Combine appearances moving stock for elite players [Combine News]

Darren McFadden cooled worries about his on-the-field game by posting an impressive 40-yard dash.

His official time was recorded as 4.33. (His first run was timed “unofficially” at 4.27). With that show, McFadden proved he was one of the fastest players in Indianapolis. He showed his burst speed, but doubts could still be raised about his ability to run between the tackles. Then, there is always the issue of all his multiple children on the way and off-the-field baggage still to be considered. He still keeps the hype as the first back anyone will take in this year’s draft, but some who don’t desperately need his help might think twice.

The title of fastest running back at the Combine goes to Chris Johnson of East Carolina. Johnson ran a 4.24. Even if a cornerback comes close to those numbers tomorrow, that is one of the top times ever seen at the Combine. His role in an NFL franchise is probably as a returner like Devin Hester or a change up back like Jerious Norwood. He is competing among running backs in the same spot as Jamaal Charles of Texas in my opinion, and his faster time maskes him look more appealing for special teams. His stock definitely rose with that 40-yard time.

QB Joe Flacco was considered by some to be the best quarterback prospect at the Combine. He might end up being a steal in the second round with his powerful arm, but he hasn’t broken into consideration for the first round yet. Flacco didn’t run as fast as he promised in the 40-yard dash, but the hype around him has been rising ever since scouts got a good look at him in the Senior Bowl. He has a pretty nice highlight reel.

As far as strength goes, Vernon Gholston looked like a superhuman beast in the Combine workouts. His stats surpassed Chris Long, his fellow defensive linemen who currently holds the top spot among DL and the possibility of going first overall to Miami. Gholston ran a 4.64–that’s quite the momentum–and tied Jake Long with 37 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press.

Some predict Gholston’s stock rising from his stats and times today, but Chris Long still showed better technique and quickness in the skill drills. I expect Long to keep the top spot come draft day.

One player flying under the radar is Josh Johnson. Cecil Lammey and Sigmund Bloom, the hosts of The Audible podcast at Footballguys.com, really love this guy. Other sports writers are still skeptical that anyone will give him a chance to play quarterback. He posted the fastest 40-yard time for any QB at 4.55 and the highest vertical at 33.5. Even though he only played at San Diego, he reminds scouts of Vince Young. That guy hasn’t turned out so bad–overlooking some possible taint on this year due a defeat of the Madden curse.

For the complete results of all the Combine athletes thus far, check out FFToolbox’s Combine Results tables.

Losman to Dolphins? Samuel to the Saints? Foster to 49ers? More free agency moves [NFL Rumors]

Asante Samuel may find his $100 million, 10-year contract in New Orleans. Fox Sports says that the Saints are willing to pay the ticket up to $10-11 million dollars a year for Samuel’s talents. Samuel is direly needed in New Orleans because their secondary was the wrong kind of holy last year. If they fork over the money, they could see significant improvement on defense next year–maybe avoid those shootouts with Kurt Warner.

The Cleveland Browns are a less likely candidate for Samuel’s services, but they are interested. It seems they want every free agent they can get this offseason. They definitely have the same shootout problem as the Saints though, so Samuel could help in Cleveland just as much as he could for the Saints. Time will tell who pays the highest price because we all know Asante is all about the Benjamins this offseason.

I know I said DeShaun Foster would be going to Tampa Bay to back up Earnest Graham, but now John Clayton is reporting he may be headed to the 49ers insteads to back up Frank Gore. Not sure which of these will come true. Either way, Foster’s fantasy value is likely to be very low next year.

The best advice I could give the 49ers is to pick up a decent wide receiver this offseason with Mike Martz coming into rework the offense. They currently don’t have any big threats in the receiving department. According to recent reports, Bernard Berrian is “interested” in the 49ers if an offer comes his way. He will be highly sought after this offseason and might get his pick between the Browns and the 49ers if both are serious about making an offer since the Browns have previously stated their interested. While Berrian’s value would increase if he moved to the Browns, it would skyrocket if he moved to the 49ers since he would definitely be taking a #1 receiver position with Martz directing the passing plays.

Rumors are rampant about Jerry Jones’ moves for the Cowboys this offseason. First, everyone said he would go after the Miami #1 pick to get Darren McFadden. Now, NFL talk is that Jones is after bringing Randy Moss or Javon Walker to the Cowboys. He has stated that he wants a big offensive addition this offseason. Both of these guys would be an impact–Moss more than Walker–but Moss is very unlikely to leave his beloved Tom Brady.

Expect more rumors about Walker move to circulate, but I expect Randy Moss and the Patriots to announce a restructured contract on February 29. If Walker jumps to the Cowboys, his fantasy value would depend upon how they utilize him versus Terrell Owens, but it would be about the same as if he stayed in Denver opposite Brandon Marshall. He wouldn’t be an elite wide receiver either way.

J.P. Losman might find a second chance as a starter for either Miami or Kansas City next year. Both have inquired about his services. I think he still has some juice left in the tank once he heals up and recovers from being prematurely replaced by Trent Edwards. He could immediately impact Miami as long as he can beat out John Beck if that is his destination of choice, but he would have to battle for the starting job in Kansas City–probably not to his liking. His value would be higher as a mid-tier quarterback if he ends up in Miami along with some free agent wide receivers that Bill Parcells lands this offseason.

For the Baltimore Ravens, if they don’t take a quarterback in th draft, their hope will be in Troy Smith to lead the Ravens to victory. They liked what they saw from him the last two games of 2007 and will look for him to prove himself in 2008.

Fantasy Football Fools Mock NFL Draft 2008 – Part 1 of 4 (First Take)

Here is my take on what players teams will take in the 2008 NFL draft. I’m basing this on team needs and selecting the best player available. Look for an updated list after the combines.

Jacob provides the fantasy impact on each of these picks (in italics) after each choice.

1. Miami Dolphins — Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU

Let’s face it, the Dolphins are bad. They could use pretty much a guy at any position. They do have a young quarterback in John Beck who I think will be pretty good, and of course, they have Ronnie Brown. QB and RB aren’t high priorities.

Dorsey is a beast and can disrupt an entire offensive line. I think it is a crapshoot between him and DE Chris Long as the most talented players in the draft. Miami could trade out of this pick because of their many needs, but if they stay, look for Dorsey’s name to be called.

Jacob’s Fantasy Take: As Miami tries to get rid of this pick on the market, we all know they still want Dorsey first. His defensive presence will make it hard for RBs to make their line look like Swiss cheese like they did in 2007. Miami allowed 150+ yards to opposing RBs in 2007–worst in the NFL in case you didn’t know. With this pick and a few other defensive improvements, look for Miami’s defense to start a progression towards being good again but still not be worth taking a chance on in the 2008 fantasy draft.

2. St. Louis Rams — Chris Long, DE, Virginia

I’m a little biased on Chris Long as he was a member of my college fantasy team and was the main reason I didn’t lose every game. This guy is just an athletic freak. He will find a way to get by the linemen and to the ball.

The Rams had a crazy season last year in which their best players didn’t play so hot. I think with some changes and a kick in the butt, they could look to contend next year. They could go O-line with this pick, but I look for them to take Long. Orlando Pace will be back, so they could do without a first-round lineman. I fully expect Long to start next year and have a better career than his dad Howie.

Jacob’s Fantasy Take: The Rams defense caused many fantasy owners to jump up and down with glee during their horrible stretch of the season. They finished 2007 allowing 115+ yards per game–not horrible but below average–and also let teams pass all over them.

Long will add a star athletic presence on defense that will take away opposing QBs time to throw and force RBs to run the other way. If St. Louis can get their star players back to their original form, Long could help make more opposing teams go 3-and-out and give the ball back to The Greatest Show on Turf. Don’t expect to draft the Rams defense next year, but they might be a good bye week filler later in the season when Long adjusts to the NFL speed.

NOTE: The next 3 teams will have their order determined by coin flip, so this will probably be changed.

3. Atlanta Falcons — Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College

The Falcons need a quarterback in the worst kind of way. Joey Harrington has been given at least 17 chances in this league to play QB and has sucked in 18 of them. He is just bad.

Enter Matt Ryan. I believe this guy is the most NFL-ready QB out of this class. Watching him this season, he showed great poise and rarely helped his team lose. I believe he is worthy of building a franchise around, which is what the Falcons will be doing. They need a new image, and Matt Ryan could help immensely.

Jacob’s Fantasy Take: Poor Harrington and poor Leftwich. Harrington never had a chance, and Leftwich seemed slower than he did at Jacksonville.

I am not sure that the Falcons take a QB here. Chris Redman, showed some poise and a nice arm. He might have argued his way into a nice backup role somewhere if not Atlanta and possibly a starting gig if Atlanta was daring enough to put off a QB in this draft and take a top WR to compliment Roddy White or a top RB like McFadden. McFadden might fit well in a committee with Jerious Norwood, and Atlanta could finally put Warrick Dunn out to pasture. Matt Ryan is not playing in the Senior Bowl under the advice of his agent who gave the same advice to Brady Quinn, so there is potential that he could fall in the draft.

If they do take Matt Ryan, he will definitely bring some stability to the offense. I see him starting right away and having a shaky but good rookie year. Look for Roddy White’s numbers to improve and possibly some better RB numbers from Atlanta if they finally had a decent, consistent arm under center. Ryan might be worth a look as a second QB for your fantasy team.

4. Oakland Raiders — Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas

This could be an interesting pick. The Raiders could really, really use someone like OT Jake Long, and that would be a great pick right here. This pick would be the classic “take the best player available” pick.

Everyone knows McFadden, but here is the real question: Who are the running backs for the Raiders? Answer: LaMont Jordan and Justin Fargas. Doesn’t exactly strike fear into hearts like the dreaded Tecmo Bowl pair of Bo Jackson and Marcus Allen. Jordan and Fargas combined for 7 rushing touchdowns last year. I believe McFadden could come in and score more than that in his rookie year. The Raiders will select him if he is here at this point, and they couldn’t be happier.

Jacob’s Fantasy Take: Seriously, how many RBs does Oakland like to sit on? This year, they took Dominic Rhodes just to sit him on the bench until both Fargas and Jordan were injured or completely ineffective, but don’t forget that they also have star prospect Michael Bush who broke his leg early in 2007. The sad fact is that they will probably take McFadden, let Fargas go in free agency and address what to do with McFadden/Bush/Jordan/Rhodes after the fact.

If Jordan, Rhodes or Fargas stay, they will probably just be benched reserves. There is potential for a Bush/McFadden tandem that could kill opposing defenses, especially once McFadden gets his legs under him the NFL.

Oakland isn’t really improving it’s greatest weakness with this pick–improving the defense or snatching an additional deep threat for Russell wouldn’t be a bad call–but look for McFadden to make a huge rookie impact on whatever team takes him. He could definitely take the strain off Jamarcus Russell in his first year under center and give Oakland a very explosive offense next season in the run department. Someone in every fantasy league will take McFadden expecting him to be huge in 2008, and I wouldn’t call that a bad decision unless a committee forms around him. He is very likely to be the Adrian Peterson (MIN) of 2008 especially with the strong running offensive line of Oakland.

Just fair warning: If McFadden DOESN’T go to Oakland, don’t forget about the potential of Michael Bush in 2008!

5. Kansas City Chiefs — Jake Long, OL, Michigan

Kansas City needs linemen. Well, almost every team needs linemen, but Kansas City needs linemen. Jake Long is going to be the prototypical great NFL linemen. With the young quarterback situation in KC, Long will give Croyle the extra time he needs to read the D and find the WR. This is a no brainer pick.

Jacob’s Fantasy Take: Brodie Croyle loves this pick. He wants to be able to throw the ball, and Long will make that possible. Larry Johnson would appreciate some open running room as well. Look for both Croyle and Johnson to have better seasons next year if Long comes to KC.

6. New York Jets — Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC

The Jets could go after a DE such as Vernon Gholston, but Sedrick Ellis is a more consistent player than Gholston. He is a big body up front and is very disruptive. He is a poor mans Dorsey, and he will get the job done for the Jets.

Jacob’s Fantasy Take: The Jets need a better defense than they had this year. With a rookie QB and Thomas Jones at RB, they don’t put a lot of points on the board. They would love someone like McFadden here, but they’ll take Ellis and look to snag a RB to develop later in the draft.

With a better defense, the Jets could improve their offensive problems with either with Clemens or Pennington at QB and return to being a contender like they were in 2006. More time on the field means more carries for Jones and maybe more scores for this offense.

7. New England Patriots — Mike Jenkins, CB, South Florida

Is this really fair? The best team of the year drafting 7th. Well, that’s the Patriots voodoo working. CB Asante Samuel will be more than likely leaving the team after the season, as he was franchised last year, so NE will need a corner to replace him. Mike Jenkins is a great corner and can play all over the field.

Jacob’s Fantasy Take: Expect more of the same from the Belichick’s crew. If Asante leaves, it would hurt them to not replace him with a quick CB who can fill those shoes. Jenkins can take on that roll. While the Patriots may have a weaker secondary next season until he gets a feel for the NFL game, the crafty, veteran linemen and linebackers can make up for any weaknesses in the secondary, and we all know the Patriots can overcome teams in a scoring contest. The Patriots defense is almost always worth taking as a mid-level defense unless you don’t like them playing nice in the fourth quarter and letting opposing teams score back some dignity.

8. Baltimore Ravens — Andre Woodson, QB, Kentucky

The Ravens need a young QB, and I think Woodson should be that guy. He played consistently well in the toughest conference in football and has the size and power to be an NFL QB. I’m not entirely sold on Brohm right here, as I think Woodson better fits the Raven’s mold. I wouldn’t be surprised if Brohm went here, but if I’m the Ravens, I’m taking Woodson.

Jacob’s Fantasy Take: I wonder what Ray Lewis would say about this pick. Whether it’s Woodson or Brohm here, it’s definitely a QB. New head coach John Harbaugh will want to start the season off building up that offense and rejuvenating it with some new blood.

Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason didn’t live up to their positions consistently in 2007, but they could in 2008 with a better QB and consistent timing. Kyle Boller and Troy Smith both showed potential, but they need to show a lot more in camp to land a starting role.

2008 will be a rebuilding year for the Baltimore offense, but with such a great defense keeping games close, an improved quarterback could give them a decent offense that can put some points on your board. Whatever QB starts in Baltimore might be worth a look as a backup QB for fantasy or a bye-week fill.

Check out the next 8 picks in the Part 2 later this week.

UPDATE: Follow these links to Parts 2, 3 and 4 of our mock draft: Part 2Part 3Part 4

And the Heisman goes to…

This year’s Heisman chase is coming down to what looks like a two-man race. Most pundits have either Tim Tebow of Florida or Darren McFadden of Arkansas as the eventual winner. In their eyes, these are the only two players worthy of such an award. Making use of a trite and overused saying, especially if you have played NCAA ’02 through ’08, “Not so fast my friend.”

I’m not saying that Tebow or McFadden shouldn’t win the award; I’m merely stating that other candidates should be looked at as well. Here is a list of some of the candidates that are or should be up for the award.

THE SHOE-INS

Tim Tebow: The Cannonball

If there is one thing that you can’t ignore about Tim Tebow, it’s the numbers: 29 passing touchdowns, 22 rushing touchdowns. That will grab anyone’s attention, especially the voters. There is just one number I can’t ignore: 3, as in 3 losses. I know this has been a crazy year and all, but it’s hard for me to say that someone is a Heisman winner when his team is 9-3.

Let’s look at those losses:

  • Auburn: 1 rushing TD, 1 passing TD, 1 INT
  • LSU: 2 passing TDs, 1 rushing TD, 1 INT
  • Georgia: 1 passing TD, 2 rushing TDs (-15 yard rushing)

Tebow did not play exceptionally well in any of those games. I know they were tough games, but that is when the Heisman winner is supposed to shine.

Lets take a look at the rushing touchdowns. I know he is being praised for having 22 rushing touchdowns, but let’s look at the numbers. Eighty percent (16/20) of these rushing TDs were distances of 5 yards or less. If Florida used a fullback, he would be getting most of these carries. Only two of his touchdowns were plays of 15 yards. When I see Tebow, I think of a cannonball that was just shot out of the 1st and 2 from the goal cannon.

Heisman-Tim Tebow
Ready…Aim…Touchdown!

I’m not trying to take away from the fact that he put up amazing TD numbers because he did. I just think that the voters need to recognize that they all weren’t amazingly difficult touchdowns. All in all, Tebow will either be first or second in the voting, and deservedly so, but other candidates should not be brushed aside because of it.

Darren McFadden: The Quarterback?

Next, there is Darren McFadden. The Pro. The Prospect. The Future. These are all things I hear about McFadden. He is being touted as the most NFL-ready running back this year and rightfully so. I believe he can be as productive as Adrian Peterson at the next level.

All that behind us, the Heisman should go to the best college player of the year. McFadden had an outstanding year, but lead his team to an 8-4 record. Usually, the quarterback is the leader of the team, but hell, McFadden played quarterback half of the time, so he should shoulder some of the blame.

During Arkansas’ four losses, McFadden scored 3 times. Two of the losses he was held scoreless. For someone to be considered the best, I believe he should perform on the biggest stage and perform well. Not scoring when it is absolutely crucial is a big no no. I do give props to McFadden for playing some quarterback during the LSU victory. I also give props to McFadden for living in Arkansas for three years–that is worthy of a Heisman in its self. While McFadden was an outstanding back and will be an excellent pro, I do not believe that he was the best college back this year. We’ll talk about that back later.

Heisman-Darren McFadden
Arkansas, home of Heisman hopefuls…and pigs, that’s about it

THE REST OF THE PACK

Now these guys in the rest of the pack won’t be scrutinized as hard seeing as they are not being actively considered as the front runners in the race. These are players that I feel should get some recognition for having good years.

Graham Harrell, Paul Smith, Colt Brennan: The Three Headed Scoring Machine

What do most fans of college football want to see? The answer isn’t a foot race between Mark Mangino and his chins; the answer is touchdowns. Where else are you going to find touchdown than the high-octane offenses featuring Graham Harrell, Colt Brennan and Paul Smith. Let’s take a look at the stats of these guys.

  • Graham Harrell [QB Texas Tech]:
    45 TD (Rank:1), 5,298 yds (Rank:1)
  • Paul Smith [QB Tulsa]:
    42 TD (Rank:2), 4,753 yds (Rank:2), 12 Rushing TDs
  • Colt Brennan [QB Hawaii]:
    38 TD (Rank:3), 4,174 yds (Rank:4)

Heisman-Graham Harrell, Colt Brennan, Paul Smith
And to the right, you will see ZERO Heisman votes

I know you can’t go off of numbers alone, but these numbers are incredible. All of these quarterbacks have also put up similar or better records to the two main contenders. Because of these high-flying offenses, these players are labeled as system quarterback and always will be labeled that way. It’s an easy way for the Heisman voters to dismiss their successful seasons without feeling bad about it. Maybe one of these quarterbacks will just have to go undefeated…Oh wait, sorry Colt.

Chase Daniel: The Mighty Midget

Oh Chase Daniel, how mighty you were two weeks ago. Two weeks ago, you were in the drivers seat for the Heisman, and all you needed was a victory over Oklahoma. How soon everyone forgets about that.

Chase Daniel had a magnificent season throwing for 33 TDs and leading his team to the Big XII championship game, something neither Tebow nor McFadden did. Too bad he had to run into OU and Sam Bradford, who will be in the Heisman discussion soon enough. While Daniel didn’t put up in-your-face numbers, he still led his team to victory week after week while being the best quarterback on the best team (for one week). Daniel did all of this while barely being able to see over the offensive line and standing in at 5 foot 3 inches.

Heisman-Chase Daniels
I can see your ass from here

While he will no doubt get an invite because of the late season hype, he will not come close to sniffing the jocks of the big two. I say to Chase, “maybe next year.” But then again, Tebow may win his second Heisman, so good luck with that.

Kevin Smith: Barry Who?

Now let’s take a look at my choice for the 2007 Heisman award.

  • Most rushing yards in the NCAA, check.
  • Leads nation in scoring and touchdowns scored, check.
  • Led team to 10 wins and conference championship, check.

What else do you want from a Heisman winner? What most people don’t realize is that Kevin Smith has rushed for 2,448 yards. What most people also don’t realize is that 2, 448 yards is the SECOND most all time for yards in a season, behind the elusive one-year-wonder Barry Sanders. In fact, Kevin Smith is 181 yards away from breaking Sander’s single season mark. One big bowl game for Kevin Smith, and he breaks it.

He will not be invited to the ceremony, and that is a shame. The best college football player this year has to wait until next year, but I doubt he will stick around to get snubbed again.

Heisman-Kevin Smith
Hey Barry, if you sell your Heisman like OJ, let me know.