Wednesday, March 28, 2012

49er Free Agency

Better or Worse?
By: Brian Sanchez
March 28th, 2012

Jim Harbaugh says it best: You either get better or you get worse, but you never stay the same.  Sure the 49ers have signed names that people know, but how much did they really improve?  Let's take a look at the new players that will be wearing the red and gold this season.

Mario Manningham
(2 years $7.38 million)

     This is, in my opinion, the best signing the 49ers have made so far.  Manningham is coming over from the World Champion New York Giants where he was a part of a great receiving corps which included Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz.  Manningham will either be a solid No. 2 WR or one of the better slot receivers in the league and gives the 49ers a good down field threat.  Last year he had 39 catches for 523 yards and 4 touchdowns.  But those numbers can not really be taken in to account.  Sure he had to compete with two other really good receivers for touches, but all of them had one thing in common: Eli Manning.  It wouldn't matter who your fellow receivers are, if Eli Manning is your QB you are going to have good stats.  I expect his stats to drop off under the poor quarterbacking of Alex Smith, but I also expect him to be the most consistent wide out for the 49ers and is certainly a better deal than keeping Josh Morgan who got more money per year and more years coming off an injury that made him miss the whole season.

Randy Moss
(1 year approx. $1 million)

     Moss is definitely the biggest wild card for the 49ers.  If he can be vintage Randy Moss, the 49ers got a steal.  But what are the chances that they get that?  He didn't even play last year because nobody (49ers included) wouldn't sign him.  But now that the 49ers are seemingly a good receiving corps away from being Super Bowl contenders he is worth the risk.  And the last time he was in the league he hardly looked like someone who deserved to be a starting WR.  But he comes in with the Harbaugh stamp of approval and I have to believe if he wasn't in shape to be a starter the 49ers would have never signed off on the acquisition.  Will he only be a deep threat (if he can manage that) or will he actually produce?  Again this is directly tied to whether or not Alex Smith can produce.

Brandon Jacobs
(1 year $2 million)

     This is the move that people like and I don't.  This just successfully made this backfield older and slower than it already was.  Gore's years are numbered and people are looking for the heir apparent.  Kendall Hunter is only a change of pace back.  Anthony Dixon is not good enough to be a NFL RB that receives a good number of touches.  Jacobs is yet another import from the NY Giants but he is not like Manningham.  Mario is peaking in his career.  Jacobs is almost done and provides no explosion.  The best he could be is a back that picks up a lot of short down yardage and possibly goal line touches. Gore is still the main goal line back I have to think because he is still a receiving threat out of the back field and Jacobs is not.  But there is no speed in the backfield.  Hunter is quick, but he does not play with much raw speed.  I think Jacobs will have minimal impact on this team and still expect the 49ers to draft a RB.

Perrish Cox
(2 years unspecified low amount)

     This is a guy who was a big time talent in college at Oklahoma St.  But a lot of 49er fans are expecting him to make a big impact on this team.  That's not going to happen, not this year anyways.  He got cut from the Broncos for more than just his off field issues.  He was also not in shape and was not playing at a NFL level.  He had the talent of a 1st or 2nd rounder but went in the 5th and has never been able to get his life in order enough to focus on football and realize his potential.  The 49ers do not expect him to really be anything more than the No. 4 CB if he even wins that spot.

     In my opinion, the 49ers have gotten better but not by much.  Manningham is the most exciting new face, but can Alex Smith take advantage of having a good stable of receivers?  I'm not convinced he can.  I don't expect anything from Randy Moss, and whatever I get from him will be icing on the cake.  I see no impact from Jacobs that will make this team any more of a Super Bowl contender.  And Perrish Cox?  I'm not even sure I'll see him on the field.

Be sure to tune in to The Sports Report Tuesdays from 6-8 p.m. on  You can follow me on Twitter @SportsReportDU.  And you should like The Sports Report Facebook page too. Keep checking this Blog, Mock Draft 3.0 will be coming soon.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

QB Competition in SF

Smith vs. Johnson vs. Kaepernick 

By: Brian Sanchez

HC Jim Harbaugh (left) and GM Trent Baalke (right)
will have to make a decision together about the QB position
Ladies and Gentlemen, there is officially a QB competition in San Francisco.  Yes, the 49ers did just sign QB Alex Smith to a 3 year $24 million contract.  So what?  This is Harbaugh's team, not Smiths'.  First SF kept Smith on a yo-yo while they tried to court Peyton Manning (who absurdly picked Denver).  In that time Smith went to Miami to visit the Dolphins and try and apply pressure to the 49ers to sign him and for more money.  Fail.  The Dolphins decided to sign David Garrard who hasn't thrown a pass in an NFL game in nearly two years.  Then when Manning chose the Broncos Smith had to come crawling back to the 49ers and sign a 3 year deal for only $8 mil a year.  That is basically nothing for a starting QB and an insult to Smith as far as saying they do not believe he is "elite" like they mentioned last year because they are paying him like an average QB.  Jim Harbaugh has made it very clear that Smith is the starter going into the season.  But if Smith struggles and Johnson shines in training camp and preseason play you'd better believe Harbaugh will make the switch.  It appears that now the real battle will be between Kaepernick and Johnson to be the No. 2 QB and be ready to supplant Smith if he drops from being a decent QB back to being a terrible one.

Let's take a look at the 3 Quarterbacks:

Alex Smith
(6"4' 217 lbs. 1st round No. 1 overall pick in 2005 out of Utah)
2011 starter and projected 2012 starter Alex Smith
Smith was the No. 1 overall pick and hasn't, and probably will never, live up to the billing.  He struggled for 5 years in which he had a new Offensive Coordinator in every year.  This was a common excuse but did not account for his poor arm strength and pocket presence.  Smith had his best year by far last year setting a new career high in QB Rating (90.7) completions (273) attempts (445) completion % (61.3) and yards (3144).  While those were career highs they are not terribly impressive.  Also he attempted the fewest passes among starters who started at least 12 games and while he only threw 5 interceptions he only threw 17 TD.  That is bad.  The 49ers did however have a 13-3 record last year and made it seemingly within one punt return of making the Super Bowl.  Now whether that was because of Smith or in spite of Smith is up to you.

Josh Johnson
(6"3' 205 lbs. 5th round pick in 2008 out of University of San Diego via Oakland Tech in Oakland, California)
Harbaugh (left) and Johnson (right) are very familiar
with each other after spending 3 years together at USD
Johnson signed a two year deal with the 49ers just one day after Smith signed his 3 year deal.  Johnson spent 3 years playing under Harbaugh at USD where he still holds 4 different passing records.  Johnson is believed to be in a battle with Kaepernick to be the main back up in case Smith were to get hurt or be (even more) ineffective.  But, Johnson did say in a statement that he chose his new team based off of where he thought he would have the best chance to become a starter.  He could have been banking on Smith being bad, he could have based it off of Harbaugh loving competition and knowing JJ, he could have based it off of knowing he will outwork Smith and earn the job straight up.  Whatever the case may be, he will get a fair shot as long as Harbaugh is involved.

Colin Kaepernick
(6"4' 230 lbs. 2nd round (4th) in 2011 out of Nevada)
Kaepernick (above) is regarded by many coaches and fans
as the future QB of the 49ers
Kaepernick has widely been seen as the future at the QB position for the 49ers.  It seems that he is the reason the 49ers signed Alex Smith to such a cheap contract.
that way Smith would be easily cuttable if it became time for Kaepernick (or Josh Johnson) to take over.  The 49ers traded up to the top of the 2nd round to make sure the got their hands on this kid.  Colin is a big, athletic, fast, and very smart QB with a rocket arm.  He did come from a spread system in college.  It is believed that he is just not ready to pick up NFL schemes and blitz packages yet.  When he finally does play he will open up the playbook for Harbaugh because of his arm strength and ability to make any throw on the field.

Be sure to tune in to The Sports Report with me, Brian Sanchez and my Co-Host Case Donahue Tuesday from 6-8p.m. only on  You can also follow The Sports Report on Twitter @SportsReportDU for all of the sports info you'll ever need.  While you're at it, go ahead and like The Sports Report FaceBook page for updates on the show and the World of Sports.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Manning and the 49ers

By: Brian Sanchez

Peyton Manning talking to Alex Smith after a Colts win over the 49ers 
It seemed like the 49ers were going to be destined to have Alex Smith behind center once again for better or for worse.  Fans begged the 49ers to go after Manning and it seemed like they wouldn't.  I heard a lot of "I can't believe the 49ers won't go after Manning".  I would hear this, while being skeptical about the durability of his neck, and ask, "How do you know the 49ers aren't going after him?  Just because the 49ers go after him does not mean they have to go public about it."
     They really seem to want Peyton,  but at the same time they don't want to estrange Alex Smith.  This is a smart move.  If you do end up having to sign Alex Smith you don't want him to come in mad at the organization.  He worked hard to get himself to be an average QB and a little drama could derail his progress.  Also, the QB market in free agency is so poor that if Smith goes somewhere else they could be left up a creek without a paddle.  Then they would turn to Buccaneers back up QB Josh Johnson who played for Harbaugh in San Diego.  The Niners might not want to let it come to that.
A concept design of the new Santa Clara stadium
     But now we get to financing.  Can the 49ers afford Manning?  Absolutely.  Even after inking Carlos Rogers to his new 4 year $31 million contract the 49ers have $18 million in cap room.  They also have a new stadium coming in 2014 in which Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News reported via Twitter, "I've been told the 49ers could add well more than $100M in increased revenues starting in 2014, if stadium is done by then."  That's a lot of money and could lead towards matching the alleged contract offered to Manning by the Denver Broncos of 5 years at $90 million.  So monetarily the 49ers can make it work.

Potential Manning weapons:  Crabtree (left) and Davis (right)
     Now, why should Peyton choose to rock the red and gold?  Well, if he wants to win a ring and catch Eli the 49ers are the obvious choice.  They have one of, if not the best defense in football with all starters returning from last year.  A servicable group of WR lead by Michael Crabtree and now including the Wild Card of Randy Moss.  A top line group of TE in Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker, which are nightmare matchups.  A running game with Frank Gore that can take pressure off of Manning.  A solid offensive line that will be improving with a new RG instead of Chilo Rachal.  And most importantly on the offensive line, a great set of blind side protectors in Joe Staley and Mike Iupati. Phenomenel special teams which will win the field position battle and convert field goals when Manning can't get it all the way into the end zone.  He is human people.  He'll have the opportunity to open up the new Santa Clara Stadium.  I also believe he is not the kind of person that wants to play the Colts a lot.  He loves that franchise which is a problem for the Tennessee Titans.  How about the guy he worked out with yesterday?  That's right, before he worked out with the Broncos today he visited the 49ers and Coach Jim Harbaugh.  Harbaugh is a fiery personality who can combine his brilliance with that of Manning and really make them Super Bowl favorites.  There are a lot of reasons for Manning to come to the city by the bay.

Be sure to catch all the information on Tuesday from 6-8 p.m. on  You can also stay updated by following The Sports Report on twitter @SportsReportDU.  And of course, like the Facebook Page to get poll questions, updates, and listen to previous shows.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

2012 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

By: Brian Sanchez

Mock Draft 2.0 is the final mock before Free Agency opens up.  

1.  Indianapolis Colts- QB Andrew Luck, Stanford
     This is the obvious pick here, made even more obvious by the releasing of Peyton Manning.  Luck is a once in a decade talent with his arm, athleticism, brilliance, calls at the line of scrimmage, and attitude, all of which lends itself to Luck being an instant team leader.  This is Luck's team now and The Colts should be considered lucky (pun intended) That the end an era with Manning and get to start again with Luck.

2. St. Louis Rams- WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma St.
     I will not change the draft order to project a trade.  But I do think the Rams will move back in the draft and end up with Blackmon.  If they stay at No. 2 I think they will still pick Blackmon.  He is by far and away the best WR talent in this draft and he has the ability to become an instant No. 1 receiver.  QB Sam Bradford needs help, Blackmon can be the help he needs.  Some say the Rams should take a Tackle to protect Bradford, but I like Saffold and think he can be a solid NFL Left Tackle.

3. Minnesota Vikings- OT Matt Kalil, USC
     Kalil is the best Offensive Line prospect in this draft and he made that apparent at the Combine, and the Vikings will be happy to see him on the board.  Minny Reached last year for QB Christian Ponder and now they have to commit to him.  Since Blackmon is the only weapon worth having this early, they should draft Kalil to protect Ponders' blind side and bolster their terrible O-Line.

4. Cleveland Browns- QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor
     A lot of people think RGIII is going to be a very good pro, me included.  Colt McCoy is not an NFL starter and the Browns know it.  RGIII will be a savior for this Cleveland team, and I do think they will get him, especially after the way he dazzled scouts at the combine with his athleticism and measuring in over 6'2".  A lot of teams could be looking to trade up to No. 2 and get the Rams pick to take RGIII.  I think the Browns will move up two spots to secure him.  The Rams would then move back to No. 4 and take whichever player the Vikings do not take between Kalil and Blackmon.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- CB Morris Claiborne, LSU
     This young man will be the best DB prospect in the draft as well as one of the top athletes in the draft.  With CB Ronde Barber mulling retirement and CB Aqib Talib possibly going to jail, the Bucs will need someone to line up outside making Claiborne an easy pick.  Some say the Bucs should look at Trent Richardson here because having more than Legarrette Blount will help the offense.  I just think the Bucs will see two huge holes at DB and one minor hole at RB and then see Claiborne and pull the trigger.

6. Washington Redskins- OT Riley Rieff, Iowa
     I make this pick assuming the Redskins sign, Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn or another veteran to be their new QB.  With that happening they'll need someone to protect the new QB.  Rieff is climbing boards quick and is mentioned in the same sentence as Matt Kalil.  This would not be a stretch, just a strong, smart football move.  Then they would be able to slide one of their current tackles inside and solidify the O Line.

7.  Jacksonville Jaguars- DE/OLB Melvin Ingram, South Carolina
     In the previous draft I had the Jaguars taking OT Jonathan Martin from Stanford in order to protect Gabbert.  I did not think they would take DE Quinton Coples, who although talented, isn't a high motor guy.  GM Gene Smith values motors over pure talent as evident by his high oick of DT Tyson Alualu out of Cal.  Melvin Ingram had a great Combine showcasing his athleticism and pass rush ability.  Pairing him with the other high motor Jaguars on defense could give opposing O Lines headaches.  
previous pick: OT Jonathan Martin, Stanford

8. Miami Dolphins- OT Jonathan Martin, Stanford
     The Dolphins should be landing either Manning or Flynn and I think will look even further into making their offense formidable.  With no real weapons on the board I think they are one more O Lineman away from having a dominant Line.  Jonathan Martin was impressive at the combine and is a very bright kid.  He could be an NFL LT but with Jake Long already in place MArtin can step in day 1 as a solid RT.  After drafting Pouncey last year the Dolphins should win the line of scrimmage on offense nearly every down.  
previous pick: DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina

9.  Carolina Panthers- DT Dontari Poe, Memphis
     I had the Panthers taking DT Michael Brockers here because they need help on their interior D Line.  Brockers had a sub par Combine while Poe lit it up.  The nearly 350 lb. Poe ran a sub 5 second 40 yard dash.  This made him not just a nose tackle but an incredibly versatile D Lineman.  I think his versatility, power, and athleticism make him a powerful pick and a big help to the Panthers.
previous pick: DT Michael Brockers, LSU

10.  Buffalo Bills- DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina
     I've had Coples falling because of his lack of motor, but he falls no more.  The Bills need a pass rusher, they have made that very clear.  Coples is the most purely talented pass rusher in the draft and the Bills will not be able to say no.
previous pick: DE/OLB Melvin Ingram, South Carolina

11.  Kansas City Chiefs- RB Trent Richardson, Alabama
     This is not a no brainer pick for the Chiefs.  Richardson is a top 10, maybe even 5 talent, but the RB position does not have the value it once did.  Jamaal Charles will be coming of reconstructive surgery on his ACL and was not really a carry the load kind of RB before anyways.  Richardson is.  He is very strong and runs to contact.  He is an incredibly impressive RB and in tandem with Charles, can be an elite one two punch.

12.  Seattle Seahawks- MLB Luke Kuechly, Boston College
     Kuechly had an awesome combine coming in with more size and seemingly more athleticism.  The Eagles were licking their chops hoping he got to them, and I no longer think he will.  Kuechly is a very bright, very instinctive linebacker that can instantly make a defense better.  With current MLB David Hawthorne likely on the way out, Kuechly will step in and make an immediate impact.
previous pick: DT Devon Still, Penn St.

13.  Arizona Cardinals- WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame
     The Cardinals need an O Lineman but the top options are already gone and it would be a huge reach to take any of the other ones.  I think they will address the Line in FA.  When the Cardinals were dominant offensively it was because they had Boldin and Fitzgerald.  Fitz has been putting up big numbers still, but coupling him with Floyd makes the offense scary again.  Floyd earned this position by running a 4.45 40 yard dash at his height making him a legitimate threat.
previous pick: OG David Decastro, Stanford

14.  Dallas Cowboys- S Mark Barron, Alabama
     The Cowboys need a lot, a lot, a lot of help in their secondary.  They need both safeties and corner backs.  I think the CB position will be much easier to fill in FA (Cortland Finnegan) and there will be much less talent at the safety position.  The top Safety in the draft is a big time playmaker both in the run game and the pass game.  He is a perfect fit for Dallas.
previous pick: CB Janorice Jenkins, Northern Alabama

15.  Philadelphia Eagles- DT Michael Brockers, LSU
     Now, based off of Combine results Fletcher Cox from Mississippi St. probably deserves to be here.  I think Brockers will recover with a big Pro Day and will show he will be a solid NFL DT.  That is what the Eagles need, they are very soft at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
previous pick: MLB Luke Kuechly, Boston College

16.  New York Jets- OLB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
     The Jets need help on defense.  They need a pass rusher so they don't have to blitz at all times just to get pressure.  Upshaw has the ability to get to the QB on his own.  Less blitzes will mean better coverage which could mean the Jets may return to being one of the better defenses.  
previous pick: S Mark Barron, Alabama

17.  Cincinnati Bengals- CB Janorice Jenkins, Northern Alabama
     The Bengals are well known as a team that identifies need, and drafts accordingly.  They have two needs, CB and RB.  Nate Clements is on the wrong side of 30, inconsistent, and a free agent.  That is not good.  Leon Hall will not be ready to start the season coming off of his Achilles injury.  And of course, they lost Jonathan Joseph to the Texans last year.  Jenkins is really talented but also a big off field issue.  Usually that does not matter to the Bengals.  Jenkins was very fast and agile at the Combine and will e worth the risk to some teams, Bengals included.
previous pick: CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama

18.  San Diego Chargers- OT/OG Cordy Glenn, Georgia
     Glenn is the Dontari Poe of offense.  He is huge but very, very agile.  He can play both the tackle ond the gaurd and that is what makes him so valuable to the Chargers.  They need help on the O Line and drafting Glenn can leave them room to sign a FA at any position on the line and put Glenn wherever a hole is left.
previous pick: OLB Courtney Upshaw

19.  Chicago Bears- OG David DeCastro, Stanford
     The Bears need help at the WR and I think they will fix that in FA.  They need to keep Cutler upright and the best way to do that is by drafting the most dominant guard in College Football.  DeCastro will be an immediate impact and will help the O Line.
previous pick: WR Alshon Jeffrey, South Carolina

20.  Tennessee Titans- DE Whitney Mercillus, Illinois
     The Tiatns ahve three DE's heading towards FA and their best linemen Jason Jones is most likely going elsewhere.  It's a bit of a toss up between Perry and Mercillus but I go with Whitney because he is more ready to make a big time impact now, where as  Perry needs a year or two.  With CJ2K on the team now, the Titans neeed to play to win now.
previous pick: OL Cordy Glenn, Georgia

21.  Cincinnati Bengals- CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
     The Bengals would like to improve their interior line but with Glenn and DeCastro gone, their is really no next top option.  I think they could go DT here with Fletcher Cox but that is less of a need than CB.  I think Kirkpatrick is a tough physical corner who will be effective.  With the question mark over Leon Hall's health they really have no corners.  Why not double dip and take the No. 3 and No. 4 CB's in the draft and make that position an up and coming strength?
previous pick: RB Lamar Miller, Miami

22.  Cleveland Browns- WR Kendall Wright,  Baylor
     The Browns already took  an explosive play maker from Baylor.  Time to take an equally explosive player out of Baylor at WR.  Wright has elite speed and has already flourished under the throws of RGIII.  Might as well put the two together on the big stage and give your rookie QB a safety blanket at WR with his college running mate.

23.  Detroit Lions- LB Lavonte David, Nebraska
     David is a big time riser in this draft.  There are needs for the Lions at LB and CB.  It will be easier to get CB's this off season then it will be LB's.  David is a versatile LB who can play inside and outside and offer the Lions help at any position.
previous pick: CB Alonzo Denard, Nebraska

24.  Pittsburgh Steelers- MLB Dont'a Hightower, Alabama
     While the Steelers go through a major purge to get under the salary cap they had to cut MLB James Farrior.  They run a 3-4 defense and need that second inside linebacker to pair with Lawrence Timmons.  Hightower seems to have been created to play for the Steelers and will slide in a probably start from day 1 for the Steel Curtain.
previous pick: DT Dontari Poe, Memphis

25.  Denver Broncos- DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi St.
     The Broncos played good in stretches, but overall they are nothing special.  Their biggest need is a play maker on the inside.  Fletcher Cox has the ability to get in the backfield and drop a running back for a loss.  While Brodrick Bunkley had a good year stuffing the run, he did not make explosive plays.  The Broncos have a presence on the outside with their pass rush, time to shore up the middle.

26.  Houston Texans- WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech
     The Texans need a WR to pair with Andre Johnson.  When he went down last year, so did their passing offense.  But, since you have Johnson, you can take a project WR like Hill who blew people away with his 4.35 40 yard dash at the Combine.  Hill will take the top of the defense in a major way and make this Texans offense one of the scarier ones in the league.
previous pick: WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame

27.  New England Patriots- DT Devon Still, Penn St.
     Devon Still has shown inconsistency on tape, but he is powerful and takes up multiple blockers.  He can also play inside or outside and fit into whatever scheme Hoodie needs.  This will not be the sexiest pick the Pats can make but it will help them.
previous pick: DE Whitney Mercillus, Illinois

28.  Green Bay Packers- LB Nick Perry, USC
     The pass rush for the Packers dropped off in a major way last season.  They need someone to draw attention opposite of Clay Matthews.  Perry falls to the end of the first because he is a DE/OLB tweener but I think he can make the full move to OLB and provide big time pass rush.
previous pick: C Peter Konz, Wisconsin

29.  Baltimore Ravens- C Peter Konz, Wisconsin
     All three of the interior linemen for the Ravens are both old and heading towards FA.  Konz can play the center with good size and smarts.  Not to mention he played for Wisconsin where according to their head coach Brett Bielema they play "American Football".
previous pick: MLB Vontaze Burfictt, Arizona St.

30.  San Francisco 49ers- CB Stephen Gilmore, South Carolina
     The 49ers need help at WR but I don't think Alshon Jefferey offers enough value in the first round.  The 49ers need more depth at CB and Gilmore is a special kind of corner.  He is big and does well against bigger WR's but he does not give up a lot as far as quickness for a big CB.  Last year the 49ers took Chris Culliver who was the running mate of Stepehen Gilmore and they complimented each other nicely.  Culliver being the speedy ball hawk, and Gilmore the big physical corner.
previous pick: OLB Zach Brown, North Carolina

31.  New England Patriots- DE Andre Branch, Clemson
     More pass rushers for the Patriots here.  Branch has the size and athleticism to play DE or OLB and has a high motor and pass rush abilities.  He offers versatility much like Still and can fit wherever Bellichick wants them on any particular play.
previous pick: DE/OLB Nick Perry, USC

32.  New York Giants- TE Coby Fleener, Stanford
     The reigning champs have very few holes and are losing very few players to FA.  Where they could use some help is at TE.  Ballard had a good season but he is not dynamic.  Fleener is tall, long, athletic and smart.  The Giants need a TE and the best one in the draft falls all the way to them here with this pick.
previous pick: MLB Dont'a Hightower, Alabama
Be sure to tune in to The Sports Report Tuesdays from 6-8 p.m. on  You can like The Sports Report on FaceBook by clicking HERE.  And you can follow The Sports Report on Twitter by clicking HERE.  

Monday, March 5, 2012

Combine Winners and Losers

By: Brian Sanchez

With the combine now complete it is time to look at player performances, and of course the only thing that matters, what happened to their draft stock?  Let's take a look at the 5 winners and losers of the NFL combine.  


1.  NT Dontari Poe, Memphis
     Mount Poe exploded onto the scene during his combine workout.  He was already graded in the first round.  He was slated to be a late first round pick for teams that ran a 3-4.  Now Poe is a top 20, even a top 15 pick regardless of what defense a team runs.  Why?  Because he is not strictly a nose tackle.  Would he be a good Nose Tackle?  Yeah.  But by running an astonishing 4.98 40 yard dash despite being 6'4" and 346 lbs.  With that size and athleticism Poe jumped up big boards and is possibly one of the top 2 DT/NT taken.

2.  WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech
     Hill was the Poe of offense at the combine.  And he needed to be.  Coming from Georgia Tech where they run the triple option Hill only had 28 catches last season because they rarely throw.  Hill burned the track at the combine running a 4.36 40 yd. dash and measured in at 6'5" 206 lbs. Hill reminded people of the previous two WR's to come from Georgia Tech, Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas.  Hill is not as highly rated of a prospect as Megatron or Thomas, but he has now jumped into the first round.  Hill is now a popular projection to the 49ers at the end of the first round, but if he has a good pro day he may not even be available at the end of the first.  Hill's jump up big boards seems to be just as fast as his 40 time.

3.  QB Kirk Cousins, Michigan St.
     Cousins had a very good combine, and while it didn't do the things for him that it did for Poe and Hill, it did help him.  After Luck and Griffin there are big question marks at the second tier QB level.  Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill did not throw due to injury leaving the door open.  While Tannehill is believed to still be the No. 3 QB, Cousins is now a close No. 4.  The QB position is way over valued and Cousins could reap the benefits.  Going from a 4th round prospect to a 2nd round prospect will land you as the No. 3 biggest winner from the combine.

4.  TE Coby Fleener, Stanford
     This draft is light on talented TE's and may not have one taken in the first round.  The draft needed a TE to step up and establish themselves as the top choice.  Fleener did so.  Other top option Dwayne Allen from Clemson did not participate which boosted Fleener automatically, but he did plenty to help himself.  If Fleener can run in the 4.5 40 yard dash range at his pro day he could easily be the No. 1 TE and the New York Giants are looking at a TE at the end of the first.  It has also been noted that Jim Harbaugh of the 49ers loves having a lot of TE's and had Fleener at Stanford.  Duel TE's have been shown to work in a big way in New England with Gronk and Hernandez.  Vernon Davis and Coby Fleener could be lethal.

5.  MLB Luke Kuechly, Boston College
     This is a much more minor winner but still an important one.  Kuechly has always been listed as the top MLB but there were questions about size and athleticism.  He was No. 1 more because of his instincts and lack of other talented players at the position.  But Kuechly showed up bigger at 242 lbs. and surprised evaluators with his athleticism.  So now, Kuechly can climb as high as No. 12 to Seattle who may be losing their MLB Hawthorne.


1.  MLB Vontaze Burfict, Arizona St.
     Here's a guy who was talked about on ESPN and Yahoo! Sports for being the pick of the Baltimore Ravens and the heir apparent to Ray Lewis.  With an average combine he would have remained where he was.  With a great combine he could have jumped into the top 20.  So what did he do?  Fail.  He already has big character concerns, but his athleticism was supposed to outweigh them and make him a first rounder.  Burfict looked sluggish and a little out of shape.  Without the elite athleticism Burfict becomes a fourth to fifth round pick.  He needs a huge pro day to save himself.

2.  WR Alshon Jeffrey, South Carolina
     Here is a guy who entered last season as one of the top WR prospects in the country.  Jeffrey is a big WR at 6-4 229 lbs. but his explosiveness has been questioned.  He didn't show good explosiveness on the field and raised questions as to whether or not he can gain separation at the NFL level.  The once top prospect is now staring a second round grade in the face unless he can run very, very fast.

                                                                                    3.  DT Michael Brockers, LSU
     Brockers hurt his stock badly this combine but not as bad as everyone else listed already.  He did take a fall but he is staying in the first round.  Projected as high as 8th overall before the combine Brockers has taken a fall.  He was up to 322 lbs. which seemed to take away from his explosiveness and athleticism.  What may have effected his stock the most is that Poe dominated the combine.  Brockers may have fallen into the teens or even early twenties, but a solid pro day can help him regain a top 15 billing.  

4.  OLB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
     Upshaw was the defensive MVP of the National Championship and terrorized offensive linemen during the Senior Bowl.  He had climbed mock drafts as high as No. 10 and was listed as one of the premiere pass rushers in the NFL.  He did not run in the combine and that made people question whether or not he has the explosiveness needed for rushing the passer against elite NFL tackles.  He also really struggled dropping back into coverage.  Upshaw will too be relying on a big pro day.

5.  CB Cliff Harris, Oregon
     Harris came into the combine with a second round grade.  With a good combine he could have certainly jumped into the end of the first round despite his character concerns.  With a poor combine and an especially poor 4.58 40 yard dash, Harris could very well have fallen from the 2nd round to the 4th round.

Don't forget to listen to The Sports Report Tuesdays on  You can also get all the information in the sports world by following The Sports Report on Twitter, @SportsReportDU.  Finally, be sure to check out The Sports Report Facebook page.