Tuesday, March 25, 2014

NC Sports clients are two of top four longest-tenured FBS coaches

Ranking the length of current FBS coaching tenures from 1 to 128
Last year, Patrick Stevens had an idea that was incredibly simple, yet brilliant. He listed every current FBS head coach by the date of his hiring, from 1 to 125. Since he is currently engulfed in all things March Madness, we're going to pick up the slack.
Twenty jobs have exchanged hands, and three schools (Appalachian State, Georgia Southern and Old Dominion) have joined the party in FBS, giving us a fresh list of 128. The 20 outgoing coaches ranged from the dean of Big 12 coaches (the then-third longest-tenured Mack Brown) to a pair of one-and-dones like Western Kentucky-turned-Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino and Arkansas State-turned-Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin. 
Before we get to the list, a few notes. 
- The first hire of 2014 hiring class, USC's Steve Sarkisian, has already been on the job longer than nearly 15 percent of his peers. The first hire of last year's class of new coaches, Kentucky's Mark Stoops, has already recorded a longer tenure than nearly 38 percent of FBS head coaches, despite having all of 12 games of experience under his belt.
- Steve Spurrier has now crept into the top 10. This after coaching a dozen years at Florida, two seasons with the Washington Redskins and taking a year off before nabbing the South Carolina job. 
- Nick Saban - the Alabama years - is now in the top 20. 
- Frank Beamer and Larry Blakeney are both in their late 60's, which means we could be just years away from Bob Stoops being the dean of all FBS head coaches, at least in terms of one continuous stay on the job. Think about that for a minute. 
- Bill Snyder's second tenure as Kansas State's head coach has crept up into the top quarter of all current coaches.
- North Carolina's Larry Fedora and Memphis' Justin Fuente now represent the exact median of FBS job security. They were hired Dec. 8, 2011.
- Ken Niumatalolo ranks 26th on the list, having just completed his sixth full season as Navy's head coach. Bobby Petrino has taken three jobs since then. 
1. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech - Dec. 22
2. Larry Blakeney, Troy - Dec. 3
3. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma - Dec. 1
4. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa - Dec. 2
5. Gary Pinkel, Missouri - Nov. 30
6. Gary Patterson, TCU - Dec. 8
7. Mark Richt, Georgia - Dec. 26
8. Mike Riley, Oregon State - Feb. 19
9. George O’Leary, UCF - Dec. 8
10. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina - Nov. 23
11. Kyle Whittingham, Utah - Dec. 9
12. Bronco Mendenhall, BYU - Dec. 13
13. Frank Solich, Ohio - Dec. 17
14. Les Miles, LSU - Jan. 2
15. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State - Jan. 3
16. Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee - Dec. 12
17. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern - July 7
18. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State - Nov. 27
19. Troy Calhoun, Air Force - Dec. 22
20. Nick Saban, Alabama - Jan. 3
21. David Bailiff, Rice - Jan. 19
22. Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion - Feb. 13
23. Art Briles, Baylor - Nov. 28
24. Bo Pelini, Nebraska - Dec. 3
25. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech - Dec. 7
26. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy - Dec. 8
27. David Cutcliffe, Duke - Dec. 15
28. June Jones, SMU - Jan. 7
29. Joey Jones, South Alabama - Feb. 15
30. Dabo Swinney, Clemson - Oct. 13
31. Bill Snyder, Kansas State - Nov. 24
32. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State - Dec. 11
33. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State - Dec. 21
34. Larry Coker, UTSA - March 6
35. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State - Dec. 1
36. Mike London, Virginia - Dec. 7
37. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame - Dec. 11
38. Todd Berry, Louisiana-Monroe - Dec. 15
39. Doc Holliday, Marshall - Dec. 17
40. Jeff Quinn, Buffalo - Dec. 20
41. Bobby Hauck, UNLV  - Dec. 22
42. Dan Enos, Central Michigan - Jan. 12
43. Ruffin McNeill, East Carolina - Jan. 21
44. Dan McCarney, North Texas - Nov. 30
45. Kevin Wilson, Indiana - Dec. 4
46. Jerry Kill, Minnesota - Dec. 5
47. Will Muschamp, Florida - Dec. 11
T-48. Al Golden, Miami - Dec. 12
T-48. Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette - Dec. 12
50. Pete Lembo, Ball State - Dec. 19
51. Randy Edsall, Maryland - Jan. 2
52. Dennis Franchione, Texas State - Jan. 7
53. Brady Hoke, Michigan - Jan. 11
54. Rocky Long, San Diego State - Jan. 12
55. David Shaw, Stanford - Jan. 13
56. Bill Blankenship, Tulsa - Jan. 14
57. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia - June 11
58. Bob Davie, New Mexico - Nov. 17
59. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona - Nov. 21
60. Urban Meyer, Ohio State - Nov. 28
61. Mike Leach, Washington State - Nov. 30
T-62. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss - Dec. 5
T-62. Curtis Johnson, Tulane - Dec. 5
T-64. Larry Fedora, North Carolina - Dec. 8
T-64. Justin Fuente, Memphis - Dec. 8
T-64. Charlie Weis, Kansas - Dec. 8
67. Tim Beckman, Illinois - Dec. 9
T-68. Jim Mora, UCLA - Dec. 10
T-68. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M - Dec. 10
70. Matt Campbell, Toledo - Dec. 12
71. Jim McElwain, Colorado State - Dec. 13
T-72. Todd Graham, Arizona State - Dec. 14
T-72. Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State - Dec. 14
T-74. Norm Chow, Hawaii - Dec. 21
T-74. Tony Levine, Houston - Dec. 21
T-76. Terry Bowden, Akron - Dec. 22
T-76. Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh - Dec. 22
78. Kyle Flood, Rutgers - Jan. 31
79. Mark Stoops, Kentucky - Nov. 27
80. Trent Miles, Georgia State - Nov. 30
81. Dave Doeren, N.C. State - Dec. 1
82. Rod Carey, Northern Illinois - Dec. 2
83. Paul Petrino, Idaho - Dec. 3
T-84. Steve Addazio, Boston College - Dec. 4
T-84. Bret Bielema, Arkansas - Dec. 4
T-84. Gus Malzahn, Auburn - Dec. 4
T-87. Sonny Dykes, California - Dec. 5
T-87. Darrell Hazell, Purdue - Dec. 5
T-89. Butch Jones, Tennessee - Dec. 7
T-89. Willie Taggart, South Florida - Dec. 7
91. Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati - Dec. 8
T-92. Sean Kugler, UTEP - Dec. 10
T-92. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado - Dec. 10
94. Todd Monken, Southern Miss - Dec. 11
95. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech - Dec. 12
T-96. Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech - Dec. 14
T-96. Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State - Dec. 14
T-98. Rob Caragher, San Jose State - Dec. 17
T-98. P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan - Dec. 17
T-100. Paul Haynes, Kent State - Dec. 17
T-100. Matt Rhule, Temple - Dec. 17
102. Gary Andersen, Wisconsin - Dec. 19
103. Matt Wells, Utah State - Dec. 20
104. Ron Turner, Florida International - Jan. 4
105. Brian Polian, Nevada - Jan. 7
106. Scott Shafer, Syracuse - Jan. 9
107. Mark Helfrich, Oregon - Jan. 20
108. Doug Martin, New Mexico State - Feb. 1
109. Steve Sarkisian, USC - Dec. 2
110. Chuck Martin, Miami (Ohio) - Dec. 3
111. Chris Petersen, Washington - Dec. 6
112. Craig Bohl, Wyoming - Dec. 8
113. Dave Clawson, Wake Forest - Dec. 10
T-114. Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan - Dec. 11
T-114. Bryan Harsin, Boise State - Dec. 11
116. Bob Diaco, Connecticut - Dec. 12
117. Charlie Partridge, Florida Atlantic - Dec. 17
118. Dino Babers, Bowling Green - Dec. 18
119. Blake Anderson, Arkansas State - Dec. 19
120. Jeff Monken, Army - Dec. 24
121. Charlie Strong, Texas - Jan. 5
122. Bobby Petrino, Louisville - Jan. 9
T-123. Jeff Brohm, Western Kentucky - Jan. 10
T-123. Willie Fritz, Georgia Southern - Jan. 10
125. James Franklin, Penn State - Jan. 11
126. Mark Whipple, Massachusetts - Jan. 14
127. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt - Jan. 17
128. Bill Clark, UAB - Jan. 22

Friday, March 14, 2014

Ted Ginn adds speed to Cardinals WR corps

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Ted Ginn catches a touchdown pass against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. (Daniel Shirey – USA TODAY Sports)

Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians landed the No. 3 vertical-stretch speed receiver he coveted in 8th-year veteran Ted Ginn, Jr.
The former Carolina Panthers wide receiver/return man will likely move into the slot to open things up for  receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd after signing a three-year deal worth $14.25-million with $5.25 million of his $9.75 million base salary guaranteed, a person with knowledge of the contract told USA TODAY Sports Thursday. That person spoke on the condition of anonymity since the team has not disclosed the contract.
Ginn, 28, caught a career-best five touchdowns and averaged 15.4 yards per catch from quarterback Cam Newton last season in grabbing 36 receptions for 556 yards.
Ginn replaces Andre Roberts who defected to the Washington Redskins.
Because he can take the top off a defense, Ginn will likely draw a safety his way helping open up Fitzgerald and Floyd.

The ninth overall pick in the 2007 draft by the Miami Dolphins is also a dynamic kick returner who averaged 23.8 yards on 25 kickoff returns for 595 yards adding 26 punt returns for 316 yards.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

ESPN's Mel Kiper projects Chris Borland in first round of 2014 NFL Draft

Updated: March 13, 2014, 11:16 AM EST

Mel Kiper: 2014 NFL Mock Draft 3.0

Free agency can affect draft decisions, but not as much as it used to. Under the old collective bargaining agreement, when you were bound to pay a first-round pick a lot more money than you do today, you'd see cases in which you knew a team had to make a decision between the prospects of a rookie and the possibility of what they could add in free agency. That's not the case as much anymore. First-round picks don't take up much cap space, so the finances don't come into play. And need? It's also not as big a deal as you'd think.

Unless you're truly in a win-now situation, you draft looking for core players who can help your team for years. You have a different timeline in place with many free agents. So with free agency in full swing, a couple things to keep in mind for mock 3.0:

• For this version, I'll address the free agency situation for each slot as much as the scouting report.

• In talking to teams, I can assure you all of them are still deep into evaluations and are not set on one guy at each slot.

That said, let's dive into 3.0...

Khalil Mack
Houston Texans (2-14)
COLLEGE: Buffalo
HT: 6-2
WT: 251

Analysis: The Texans are in some ways like Kansas City drafting at No. 1 last year in that they don't fit the profile of a team drafting so high. The personnel situation isn't terrible; the defense can keep them in games; they have a new head coach who has a good track record with quarterbacks and may not be content to wait on a rookie QB to develop when he could be winning. Mack is a fit in most systems, but he'd excel in this system as a pass-rusher and a player who can back up and make plays in space and to the edges. Houston hasn't been active in free agency, but Mack can fill a role and be a key contributor early for a team that can start winning again. And it's been almost a full year since a player from the MAC went No. 1, right?

Greg Robinson
St. Louis Rams (7-9)
Class: Soph
HT: 6-5
WT: 332

Analysis: Even with the strange change of direction on Rodger Saffold, given the concerns about Jake Long's ability to stay healthy, starter ability at tackle is still a major question, and the Rams can't afford to be thin up front in 2014. I think this is an obvious spot where a trade could happen, but if you have the chance to draft a potential star at tackle in the same year you need to find out if the QB you've paid a lot of money is worth it, you may not want to overthink it. Robinson can be a special player, and the Rams would improve up front with him around, starting in Week 1.

Jadeveon Clowney
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12)
COLLEGE: South Carolina
Class: Jr
HT: 6-5
WT: 266

Analysis: The Jags have done some work in free agency, with the addition of versatile defensive lineman Red Bryant among the notables. And while they need a quarterback, I don't think they'd pass on the most talented player in the draft if he's around at No. 3. The Jags decided to re-sign Chad Henne, and while I don't think they did so based on the idea he's an immovable object at starter, I do think they believe they can win football games with him starting if they improve everywhere else. And Clowney certainly improves a pass rush that we've been talking about as a draft priority for way too long.

Blake Bortles
Cleveland Browns (4-12)
Class: Jr
HT: 6-5
WT: 232

Analysis: The Browns have already released Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell. In other words, the writing is on the wall and the depth chart has a pretty big vacancy. So they'll keep Brian Hoyer as a possible starter and draft a QB at this spot knowing it's not such a bad place for a young QB to succeed, given their ability to pass-block up front and the fact that they have some dangerous weapons in the passing game in Josh Gordon andJordan Cameron. Yes, I can see either Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel here, but this is a bet on where the Browns end up after evaluating all of them closely.

Teddy Bridgewater
Oakland Raiders (4-12)
COLLEGE: Louisville
Class: Jr
HT: 6-2
WT: 214

Analysis: The Raiders are actively trying to improve the offensive line in free agency, theRodger Saffold soap opera not withstanding. Austin Howard is the one name in the fold so far. This is a possible trade-down slot given the many personnel needs this team still has, but it'd be hard to pass on the most NFL-ready QB in the draft, and a player who could help turn the franchise around. The current QB depth chart in Oakland simply doesn't promise much, so Bridgewater has the potential to play early and not just survive, but change the fortunes and direction of the franchise.

Jake Matthews
Atlanta Falcons (4-12)
Class: Sr
HT: 6-5
WT: 308

Analysis: The Falcons needed to improve along the line on both sides of the ball, and while they've taken a step to upgrade their run defense in free agency with the additions ofTyson Jackson and Paul Soliai, the offensive line still needs work, and Matthews can come in ready to player on either side. Draft, start and throw away the key. I know a pass-rusher could also come into play here, but Matthews seems like an easy call.

Sammy Watkins
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12)
COLLEGE: Clemson
Class: Jr
HT: 6-0
WT: 211

Analysis: The Bucs are going to be good on the defensive side of the ball. They've added a good defensive end in Michael Johnson and a good cornerback in Alterraun Verner, and they may not be done. But they also have uncertainty at QB even with the addition of Josh McCown. And whether it's McCown or second-year option Mike Glennon, another weapon in the passing game will help, and Watkins becomes a pretty good value at this point. His experience implies a player ready to succeed early; the offense will get a bump from his presence.

Johnny Manziel
Minnesota Vikings (5-10-1)
Class: Soph
HT: 5-11
WT: 207

Analysis: As I talk to teams, I get the sense there's a great deal of uncertainty around the quarterbacks in this draft. But there's a point where uncertainty turns into a reasonable bet, and Manziel at this point on the board is closer to the latter. There are some decent weapons in place in Minnesota for Manziel. There's a great deal of uncertainty on the defensive side of the ball here, but it doesn't outweigh the questions at QB. Manziel could be the solution and, drafted here, there's no question he'd come in with a chip on his shoulder.

Taylor Lewan
Buffalo Bills (6-10)
COLLEGE: Michigan
Class: Sr
HT: 6-7
WT: 309

Analysis: I like Cordy Glenn, but protection was still a problem for the Bills last year, so I have them placing a higher priority on keeping EJ Manuel upright and shifting their attention to the deep class of wide receivers in Round 2 or 3. I've said more than once that I think Lewan could have graded out as the top tackle last year if he chose to enter the draft, and while he has the prototypical length as a pass-blocker, he really gets after it as a run-blocker.

Mike Evans
Detroit Lions (7-9)
Class: Soph
HT: 6-4
WT: 231

Analysis: After the Lions signed Golden Tate, the obvious reaction is to think they go another direction here. I'll counter and say that the Lions didn't just need one wide receiver, they needed two, and I'd also say that while Tate is a nice addition, he doesn't do much to ease the worry of what this offense looks like when Calvin Johnson isn't healthy. The Lions shouldn't be done at this position, and I think Evans is too good to pass up here. Tate's presence doesn't mean this is no longer a need.

Anthony Barr
Tennessee Titans (7-9)
Class: Sr
HT: 6-4
WT: 255

Analysis: Barr has seen his stock slip some, but he put together a good pro day, and gives the Titans another pass-rusher aside from Derrick Morgan. In general, drafting the best possible player supersedes need unless the value lines up with need pretty well, but this is a spot where the needs are multiple and I can just see the team taking the best player. Barr can provide an early impact.

Eric Ebron
New York Giants (7-9)
COLLEGE: North Carolina
Class: Jr
HT: 6-4
WT: 250

Analysis: The Giants are essentially without a decent tight end with Brandon Myers now in Tampa Bay. Ebron fixes that situation pretty quickly, and gives Eli Manning the kind of target I'm not sure he's really ever had when you consider the size, speed and pass-catching combination Ebron offers. The Giants also need a linebacker here, but I don't see the value lining up with the pick slot anymore -- and they haven't traditionally hit that spot in Round 1, anyway. Ebron is a player I can see landing in the top 10, so the value is pretty good here.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
St. Louis Rams (7-9)
COLLEGE: Alabama
Class: Jr
HT: 6-1
WT: 208

Analysis: The Rams need another wide receiver, but if Evans isn't on the board here, they could also address another big need and grab Clinton-Dix to come in and start at free safety. Clinton-Dix has great range after playing center field in Nick Saban's Cover 1, and will come in ready to make an impact in coverage. Obviously, depending on the grade, St. Louis could also go with a player like Odell Beckham Jr. or Marqise Lee at this spot.

Aaron Donald
Chicago Bears (8-8)
COLLEGE: Pittsburgh
HT: 6-0
WT: 285

Analysis: The Bears have already added Lamarr Houston in free agency, but that's just a starting point on this defensive line, which is still thin and was absolutely gutted by injury last season. Donald equals disruption, and no player was more of a force against opposing offenses in college football last season. He's had a good combine and a good Senior Bowl and is now worthy of this draft slot.

Justin Gilbert
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)
COLLEGE: Oklahoma State
Class: Sr
HT: 6-0
WT: 202

Analysis: I could see Gilbert going to the Lions at No. 10, or even the Bears at No. 14, but somebody slides a few slots further than you'd expect every year, and the Steelers could use some youth at cornerback and would benefit from Gilbert's presence in 2014. No cornerback in college football was as effective or consistent as Gilbert in 2013, and he followed it up with a strong combine.

Timmy Jernigan
Dallas Cowboys (8-8)
COLLEGE: Florida State
Class: Jr
HT: 6-1
WT: 299

Analysis: DeMarcus Ware is gone, but even if he stayed the defensive line would have to be a draft priority. The D-line in Dallas needs a youth movement. If you just go on performance, Jernigan is a steal at this point in the draft and Dallas doesn't need to overthink it. But while Jernigan has good tape to fall back on, he could still be better and become a force for whoever drafts him. He's a good athlete given his size and will continue to improve his technique playing on the inside.

Brandin Cooks
Baltimore Ravens (8-8)
COLLEGE: Oregon State
Class: Jr
HT: 5-9
WT: 189

Analysis: The Ravens need to add another reliable target in the passing game beyondTorrey Smith, and while the diminutive Cooks doesn't fit the prototype of a "matchup problem" at wide receiver, he will be because he's so hard to cover. He's a more productive, quicker, stronger and slightly bigger Tavon Austin, and could have an early impact given all his experience. I think Baltimore could still make an addition in the passing game before the end of free agency, but this will remain a need.

Odell Beckham Jr.
New York Jets (8-8)
Class: Jr
HT: 5-11
WT: 198

Analysis: Free agency factors here, but the addition of Eric Decker is only helpful, not a solution at the wide receiver position on this roster. And again, you can't overthink free agency as it relates to the draft, because the question of ceiling isn't the same. Beckham has a higher ceiling than anybody in the free-agent market, and has the kind of experience that could make him a quicker conversion than many. A great physical talent, Beckham has improved as a pass-catcher and pushed himself into this range in the draft.

Zack Martin
Miami Dolphins (8-8)
COLLEGE: Notre Dame
HT: 6-4
WT: 308

Analysis: The Dolphins have added Branden Albert in free agency, but they could draft offensive linemen for another couple of rounds here and draw no objections from me. I like Martin in this slot given his versatility and play-right-away skill set. He can start on the right side, put in time on the left as needed, and could help at guard as needed. And again: The Dolphins need help up front.

Darqueze Dennard
Arizona Cardinals (10-6)
COLLEGE: Michigan State
Class: Sr
HT: 5-10
WT: 199

Analysis: Free agency certainly plays a role here because the Cardinals put out a fire at left tackle with the addition of Jared Veldheer. Carson Palmer sleeps a little better at night, and the draft picture for Round 1 opens up. I like the idea of taking Dennard here. You already have Patrick Peterson and hopefully a healthy Tyrann Mathieu, but in Dennard you get another player who can play right away, doesn't get lost in a variety of coverages and will play physical and attack the line of scrimmage when you need him to. He could be gone earlier given the need at the position, but I like the fit here if he's around.

C.J. Mosley
Green Bay Packers (8-7-1)
COLLEGE: Alabama
Class: Sr
HT: 6-2
WT: 234

Analysis: If the board breaks this way, I think the Packers are looking at the defensive side of the ball. And while I know depth on the defensive line is a concern, Mosley is a great value at this point and is a player who can step in right away at inside linebacker and improve the unit. His ability in coverage from the linebacker position surpasses that of anybody in this draft, and if he can stay healthy he's going to be an impact player early on.

Calvin Pryor
Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
COLLEGE: Louisville
Class: Jr
HT: 5-11
WT: 207

Analysis: The Eagles made a move in free agency and added Malcolm Jenkins from the Saints. In terms of starter-worthy talent at the position, I'll say that means one down and one to go. Pryor is the obvious solution here, a player who can hold his own in coverage but will come downhill against the run and be effective in the box. The Eagles are going to score points. They could use another option at wide receiver, but it's a deep draft there, and I think the focus will be on defense early.

Marqise Lee
Kansas City Chiefs (11-5)
Class: Jr
HT: 5-11
WT: 192

Analysis: The Chiefs are going to be a good defense again in 2014 if they stay healthy, but there's still uncertainty on the offensive side of the ball, and while you can question the ceiling of Alex Smith at this point in his career, the Chiefs feel they can win with him and also won't be finding a better solution at this stage in the draft. But they can find Smith some help, and that's Lee, who brings a lot of refinement as a route runner and the ability to turn a short catch into a big play. And if he goes this low, the chip on his shoulder could also help.

Ryan Shazier
Cincinnati Bengals (11-5)
COLLEGE: Ohio State
Class: Jr
HT: 6-1
WT: 237

Analysis: I've had Shazier as a likelier second-round pick at some points, but there aren't many players in the entire draft who teams are more certain of. This is a high-floor player, an instinctive playmaker who can chase down plays sideline to sideline and gets great reads and will attack the backfield. Shazier is a little undersized, but makes up for it with instincts and an impressive ability to work through blockers. The Bengals aren't awful at linebacker, but they certainly lack speed. Shazier is a fix.

Bradley Roby
San Diego Chargers (9-7)
COLLEGE: Ohio State
Class: Jr
HT: 5-11
WT: 194

Analysis: The Chargers have talent up front on the defensive side of the ball, but they were exploited in the secondary for most of 2013. They simply have to upgrade the talent level. Roby does that. He gets in trouble for his coverage tactics on occasion, but I'm not sure there's a more naturally gifted player at the position in the draft. He has speed, change of direction quickness, plenty of strength and a willingness to make hits. It's about consistency at this point for Roby, but I suspect his learning curve will be impressive.

Kelvin Benjamin
Cleveland Browns (4-12)
COLLEGE: Florida State
Class: Soph
HT: 6-5
WT: 240

Analysis: The Browns aren't sitting still in free agency, but they aren't going to find a pass-catcher with this high a ceiling. Benjamin could have used another year in college to refine his skills, but physically he's ready to cause problems as a perpetual matchup threat at the next level. Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron are in place, but the third amigo could do wonders.

Dee Ford
New Orleans Saints (11-5)
HT: 6-2
WT: 252

Analysis: The Saints have made a big bet at safety with the addition of Jairus Byrd, but while the back end of the defense is locked down, and the front is in decent shape with the growth of Cameron Jordan, John Jenkins and Akiem Hicks, the Saints could really use an edge rusher. Ford isn't a three-down player, but he can be a constant problem for offenses when he's on the field as a speed rusher. Given the QBs the Saints have to deal with, speed off the edge will be useful.

Cyrus Kouandjio
Carolina Panthers (12-4)
COLLEGE: Alabama
Class: Jr
HT: 6-6
WT: 322

Analysis: There were some concerns about his medicals at the combine, but Kouandjio is going to come in healthy and ready to contribute. And it's worth remembering that he won't turn 21 until after the draft. While Kouandjio has a high ceiling, he's not merely a physical talent who could develop -- this is a kid who was battering SEC defensive linemen at the age of 19. If the health is there, so is the ceiling. It's a good bet for the Panthers at this point.

Ra'Shede Hageman
New England Patriots (12-4)
COLLEGE: Minnesota
HT: 6-5
WT: 310

Analysis: New England obviously made a major move in free agency with the addition ofDarrelle Revis, and I think the future of the defensive line could be a good place to focus their efforts. Undrafted rookies Chris Jones and Joe Vellano put in far too many reps last year, and it's time the Patriots added some ceiling at the position. Hageman is inconsistent given his physical talent, but good coaching could be the trick.

Kyle Fuller
San Francisco 49ers (12-4)
COLLEGE: Virginia Tech
Class: Sr
HT: 5-11
WT: 190

Analysis: The 49ers aren't thin in too many spots, but cornerback certainly qualifies, and they could use someone coming in ready to contribute. Fuller has been good during the evaluation process and now seems like a reasonable option this high. With Eric Reid andAntoine Bethea on the back end, CB will be a priority in the draft.

Chris Borland

Denver Broncos (13-3)
COLLEGE: Wisconsin
HT: 5-11
WT: 248

Analysis: Free agency rears its head. I actually had the Broncos taking a pass-rusher here initially, but the addition of DeMarcus Ware -- and I hope he stays healthy -- makes change an option. If you look at only the physical profile, you wouldn't consider Borland a first-round pick, but the tape tells another story. Borland isn't just a clean-up tackler, he's an instinctive attacker of the backfield, and a relentlessly instinctive player who can get on the field right away and make plays. I know for a fact there are teams that have him with a Round 1 grade. We'll see.


Stephon Tuitt
Seattle Seahawks (13-3)
COLLEGE: Notre Dame
Class: Jr
HT: 6-5
WT: 304

Analysis: At one point I saw Tuitt as a certainty to go in Round 1. But while he's now on the edge, I think the Seahawks could develop him into something special. You see the physical profile, the versatility and the flash plays and you think he could be the next Richard Seymour. But it's not always there. That said, the Seahawks need to add depth along the defensive line after some departures. I also think the Seahawks could go with a wide receiver here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Phil Dawson will remain with 49ers

By Josh Alper

March 11, 2014

The franchise tag wasn’t a viable option for the 49ers to make sure kicker Phil Dawson remained with the team in 2014 because it would have paid him at the level of a franchised quarterback.

That didn’t eliminate the possibility of bringing him back, however, and Dawson tweeted a short time ago that he has re-signed with the team. Dawson wrote that he’s “excited and grateful” to return to the team on what Matt Maiocco of reports is a two-year deal.

Dawson is coming off a very strong season that saw him set a franchise record by making 27 straight field goals. He was 32-of-36 overall and all seven, including a game-winner in Green Bay, that he tried in the postseason. Dawson has the highest percentage of made field goals of any kicker in NFL history with at least 300 made field goals.

With Dawson joining Jay Feely, Adam Vinatieri and other veterans who have already re-signed with their teams. Steve Hauschka is the top remaining free agent set to hit the market, but a return to Seattle may be in the cards with few teams unsettled at the kicker position right now.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tom Tupa named one of the top free agent signings in Patriots' history

#20: Tom Tupa - Backup quarterback and punter, Tupa was a steady member of some successful teams under Bill Parcells and Pete Carroll.

Mike Vrabel named #1 free agent signing in Patriots' history

#1: Mike Vrabel - After steady yet unspectacular career in Pittsburgh, Vrabel developed into a versatile playmaker for years with the Patriots.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

NFL Combine Standout: Avery Williamson

March 4, 2014

By Turron Davenport

There is a player that sends scouts back to the film room every year after they see him stand out at the combine. The linebackers and defensive lineman worked out at the combine recently. Avery Williamson, an inside linebacker from Kentucky is one guy that made me have to go back and take another look at his games. Williamson was a participant in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl prior to showing up at the combine.

Williamson posted a 4.07 in the short shuttle which was best among all linebackers. He also ran an official 4.66 in the forty yard dash. His 25 reps on the bench showed that he is strong enough to handle the rugged territory associated with playing in the middle of a defense. He ran well in all of the field drills and truly looked like he was comfortable taking drops or rushing the passer.

The 49ers linebackers coach Jim Leavitt took a liking to Williamson and it showed before he started a drill where Leavitt was the coach working the drills. Leavitt actually shook Williamson’s hand and gave him a few tips for the drill that he was about to execute.

If you look at the statistics, you will see that Williamson has had over 300 tackles in his career. That includes back to back seasons of over 100 tackles. His time in the SEC will surely be a good preparation for the NFL. One of Williamson’s teammates at Kentucky in 2012 was Denver Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan. Seeing his teammate go to the NFL and be successful was the dangling carrot that served as motivation for Williamson. There are many similarities between the two but one thing stood out the most to Williamson about Trevathan. that one thing was the tremendous work ethic that Trevathan showed while at Kentucky.

Going into the draft season, there were some concerns about Williamson’s speed. His official time in the forty yard dash along with his short shuttle time should quiet those concerns. In fact, his short shuttle time was best among all linebackers. The projection for Williamson is at inside linebacker on a 3-4 defense. He will probably be a late round draft pick which means he will be called upon to be a special teams contributor. The last thing left for Williamson is to perform well at his pro day and private workouts for NFL teams.

Monday, March 03, 2014

LA Times projects Chris Borland in first round of 2014 NFL Draft

By Sam Farmer

March 2, 2014, 5:00 a.m.

The NFL might be a quarterback league, but that wasn't reflected in last year's draft. Only one quarterback was selected in the first round — EJ Manuel, picked 16th by Buffalo — and one each in the next two rounds.

This year should be a return to the familiar, as the draft is rich with quarterback prospects. This mock draft projects three quarterbacks will be taken in the first five picks May 8, and five in the entire first round. The wild card is Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, who could be the No. 1 overall pick of Houston, or conceivably could tumble all the way out of the first round.

1. HOUSTON: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina — Even with his dubious work ethic and disappointing bench-press performance at the combine, the 6-foot-5, 266-pound Clowney is too much of a physical freak to ignore. Imagine how he and J.J. Watt could cave in one side of an offensive line.

2. ST. LOUIS (from Washington): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn — Jeff Fisher has never drafted an offensive lineman in the first round, but now would be a good time to start. The Rams are hurting for help there, and Robinson had a terrific combine.

3. JACKSONVILLE: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville — Of all the quarterbacks in this deep draft, Bridgewater is the most ready to play immediately. He uses his feet to create throwing opportunities. Jaguars Coach Gus Bradley saw Russell Wilson do that effectively in Seattle.

4. CLEVELAND: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida — Yet again, Cleveland is looking for a quarterback. Bortles is raw, but he has a Ben Roethlisberger quality to him that allows him to shed would-be tacklers and extend plays the way Pittsburgh's quarterback does.

5. OAKLAND: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State — The Raiders are known for their unconventional picks, so Manziel might seem like a natural fit for them. Word is, though, that they liked Carr more coming out of the combine.

6. ATLANTA: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo — If the Falcons can't get Clowney to bump up their pass rush, Mack would be an excellent alternative. He showed his explosiveness at the combine, and his draft stock figures to continue to climb during the next two months.

7. TAMPA BAY: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA — The Buccaneers need to ramp up their pass rush, especially in a division that features quarterbacks Cam Newton, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan. Barr is still learning the position, yet he's already an elite talent. His ability to play multiple positions shows how he can adjust and fit into any scheme.

8. MINNESOTA: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M — The diminutive Manziel could be the 2014 version of Fran Tarkenton for a Vikings team that needs to achieve a better pass-run balance. Then again, the Vikings reached for Christian Ponder in 2011, and that might leave them gun-shy.

9. BUFFALO: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M — The Bills have some capable talent at receiver and running back, but they need to provide second-year quarterback Manuel with some more time to throw. Matthews has Hall of Fame bloodlines and would be a solid pick.

10. DETROIT: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson — Watkins could go as early as second overall, and while the thought of the Lions using another first-round pick on a receiver might make their fans cringe, Watkins has the makings of a game-breaker and would be great value.

11. TENNESSEE: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan — If the Titans can't get one of the elite pass rushers — Mack and Barr are gone in this mock — they'll be on the lookout for a right tackle. Lewan is an aggressive blocker who would pair well with guard Chance Warmack.

12. N.Y. GIANTS: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama — The Giants haven't taken a linebacker in the first round since selecting Carl Banks in 1984. But Mosley will get strong consideration as a potential replacement for middle linebacker Jon Beason.

13. ST. LOUIS: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M — The 6-5 Evans was a go-to guy for Manziel and would give the Rams a much-needed big target. If they don't grab Watkins with the second pick, the Rams might zero in on Evans.

14. CHICAGO: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville — Giving up big plays over the top was a problem for the Bears, in part because of poor safety play. The play-making Pryor is the best safety in this class, and doesn't shy from hitting.

15. PITTSBURGH: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State — The Steelers need to develop another starting corner, as the aging and expensive Ike Taylor won't be around forever. If Evans is still on the board, taking a receiver will be tempting.

16. DALLAS: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh — The Cowboys were tied for 25th with 34 sacks last season. They need to generate a pass rush, and Donald is capable of causing havoc in an opposing backfield.

17. BALTIMORE: Marqise Lee, WR, USC — The Ravens missed Anquan Boldin last season, and they could use another target to help take some pressure off Torrey Smith. Lee is a playmaker.

18. N.Y. JETS: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU — The Jets were a disaster at receiver last season, and Santonio Holmes looks to be on his way out. Beckham has stretch-the-field speed and is very good after the catch.

19. MIAMI: Xavier Su'a-Filo, G, UCLA — The Dolphins are desperately trying to put the Richie Incognito mess in the rear-view mirror. Su'a-Filo is not only an outstanding player but also is known for his character.

20. ARIZONA: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame — The Cardinals are perpetually in need of help on their offensive line, and Martin can play tackle or guard. If there are any top-shelf pass rushers left, Arizona will take a long look.

21. GREEN BAY: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina — With the Packers future of Jermichael Finley in question, Green Bay could look to grab the draft's best tight end.

22. PHILADELPHIA: Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama — Philadelphia's safeties were a disaster last season, and "Ha Ha" Clinton-Dix would be a welcome upgrade.

23. KANSAS CITY: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State — Cooks ran a 4.33 40 at the combine, second-best among the receivers, and could help stretch the field for the Chiefs' offense.

24. CINCINNATI: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State — Cornerback is the top draft priority for the Bengals, and if Gilbert were to slip this far, he would be a solid pick.

25. SAN DIEGO: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU — Even though the resurgent Chargers need to continue the rebuild of their offensive line, San Diego needs to shore up its 29th-ranked pass defense. This draft is deep with corners.

26. CLEVELAND (from Indianapolis): Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State — The Browns finished 27th in yards rushing per game, and they never got the consistency they wanted from Trent Richardson, ultimately trading him.

27. NEW ORLEANS: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois — Drew Brees is 35 and won't be around forever. Why not develop Garoppolo behind him? Remember, Saints Coach Sean Payton was a quarterback at Eastern Illinois too.

28. CAROLINA: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State — The 6-5, 240-pound Benjamin would be an interesting complement to Steve Smith and a big, sure-handed target for Newton.

29. NEW ENGLAND: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame — Regardless of what happens with Vince Wilfork, the Patriots need to bulk up their defensive front. Nix would fit their scheme well.

30. SAN FRANCISCO: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech — With the long-term futures of Tarell Brown and Carlos Rodgers in question, the 49ers are in need of at least one corner. Fuller is the younger brother of Lions receiver Corey Fuller.

31. DENVER: Chris Borland, ILB, Wisconsin — The Broncos have gotten old at middle linebacker, and Borland impressed a lot of people at the combine. He's on the smaller side at 5-11, 247, and this might be a bit early for him, but he's a solid player.

32. SEATTLE: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech — The Seahawks have a reliable pass-catching tight end in Zach Miller, but he has gotten too expensive. They could groom Amaro to replace him.

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