A Final Draft Wrapup

April 29, 2009

In the end, three Gators got drafted and four more found jobs as undrafted free agents:

Percy Harvin, 1st round to Minnesota

Louis Murphy, 4th round to Oakland

Cornelius Ingram, 5th round to Philadelphia

Phil Trautwein to St. Louis

Jason Watkins to Houston

James Smith to Cincinnati

Kestahn Moore to Denver

It was a bit disappointing, all things considered. I had heard that Murphy and Ingram each had the potential to go as high as the second round. I never expected to see them have to wait until the fourth and fifth rounds to go.

In Murphy’s case, it may not have a happy ending. The Raiders at this point are a black hole for talent, though he does get to have JaMarcus Russell put football-shaped holes in his hands on Sundays. He’ll be a great addition to Oakland’s track team, along with Darrius Heyward-Bey, but whether Oakland will find football success is beyond me. Incidentally, I don’t think Heyward-Bey is any better than Murphy is, but the inanity surrounding 40 times at the combine made him a No. 1 pick. Go figure.

In Ingram’s case, it is probably a blessing in disguise. Philly had the best draft in my estimation, and with Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy, and Ingram, no one upgraded their offense more. He did say in an interview that the Eagles would have taken him earlier if they had a third or fourth round pick, so that makes him (and me) feel better. Regardless, he’s going to be on one of the NFL’s best offenses within two years thanks to McNabb, Westbrook, Jackson, and his fellow draftmates.

It seems odd to me that neither of the tackles got drafted. I know that Trautwein and Watkins weren’t going to be franchise cornerstones, but I would have thought they’d be worth a late round pick. It seemse like the NFL hasn’t been liking Florida offensive linemen lately, though that will probably change whenever the Pouncey brothers enter their names in.

I am glad to see Moore get picked up by Denver. He has no shot at playing running back there, as Denver now has about 15 of them on the roster, but he could make it as a blocker and a special teams guy. Last season had to be tough for him, having lost his feature back role to a couple of freshmen. However, he apparently never complained and kept on picking up blitz after blitz to buy Tebow time. Say what you want about his running back play, and someone probably already has, but the guy can block and could be in the league for at least a few seasons.

I am also glad to see James Smith get picked up. He’s a former walk on who will be remembered by die hard Gators as the guy who recovered South Carolina’s ill-fated throwback during a kickoff last season. It’s rare that long snappers ever get drafted, so he really never had a shot at hearing his name called over the weekend. However, he probably has a decent shot at making a roster somewhere due to his specialization and demonstrated ability to play well on special teams.

Next year, Florida will have a boatload of guys in the draft. Seniors like Spikes, Tebow, and Cunningham will be there, and underclassmen like Haden, Dunlap, and the Pounceys will probably be there too. Some mock drafts for 2010 are already out there, but I won’t link to any since they’re of no use now. After all, at this time last year, Todd Boeckman and Cullen Harper were no worse than second round picks.

What I do know is that the thin draft is not a sign of weakness, as FSU’s and Miami’s were, but the last echoing effect of the final, uncertain year of the Zook era and the transitional class that Urban Meyer had to throw together at the last minute in 2005. Only five players who we’ll see take the field from that time remain: Dorian Munroe, Jonathan Phillips, David Nelson, and Ryan Stamper in the two-deep plus Cade Holliday on special teams.

Next year is when Meyer’s monster 2006 recruiting class (minus Percy, of course) finally hits the draft. But before that, there is the matter of the fall when those seniors lead Florida to its third title in four years.


The Oakland Raiders Put Tennessee On Notice

March 14, 2009

onnotice

“As you are undoubtedly aware, Mr. Kiffin is involved in arbitration with the Raiders. Not withstanding the fact that Mr. Kiffin must have told you about the pendency of this proceeding, we want to put you on notice of it, and the University’s involvement in some of the underlying facts.”

The Raiders have been feuding with Lane Kiffin since before they fired him near the beginning of the 2008 NFL season. The team believes that Kiffin broke NFL rules, breached his contract, and “induced” assistant coach James Cregg to breach his contract by leaving before the end of the season to work at Tennessee.

CBS Sports managed to get a copy of a letter the Oakland Raiders sent to the University of Tennessee, and the quote right at the beginning is in it. It details the team’s list of grievances against Kiffin, but that’s not all.

The Raiders apparently plan to use some of the statements that Kiffin and Tennessee Athletics Director Mike Hamilton made about the Raiders. At Kiffin’s introductory press conference, the two laughed about Oakland and called it “dysfunctional.” The team, however, says any dysfunction was a direct result of Kiffin’s alleged rule breaking and lying to the team and media.

The letter is also notice to Tennessee that the Raiders plan to get access to all of Kiffin’s employment agreements with the university. They feel those documents are necessary evidence for sorting out the grievance Kiffin filed with the NFL over whether he was entitiled to the remainder of the money in his contract. Oakland’s front office refuses to give him any of it since it believes he breached his contract.

That request for documentation really isn’t the biggest deal of this whole thing. UT is a public university, and those documents can probably be obtained as a part of whatever freedom of information act the state of Tennessee has.

The biggest accusation is that the team believes that it is “quite possible” that Kiffin gave information about the Raiders to opponents while unemployed. The Raiders also estimate that the arbitration process will occupy some of Kiffin’s time over the next five months.

The idea that Kiffin would give inside information to opponents should not sit well with any fans, and it certainly wouldn’t go over well in the SEC if proven. For instance, a contingent of Alabama fans became vocally upset last December when news broke that former Utah and current Florida head coach Urban Meyer discussed Alabama with his friend and current Utah head coach Kyle Wittingham.

The idea of devoting time to this case over the next few months will also probably chafe Kiffin himself. After all, he was the person who (fictitiously) said he fired someone over being 25 minutes late to pick him up from the airport to illustrate how much time he wanted to devote to his job.

Whether much comes of this, I can’t say. It seems to me that at this point, just about everyone has his or her mind made up on both the Raiders and Kiffin. If you read the letter it will become clear though that Oakland will drag Tennessee into this arbitration process, and the team practically advocates for UT to fire him:

“It cannot be in the best interest of the University to continue to serve as his ally in his personal, though misplaced, war to rewrite the past.”

I think this will be a story worth watching regardless of what Kiffin has said and done over the past couple of months. I cannot remember ever seeing an NFL team publicly feud with a university, so this fight makes for a unique precedent.

All those who were cheering Kiffin on as he made Tennessee “more interesting” had no idea just how right they were.

UPDATE

Kiffin and his lawyer have fired back:

“Starting with Al Davis’ nationally televised press conference publicizing the firing the head coach Lane Kiffin last fall, the Raiders have continued to attack coach Kiffin in the media…

“Starting next Tuesday at a hotel in Oakland, the Raiders will no longer be able to rely on unsupported allegations made in the media, as a key Raiders personnel, starting with Al Davis, will finally have to answer questions under oath at their depositions, a process that coach Kiffin is confident will demonstrate that he was fired by the Raiders without cause and show that the continuing assault of allegations being made against him are false.”


Tebow and the NFL

February 9, 2009

If you had any doubts about how big a profile Tim Tebow has earned within football circles, have a look at this video from the sidelines of this year’s Super Bowl:

On top of that, at this point just about anyone connected from the NFL (who isn’t directly associated with a team) is getting asked about Tebow’s chances on the next level. The Orlando Sentinel had an opportunity to interview Jon Gruden now that he’s got some time on his hands, and the topic of college football and its most prominent player came up.

One thing Gruden said was that he’s going to take some time to learn the spread offense, and in particular Chip Kelly’s version of it that Oregon runs. When asked if the spread could become a base offense in the NFL, he said “no question.” He was also asked about Tebow’s chances on the next level. Here’s what Gruden replied with:

“…Tim Tebow is so interesting to me. He’s like Brandon Jacobs playing quarterback. He’s 250 pounds. He’s the strongest human being who’s ever played the position. Ever. He will kick the living [expletive] out of a defensive lineman. He’ll fight anybody. He is rare. Tebow is the kind of guy who could revolutionize the game. He’s the ‘wildcat’ who can throw. Most of the teams that have the wildcat back there, it’s Ronnie Brown, it’s Jerious Norwood, it’s whoever you want to say it is. This guy here is 250 pounds of concrete cyanide, man. And he can throw. He throws well enough at any level to play quarterback.

“He can play quarterback in the NFL. When he was a high school senior, they played Armwood in the state championship game. I have tape. He has an 80-yard touchdown run that put them in the lead. When it flipped around, and Armwood had the ball, what position do you think Tebow was playing? He was playing nose guard — and he disrupted about 10 plays. This guy is totally different. He’s got Rich Gannon, Drew Brees, that kind of makeup as a team guy. What he said after the Ole Miss game, I said, ‘That’s my favorite football player I’ve ever seen in my whole life.’ I said, ‘I want Florida to win every game that kid plays from now on.'”

So as you can see, Tebow has a pretty big fan in Gruden.

Florida’s new quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler was also asked about Tebow’s chances on the next level. In his years at Michigan, Loeffler worked with pro-style Wolverine QBs from Tom Brady up through Chad Henne. He spent one year in the NFL with the Lions before taking the UF job. Here are his thoughts on Tim Tebow, NFL quarterback:

“You’re damn right he’ll be a good NFL quarterback. He’s got It. There aren’t too many people across the country who have It. You’re really only looking at five or six great NFL players. There is no question in my mind he will be an NFL player.

“There are several different styles out there, some base fundamentals you have to do. Does he have some things he has to work on? Certainly. Of course. It’s very similar from a guy coming from high school to college. There’s a transition you have to make.

“But can that kid play in the NFL? Absolutely.”

It is pretty well known that Tebow has some things to work on before going to the next level. I have a post already written up that I’m saving for later illustrating how long his delivery is compared to Sam Bradford’s compact windup. Bradford, as you know, is expected to be a top-five draft pick in part thanks to his mechanics.

It is also pretty well known that Urban Meyer thinks this Tebow kid is great just the way he is. When asked about the words of wisdom that Meyer imparted to his new quarterbacks coach, Loeffler says all he got was “don’t screw him up.”


Four Gators Headed to the NFL Combine

February 3, 2009

ESPN SEC football blogger Chris Low has the list of all 54 SEC players invited to the NFL combine. Somewhat surprising to me was that only four Florida players were invited to come.

Granted the team was very young and automatic invitees Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes chose to stay in school, but that number seems low. The four guys were:

Percy Harvin

Cornelius Ingram

Louis Murphy

Jason Watkins

The name that jumps out to me as missing is Phil Trautwein. As I understood it, he could have left and been drafted after the 2007 season despite missing it with an ACL injury. I know he had about four false starts in the national title game, but I figured he’d at least be invited to the combine.

It is awesome to see that Cornelius Ingram is going though. Gator fans certainly didn’t forget about him this season, but it’s good to know the scouts didn’t either.

Not getting a combine invite doesn’t mean a guy will be passed over entirely on draft day, but it does just about end a player’s chances of being taken early. I just figure this is a sign that Trautwein will be a late round choice. If he is good enough to play in the league, he’ll make it one way or another.


Converting Between the College, NFL Passer Ratings

January 21, 2009

As long as quarterbacks have played the central role of offensive football, people have tried to quantify who is the best. Various methods have been concocted to do just that, and many more are being devised even today.

The two most widely-cited measures are passer rating and passing efficiency. The former is used by the NFL, while the latter is used by the NCAA.

They both are complex formulas, and if you want the details, hit up the passer rating Wikipedia page. Despite their differences, they use the same four components: completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdowns per attempt, and interceptions per attempt. What differs is how the parts are weighted.

The NFL’s passer rating imposes a ceiling and floor on the four parts, so it has a lower boundary at zero and an upper boundary of 158.3. The idea is not to let outliers, good or bad, have undue influence on the rating. If you’re curious, the answer is yes, the pro game has seen its share of both perfect games and zero games.

The NCAA’s passing efficiency has no such boundaries against outliers. The maximum score occurs when someone completes every pass for a 99-yard touchdown and the minimum score occurs when someone completes every pass for a 99-yard loss. You are correct in assuming we’ve never seen anyone log a maximum or minimum score.

Despite there being pros and cons to each system, they are generally kept apart. The passer ratings of college quarterbacks and the passing efficiency of NFL quarterbacks are not widely reported.

Here are some tables that show some insight into how the systems differ and how we might compare the relative performances of collegiate and professional quarterbacks.

For the sake of brevity, I have included only the top ten of each category in the tables.

I Said Relative Performance

Before we get into numbers, I want to stress that any comparisons done between college and pro quarterbacks are meant to viewed in relative terms.

The NFL obviously has tougher defenses than college does, but the NFL also has better offensive lines and, well, quarterbacks too. I don’t think anyone would argue that the Peyton Manning of today is not better than the version of himself that lost to Florida four times at Tennessee.

Take the inter-division comparisons with a grain of salt, and know that this (like football) is in the end just for fun.

NFL Passing Efficiencies

I will start with passing efficiency of the primary NFL starting quarterbacks. I got my stats on them from ESPN’s stats page for the regular season, so if you’re looking for the passer rating standings, there you go.

2008 NFL Passing Efficiency
Rank Player Team Passing Efficiency Pass. Rat. Rank
1 P. Rivers SD 154.6 1
2 D. Brees NO 144.4 4
3 K. Warner ARI 143.3 3
4 C. Pennington MIA 142.1 2
5 M. Schaub HOU 141.1 7
6 A. Rodgers GB 139.3 6
7 P. Manning IND 139.1 5
8 T. Romo DAL 138.5 8
9 M. Ryan ATL 134.7 11
10 J. Garcia TB 132.8 9

Here, Philip Rivers still rules the roost. There’s a little movement in the rankings, but no one slides more than two spots one way or the other.

None of these numbers really pop out though, even Rivers’ mark. That is because college quarterbacks routinely achieve loftier numbers, such as Sam Bradford’s 180.3 mark that led the college game in 2008.

For comparison, Rivers’ efficiency score would land him at 14th-best in the country between Ball State’s Nate Davis and Nebraska’s Joe Ganz. There is a good reason why college quarterbacks can go higher than the pro guys, and while I think you know what it is, I’ll take a look at it later.

The lowest passer efficiency score was by Cleveland’s Derek Anderson. He managed a 103.0 passing efficiency. By comparison, the 100th-ranked college passer was Kentucky’s Mike Hartline with a 104.7 score.

College Passer Ratings

Now it’s time to see how the big men on campus fared using the NFL’s report card. Their stats came from the NCAA stats site.

2008 NCAA I-A Passer Ratings
Rank Player Team Passer Rating Pass. Eff. Rank
1 S. Bradford OU 127.0 1
2 T. Tebow UF 122.1 4
3 C. McCoy TEXAS 121.6 3
4 D. Johnson TULSA 117.7 2
5 C. Clement RICE 116.5 7
6 M. Sanchez USC 113.0 6
7 G. Harrell TTU 112.9 8
8 C. Keenum HOU 110.9 9
9 Z. Robinson OKST 110.2 5
10 C. Daniel MIZZ 107.5 10

As you can see, the college guys do better overall on the NFL’s scale too. In fact, Bradford’s season would shatter Peyton Manning’s all-time record of 121.1 for a single season. The other two Heisman finalists would edge him out too, for that matter.

There was a bit more movement in these standings after conversion than in the NFL standings, with Oklahoma State’s Zac Robinson taking the biggest fall at four spots. I don’t know if that has more to do with formulaic differences, but I have a feeling it has more to do with the fact that there are a lot of quarterbacks in I-A college football. The bunching that ensues means small real drops could get magnified as relative drops.

The lowest passer rating in the pros was by the Browns’ Anderson again with a score of 66.5. Kentucky’s Hartline, Mr. 100th Place in college, had a rating of 69.4.

You know there has to be something inflating the college stats. I mean the No. 32 college quarterback in passer rating was Illinois’ Juice Williams, and he managed to post an 86.4 rating. That would tie him for 14th place in the NFL with Eli Manning and Donovan McNabb.

Adjusted College Passer Ratings

The inflation factor was something we all know. They’re sweet, they’re fluffy, they’re cupcakes.

As I said above, I’m looking to judge relative value. NFL teams don’t get to stock up to a third of their schedule with arena league teams, but the top college teams can schedule anywhere from three to five teams (depending on the conference) that cannot compete on the top team’s level.

In 2008, the power conferences were the six BCS leagues plus the Mountain West Conference. Because I’m feeling charitable, and because their name is in the BCS contracts too, I counted the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame as a power team for this part too.

So, I took the top ten quarterbacks from these conferences and took out all stats against teams that are not power teams. You can argue that in 2008 Central Michigan and Troy were much better foes than, say, Washington or Washington State, and you’d probably be right. Even so, I had to draw the line somewhere.

Here is what the passing efficiency stats look like for the top college quarterbacks from power teams against power teams:

Top QBs from Power Teams Against Power Teams
Rank Player Team Pass. Eff. Adj. Pass. Eff. Diff.
1 S. Bradford OU 181.0 180.8 +0.2
2 T. Tebow UF 166.3 172.4 -6.0
3 M. Sanchez USC 164.6 164.6
4 C. McCoy TEXAS 163.0 173.8 -10.8
5 G. Harrell TTU 162.7 160.0 2.7
6 Z. Robinson OKST 155.8 166.8 -11.0
7 J. Ganz NEB 153.4 153.7 -0.3
8 M. Stafford UGA 150.6 153.5 -3.0
9 B. Johnson UTAH 148.4 149.4 -1.0
10 C. Daniel MIZZ 146.7 159.4 -12.7

Bradford’s and Sanchez’s numbers didn’t change much because Oklahoma played only one cupcake (I-AA Chattanooga) and USC didn’t play any.

You can see, however, that three of the other five Big 12 quarterbacks and Tebow benefited some from feasting on weaker, non-conference competition. At least in Tebow’s case he didn’t fall behind anyone as a result. No one else changed that dramatically, though Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell somehow got better against better competition.

Philip Rivers moves up into seventh place now that we’ve focused on quarterbacks from the top of Div. I-A and only how they do against other top teams. The college quarterbacks still have crappy BCS conference teams on their side, but at least the empty calories have been removed.

Finally, let’s take a look at the passer ratings of the college players.

Adjusted College Passer Ratings

This table contains the same guys, only this time it’s using the NFL’s system.

Top QBs from Power Teams Against Power Teams
Rank Player Team Pass. Rat. Adj. Pass. Rat. Diff.
1 S. Bradford OU 126.8 127.0 1
2 T. Tebow UF 117.6 122.1 -4.5
3 G. Harrell TTU 115.9 112.9 3.0
4 M. Sanchez USC 113.0 113.0
5 C. McCoy TEXAS 112.0 121.6 -9.6
6 J. Ganz NEB 103.8 103.0 0.9
7 B. Johnson UTAH 103.2 103.5 -0.3
8 Z. Robinson OKST 103.0 110.2 -7.2
9 M. Stafford UGA 98.5 101.7 -3.2
10 C. Daniel MIZZ 97.2 107.5 -10.3

So Peyton’s record is still falling at the hands of the new Heisman winner, but no one else is breaking it this year. Philip Rivers also moves up a spot to sixth, behind only the three Heisman finalists, USC’s new blue chipper, and a guy who runs an offense called the “Air Raid.” Not bad, Phil.

Missouri’s Chase Daniel again takes a hard hit in the rankings. This is no surprise to readers of the excellent Dr. Saturday site, where editor Matt Hinton showed that Daniel was only able to light up bad defenses this past season. Maybe it was the thumb injury, or maybe he wasn’t that good. I don’t know if we’ll ever find out.

Even as Daniel struggled to post big numbers against teams with a pulse, his adjusted passer rating was still higher than 30 of the 32 regular starting NFL quarterbacks. Why are there so many college quarterbacks with monster passer ratings?

Think Spectrums

I don’t mean to keep singling out Mike Hartline; I promise I have nothing against him. He just happened to finish exactly 100th in passing efficiency, so that got him chosen as the representative for the bottom of the college football quarterback pecking order.

His adjusted passing efficiency is 97.6, and his adjusted passer rating is 62.3. The former is higher than the efficiency for the NFL’s worst regular, Derek Anderson, but the latter is lower than the former Oregon State turnover machine’s rating. In other words, they are about even when it comes to performance relative to their rankings within their respective leagues.

That is why there are a lot of college guys at the top of the hypothetical combined rankings. There would be a lot at the bottom of them too, and plenty in the middle as well. After all, there are 119 teams in Div. I-A but only 32 NFL teams.

Quarterbacking quality is a spectrum, and college football simply has more guys to put on its range than the NFL does.

My goal wasn’t to try to tell you that college quarterbacks are better than pro quarterbacks because, as I said at the beginning, that’s patently untrue. I only wanted to show how the two major systems of rating quarterbacks compare so you can have some sort of reference when seeing one or the other.

Neither method is perfect, and there might even be a better one out there. Until you can convince the NFL or NCAA to adopt it though, passer rating and passing efficiency the big ones we’ve all got.

Now, at least, you can eyeball the differences in them and make a pretty good guess as to how college and pro quarterbacks are doing relative to each other and their respective leagues.


Spread Quarterbacks in the NFL

August 26, 2008

The NFL prospects of quarterbacks who play in spread offenses in college has been a hot topic this offseason.

The spread in general has been dissected more often than frogs in a fifth grade science classroom this summer, in part because it has been slowly taking over the college football universe. Some see it as a temporary phenomenon. Others think of it as the new West Coast Offense, a scheme initially derided as gimmickry but now is an accepted part of the football canon.

The debate often reaches its boiling point when comparing the pro prospects of Tim Tebow and Matthew Stafford. Tebow proponents tout his size, arm strength, and mobility as things that will impress the scouts. Stafford proponents promote his physical features as well, but mostly the fact that he runs a “pro-style offense.”

Some have reported that many NFL teams shy away from spread quarterbacks because those signal callers operate from shotgun so much. The theory is that the pro teams don’t want to be bothered with teaching a guy how to drop back after taking a snap from under center.

Dennis Dodd has gone so far as to predict a demise of the spread in big time programs in a relatively short time frame. His point is that big-time high school quarterbacks who want to go to the NFL will seek offensive schemes closer to what most professional teams run and will forsake the spread schools.

Dodd’s biggest example against spread schemes was Missouri’s struggles against Oklahoma last season. He talks about the difficulty that Chase Daniel had at being comfortable against the Sooners’ big defensive front.

What he doesn’t mention is the fact that spread teams West Virginia (48), Texas Tech (34), and yes, Missouri (31) put up the three highest point totals against OU in 2007. When it comes down to it, Oklahoma simply had a great pass rush that most quarterbacks would struggle against, and spread offenses had the most success at putting points on the board against it.

What spread detractors often don’t mention either is that two of the best NFL offenses of 2007 employed spread sets.

The Patriots spread it out against the Eagles in 2007.

The Patriots spread it out against the Eagles in 2007.

The New England Patriots ran the most spread in 2007, and it produced one of the best offenses the NFL has ever seen. Brett Farve experienced a renaissance last season in Green Bay, also aided in part by running some shotgun spread. He particularly liked those sets, and he’s now on the Jets whose offensive coordinator, former Gator quarterback Brian Schottenheimer, also likes the shotgun spread.

Having Randy Moss helped the Patriots’ offense a lot. However, the key to making everything go was their smallish yet speedy and dynamic slot receiver, Wes Welker. Most NFL teams do not have three great cornerbacks, and there’s no way a linebacker could cover him. Coming from Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense at Texas Tech no doubt helped him play that role, and he caught 112 balls for over 1,100 yards last season.

Recent draftees Ted Ginn, Jr. and DeShawn Jackson could easily be molded to fit that position. Plenty of receivers who are in spread offenses in college right now could be that dynamic slot guy for an offense that desires one as well.

Much has been made of Alex Smith’s struggles in San Francisco and Vince Young’s difficulties in cobbling together a decent passer rating in Tennessee despite winning rookie of the year. The people who point that out though usually don’t mention pro-style poster boy Matt Leinart’s inability, now confirmed for a third straight year, to beat out an over-the-hill Kurt Warner in Arizona. Or, for that matter, the success of the spread-bred Drew Brees.

The fact of the matter is, most quarterbacks don’t make it in the NFL. If it was easy to do so, the top-end guys wouldn’t make so much money. The sample size of quarterbacks who have run this decade’s style of spread offense in college and have had a chance in the pros is far too small to make a lasting conclusion about their viability on the next level right now.

Besides, defense wins championships in the end. Even in today’s spread-happy college game, defense wins championships. Well, special teams helps too.

Some folks have even advanced the idea that the spread will trickle up to the NFL, much as it trickled up to college from high school. As more colleges run the spread, more spread players will be entering the draft.

Most offensive coordinators say they will tailor their scheme to the players they have, and if that is the case they will have no choice but to install some elements of the spread. The NFL will be a talent-poor place if it chooses to ignore the majority of the offensive players from Florida, Tennessee, Auburn, Michigan, most of the Big 12, half of the Big Ten, a few Pac-10 schools, and whoever else in major college football converts to a spread scheme.

A true zone read spread option offense almost certainly will never be run in the NFL. Too much money is invested in quarterbacks to have them take that many hits. However, spreading the field has proven to be profitable to teams that have the receivers to do it. Plus, Florida has shown at times over the past two years how to run a spread offense with a tight end and fullback, two things that every pro team has.

I don’t think the spread is going to die out any time soon, especially in college. There simply aren’t enough collegiate DBs who can make one-on-one tackles to ever see it die. I would also expect to see teams experiment more with it in the NFL just in case it is viable. As I said before, the West Coast offense was laughed at initially, and we’ve seen the Run and Shoot, itself a spread variant, go through the league.

Should the spread catch on some more in the NFL, it will certainly mean good things for spread quarterbacks. Whether it will in time for the class of 2009 or 2010 is unclear, but if spread-wielding teams like the Patriots, Steelers, and Jets put up some big numbers, that offense could be the next target of the copycat league.

Until and unless that happens, we’ll have to take the spread quarterbacks on a case-by-case basis. It’s just as unfair to doubt Tebow on the basis of Alex Smith’s NFL play just as it would be to doubt Stafford based on the NFL play of David Greene, Chris Weinke, Danny Kanell, and other quarterbacks groomed by Mark Richt.

In the meantime, let’s all just relax and enjoy one of the most entertaining offenses to come down the pipe. And one more time, lest we all forget, defense wins championships.


The Draft: How Did the Bucs Do?

April 28, 2008

First Round: Aqib Talib, CB Kansas

The Bucs definitely had a need at corner, and on the field Talib fits in well with Monte Kiffin’s Tampa 2 scheme. He tends to take some chances, but the safeties will be there to erase mistakes. He has the potential to be a playmaker and really rack up interceptions.

So why was he still around at 20? The all important character concerns. He’s failed drug tests, been late to meetings, and shown an all around lack of maturity. The Bucs once upon a time took a chance on a guy like that, and Warren Sapp turned out all right.

If the organization can get his head screwed on straight, Talib could be a mainstay of the defense for many years. If not, he’ll be a total headache, and the fans will probably complain about them not taking CB Mike Jenkins from USF.

Second Round: Dexter Jackson, WR Appalachian State

The last Dexter Jackson to play for Tampa Bay went on to become the Super Bowl MVP. This one has a long way to go before he gets close to that, but he’ll get a shot at playing since the team had a need at wide out.

He comes into the NFL with two strikes against him – he went to a smaller school and he played in a read option spread offense. The former is not as big a concern since App State was better than a lot of I-A teams. The second is more significant. The pure West Coast Offense that Jon Gruden runs is incredibly complex, whereas the read option is a very simple offense.

Jackson has the speed to become a productive slot receiver, but I would not expect him to become that yet in just his rookie season.

Third Round: Jeremy Zuttah, OG Rutgers

You can never have too much depth on your offensive line, and you could do a lot worse than a guy who’s been opening lanes for Ray Rice the past couple years. He played both guard and tackle in school, showing some versatility. As I understand it, he’ll need to bulk up and get stronger to become a starter.

It probably would have been better to take a higher quality lineman in the second round and pick up a receiver in the third. It was clear that receivers were undervalued in this draft since none went in the first round. The team should have realized that a future slot receiver like Mario Manningham, Early Doucet, or Andre Caldwell would be available with this pick. All but Doucet were still there when the Bucs made this selection.

Fourth Round: Dre Moore, DT Maryland

I don’t know much about this guy. He’s big, but apparently he’s got no consistency, technique, or instincts. But hey, he’s got a burst!

Defensive line depth can always help, especially when blitzes are so infrequent in the Tampa 2. Kiffin has a good track record on drafting linemen, so I’ll trust him on this one for now.

Fifth Round: Josh Johnson, QB San Diego

I know there needs to be a long term plan for succession of Jeff Garcia. Chris Simms is not the answer; neither is a McCown brother. I also suspect neither is a guy from San Diego taken in the fifth round. I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but I have no idea what this pick was for.

Maybe Gruden saw that he’s a mobile quarterback and decided to take a flier on him. The whole point of my satirical piece about his secret draft card, though, was to make fun of his habit of stockpiling QBs. I never expected him to actually take one. Looks like the joke is on me.

Sixth Round: Geno Hayes, LB Florida State

You can call me a homer for not liking this pick, and that’s fine. I don’t care. I just don’t want a guy who antagonizes his biggest rival’s quarterback and then forgets to show up for the game. He had only one tackle against Florida, and he got to watch the guy he talked trash about account for 5 TDs in an easy 45-12 win.

I’m sure he played well over his career, and the Neanderthal offenses he saw in the ACC are what he’ll see in the pros. Still, he’s an idiot. I don’t want idiots on the Bucs.

Seventh Round: Cory Boyd, RB South Carolina

He’s a tough guy, and he can play. He won’t be a lead running back, but he’ll probably play a part in the committee that will end up at the position when Cadillac Williams inevitably gets hurt.

What I don’t get is this: if you wanted a backup running back, why not draft Mike Hart in the sixth round? He’s a tough runner, a class act, and he fumbled once in his entire college career (not counting the Citrus Bowl against Florida). He’s also not an idiot, which Geno Hayes most certainly is.