Last week, I published Part One of my recent interview with Longball, the Big Board guru for Drafttek.com. In this, final part we cover some more Combine questions, his take on the Chiefs’ needs and some thoughts on some prospects the Chiefs may be looking at after round one.
Merlin: Just to follow up on a couple of thoughts you raised. I have long suspected that the parts of the combine we don’t see, like the medical checks and interviews are more important than televised parts of the combine. It’s nice to get an accurate height and weight. Some players, like Michael Crabtree, seems to shrink quite a bit on the flight to Indy. Beyond that, as you mentioned, the game tapes are really more indicative of what a player can do. From an outside perspective, how do you evaluate the interviews? Do we get any leaks on that? How much stock can we put into what players a particular team talks to?
Longball: As far as evaluating the interview process, let’s use the QB interviews as an example – the coaches and/or scouts describe a hypothetical setting in a game to the prospect and then ask him to diagram a play that he believes will beat the defense. The ability to read a defense and determine its weakness is a highly desirable trait in a QB.
The information from the interviews is highly confidential; however, there are leaks on the prospects that each team is talking to. The interviews at the Combine can be prospects that the team is considering and some are just smoke. Prospect interviews at team headquarters are normally a little more revealing.
Merlin: You talked about Mike Mayock as someone to rely on. What does he bring to the table over more longstanding names like Mel Kiper?
Longball: Mel Kiper has become his own caricature – Mayock was a player and learned the evaluation game from Belichick. Now, I do not take everything he says as gospel,l as he has his own pet rocks, but normally his analysis is insightful. Another good, long-time source is Rick Gosselin – not that he is a talent evaluator per se, but he talks to all of the clubs and has a long standing rapport so that the information he gets is normally spot on.
Merlin: Something I have not mentioned to AA readers before is the value of an outside perspective. Long Ball is one of the non-Chief fans that I talk to about the Chiefs. Sometimes, fans can get caught up in a bubble and that bubble becomes an echo chamber. I touch base with Long Ball and others to try to keep me balanced. Long Ball, looking at it from outside, what do you see as the Chiefs primary needs? Do you care to toss out a thought for who the Chiefs should take at #5?
Longball: I’m not trying to ride the fence, but the answer depends on what management and the coaching staff are trying to accomplish. You have to believe that Charlie and Romeo have strong opinions as to the type of player that will fit their scheme(s). The Chiefs have been acquiring talent, as I recognize a number of players that I graded as prospects – some are starting, but not necessarily in a position that accentuates their strengths (Brandon Albert and Glen Dorsey) and some that are in back-up roles (Pierre Walters and Donald Washington). It’s high time that the coaching staff find out if they can play, and more importantly, will fit the scheme they are trying to implement. This may require some difficult decisions – perhaps trading players with value, or maybe you have to get rid of the “inhibitors”, veterans who are keeping the young talent off the field.
It is extremely difficult, requires different personnel and takes time and commitment to change from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4; likewise, there needs to be a definition as to what type of offensive team the Chiefs are going to be. From a defensive standpoint, I assume the Chiefs are going to run the “read, react and control” defensive line philosophy, similar to the Patriots, and allow their linebackers to run to the ball – if that’s the case, a nose tackle who can hold his ground is a must. The inside linebackers on the roster do not fit this scheme well, so that position is another consideration. On the offensive side of the ball, no matter what scheme is chosen, the offensive line should be revamped – it appears there are players playing out of position.
If the world turned upside down and Mr. Suh fell to Kansas City . . . but enough dreaming, let’s get back to reality. Rolando McClain is the prototypical ILB for a 3-4 defense, having played the position for Coach Saban at Alabama – the best offensive LT in this year’s draft is Bryan Bulaga from Iowa, which would allow Branden Albert to move back to his more natural position of OG. Either of those two prospects would be good value at #5.
Merlin: When I look at the Chiefs, I keep looking at the gaping hole at NT and scratching my head. In the draft, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of high profile options viable for the Chiefs. Baring a big reach or trading down several spots, Dan Williams is not possible. Terrance Cody has some major weight, motivation and lateral movement issues. What do you think of prospects like Cam Thomas or Torrell Troup? Can either one of them be a decent starting NT as rookies?
Longball: Dan Williams is the best NT prospect in this year’s draft; however, he would be a reach at #5 (but will be selected in the 1st round). Unless Cody gets in shape, he will cost himself some major coin as he is only a 2 down player and will not be able to stay on the field if the opposing offense has a time-consuming drive.
Cam Thomas of North Carolina is the next best NT candidate and a space-eater (6’4”, 331 lbs) and would potentially be available to KC with their 3rd round choice. Torrell Troup of Central Florida has that low center of gravity (6’3”, 317 lbs) and might be available at the Chiefs’ 4th round selection – both prospects should be able to start fairly early in the season.
Merlin: I noticed with your personal rankings, you have Brian Baluga rated over Russell Okung. What are you seeing with Baluga or is this more of an indictment of Okung?
Longball: Bulaga has excellent footwork and applies his strength (Iowa has a weight training program second to none) to the football field with leverage and technique. Okung is a good player, good attitude and work ethic, coachable – but is lacking in strength. In addition, he has a tendency to get too high and lose leverage. The only reason Bulaga is not rated as high by some of the other pundits is the time he lost early in the season due to a thyroid condition (from which he is fully recovered) and the fact that he’s coming out as an underclassman.
Merlin: In closing, I would like to run a couple of players by you. If you could give me a sentence or so and a prediction of where they would go in the draft.
He is not really on the Chiefs radar, but he is probably going to be the story of the draft. Tim Tebow, can he be a good NFL QB?
Longball: Not initially – he has fundamental flaws in his footwork and passing motion. He is a leader, a fine young man and will work hard – but the days of a Joe Kapp type QB have passed us by. Having said that, someone will take a flyer on him in the 3rd round.
Maukice Pouncey C/G Florida
Good size (6’5”, 318 lbs), footwork, strength and a student of the game – made all the line calls for the Gators. His ability to play all 3 interior positions increases his value – a 2nd round choice for sure and maybe late 1st round.
Mike Johnson OG Alabama
Smart, heady player – tall (6’6”) for OG; as a result, bends at the waist and loses leverage. Lacks footwork and athleticism of other guards in the draft – 3rd round, maybe 4th.
Cameron Sheffield OLB Troy
Not the second coming of DeMarcus Ware (smaller and slower), will have to work his way on to a team via special teams – 5th round, maybe 6th.
Jeremy Williams WR Tulane
Really showed me something at the Senior Bowl workouts – strong hands, crisp routes, does the “little things”, fairly elusive and blocks! Solid contributor, probably 3rd round; however, if he runs a sub 4.5 at the Combine, could move up.
Darrell Stuckey S Kansas
Big hitter, in-the-box strong safety – made tackles in the East/West Shrine game, but is stiff in the hips in coverage. Probably 4th, maybe 5th round, but will be a special teams demon!
Merlin: Are there any sleepers in this draft that you have your eye on?
Z-z-z-z-z-z-z, eh, um, er – were you talking to me? Oh yeah, sleepers . . . well, let’s define them this way. 32 teams times 7 rounds equals 224 draft prospects (not including compensatory picks), so let’s start there and talk about players from colleges not considered traditional powerhouses and look at some developmental prospects:
OT – Tony Washington of Abilene Christian
OG – Matt McCracken of Richmond
OC – Austin Steichen of Northern Iowa
TE – Nathan Overbay of Eastern Washington
RB – LaMarcus Coker of Hampton
WR – David Reed of Utah
QB – Tim Hiller of Western Michigan
NT – Tommie Duhart of Valdosta State
DE – Linval Joseph of East Carolina
LB – Joe Pawelek of Baylor
CB – Patrick Stoudamire of Western Illinois
S – Barry Church of Toledo
Not all of these players will make it in the NFL; however, I would certainly invest a practice squad position to any of them.
Merlin: Thanks Long Ball!
Longball: Enjoyed our visit Merlin, and thanks for having me – I enjoy our conversations because you force me to think (have to stir up the old cobwebs every now and then) and justify my ratings. Good luck to the Chiefs in the upcoming draft – even though the front office certainly has the brain power and will do a good job, we can all use a little luck, especially when it comes to a crapshoot like the NFL Draft!
Longball has finished his Big Uglies series. You can read is final chapter here. Longball gave out some awards and your truly got an honorable mention for his off the wall defensive front seven allignment. Maybe I was channeling my inner Adam Best with that one.