That warm fullness that wells up inside to the point of bursting.  Savor that moment, let it sink in and enjoy these few brief hours out of the long day, week, or month that has been eating at you.  Take this time to push back all the nonsense of your normal day-to-day and just relish this time out, breathe deep the minutes you have to sit back and embrace something so trivial yet so very, very important to, yes, the cultural fiber of our great nation.  Celebrate no matter what happens and let the games begin!

Last year about this time you could not read a single printed word about the NFL draft with out it inevitably leading to a backhanded remark to the potential number one pick, Cam Newton.  It began with the inflammatory comments about Cam’s willingness to be a star, entertainer, and icon.  From there it snowballed to an all out assault on his character.  In the end it had very little effect on his draft position as he went number 1 overall to the Carolina Panthers.

Fast-forward to this year and it seems that the same trend is continuing with this crop of draftees.  Recently, it has been reported through unnamed scouts that two of the top three projected picks are now character risks and teams should be wary of drafting these players early.  Robert Griffin III(QB, Baylor) has been reported, much like Cam Newton was, as a selfish, me first kind of player that has the makings of a bust in the NFL, while Matt Kalil (T, USC) is being touted as an entitled child.

These reports are coming from left field and no one is sure about the motives or the lack there of behind these allegations.  It’s puzzling to say the least.  I’m wondering why these reports would come out the week prior to the draft and why anyone would attempt such a brazen strategy to hurt the “stock” of a potential player.  The cynic in me says that these unnamed sources are just front office personnel that would hope for one of these players to slide to their particular team so that they themselves could select this player and rejoice in their victory.  However, the flip side of the coin is that these sources have actually found something of a red flag in these top prospects that worries them about their projection to the next level.

For these two specific examples, RGIII and Kalil, nothing leading up to the draft or during their careers have sent any negative vibes about their potential.  RGIII is a Heisman Trophy winner and each of his interviews have been exemplary.  The Baylor standout has awed fans and scouts alike on and off the field.  Nothing has even hinted that this future NFL QB is a selfish me-first player.  Is he just good at interviews?  Does he revert to his true form when the cameras are off?  Only a select few people know him in that context, unfortunately I am not one of them.  RGIII looks like a good prospect with a bright future with a team that will need him.

Kalil is somewhat more of an unknown quantity than his Heisman winning counterpart.  Matt is the younger brother of current starting center for the Carolina Panthers, Ryan Kalil.  It’s extremely hard for the general public to gain a proper perspective on an offensive lineman.  Offensive lineman live by the code of if you don’t hear their names then they have done their job.  This is what makes it so difficult to get to know them personally.  The main thing for an offensive lineman is to be noticed without being noticed.  Sounds tricky, huh?  They do that by creating gaping holes and lanes for their skill players to exploit.  Just think, who are usually the first teammates to reach the end zone in celebration after a running back breaks a long touch down run?  That’s right, the big guys up front.

So, why would we only hear about Kalil’s sudden entitlement issues 7 days before the draft?  Your guess is as good as mine.  I firmly believe that these two kids will get drafted 2 out of the top three spots and these recent reports will be listed as story lines all the way through the draft and mini-camps, OTA’s and training camp.  Only until these guys step onto the field and display their talents will these unfounded reports be validated or forgotten.

I’m sure that the two players described above hope that their rookie seasons come close to that of the previous years number 1 pick.  If they do we will all know that these sleazy shock news reports were just draft fodder to drum up controversy right before 8pm April 26, 2012 at Radio City Music Hall in New York, NY.

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Cam Newton Draft Photo

The last weekend of April is one of the most anticipated weekends of the year for football fanatics.  Teams and their fans are looking to this magical weekend to upgrade their respective rosters with talent farmed from some of the best collegiate football programs in the country.  What is this magical weekend of eternal hope and renewed spirit? This, my friends, is the NFL Draft.

Every team has at least one chance to choose a former collegiate player to add to its roster to help fill holes left by free agency or injury, or just provide depth at a position that is thin or top heavy with talent.  Teams work round the clock vetting these future “stars” and “busts” as well as managing team needs versus where they feel they line up in the draft order.  Some teams employ the Best Player Available approach, while others draft solely based on need.

Last year the Carolina Panthers struck Draft Gold by selecting Cam Newton with the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.  He rewarded the Panthers with a rookie season the likes of which have never been seen.  He destroyed all records for a rookie quarterback and even some records that have stood the test of time(Rushing Touchdowns by QB).

In 2012 the Panthers are once again selecting in the top ten of the draft and they look to continue their first round dominance under the command of second year Head Coach, Ron Rivera, and front office veteran GM, Marty Hurney.  The Panthers will be selecting with the ninth overall pick after losing the coin toss with Miami to decide the tie-breaker between the two teams with identical records.

Options abound and possibilities are seemingly endless for the Panthers, but we will try to keep it simple and go with the most logical of scenarios for this pick.

Everyone is aware of the defensive struggles that the Panthers suffered through last season, after losing key cogs, Jon Beason(achilles), Thomas Davis(ACL), and Ron Edwards(Torn Triceps) to season ending injuries.  The logical step would be to assume the Panthers will draft defense early and often.  Marty Hurney, however, cautions against such a simplistic view of their overall draft strategy.  The Panthers are leaning heavily toward the Best Player Available strategy.  This puts every possibility into play and also makes the Panthers a very real trade partner.

The most obvious top 10 caliber defensive players that could be available at number nine are, Morris Claiborne, Dontari Poe, Fletcher Cox, Melvin Ingram, Quinton Coples, and Luke Kuechly.  Claiborne fills an obvious need at corner back as the Panthers secondary was torched as teams routinely picked on the small but fiery Captain Munnerlyn. Claiborne will likely be gone by the ninth pick maybe as early as third overall but teams like Tampa Bay and Cleveland are starved for offensive playmakers and could use their picks on sexier names like Blackmon or Richardson.

Dontari Poe, Fletcher Cox and Quinton Coples would be the next best options to Claiborne as the Panthers received zero interior pressure from the d-line after spending not one but two third round picks on interior lineman in last years draft.  Terrell Mcclain and Sione Fua were thrown to the wolves last year as rookies and both finished the year on injured reserve.  The two early round picks could prevent the Panthers from going that direction again.

The wild card selections would be drafting according to the B.P.A. strategy.  Say the Panthers are not worried about filling needs just grabbing who they feel are solid football players that fit their mold.  These players could include but are not limited to, Luke Kuechly(ILB), David Decastro(G), and Michael Floyd.

In my opinion Luke Kuechly would be the safest pick.  The problem lies in that the Panthers are absolutely stacked at the linebacker postion.  All-pro Jon Beason controls the middle while outstanding players Thomas Davis and James Anderson roam the outside.  Beason and Davis are coming off of season ending injuries so depth could be the focus there.

With the depature of long time starter Trevelle Wharton at the Gaurd spot the Panthers could look to David Decastro to shore up the protction for Cam Newton.  While the most surprising pick to me would be if the Panthers were to select Notre Dame wideout, Michael Floyd.  Carolina has struggled to replace all-pro wideout Mushin Muhammad as the true number two opposite Steve Smith.  The Panthers are expecting big things from third year wideouts Brandon Lafell and David Gettis.  An offense that was already potent would be absolutely terrifying for opposing coordinators.

Finally the other option would be for the Panthers to trade back and stockpile picks to help build a team that will soon be a perennial playoff contender for years to come.  This I feel is the least of the options. A team should never relinquish high picks in the draft when they are so close to contending year in and year out.

All in all I believe the best option for the Panthers would be Morris Claiborne if he does in fact drop.  After many mock drafts and speculation I think the Panthers will have done their homework and continue their run of successful first round picks.