Shutdown Corner

  • (Getty Images)

    With the 2012 NFL season in the books, and the scouting combine in the rear-view, it's time to take a closer look at the 50 players we think will be the biggest difference-makers at the next level from this draft class. To that end, we're happy to continue this year's Shutdown 50 scouting reports (Hint: There may actually be more than 50). You can read last year's group here. The final 50 players were chosen and ranked based on game tape, combine and Pro Day results, overall positional value, and attributes and liabilities on and off the field.

    38: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU

    We continue this year's series with LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery, who made some waves when he was asked at the scouting combine about the consistency of his effort.

    "You know, some weeks when we didn't have to play the harder teams, there were some times when effort was not needed," he said. "But when we had the big boys coming in, the Bamas or the South Carolinas, I grabbed close to those guys and went all out. Of course, this is a new league, the NFL and there are no small teams, small divisions, it is all Alabamas and LSUs every week. It's definitely something I have to get adjusted to, but I'm sure with the right coaching I will be fine."

    Ouch. Montgomery may need some PR coaching, but when it comes to the game tape, he's showed a relatively consistent level of play, and he will occasionally ramp that up to "dominant." The 6-foot-3, 262-pound South Carolina native redshirted in 2009, and then started to impress with two sacks in just five games in his sophomore year. That season was marred by an ACL injury, but Montgomery came back very impressively in 2011, amassing nine sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. He added 30 pounds of muscle to his frame in time for last season, but lost little of his athleticism, finishing his collegiate career with eight sacks and 13 tackles for loss in 2012.

    These numbers were especially impressive given Montgomery's frequent battles against the more physical offensive lines of the SEC, his relative lack of straight-line speed, and the fact that he was most often going up against his opponent's left tackle -- when he wasn't flipping inside to make plays at multiple positions.

    Pros: Outstanding upper-body strength shows up over and over when he gets off the snap and engages with blockers -- consistently rocks even the best offensive linemen back. Big and strong enough to move inside to tackle on pass-rushing downs and make plays -- has done well everywhere from end to three-tech to one-tech shade. Good at assessing and moving through double-teams and late blocks. Moves his feet pretty well through trash.

    Read More »from The Shutdown 50: LSU DE Sam Montgomery
  • Linebacker Connor Barwin is leaving Houston for the Philadelphia Eagles, and, as is the custom, took a moment to thank the team which gave him his first shot at an NFL career. But Barwin went a step further than the traditional blanket thank-you newspaper ad, thanking everyone from the city of Houston and his teammates all the way down to Shaun Cody, whoever he is, way down at the bottom.

    This looks, as pegged it, like one of those huge festival posters, with big names at the top and here-today-gone-later-today flashes down at the very bottom. Still, there are some gems in here, from

    Read More »from Connor Barwin thanks ex-teammates, cleaning lady, and … Blaine Gabbert?
  • Fred Davis re-signs with the Washington Redskins

    Fred Davis re-signs with the Redskins (USA Today Sports Images)

    Free agent tight end Fred Davis spent his Thursday meeting with the Buffalo Bills. After his visit with the Bills, Davis, a 2008 second-round pick out of USC by the Washington Redskins, told the Buffalo media that he was going to meet with other teams and "see all his options".

    Davis scrapped a scheduled visit with the New York Jets and was expected to decide between the Bills and Redskins. That decision did not take long as ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that Davis will sign a one-year deal to remain with the Redskins.

    Financial terms were not disclosed, but odds are good that Davis will earn less than the $5.446 million in fully guaranteed base salary Davis earned on the franchise tag last season. Davis caught 24 passes for 325 yards in seven games before a ruptured Achilles' tendon ended his 2012 campaign.

    [Also: Will QB Matt Barkley get drafted in the first round?]

    Davis said on Thursday that he is ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation.

    “I’m way ahead of schedule for me. I don’t know what it is for most guys," Davis said. "Terrell Suggs had his surgery and he came back in five months and played the last few games. Depending on how bad your Achilles was depends, but for me it’s been maybe four and a half months and I’m running on the treadmill, doing drills, so I’m way ahead of schedule."

    Read More »from Fred Davis re-signs with the Washington Redskins
  • Part of the 2013 QB class, trying to get separation at the scouting combine. (USA Today Sports Images))

    With less than one month until the NFL draft, a quarterback class with minimal actual first-round talent is coming into sharper view. At no time in NFL history has the quarterback position been more important to team success, which leaves those teams without a certain solution grasping for answers. More often than not, those types of teams try to remedy the situation by reaching for their franchise guy, a move that leads to a lot of unemployment in front offices. The 2013 draft class is full of potential NFL talent, but it seems that each quarterback has at least one fatal flaw. As our own Greg Cosell wrote in his most recent piece for Shutdown Corner, some of those flaws are coachable, and others are most certainly not.

    [Report: Packers, Aaron Rodgers nearing long-term extension]

    With that time winding down, we've taken another look at the tape and the rumors, and here's where we see this year's marquee draft prospect quarterbacks going.

    Geno Smith, West Virginia

    Pros: Tremendously productive player with attributes that contribute to efficient stats and performances. Excellent size, arm, and mobility, though he's not a run-around read option guy. Can legitimately make all the NFL throws. Throws well on the move.

    Cons: Needs to shore up his mechanics, especially under center, as he took most of his college snaps out of shotgun. Footwork can be an issue and this leads to some serious inconsistencies. Made hay against some inferior defenses (Baylor) and struggled against tougher ones.

    Where he could go: Smith won't make it out of the top 10. Jacksonville is a possibility with the second overall pick, Oakland is a real probability at 3. You could also see the Cleveland Browns, Arizona Cardinals, and Buffalo Bills in play. Almost certainly will be the first quarterback selected.

    E.J. Manuel, Florida State

    Pros: Big, tough, mobile quarterback with a great arm and the best potential ability to play in read-option, zone-option, and Pistol offenses of any quarterback in this class. Plays the play action and boot action game with great aplomb. Senior Bowl MVP wh responded very well to more advanced coaching.

    Cons: Primarily a first-read passer who struggles with multi-read throws and throws into zone coverage. Doesn't always react well to more complex coverages. Doesn't throw with great anticipation.

    Where he could go: In my opinion, most of Manuel's flaws are easily coachable, and he may have the most untapped talent of any quarterback in this class. But with the flaws there, he'd seem to be a good fit at the late first round/early second round level. Watch out for the Philadelphia Eagles in the early second round -- Eagles head coach Chip Kelly tried to recruit Manuel to Oregon.

    Matt Barkley, USC

    Pros: Has perhaps the best overall array of mechanics in this draft class, and commands a pro-style offense very well. Experienced starter in a complex system. Outstanding footwork. Throws with tremendous anticipation, looking especially polished on short and intermediate timing throws.

    [Also: Will QB Matt Barkley get drafted in the first round?]

    Cons: Barkley's long-discussed arm strength issue is real, and it will affect him at the next level. Most balls he throws over 15 yards in the air tend to sail with wobbly spirals and questionable accuracy. Legitimate questions about his ability to throw into tighter windows at the NFL level, especially in cold weather under pressure.

    Where he could go: A team like the Cardinals or the Bills might take a shot at Barkley early in the first round, but that would be a surprise -- even at his pro day, when he showed that he was fully recovered from a separated shoulder, NFL teams were on the fence about his velocity. Most likely, he'll be fighting with Manuel for position in the late first and early second rounds.

    Ryan Nassib, Syracuse

    Pros: Tough, mobile quarterback experienced in multiple systems. Like Barkley, he's a very good boot-action quarterback, but his arm is much stronger -- Nassib can make the stick throws Barkley can't. Deals well with pressure in his face. Equally good under center and out of shotgun.

    Read More »from Quarterback picture is still foggy as draft draws near
  • Cowboys cannot use the franchise tag on Tony Romo in 2014

    Tony Romo cannot be franchised in 2014 (USA Today Sports Images)

    As the Dallas Cowboys and Tony Romo continue to work towards a contract extension, the veteran quarterback has some additional leverage as Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports that the Cowboys are prohibited from using the franchise tag on Romo next offseason.

    Of course, the Cowboys probably would not use the tag on Romo next offseason, even if they possessed the ability to do so, as the cost, in both base salary and cap space, would be too great.

    [Report: Packers, Aaron Rodgers nearing long-term extension]

    Thanks to previous renegotiations and restructures, Romo has a cap number of $16,818,835 for the 2013 season. That's the largest on the Cowboys, representing 14 percent of the team's "Adjusted Cap Number" of $119,999,156 for this season. If the Cowboys are unable to reach an extension with Romo, and hypothetically could use even the "non-exclusive" franchise tag on him next offseason, Romo's franchise tag would be worth 120 percent his 2013 cap number, or $20,182,602, an amount that would be fully guaranteed once the turning 33-year-old quarterback (who was intercepted 19 times last season) signed the tender.

    Read More »from Cowboys cannot use the franchise tag on Tony Romo in 2014
  • Mark Sanchez is being tutored by Jeff Garcia (Getty Images)

    As New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez gets set to play in the West Coast offense under new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, the 2009 first-round pick out of USC is being tutored by former NFL quarterback Jeff Garcia, reports Jim Corbett of the USA Today.

    [Report: Packers, Aaron Rodgers nearing long-term extension]

    Garcia played in West Coast offenses throughout his career, which began with the San Francisco 49ers in 1999. As Corbett noted, the first NFL coach to spot Garcia was Bill Walsh, the father of the West Coast offense. Mornhinweg was the 49ers' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach when Garcia entered the NFL and their paths would cross again in the 2006 and 2009 seasons when Mornhinweg was the offensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles, a post he held until after the 2012 season.

    Sanchez will be working with a third offensive coordinator in as many seasons (Brian Schottenheimer from 2009-11, Tony Sparano in 2012). With the new collective bargaining agreement scaling back the amount of time players and coaches and can work in the offseason, working with Garcia now can help prepare Sanchez for the OTAs and mini-camps as he enters his fifth, and perhaps most critical, season in the NFL.

    "Marty and I communicated a few weeks ago (about) what he'd like to introduce to Mark,'' Garcia said. "Mark is definitely getting more comfortable speaking the West Coast terminology. He had a brief glimpse of the West Coast system at USC.

    "The toughest thing is this will be Mark's third offensive coordinator in six seasons. The guy has had to learn a new system just about every other year. From a consistency standpoint, that just doesn't translate to success in the NFL. You really need to be secure in what you're doing mentally in order to compete at the highest level.''

    Read More »from Former NFL quarterback Jeff Garcia is tutoring Mark Sanchez, JaMarcus Russell
  • Report: Packers, Aaron Rodgers nearing long-term extension

    Aaron Rodgers is set to become the NFL's highest-paid player (USA Today Sports Images)

    The Green Bay Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers are closing in on an extension that will make the 2005 first-round pick out of Cal the highest-paid player in the history of the National Football League, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports.

    That distinction currently belongs to Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who parlayed his outstanding playoff performance in leading the Ravens to a win over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII and his impending status as an unrestricted free agent this offseason into a six-year, $120.6 million contract, a $20.1 million APY (Average Per Year) that nudged him past the $20 million per year average that New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees received in his extension last July.

    [Also: Matt Barkley looks like the Matt Barkley of old at pro day]

    Brees' extension, which was negotiated off a $16.371 million franchise tag, nudged him past the $19.2 million average that Peyton Manning received in a five-year, $96 million contract from the Denver Broncos last March.

    According to Schefter, "league-wide speculation" has a Rodgers extension obliterating the field with a possible APY of $25 million per season, a substantial increase over the $12.7 million APY Rodgers received in his current contract. Rodgers' signed his current deal - worth a total of $65 million over seven seasons (2008-14) and $63.5 million in "new money" over five new seasons - midway through his first season as the Packers' starting quarterback. That deal included $20 million in guaranteed money, a figure Rodgers will likely more than triple in a new extension.

    Read More »from Report: Packers, Aaron Rodgers nearing long-term extension
  • Cosell’s Take: The quarterback paradigm

    Quarterback evaluation can be a frustrating process at times. (AP)

    Quarterback evaluation is a fascinating process. One can easily make the argument that the process of studying and analyzing college quarterbacks says more about the person doing the evaluating than it does about the quarterbacks themselves. Bill Walsh told me years ago that when he received a quarterback breakdown from a scout or a coach on his staff, the first thing he did was to consider the evaluator. Walsh first wanted to understand the method and manner by which the individual went about the evaluation, and what that person looked for as he transitioned the player from the college game to the more rigorous NFL game.

    It’s a captivating point, one that I’ve never forgotten. It was the starting point as I began my own process of evaluating quarterbacks. Using the NFL as my foundation, since the objective is to project college quarterbacks to Sunday football, I began to develop a template by which to assess what it takes to play the position well at the NFL level. I continually noticed specific attributes and traits that were clearly demanded to perform consistently well. These characteristics were tangible, identifiable and quantifiable. Different quarterbacks possessed them in distinctive and varying degrees, but at some level, they were necessary to have.

    [Podcast: Cosell evaluates the 2013 draft class QBs]

    You study enough film in fine detail, you learn to distill the subtle nuances of quarterback play. Think about it this way: what makes a quarterback good, or great in the NFL? He must be able to do certain things. And those things are all manifested in physical ways that are evident from comprehensive analysis. It’s all there on the tape. Even though we frequently focus on what we perceive to be intangibles, which by their very nature are indefinable, the reality is you have to make throws, often in difficult situations against challenging defenses. You need definitive traits to do that.

    First and foremost, a quarterback must be able throw with accuracy -- or, as I’ve always believed to be the more descriptive term, precise ball location. If you can’t do that, you have no chance to be a quality NFL quarterback. You can see that on film. It’s measurable. The more I watched Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib as his senior year progressed, the more it was evident that ball location was a positive as he transitions to the NFL. One further point: receiver run-after-catch is almost always a function of the quarterback’s ball placement.

    Again, think about the NFL. How many times do you see the top quarterbacks make decisive throws in critical situations with the pocket collapsing and with bodies around them? You must be able to stand and deliver in a muddied pocket. That’s an absolutely necessary attribute. That’s why size is a trait, although it’s never talked about that way. Taller, stronger quarterbacks can respond to the pocket closing down far better than shorter, lighter quarterbacks. Visualize Ben Roethlisberger or Andrew Luck. Both are big, physical men who can wait in the pocket as long as it takes to make a throw.

    We know, of course, that size by itself does not automatically correlate to success. Tyler Bray of Tennessee is 6-foot-6 and 232 pounds, yet he reacted poorly when the pocket was squeezed. His mechanics broke down, he rushed his movements, and he had a tendency to fall away from his throws. All this negated his big arm, the strongest in this draft class. Bray is what I call a functional space passer. He needs room to step and throw. His inability to react well to pressure, in addition to his scattershot accuracy, were clear red flags as you project him to the NFL.

    Read More »from Cosell’s Take: The quarterback paradigm
  • Apparently, some people were not impressed at the methods by which Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o shaved a tenth of a second off his 40-yard dash time from the scouting combine to his pro day a month later. The 4.71 40-yard dash he burned at the Fighting Irish's indoor facility on Tuesday, Te'o said, was just a function of getting out of his own way after more distractions than most people have to deal with.

    "Don't think -- you've been doing it your whole life. Just go out there and run," Te'o told the NFL Network in an interview that was replayed on the network's "NFL AM" program on Wednesday morning. "We tend to think too much, and psyche ourselves out, thinking that bad things will happen. I just went out there and said, 'Hey -- just run. Run as fast as you can. Whatever the time says, that's what it says.'"

    Former NFL offensive lineman Jamie Dukes, who now functions as the NFL Network's prerequisite Guy Who Yells A Lot About Nothing Important (every sports morning show has to have at least one, you see), had a different theory. After contributing his own rather stale efforts at the same kind of catfishing jokes everyone else has already gone with, Dukes went down a stranger path with the whole thing.

    "Here's the deal," Dukes said, while comparative pictures of Te'o at the combine and his pro day were shown on the screen. "Since nobody else will say this, I'm just gonna show you this. I don't know who the guy was at the combine -- the pudgy body/soft body guy who couldn't run. All of a sudden, I see this yoked-up behemoth of a guy. Nobody's gonna say anything, and I'm not accusing anybody, but we just had a huge HGH conversation ... I'm not saying he's on anything. I'm not saying, I'm just saying. I think somebody saw what I saw, and that didn't look right. That just didn't look right to me. I just want to be on record as saying -- it's a little off."

    The "I'm not saying, I'm just saying" gambit is, of course, an interesting example of conversational cowardice. One can put one's accusations out there in a public forum without appearing to take any actual responsibility for one's statements. Dukes presented no actual evidence that Te'o was taking performance-enhancing drugs. He cited no sources. He did, however, go on a national television show on the league's own network and insinuate that a high-profile draft prospect was doing something fishy. Of course, if anyone calls him on it, Dukes can say that he was just having a conversation -- it's not his fault if people read it wrong. Even if he went on the record, in his own words.

    But in his own way, and certainly without specific intent, Dukes presented one of the most compelling arguments for the benefit of reliable HGH testing at the NFL level. Such testing would have reduced Dukes' own hyperbole to dust before it even started, and the fact that players can have their names blackened by such nebulous accusations is a problem that needs to be fixed.

    On that same program, Seattle Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson talked about where the NFL and NFLPA are with the HGH drama.

    Read More »from Jamie Dukes’ PED snark about Manti Te’o is a compelling case for reliable HGH testing
  • Tyrann Mathieu lines up for drills at LSU's pro day. (AP)

    Wednesday might have been the marquee day among for all the 2013 pro days. USC held its workout on the West Coast, Marcus Lattimore displayed an amazing comeback from a brutal knee injury at South Carolina's exposition, and a bevy of draftable players got it going at LSU's pro day at the school's indoor practice facility. Outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo and inside linebacker Kevin Minter are pretty much locks to go in the first round next month, but the most interest may have been in a player projected by most to be selected in the third round or lower -- a player who didn't even play in 2012.

    Defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, kicked off the team before the 2012 season began for multiple violations of team policy, was back on campus and doing defensive back drills for the NFL teams in attendance. This after a performance at the scouting combine in late February that started Mathieu's stock heading back in the right direction.

    It was a reunion that everybody enjoyed - including head coach Les Miles, who had to make that difficult decision last August.

    "I tell them he's a great teammate, a big-time player," Miles said to when asked what he tells NFL teams about his former star. "He will commit to whatever your culture is and doing it your way. He will have a natural intuitive sense for big plays. He'll make somebody's NFL roster a lot better."

    Mathieu has said all the right things. He's gone through rehab, he's hanging out with LSU alums Patrick Peterson and Corey Webster, and he's trying to convince the NFL that he can keep it together after multiple drug-related incidents saw him coming apart.

    "It's extremely exciting," Mathieu said from the scene. "It's humbling too, because of the things I went through the past year. I'm ready for it to be over. I know I made some mistakes. When it comes to football I'm a play-maker and a guy who wants to play hard for the teammates."

    Read More »from Tyrann Mathieu enjoys reunion with teammates at LSU’s pro day