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National Football League
Draft King Analysis

January 30, 2011
Lou Pickney,

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The NFL announced on Thursday that the franchise tag will be available for teams to use on players who are set to become unrestricted free agents. That means that the Eagles will likely use the franchise tag on Michael Vick to keep him for 2011, and ditto for any team with a would-be free agent that they are willing to pay good money to keep.

Von Miller
Von Miller had a great showing this past week in Mobile. (Icon SMI)
The fact that this issue wasn't clarified until three days ago speaks to the depth of uncertainty facing the NFL as it prepares to enter uncharted territory with the expiration of the current CBA, which is slated to end on March 4. I was recently asked on the Batchelor Pad internet radio show how teams are supposed to prepare for the draft with so many unknowns involved, not the least of which would include the inability to sign free agents after the CBA expires. I didn't have a good answer for that question then, and I don't have one now. NFL general managers will face a tremendous number of extra challenges in the next few months absent an extension of the CBA.

The star of the Senior Bowl week in Mobile was Texas A&M OLB Von Miller, who was one of the top prospects to take part in the event and who managed to boost his stock even higher thanks to his strong performance in both practice and the Senior Bowl game itself yesterday. A pair of defensive linemen also had strong weeks: Cal DE Cameron Jordan and Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan, and various other players made positive impressions on miscellaneous scouts and coaches. Michigan State OLB Greg Jones looked good, and he could be a great fit on a team that primarily runs the Tampa Two style defense.

On offense it was Christian Ponder earning MVP honors with his 7-of-13 day throwing for 132 yards and a pair of TDs. One of those went to Miami WR Leonard Hankerson, who received some criticism for catching too many balls with his body during the week. Hankerson came through in actual game action though, and his five reception, 100 yard receiving day yesterday, will help to quell some of his critics. As for Ponder, he's more likely to be a second-round selection, though he presented a strong case for himself in Mobile.

There weren't many huge success stories for offensive linemen coming out of the week. Florida State OG/C Rodney Hudson received some praise, though his lack of size will likely end up keeping him from being a first-round pick. In my last mock I had Hudson going at #27 overall to the Falcons, but in reality he's more likely to be a round two or three pick due to being undersized for the position. Even for interior offensive linemen, being undersized is a very tough thing to overcome.

I'd be hesitant to cast too many negative comments toward the various offensive tackles who took part in the Senior Bowl. It's true that some guys looked bad at times, including Boston College OT Anthony Castonzo and Arkansas OT DeMarcus Love. But keep in mind that offensive line relies a great deal on operating as a unit, and with just four days of practice it can be difficult to get all of the blocking schemes implemented correctly, particularly with players subbing in and out. Moreover, in the case of the North, they had natural offensive tackles playing guard in some cases, and having players out of their usual spot on the offensive line can cause adjustment problems, particularly with the limited practice time available to them.


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