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Draft King Analysis
January 11, 2013
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com

Reader feedback is always welcomed here on Draft King. Sound off with your thoughts on Twitter (@LouPickney) or via email at LouPickney@gmail.com.


One of the more unexpected announcements of the week was Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan opting to return to Ann Arbor for his senior season in 2013. Of course, he could change his mind before next week's declaration deadline, but that doesn't appear likely at this point. His decision not to leave bumps every other offensive tackle prospect (save for Luke Joeckel) up one spot, and in turn also increases Joeckel's value thanks to the increased scarcity of elite tackles in the draft, particularly with Joeckel's teammate at right offensive tackle, Jake Matthews, going back to Texas A&M for his senior season. It's entirely possible that Joeckel and Matthews will end up both being top 10 picks, similar to what Tyron Smith and Matt Kalil did in consecutive years coming out of USC.

It's a tricky thing for talented underclassmen to decide: leave for the NFL and perhaps miss out on an extra year of needed preparation for life at the professional level, or return to school and risk injury or a drop in production or any number of other problems that can befall major college football players. There are no easy answers.

The shifting of coaches from one NFL team to another is an interesting thing to see play out, particularly when it comes changes in the types of offensive and defensive attacks use. Perhaps the biggest change to come out of the off-season to date is the abrupt move by the Cowboys to flip from a 3-4 defense they've used dating back to the Bill Parcells era to go with the "Tampa 2" variety of the 4-3 defense favored by new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.

I've had some discussions on Twitter and via email today about the quixotic decision by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to replace outgoing defensive coordinator Rob Ryan with Kiffin, who at age 73 is a wily veteran but who hasn't coached in the NFL since the rule changes made for player safety reasons tilted the table in favor of passing offenses. This isn't to say that the Tampa 2 can't work in the modern NFL; this past season the Bears went 10-6 running it. But I strongly question the move by Dallas with their personnel.

Less than a year ago, the Cowboys gave UFA CB Brandon Carr $22.5M guaranteed to sign and then traded their first-and-second rounders in the draft to jump up eight spots to draft LSU CB Morris Claiborne at #6 overall. And, this isn't to discredit the value of having top-notch corners in the modern NFL, but the Tampa 2 needs them the least of all. Remember how teams used to sign Colts free agent corners and they turned into busts over and over and over? It's in large part because they were system guys, fast but undersized, who didn't fit into systems that primarily use man coverage schemes.

Here's the problem: success in the Tampa 2 is predicated on the front four being able to force pressure on the QB in passing situations, particularly from interior defensive linemen. It's why Warren Sapp was such a good fit with Kiffin's system on the Bucs -- he might overpursue on running plays and leave holes open for cutbacks, but he was a menace on passing downs. Also important is a middle linebacker who is a tackling machine: think Derrick Brooks or Brian Urlacher or even Pat Angerer with the 2012 Colts. Finally, you need safeties with game-changing talent, like John Lynch or Bob Sanders or even Mike Brown circa 2005.

Jordan Rodgers
Jordan Rodgers played QB at Vanderbilt for two seasons.
(Jeremy Brevard - USA TODAY Sports)
And, while you can also point to Ronde Barber or Charles Tillman as important corners within the confines of a Tampa 2 style defense, it's not as if their presence was paramount to that alignment's success. In short, Dallas will have some major personnel decisions to make very soon, not the least of which involves what to do (if anything) with pending UFA 3-4 OLB Anthony Spencer, who lead the team in tackles in 2012 with 95.

One addendum: a friend of mine who's a Cowboys fan made a pretty strong argument to me via email on how a 4-3 defense could work, believing that Jay Ratliff, Sean Lee and Bruce Carter would all be able to adapt well to the new scheme and that DeMarcus Ware could adapt to a Simeon Rice role as a 4-3 DE. We'll see.

News broke late last night about the Browns hiring Carolina Panthers OC Rob Chudzinski as their new head coach, met with some confusion and disdain from those unfamiliar with the man. How he will fare in Cleveland remains to be seen, but he was the offensive coordinator for the 2001 Miami Hurricanes, one of the strongest and most proficient college football teams in recent memory, and he helped Cam Newton advance as an NFL quarterback despite having a less-than-stellar WR lineup over the past two seasons. But in the NFL you usually don't get very long to prove yourself -- just ask Mike Mularkey, ousted after just one year as Jacksonville's head coach last season with a horribly managed roster that wasn't his doing. Sometimes life isn't fair.

My friend and former co-worker Chris Goodman asked me a question on Twitter on Wednesday.

11:13 AM - 9 Jan 13
@chrisgoodman
: Draft King have any VU players? Is Rodgers even on the list?

The short answer: no, since I concentrate strictly on the first round. QB Jordan Rodgers, the younger brother of Packers star QB Aaron Rodgers, could possibly receive a late round flier, though he's more likely to be an undrafted free agent signing. At 6'1" he has below prototype height, though his 6'2" brother is slightly below ideal height as well. The problem for the younger Rodgers is his completion percentage, just below 60% for 2012 after posting 50% in 2011. Compare that with the 66%+ that Aaron had coming out of Cal, and it might seem like a mild difference, but I assure you it's significant, particularly with accuracy being more important than ever in the NFL.

One last thing that really has me agitated is what new Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville is accused of doing to recruits that committed to the Bearcats before Butch Jones bolted for the University of Tennessee. As per multiple reports, Tuberville has decided to withdraw scholarship offers to several incoming players... only he hasn't had the decency to let them know. And, yes, it was Tuberville who once said they'd have to take him out of Oxford "in a pinebox" (meaning a coffin) just a few days before bolting from Ole Miss for Auburn.

If you think I go overboard sometimes with my unwavering disdain for the NCAA and the twisted, exploitative, one-sided monstrosity of a machine that is major college football, read this write-up about Tuberville and get back to me. The same guy who also allegedly pulled a dine-and-dash maneuver on some recruits at Texas Tech as he caught the last train out of Lubbock is now reportedly pulling scholarships on high school players who had committed to Cincinnati without telling them. Guess what the repercussions will be for Tuberville? Nothing... save for the disdain of those in the know and the ire of high school programs whose players he jilted.


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