On Wednesday, April 20, 2011 at 1pm ET, TXN Sports and Big Lead Sports organized a conference call with NFL Analysts, Chris Collinsworth, Howie Long and Boomer Esiason. A select group of reporters were invited to join, myself included, to discuss the upcoming NFL Draft that will take place at Radio City Music Hall in New York City from April 28-30 2011.
The call was also organized to promote TXN, a newly formed website (txnsports.com) that will launch this coming Tuesday. TXN, “The Experts Network” will introduce a new way to interact with analysts such as the panel above and the launch of their site is highly anticipated. It was a round robin type of discussion with no shortage of Q & A from the media and experts alike. Click below for transcription of the key topics that we discussed.
- On Cam Newton:
“I’ve known Cam since he was a seventh grader. Cam lights up the room. Whoever is lucky enough to draft him will certainly draft a guy that is going to excite their fan base. I know that it’s a risky move simply because some of the past players that you could probably compare him to but the kid really lights up the room. As long as he’s in a place where defense is going to come first I think that he is going to be a very successful QB in this league and I think that he would be a great pick for the Carolina Panthers.”
“(Howie jokes) I’ve known Cam since the 2nd grade, (panel laughs). Speaking from the defensive perspective, he possesses so many different tangible things that present problems and the things that he doesn’t have as a young QB, I think you can teach. You can’t teach the things that he has. A QB of that size, his athleticism, his ability to extend plays, his toughness, his ability to play within a FIRESTORM, which he did that all year. Which by the way is a very good movie and that’s all I’ll say right now about it. (panel laughs)
He is something that I would be worried about dealing with. When you have a QB like that, he impacts your coverage. He impacts your running game. Your offensive line protection is better. He impacts the way you rush the QB. A lot of time you have to take a guy out of coverage and designate him as a spy defender. Can he survive the early bumps? I think he can. I think he is a talented kid. He’s been through a lot. Hopefully he learned a few things along the way. But I think when you go in that division with a franchise that’s struggling to put people in the seats and generate a buzz, you’re talking about an immediate buzz and if you coach him up, and as Boomer said, play some defense and get that running game back on track I think he can be a special guy to pick.”
“I haven’t met Cam yet and he probably won’t like me much when he does meets me. But I just have a ton of questions. We’re talking about the #1 overall pick in the draft. At best he’ll be a Ben Roethlisberger kind of player that will scramble to buy time to throw. I certainly think that’s a strong possibility. I am sure that’s what Carolina is hoping for when they get him. I don’t think that there will be any question that maybe only Michael Vick will be better in the open field, as far as a running QB. But he does have off the field issues in both Florida and Auburn. He’s not a very old kid.
Accuracy issues showed up a little bit when you watched the tape and you saw him at the Combine there. He never called plays or made adjustments at the line of scrimmage, that I know about, at Auburn. So there are a lot of things that you’ve got to take into consideration.
The thing that you worry about with these guys, and one of the reasons I think Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Mallet may actually be a better prospect than Cam Newton is when you watch the tape is that you can see that they’re running the offense. With Cam Newton they’re yelling out a number from the sideline. Everybody is looking at the card on their wristband or whatever and they go run the play. Ryan Mallett, for all the negative things that have been said about him, he’s up there under center making line calls. He’s doing things that you have to do in the NFL.
You can not come out in base formations in the NFL and just run the play. The offense really gets called from the time that you get to the line of scrimmage and I’m talking probably more so about the running game than it does even in the passing game. You have to look at whose learning curve is going to develop first. In my personal opinion its is probably going to be Blaine Gabbert. If I had to take a QB in the top 10 I think it would be him. But honestly, looking at the guys I wouldn’t take any of them in the top ten. That’s just my personal opinion.
But Howie is right. This is a guy, when you sit there and you look at him and you look at the number of football games that he’s won, it’s going to be hard for them not to take the chance on Cam Newton.”
- On Free Agency:
“It will be interesting to see what happens. This Draft is so unique because if it happens at all this year, it happens after the Draft. Where typically you could have waded in those waters a little bit to see what may have happened on the Free Agent market as far as trades, as far as could you pick up a guy and now you’re going into it blindly, which I think forces the hands of a lot of these teams. It will be really interesting to see. You can go right down the list, Carolina, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Arizona – are they really going to be willing to pass on a QB in the hopes that they can get one of these veteran guys? You’re taking a chance with that.”
- On Rookie Divas AKA “Rich Bums”:
“Boomer and I have seen it all. We’ve seen guys that cash their paycheck and stick it in their pocket. I remember guys like Tim Krumrie. You could have paid him nothing and he was going to play the game. You’ve got to find those guys. They’re the cornerstone. I refer to them as rich bums. If you have enough rich bums in your locker room, in other words, guys that got their money, they have a car, they’ve got a good looking girlfriend, they’ve got a lot of jewelry on and happy as they can be and they’re the ones that you drafted in the 1st round – you’ve got major issues! If you’ve got guys like Reggie White, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Howie Long and guys that are the hardest workers that are also the highest paid guys, you’ve got no problems. To me, when you’re drafting in the 1st round, if that guy is going to become a rich bum, you’ve got problems and it’s going to permeate throughout the whole team. It’s not good.”
“If a guy pulls up to a pre-draft visit in an S600 Mercedes with 21″ rims and he’s got a $300,000 watch on, you’ve got problems.”
- On the tentative Rookie Salary Cap:
“I think whatever agreement they finally do come to, it’s going to include a significant abbreviation of the rookie salary cap, which I think would make it all the more logical for a team to reach up to get a QB. If you’re reaching up from (Draft rounds) 5 or 6 up to 1 and you’re making a deal to try and get something with either Carolina or Denver you’re on the hook for…how much? How much did Sam Bradford…”
“It would be like fifty million guaranteed!”
“That number is going to be cut pretty short. So there’s going to be less risk. There’s still going to be risk but there’s going to be less risk. In my mind with young QB’s and the frame of reference that you have are the QB’s that have been successful, they have been young. You go back to (Phillip) Rivers, Roethlisberger and Eli (Manning). They all went to good football teams. Matt Ryan went, what quickly turned into, a good football team. Joe Flacco went to a good football team. The two exceptions, recently, are (Josh) Freeman who went to a young, talented Tampa Bay team and Sam Bradford who went to a bad football team. There aren’t any Sam Bradfords out there right now. I can guarantee you that. He’s an exceptional player.”
“I would say as far as the rookie salary cap is going, and Chris has seen me exercise my right of free speech, and that is if I played I would be against it. I would want the rookies to be receiving the money they’re getting even though it may turn my stomach to some extent. But those rookie salaries are what has been driving the rest of the salaries through the roof, especially for guys like Tom Brady, Drew Brees and of course, Peyton Manning.
Now that I’m on the outside looking in, and I understand the reality of what these 1st round picks are getting and how these picks are no longer attractive to a lot of these teams because they don’t want to have to invest in players that turn out to be like JaMarcus Russell. I do believe that there is going to be a rookie salary cap of some sort. If I’m in that room for the NFLPA I’m basically saying, “Listen, you want a rookie salary cap? That’s fine. Take away the transition tags. Take away the franchise tags and let me be free after 4 years as opposed to 5 or 6 years.”
“You talk about that rookie salary cap and it driving the numbers of the veterans’ contracts, hopefully whatever agreement is put in place and they abbreviate that rookie salary cap and the salary cap overall goes up, there’s also a mechanism that forces teams to actually spend the money in their salary cap. To me, that is the key.”
“No transition tags. No franchise tags.”
“Wouldn’t that be nice.”
As you can see, there was quite a discussion going on about the QB’s of the draft. However, the 2011 NFL Draft is not exactly heavy on the QB talent side. There are a handful of great quarterbacks but my research has proven that the bulk of the talent is elsewhere. I posed the following two part question to three of the finest minds in the broadcast booth:
“Hi guys. Thanks for having this conversation today. The wealth of the draft seems to be in the Defensive Tackle area. Who do you think is the best pick of the draft out of the defensive linesman and who do you think is the most underrated?
“You’re right. We do what we have always done with these drafts and that is talk about QB’s and RB’s and all this different kind of stuff. But you’re right. The wealth is on the defensive side. It wouldn’t surprise me if 75% of the first round goes towards the defense. The defensive line is where all the stars players are. I, personally feel, like Von Miller is the most talented guy in this draft. He is a phenomenal athlete. He’s the pass rusher to offset some of the greatness on the other side.
Marcell Dareus is probably going to be the guy that’s going to go the highest because he is so versatile. You can see in him a 3 technique, a 5 technique, pass rushing in, he can even play nose tackle for you. He doesn’t have quite the killer instinct, I don’t think, that Nick Fairley does.
Nick Fairley maybe makes you a little nervous off the field. As far as a guy with an explosive first step and getting after the QB and when he gets to the QB it is not a pleasant thing. He may call a whole bunch of flags this season driving QB’s into the ground. But he’s one of those edgy Warren Sapp/Howie Long kind of guys that I think you love to have on your football team.
But there are so many guys up and down the list. Cameron Jordan – I love watching him play. I think he can play a lot of different positions. This kid, Marvin Austin who didn’t play for NC is a guy that is going to be a major factor as well as Robert Quinn. So, when you’re talking about this draft, if you know who the QB’s, receivers and RBs are you’re going to be a little bored watching the first round because it’s going to be pretty heavily on the defensive side.”
“The guy I like the most up front and Chris had mentioned Marvin Austin. Marvin Austin missed the entire season because of NCAA violations. But you go back to the year prior to that, he sat down 2 games for internal reasons. There are issues there. Marvin Austin came out of DC up here by me in VA. He’s an extraordinary talent, has great leverage. He’s a classic 3 technique, can be a dominant player. Again, is he going to be one of those guys that gets content real quick? If Marvin Austin puts his mind to it, Marvin Austin could be the best defensive tackle in the group.
Nick Fairley is, if you’re looking for a Ndamukong Suh – and there are no Ndamukong Suh’s in this draft, maybe there’s one in middle school somewhere, but if I had to pick between Marcell Dareus and Nick Fairley – who do I trust? Who do I know you’re going punch in the mouth on Wednesday and he’s going to show up for work on Thursday? Who am I going to call at 1am in a snowstorm with a flat tire? I’m calling Marcell Dareus.”
“And for me, I have to concur with Chris. Watching the Combine tapes, then watching this young man play in college, Von Miller jumps off the screen. He is a difference maker. He combines speed, strength and the power and what we talked about earlier, the “want to.” He’s the kid that you don’t have to worry about showing up in the S600 Mercedes. He’s a kid who wants to truly be the best. If you watch his Combine tapes, he just completely jumps out at you with his quickness and his strength. To me, Von Miller is the best defensive player in this draft.
The other aspect in this draft that I do like is this kid (Patrick) Peterson out of LSU, the defensive back. It’s heavy in defensive lineman much like my draft was in 1984. But there are some really outstanding defensive backs that are going to go late in either the 1st round or early in the 2nd round. Certainly with Von Miller, I think that as an outside pass rusher, he’s a can’t miss guy.”
“Yeah, he can play weak side backer in a four man front or outside backer in a 3-4. The only question you have with Von Miller is his size. He is about 245 lbs. Does he get engulfed by the 6′ 7″, 330 lb. OT?”
“Like Clay Matthews.”
“Well, Clay is a little but bigger than that. To me, I think Clay is kind of built a lot like his old man – built for impact, built for collision, built for the long haul. Another guy from NC named Robert Quinn is 265 lbs, 6′ 4″, runs a 4.6, has great ability to turn the corner – dip and turn the corner. I think some team is going to get a real steal there.”
- On the top Receivers in the draft:
“I haven’t talked to anyone yet who likes Julio Jones better than AJ Green. For me it’s a dead heat. AJ Green is phenomenal – quick, lanky, catches the ball in traffic, great run after the catch, everything you could possibly want. He’s really just one of those wiry, quick receivers that you love to watch play. At the next level I worry a little about his open end speed. Can he get behind people at 4.5, or whatever he’s going to run and if you can’t do that, these pro corners they smell blood and they start sitting on some of those underneath routes. I still think he’s a can’t miss guy and he’s going to be an exceptional player. There was some conversation about him being the top overall pick. Julio Jones is a tough guy. He’s not quite as consistent at catching the football but he ran that 4.3 and now he’s got a broken foot. He’s strong as a horse. I think that he’s a little better player than people give him credit for.”
“I don’t like either one of them and I hope both of them drop to the Rams (panel laughs).”
It was an intuitive conversation and there were some well though out questions by my fellow reporters. This should provide some insight, or complete confusion, about the upcoming Draft. A special thank you to Chris Collinsworth, Howie Long and Boomer Esiason for joining the conversation. A special thank you to LeslieAnne Wade and TXN/Big Lead Sports for organizing the call and extending the invitation. Keep an eye out for the opening of www.txnsports.com on 4/26/11. It should be a SITE to see.
Topics: 2011 Nfl Draft, Big Lead Sports, Blaine Gabbert, Boomer Esiason, Cam Newton, Chris Collinsworth, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Free Agency, Giants, New York Giants, Popular, Featured, Justin Tuck, Howie Long, Lockout, Michael Vick, National Football League, New York, NFL, NFLPA, Peyton Manning, Radio City Music Hall, Ryan Mallet, Sean Kerr, The Experts Network, Tom Brady, TXN Sports, Von MIller