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Bob McGinn on 2017 NFL Draft

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  • #16
    Ranking the NFL draft prospects: Linebackers

    The Journal Sentinel’s Bob McGinn assesses the top linebackers in the NFL draft April 27-29. Included is each player’s height, weight, 40-yard time and projected round.

    Inside linebackers

    1. REUBEN FOSTER, Alabama (6-0, 231, 4.65, 1): Started 24 of 50 games at MLB. “Love him,” said one scout. “You talk about explosive, he and Jarrad Davis are train wrecks coming at you. He can run you down and he will kill you. He is so physical. … My problem is the mental part. He’s been in the same system with Nick (Saban) so he can regurgitate that. But he’s probably going to need somebody next to him to tell him how to play. Two years ago he led the team in MA’s (missed assignments). He’s also had stingers, shoulders, a lot of injuries. He delivers a lot of punishment and he takes a lot of punishment.” Recovering from rotator cuff surgery in January. Scored 9 on the Wonderlic intelligence test. “He likes football,” said another scout. “He can do it.” From Auburn, Ala. Was shot in the back at 18 months by his father while being held by his mother. The father finally was arrested in 2013. Has admitted flunking a drug test. Was sent home from the combine after blowing up at a hospital worker. “Look, there will be maintenance, but I think he will be OK,” said a third scout. “I trust him. I’m more worried about the shoulders.” Finished with 222 tackles (24 for loss) and eight sacks. “Probably the hardest hitter, best range and biggest playmaker of the group,” a fourth scout said. “Not a real bright guy but seems to see the game very, very well. Whether he can hold up is the main concern.”

    2. JARRAD DAVIS, Florida (6-1 ½, 236, 4.63, 1): Two-year starter. “My favorite player in the draft,” said one scout. “He pours his heart and soul into the game.” Punishing hitter from Kingsland, Ga. “Safer pick than Reuben Foster,” another scout said. “Jarrad Davis is a phenomenal kid but he has had injuries.” Has undergone two meniscus cartilage knee surgeries. “Love to have him on my team,” said a third scout. “He’ll light your (expletive) up. Got better at gap responsibility and playing the ball, being more disciplined. He’s a south Georgia tough kid. Humble. Better on first and second than third down but he can play all three. I’d take C.J. Mosley over him.” Finished with 205 tackles (20 for loss) and 5 ½ sacks. Wonderlic of 23. “I’m not excited about him,” said a fourth scout. “I love the toughness but not a top athlete. Tight in the hips. Struggles to redirect. There’s some instinct issues, particularly in coverage. He can run, and he hits. Toughness and speed still win the day. I’m not minimizing that. But put him in the 3-4 and he’ll get lost. He’s a ‘will’ linebacker (in a 4-3).”

    3. HAASON REDDICK, Temple (6-1 ½, 233, 4.52, 1): Former walk-on cornerback from Camden, N.J., who catapulted from late-round status to the first round in six months. “He’s skyrocketed,” said one scout. “Coming into the year he was a reject. He had a hell of a year. Productive, tough, fast.” Started 29 of 47 games at DE before playing effectively at ILB during the Senior Bowl. “I’d still let him rush outside,” another scout said. “Maybe you leave him as a ‘will’ linebacker and just let him run and chase.” Finished with 147 tackles (46 for loss) and 18 sacks, including 10 ½ in 2016. “He’s a great kid,” said a third scout. “His interview captivates you. It was awesome. He’s Alpha dog. He’s tough. Everything you want in an inside backer.” Weight dropped from 237 at the combine to 230 at pro day. “He can run like a reindeer and plays hard,” a fourth scout said. “I didn’t like his instincts and they rotated him a bunch. I don’t like it when teams do that. They can say they wanted to keep him fresh, but when you have a special player and you’re Temple you don’t take him off the field unless he is really tired. That wasn’t the case. They had a predetermined rotation. That’s always a flag. If you grade the flashes you see why people are excited. He has a high ceiling but he could be a flash in the pan.” Led LBs with an 11-1 broad jump. Wonderlic of 21.

    4. ZACH CUNNINGHAM, Vanderbilt (6-3 ½, 235, 4.67, 2): Led the SEC in tackles the past two seasons. “He’s a modern-day linebacker,” said one scout. “He’s an athlete. Goes sideline to sideline. Probably not as good as Ryan Shazier or Mosley but a step below. It’s not even close to Foster. Foster’s a great player.” Fourth-year junior from Pinson, Ala., with the longest arms (34 3/8 inches) of any LB at the combine. “Unique body type for the position,” said another scout. “Makes a lot of plays, gets around the ball, can run. The question is, how much does he love football and being around it? He’s plenty tough but his body type just doesn’t lend itself to being very, very strong.” Finished with 295 tackles (39 ½ for loss) and six sacks. Compared by one scout to Scott Fujita and K.J. Wright. “Little bit flimsy,” a third scout said. “Doesn’t have a great base.” Wonderlic of 22. “I’m not in with him,” said a fourth scout. “There’s no strength or knock-back power when he tackles.”

    5. RAEKWON McMILLAN, Ohio State (6-2, 241, 4.64, 2-3): Scouts appear almost split on whether he has the speed and athleticism to play three downs. “He’s going to have to watch his weight, but at the end of the day I think he can play every down,” said one scout. “Excellent leader. Everybody listens to this guy. Football is very important. He’s a zone coverage guy. Will need some work in man-to-man. Easy mover. A perfect football guy.” Third-year junior with a Wonderlic of 28. “I don’t feel energy coming off him,” another scout said. “He’s a solid. He’ll play. Not a lot of special in him. Not as good as (James) Laurinaitis. He’ll get overdrafted.” Finished with 275 tackles (17 ½ for loss) and six sacks as a two-year starter. “He could be a starter,” said a third scout. “But you’d rather have a better athlete.” From Hinesville, Ga.

    6. KENDELL BECKWITH, Louisiana State (6-2, 244, no 40, 3): A 29-game starter. Final season ended with a torn ACL in Game 10. “He’s a dinosaur with an ACL,” said one scout. “He’s going to get discounted (by the knee). He’s got the speed but he’s more of a one-dimensional run thumper.” Finished with 263 tackles (24 ½ for loss) and 7 ½ sacks. “More of a scrape linebacker,” said another scout. “Not a downhill, two-gap, blow-you-up type. Duke Riley, the other linebacker, did most of the calls. Pretty good on the edge when they rush him sometimes. Football’s football, but he has other things that are important to him. Like his horse, his car, his family.” From Clinton, La. “First and second down only,” said a third scout. “If you play zone coverage he can survive just breaking up on things. But if they get him matched up in man coverage it won’t be pretty. It’ll be like (ILB Benardrick) McKinney when Houston played New England.”

    7. ALEX ANZALONE, Florida (6-3, 242, 4.65, 3): Joined the Gators along with Jarrad Davis in 2013. After both played as backups for two seasons, Anzalone wound up starting over Davis in ’15 and directing the defense. “I liked him better than Davis,” one scout said. “He’s got more (athleticism).” Suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in Game 2, one of his four major injuries in four seasons. “If he passes a physical he’s a good player,” said a second scout. “Boy, is he a good looking kid physically. Super smart. He’ll run your whole defense.” Healthy enough to play just 31 games in four years, starting 10. Finished with 75 tackles (five for loss) and three sacks. “Our staff is OK with the medical,” said a third scout. “That’s why those doctors make all that money. He’s incredibly smart (Wonderlic of 26) with top of the charts football character. More like Kiko Alonso. Plays the game hard. Great athleticism.” From Wyomissing, Pa.

    8. ANTHONY WALKER, Northwestern (6-0 ½, 239, 4.64, 4): Fourth-year junior. “He’ll be starting on Sundays,” said one scout. “He is wired exactly the way you want your middle backer to be wired. Better run defender than pass but not a throwaway in the latter area. Just a really solid guy.” Son of a high school coach in Miami. “Brilliant smart (Wonderlic of 29),” another scout said. Finished with 278 tackles (39 ½) for loss and 7 ½ sacks. “He embodies everything Northwestern,” said a third scout. “Tight mover. Good eyes. Can play downhill. Has speed. Run and chase guy. Strong, forceful tackler. There is a degree of tightness within his hips.”

    9. BEN GEDEON, Michigan (6-1 ½, 244, 4.79, 5): Thirteen of his 14 starts (in 51 games) came last season. “Active, alert, aggressive,” said one scout. “Made a lot of tackles. Has some problems in space. Short-stepper. Needs to gather to change direction.” Played behind Jake Ryan in 2014, backed up again in ’15 before leading the team in tackles in ’16 playing inside in a 3-4. “Earns your respect,” said another scout. “Got instincts, feel, pride, intensity. Outstanding special teams player.” Finished with 176 tackles (21 for loss) and 6 ½ sacks. From Hudson, Ohio.

    10. BLAIR BROWN, Ohio (5-11 ½, 239, 4.64, 6): Three-year starter with a 38-inch vertical jump. “He’s a tough (expletive),” one scout said. “He has some jolt. Just doesn’t use his hands. Better in man than zone. His eyes are inconsistent. Some question his smarts but he will hit the (expletive) out of you. Not a great interview. Can really run.” Three-year starter with 265 tackles (24 ½ for loss) and 5 ½ sacks. “At the end of the day he’s a small man,” said another scout. “He is a big hitter.” From Moreno Valley, Calif.

    OTHERS: Tanner Vallejo, Boise State; Havea Langi, Brigham Young; Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Tennessee; Calvin Munson, San Diego State; Brooks Ellis, Arkansas; Jordan Evans, Oklahoma; Riley Bullough, Michigan State; Hardy Nickerson, Illinois; Ben Boulware, Clemson; Keith Kelsey, Louisville; Kevin Davis, Colorado State.

    Outside linebackers

    1. CHARLES HARRIS, Missouri (6-2 ½, 251, 4.81, 1): Fourth-year junior. “More about athleticism and finesse,” said one scout. “Strength is a distant three. Makes disruptive plays. Can get in and out of trouble. He’ll go around a block, back out of a block and get to a play. As far as wanting to be a steady, fundamental player at the point of attack, he is not that. He really, really did get knocked around a lot. Not as explosive as (Danielle) Hunter was out of LSU but his pass-rush savvy is considerably more advanced. Hunter would be a much better run defender.” Played behind Shane Ray and Markus Golden in 2014 before starting in 2015-’16. “He’s a relentless player who has great get-off,” said another scout. “Didn’t test well. Better football player than tester.” Finished with 136 tackles (34 ½ for loss) and 18 sacks. “The 40 time is an issue,” a third scout said. “He wins with his athleticism (vertical jump of 37 ½). His lack of power is a major concern.” Arms (32 3/8), hands (9 5/8) were average size. Wonderlic of 23. “He’s really just a DPR (designated pass rusher) right now,” a fourth scout said. “Undersized, doesn’t play the run very well. Just flash.” From Kansas City.

    2. TAKK McKINLEY, UCLA (6-2, 250, 4.60, 1-2): Two-year starter at DE. “He is a tenacious, 100 mile an hour, balls to the wall guy,” said one scout. “Football is his life. He’ll work at his weaknesses. He ran a 10.7 100 meters in high school. Great first step. He can play outside backer.” Others say he should continue playing from a three-point stance. “He can’t play linebacker,” said another scout. “He’s too stiff. He has get-off, strength, quickness, motor.” Just 6-2 but has the longest arms at the position (34 ¾). “His arm length saves him,” said the first scout. Underwent shoulder surgery following the combine after playing hurt for two years. “He might not be ready until September,” one scout said. “I’m trying to figure out who takes him in the first round knowing that.” Finished with 102 tackles (29 for loss) and 17 sacks in 34 games (24 starts). “Not as big as you’d like but this guy is disruptive and slippery,” another scout said. “He gets a lot out of himself. But, the tighter quarters he’s in, the less productive he is.” From Richmond, Calif.

    3. DEREK BARNETT, Tennessee (6-3, 262, 4.86, 1-2): Third-year junior started 36 of 39 games. “Interesting study,” said one scout. “Played down but outside backer for us. Great kid. Dirty tough. Has balance, agility, strength. I don’t know if he has enough length.” Arms were just 32 1/8 and he lacks speed. “Like him, but I just don’t see traits,” said a second scout. “He wins due to effort. I’ve been burned by those kinds of guys in the past so I’m a little bit gun-shy.” Finished with 197 tackles (52 for loss) and 33 sacks, two more than Reggie White’s school record. “Only wins from the edge,” a third scout said. “I don’t see any counter. I see special instincts to be able to time the snap and get off the ball. Average speed, average power.” From Nashville. “He’s ahead of everybody in know-how,” said a fourth scout. “He is a tremendous worker. You’re going to get something out of him. But I think the game’s going to catch up to him some on our level.”

    4. T.J. WATT, Wisconsin (6-4 ½, 251, 4.67, 1-2): Fourth-year junior and brother of J.J., Houston’s elite DT. “Not as genetically gifted as that one but as far as making the most of what he does have, yeah,” said one scout. “He’s only played one year of outside backer but he looks like he’s been playing there his whole life. He’s strong, smart and runs well. Love the way the guy plays.” Led OLBs in the Wonderlic (29), a pair of agility runs, the broad jump and hand size (11). “He’s a true 3-4 guy,” another scout said. “Looks the part. Just not a dynamic pass rusher. His name might be getting him a whole lot more play than anything else.” Finished with 70 tackles (17 for loss) and 11 ½ sacks. “Needs to play with more strength,” said a third scout. “On the ground too much. Has tremendous ethic. Athletically really tested well.” From Pewaukee. “More of a pass rusher than a run defender,” a fourth scout said. “What are his enemies? I’d say size and strength. He’s got a push-pull thing where he kind of jolts you and as you set your feet he grabs the outside shoulder and pulls himself beyond you. That’s his signature rush.”

    5. RYAN ANDERSON, Alabama (6-2, 251, 4.83, 2): Fifth-year senior didn’t start on the strong-side until 2016. “Everybody in the locker room at Alabama respects him and is afraid of him,” said one scout. “He’s a man playing. I’d take him in a heartbeat. He’s got short arms (31 ½). One of those guys that beats the measurables. (Adrian) Hubbard was a better athlete, longer, better body. He’s not even close to Anderson.” Has undergone shoulder surgery. Was arrested on domestic violence charge in 2015. “He’s like a 1970s NFL defensive player,” said another scout. “He would clothesline you if you let him get away with it. Love the tone he sets. You talk to all the Alabama guys, they’re like, ‘He’s the guy.’ Surly on the field, but in a good way.” Finished with 128 tackles (40 for loss) and 19 ½ sacks. “I question if he can play,” said a third scout. “He’s an (expletive), he’s short, he’s 4.88. Where are the special traits to say this guy’s a starting player in the league? He’s going to meet the NFL tackles. He’s not playing the weak sisters from Vandy, Tennessee or Florida.” From Daphne, Ala.

    6. TYUS BOWSER, Houston (6-2 ½, 246, 4.69, 2): Came from way back in the pack with a terrific senior season followed by an impressive week at the Senior Bowl. “Very skilled and can run,” said one scout. “Got some pass-rush ability. He’s going to need some time to figure it out.” Almost never played but was a member of the Cougars’ basketball team for two seasons. “He’s got speed, power and a knack,” another scout said. “Great with his hands.” Smooth, limber athlete with a vertical jump of 37 ½. “My question going into the season was physical nature,” said a third scout. “He kind of answered that at the Senior Bowl where he was running down on special teams hitting people. He’s comfortable in space and can rush. I see him as a starter.” Missed five games last season with an orbital fracture suffered in a fight with a teammate. Two-year starter with 136 tackles (27 ½ for loss) and 21 ½ sacks. From Tyler, Texas.

    7. DUKE RILEY, Louisiana State (6-0 ½, 231, 4.60, 3): Played special teams for three seasons backing up Kwon Alexander and Deion Jones at weak-side LB. “Deion was much faster than Riley,” said one scout. “He’s not the same athlete. Is he a smarter football player than Deion? Probably.” Started 13 of 50 games, finishing with 144 tackles (10 for loss) and 1 ½ sacks. “I liked him over (Kendell) Beckwith,” said another scout. “Really good instincts, good space play. You’ll always be looking for a little bit better but he’s a dependable player.” Voted LSU’s MVP in 2016. From Buras, La.

    8. VINCE BIEGEL, Wisconsin (6-3, 245, 4.69, 3-4): Two scouts said they liked Biegel more than Watt. “Plays hard, technique sound and got a little edge rush,” said one. “Just a solid, overall player. I could see him getting in the second round.” The other scout said his main reservation was Biegel might not be big enough and strong enough. “Overachiever in my opinion,” said a third scout. “Good backup. Like him on my team. His pass-rush production was due more to effort and technique than skill. On the ground a lot. He’s high-effort, tough (expletive), really smart (Wonderlic of 23).” His grandfather, Ken Biegel, was a Hall of Fame head football coach at Manawa, New London and Wisconsin Rapids, where Vince grew up. “He’ll make a 3-4 team on (special) teams,” said a fourth scout. “Great kid. Stiff.” Finished with 191 tackles (39 ½ for loss) and 21 ½ sacks.

    9. CARROLL PHILLIPS, Illinois (6-3, 238, 4.63, 4): Non-qualifier in 2011 after committing to Cincinnati. Began career with one junior-college season in ’13 before backing up in 2014-’15 for Illinois. Started at DE in ’16. “He can run, has some explosion and some strength for a 240-pound guy,” said one scout. “Has a hard time controlling his speed. Plays really out of control. Don’t overload him. He has a couple character concerns also so he could be off boards.” From Liberty City neighborhood in Miami. “Tough, tough area,” said another scout. “Older kid. Will be 25 this fall. He’s going to make it but I don’t think he’s smart enough to be a backer.” Was accused of burglary in 10th grade. Police were called twice to referee arguments with girlfriends. Wonderlic of 10. Started 14 of 31 games, finished with 88 tackles (25 ½ for loss) and 12 ½ sacks.

    10. DEVONTE FIELDS, Louisville (6-2 ½, 242, 4.69, 4-5): Arrested for marijuana possession shortly after signing with Texas Christian. Started as a freshman and had 10 sacks. Had more legal problems and was dismissed by TCU. Played 2014 in junior college, then registered 10 ½ sacks for the Cardinals in ’15. Posted six sacks as a DE last year. “When he was a freshman at TCU I thought he was going to be something special,” one scout said. “The more I watched this year the less I liked. Needs to play more physical. Good athlete. He can run.” Finished with 165 tackles (51 ½ for loss) and 26 ½ sacks in 43 games (40 starts). Removed from one team’s draft board. “He’s a roll of the dice,” said a second scout. “He’s got the ability. I just don’t know if he’s a good enough kid.” From Fort Worth, Texas.

    OTHERS: Josh Carraway, Texas Christian; Jayon Brown, UCLA; Matt Milano, Boston College; Keion Adams, Western Michigan; Marquel Lee, Wake Forest; Pita Taumoepenu, Utah; Samson Ebukam, Eastern Washington; Jimmie Gilbert, Colorado; James Onwualu, Notre Dame; Elijah Lee, Kansas State.

    ****

    Unsung Hero

    Hardy Nickerson, ILB, Illinois: His father, Hardy, concluded his illustrious 16-year career as a MLB with Green Bay in 2002. After generally starting for three seasons at California, the son joined his father, the defensive coordinator for the Illini, as a graduate transfer and led the team in tackles. Nickerson (5-11 ½, 230) is severely undersized and not very fast (4.8). He’ll be in a camp.

    Scouts' Nightmare

    Riley Bullough, ILB, Michigan State: Two-year starter. His grandfather, Hank, was the Packers’ defensive coordinator from 1988-’91. Bullough (6-1 ½, 227), a prep quarterback in Traverse City, Mich., might have a better chance at FB, where he played briefly in 2013. He’s an intense competitor but might not have enough size and talent for the NFL.

    Packers' Pick to Remember

    Hunter Hillenmeyer, OLB, Vanderbilt: Fifth-round pick in 2003. He made the 53-man roster but was cut two days later when injuries struck at wide receiver. The Bears immediately signed him to their practice squad. Hillenmeyer started 69 of 101 games for Chicago over the next eight years, finishing with 288 tackles and seven sacks.

    Quote to Note

    NFL personnel man: “All the teams that are winning – the New Englands, the Pittsburghs, the Seattles, the Green Bays – their coaches aren’t involved in the selection process. Let the coaches coach and the scouts scout. I don’t do this for a hobby. I’m a professional evaluator. They’re professional coaches.”

    Comment


    • #17
      McGinn on NFL draft: DBs | Cornerbacks tall, safeties strong

      GREEN BAY - It’s safe to say this is the tallest draft class of cornerbacks in NFL history. It also might be the best group of safeties ever.

      What a great year it might turn out to be for teams looking for upgrades in the secondary.

      “This is probably the best group of corners I’ve done in years and years,” said one NFC executive with more than 20 years in the scouting profession. “I see seven in the first (round), for sure. Safety isn’t bad, either. Not nearly as good as corner but there are some good players.”

      Now hold it right there. Some of that scout’s peers would vehemently disagree with his tepid assessment of the safeties.

      When five scouts were asked if the cornerback position 1-to-10 or the safety position 1-to-10 was better, safety gained a 3-2 edge.

      In fact, one personnel man harkened to the draft last year when the first safety selected, Karl Joseph, went 14th to the Oakland Raiders. He measured just 5 feet 9 ½ inches and was coming off a torn ACL.

      “The West Virginia kid (Joseph) wouldn’t be in the top 10 of this group,” an AFC executive said. “You’re going to get a safety in the fourth, fifth, sixth round that is going to be a hell of a player. I’ve looked at it over and over. It’s as deep a safety draft as I’ve ever seen.”

      The record for most safeties selected in the first round is four, set in 2014 and ’07. The record for most first-round cornerbacks, six, was set in 1997.

      “It’s a hell of a DB draft, it really is,” said another AFC personnel man. “Both positions are really deep. The top cornerbacks are all top-shelf character kids, which is really rare for this position.”

      At safety, there’s just so much speed and intelligence and explosive athleticism. You can find two size-speed players from the state of Michigan, the Wolverines’ Delano Hill (6-0 ½, 220) and the Spartans’ Montae Nicholson (6-2 ½, 212), sitting just 14th and 15th on the list despite their blazing 4.47 clockings.

      What differentiates this class of cornerbacks isn’t the number of can’t-miss prospects.

      “In my mind (Marshon) Lattimore is the only first-round corner,” said one executive. “There will be other corners that will get pushed up into the first round that are second-rounders. It’s just not a great class. Not even close.”

      The distinguishing mark this year at cornerback is the sheer size of the players and the numbers of what looks like realistic contributors.

      “At the top, no, it’s not an all-time group,” said an AFC scout. “It’s the depth, and these guys are long.

      “Typically, you have a mix of little (expletive) and big guys. It’s mostly little guys and an occasional big guy. This draft for corners is big all the way, and they can run.”

      Of the top 20 cornerbacks in the Journal Sentinel rankings, 15 measured 6 feet or taller. Of the five that didn’t, not one was below 5-10.

      The trend toward big started last spring when the ratio of top-20 cornerbacks 6-0 and over compared to those shorter than 5-10 was 10-0.

      From 1998-’15, there were an average of 6.7 top-20 cornerbacks standing 6-0 or above compared to 3.2 cornerbacks below 5-10. In the eight drafts from 1998-’05, there were 44 standing 6-0 or above compared to 35 under 5-10.

      The evolution of tall wide receivers started much earlier than at cornerback.

      In 1998, the first-round cornerbacks included three comparative midgets: Duane Starks (5-9 ½, 170), Terry Fair (5-9 ½, 181) and R.W. McQuarters (5-9 ½, 193). In that same draft, wide receiver Randy Moss (6-3 ½, 200) entered the league.

      In 2004, six of the seven wide receivers taken in the first round stood at least 6-2. At the same time, just six of the top-20 cornerbacks touched 6-0.

      The avalanche of big, fast wide receivers rolled on with superstar Calvin Johnson (6-5, 239, 4.35) in 2007. The 2010-’11 drafts produced Dez Bryant (6-2, 224, 4.54), Demaryius Thomas (6-3, 229, 4.47), A.J. Green (6-3 ½, 211, 4.49) and Julio Jones (6-2 ½, 220, 4.39).

      Fortunately for the defensive coaches charged to contain them, the pace has slowed somewhat.

      Size is certainly widespread in this year’s class of wide receivers, with pacesetters Corey Davis (6-2 ½, 209, no 40) and Mike Williams (6-3 ½, 4.52) followed by five others in the top 10 standing at least 6-1 ½.

      “Teams want bigger and faster corners,” said an NFC evaluator. “You don’t need to be quick and fast if you’re big and long. It (press-man coverage) is easier to teach than playing off.”

      Lattimore, the third-year sophomore from Ohio State, dominated the voting in a Journal Sentinel poll of 17 evaluators. Each was asked to rank the cornerbacks on a 1-to-5 basis, with a first-place vote worth five points, a second worth four and so forth.

      Lattimore gained 14 of the 17 first-place votes and won going away with 80 points.

      Following, in order, were: Marlon Humphrey, 41 (one first); Gareon Conley, 37; Sidney Jones, 30; Adoree Jackson, 24 (one); Tre’Davious White, 14; Kevin King, 13 (one); Quincy Wilson, 12; Chidobe Awuzie, two, and Fabian Moreau and Teez Tabor, one.

      In most cases, scouts ranked Jones strictly as a player regardless of the torn Achilles that he suffered March 11 working out during Washington’s pro day.

      The voting among 16 evaluators at safety revealed two top players and then a considerable gap.

      Jamal Adams won with 70 points and 11 first-place votes, just ahead of Malik Hooker (64, four).

      Following, in order, were: Jabrill Peppers, 31 (one); Obi Melifonwu, 24; Budda Baker, 14; Marcus Williams, 13; Marcus Maye, 8 ½; Josh Jones, 7 ½; Awuzie and Justin Evans, three, and Eddie Jackson, two.

      “I’m excited,” an AFC personnel man said. “There is so much depth at a lot of positions that there’s no need to reach.”

      Comment


      • #18
        Ranking the NFL draft prospects: Defensive backs

        Bob McGinn , Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
        The Journal Sentinel’s Bob McGinn assesses the top cornerbacks and safeties in the NFL draft April 27-29. Included is each player’s height, weight, 40-yard time and projected round.


        Cornerbacks


        1. MARSHON LATTIMORE, Ohio State (6-0, 194, 4.36, 1): Third-year sophomore. “He’s the best,” said one scout. “He’s got length, he’s an athlete, he can bend, he can run, good ball skills, he can tackle. But he only has 12 starts. He’s got enough ability to be a top-10 pick, and that’s where he’s going to be.” Redshirted in 2014 after undergoing surgery to repair a chronic hamstring injury dating back to high school track. Limited to seven games as a backup in ’15 because of hamstring issues. “A tremendous athlete but I really am concerned about his hamstrings and the ability to stay healthy,” another scout said. “He’s a big corner that can press and run and will tackle well. Not a lot of holes in his game.” Minimal statistics: 46 tackles, 4 interceptions and 12 passes broken up (PBUs). “He’s not a no-brainer but he’s probably the cleanest total package,” a third scout said. “He is a little bit off at the top of the route.” Scored 23 on the Wonderlic intelligence test. Latest Buckeyes standout to hail from Cleveland Glenville High School.

        2. MARLON HUMPHREY, Alabama (6-0, 198, 4.41, 1): Third-year sophomore, 29-game starter. “For a guy with a track background he will hit you,” said one scout. “Sky’s the limit. He’s just big and fast and athletic and tough.” The universal knock on him is playing the ball downfield. “His deep-ball skills concern me,” said another scout. “He’s had great coaching, too. Nick (Saban) coaches him every day, starting with drills. He coaches the corners.” Father, Bobby, was the Broncos’ first-round pick in 1989 as a RB. His mother was a successful 400-meter runner at Alabama-Birmingham. Marlon was a world-class hurdler. “I think he’s spoiled,” said a third scout. “I think he’s soft. He’s been given everything all his life.” Finished with 81 tackles, 5 picks and 13 PBUs. Wonderlic of 20. “Can run, jump, do a lot of things,” a fourth scout said. “He gives up some stupid plays and you wonder, ‘Marlon, what the hell are you doing?’ He’s getting bad advice from his dad. He’s losing grace and favor with some (NFL) people.” From Hoover, Ala.

        3. GAREON CONLEY, Ohio State (6-0, 194, 4.46, 1): Third-year junior with 26 starts in 41 games. “Really a tremendous tester,” a third scout said. “Great character kid. We prefer Conley over Lattimore just a little bit. Little bit smoother.” Longest arms (33 inches) of the top CBs, a 37-inch vertical jump and a swift 40. “Everybody loves the kid,” said a second scout. “Really a good teammate. Leader of the group. Makes it looks easy. Good in press man. Short-area burst. Likes to jump routes. He can track the ball deep.” Finished with 91 tackles, 6 picks and 15 PBUs. “He’s functional enough,” a third scout said. “Not going to be a Pro Bowler or your No. 1 guy. He’ll be a really good complementary starter.” Wonderlic of 17. From Massillon, Ohio.

        4. SIDNEY JONES, Washington (6-0, 185, 4.51, 2): It all changed for Jones when he blew out his Achilles running through drills at pro day in mid-March. “That’s a shame,” one scout said. “My guess (now) is third round. I think if teams have extra picks they might look at him earlier. If he has a negative it’s probably strength. For a lean guy he tackles well. Really a good cover guy.” Two teams said they had Jones slotted second behind Lattimore before the injury. “Good worker, willing to do extra,” a second scout said. “Really smart. Doesn’t get rattled. I question his long speed.” Third-year junior with 39 starts. Finished with 145 tackles, 9 picks and 30 PBUs. “More of a finesser,” said a third scout. “He can run and mirror anything. He wasn’t real physical with the jam. Not very big.” Added a fourth scout: “He’s 186, 4.51. There’s not a lot of special traits.” From Diamond Bar, Calif.

        5. ADOREE JACKSON, Southern California (5-10, 186, 4.41, 1): Third-year junior, three-year starter. Returned eight kicks for touchdowns. “Probably the best overall athlete of the group,” said one scout. “Little bit smaller than the rest.” Is the height an impediment? “I don’t give a (expletive) about 5-10,” said a second scout. “He’s a football player and will be your starting punt returner and kick returner and nickel. Great kid. Hell of a player.” Grew up in Belleville, Ill., before moving to Gardena, Calif., for his final three years of high school. “Size is his only hole,” said a third scout. “He’s also a little laid-back on the field. Tries to bait guys. Doesn’t always play with technique.” Two-time Pacific-12 long jump champion. Finished with 139 tackles, 6 picks and 39 PBUs. “He shut down Alabama’s Calvin Ridley in the first game and had no problem with Washington’s John Ross,” said a fourth scout. “Only problem he had was against a big receiver from Utah. He reminds me of Darrell Green, who was just 5-8.”

        6. TRE’DAVIOUS WHITE, Louisiana State (5-11, 192, 4.52, 1): Only senior among the top six. “When you wear No. 18 at LSU, that’s a special man,” said one scout. “Great kid. The whole thing.” Started 47 of 49 games, finishing with 167 tackles, 6 picks and 34 PBUs. “Is he as good an athlete as Humphrey?” asked one scout. “No, but he’s really consistent. He’s played nickel and corner. The Arkansas game, those guys ran right by him. Not a great punt returner. Skill level? I don’t know if he’s first round.” Had more reps (16) than any CB on the bench press but ran a disappointing 40. “He should be second round,” a third scout said. “The 4.53. The (Cover 2) scheme they used to run in Chicago would have been perfect. They’d have been all over that guy.” From Shreveport, La. “Kind of a steady Eddie,” said a fourth scout. “He may get into a little bit of trouble against the DeSean Jacksons, those elite burners. But he’s such a good technician and is good with his hands. As much hell as they can give him he’ll give them hell back. Just a very smart, plug-and-play guy.”

        7. QUINCY WILSON, Florida (6-1 ½, 211, 4.56, 1-2): Third-year junior played 39 games (24 starts). “He’s got really nice length and body control,” said one scout. “Passion for the game. He will need some work on his tackling but has good hips. He wants to be physical with the receivers. Press corner.” Finished with 84 tackles, 6 picks and 17 PBUs. “He’s big and strong and physical and has really good feet,” another scout said. “He’ll tackle. When you get that big you’d love for them to be in the 4.4’s. Sometimes you’ve got to give up a little bit to get something else.” From Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “He ran well,” a third scout said. “Be a good press corner. He can play off a little bit. He’d be better (playing) up because he’s a big, strong kid.” His size has spawned talk of a shift at some point to safety. “He wants to play corner,” a fourth scout said. “He’ll be somebody’s press outside corner.”

        8. KEVIN KING, Washington (6-3, 198, 4.46, 1-2): Starting FS in 2014 before moving to CB the past two years. “Was not highly rated until the combine,” said one scout. “When people saw how he ran and moved around his stock went up. He’s a little leggy. I think change of direction and quicker receivers will be a challenge for him.” Started 34 of 45 games, finishing with 165 tackles, 6 picks and 28 PBUs. “A lot of times he played in the slot, which is (strange) for his body type,” a second scout said. “He’s an instinctive, aware player. He could be a starter. He ran faster than I thought he would.” Coached at Bishop O’Dowd in Oakland by former Pro Bowl MLB Hardy Nickerson. “Big guy, ran fast,” a third scout said. “He just doesn’t move well enough. Not productive at all. He just gets beat all the time. Very limited toughness in the run game.”

        9. FABIAN MOREAU, UCLA (6-0 ½, 204, 4.35, 1-2): Started 40 games over three seasons. “I liked him on tape and then he had a real good East-West Game,” one scout said. “He can run. He’s big. He’s borderline first round but his value is probably more top of the second. Hey, 6-foot corners that run 4.37 and have good tape, bring them here.” Finished with 146 tackles, 2 picks and 21 PBUs. “Looks pretty,” said another scout. “Got the speed. Got the test score (Wonderlic of 23). But as far as his play, he doesn’t show a lot of instincts or cover movement.” Led CBs in the broad jump (11-4). Suffered a torn pectoral muscle bench-pressing March 21 at pro day. “He’s gotta get discounted,” said a third scout. “That’s a six-month injury. He had surgery.” From Sunrise, Fla.

        10. TEEZ TABOR, Florida (6-0 ½, 197, 4.67, 2): Some scouts figured he’d run close to 4.7, which he did. “I think the guy fell out of the first round and is in the second round and he’d be a steal in the third,” one scout said. “Changes direction, very good. Short-area quickness, very good. Ball skills, very good. Instincts, very good. But he ran 4.7.” Third-year junior, two-year starter. “I was always taught the film is the most important thing, and this guy’s film’s good,” another scout said. “He’s wired the way you want a corner to be wired. I like his confidence. It’s not fake. He hasn’t done a lot of terrible (expletive) but there’s five or six things.” Tabor has been pulled from consideration by some teams because of an arrest for marijuana possession and numerous suspensions and flareups around the team. Finished with 105 tackles, 8 picks and 33 PBUs. “Richard Sherman was a little bit taller and I timed him at Stanford at 4.62, 4.63,” a third scout said. “He’s been in the Pro Bowl a few times. Florida plays against fast people and he has no problems.” From Washington. “He’s a grabber in coverage, which is a major issue,” said a fourth scout. “But the 40 doesn’t scare me. He’s an (expletive) but he’ll be all right because he loves football. Tell him to shut up.”

        OTHERS: Jourdan Lewis, Michigan; Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson; Shaquill Griffin, Central Florida; Howard Wilson, Houston; Cam Sutton, Tennessee; Ahkello Witherspoon, Colorado; Brian Allen, Utah; Rasul Douglas, West Virginia; Brendan Langley, Lamar; Damontae Kazee, San Diego State; Corn Elder, Miami; Channing Stribling, Michigan; Treston DeCoud, Oregon State; Ashton Lampkin, Oklahoma State; Marquez White, Florida State.


        Safeties


        1. JAMAL ADAMS, Louisiana State (5-11 ½, 213, 4.45, 1): Third-year junior was the nickel back in 2014 and SS in 2015-’16. “He has very good range against the run,” said one scout. “When the ball’s on the perimeter and breaks the line of scrimmages he tackles somebody for like a 1-yard gain. For most guys it’s a 5- or 6-yard gain. I don’t think he has that outstanding over the top range but it’s good enough. He’s a player with great character. Someone said on a profile test he didn’t score real well. I don’t see any mental concerns on tape.” Ran just 4.58 at the combine but erased doubts associated with that by turning in a blazing 40 at pro day. “That 4.43 is what you thought he’d run,” a second scout said. “He plays at a different speed than everybody. He’s not Sean Taylor, but he’s one of the top five players in this draft. Phenomenal leader. Pro’s pro.” Father, George, was a RB drafted in the first round by the Giants in 1985. Wonderlic of 11 was the lowest of the top 19 safeties. “Adams is more explosive than (Ha Ha) Clinton-Dix,” a third scout said. “Ha Ha is a better deep-field player from a range standpoint but you’re going to get more wow plays from Adams. He had more in his body than Ha Ha.” From Lewisville, Texas. “I liked him more last year,” a fourth scout said. “He’s a box guy. He struggles in space. You have to be able to play in space today.” Finished with 209 tackles, 5 picks and 15 PBUs.

        2. MALIK HOOKER, Ohio State (6-1, 208, no 40, 1): Buckeyes defensive coordinator Greg Schiano has compared Hooker to Ed Reed, whom he coached at Miami. “He’s the best middle field guy by far,” said one scout. “Rare middle safety ability.” Third-year sophomore played little in 2015 before a seven-pick, 3-TD explosion in ’16. “Former basketball player,” said another scout. “Great body. Not a blazer. Got a lot of up side.” Largest hands of any DB (10 3/4). Underwent surgery Jan. 31 for a labrum tear and sports hernia. “You’re taking a bit of a risk because the kid’s only been a starter one year and he’s got the injury,” another scout said. “Good kid. Limited (two years) high school football.” Finished with 84 tackles, 7 picks and 11 PBUs. Wonderlic of 17. “He just struggles as a tackler,” a third scout said. “Lot of awkward positions, not very strong. Against the pass, he gets a lot of gifts. The Michigan game, the guy (Wilton Speight) threw the ball right at him. Does that make the guy a great ballhawk safety when he’s just standing there and they throw it right into his chest? Had a bunch of those this year. You do see the ball skill on some interceptions but he’s a little bit of a gambler. Kind of puzzling to me why he’s such a sure-fire top, top guy.” From New Castle, Pa.

        3. JABRILL PEPPERS, Michigan (5-11, 214, 4.47, 1-2): Third-year junior probably was the most versatile player in college football. Played safety, WLB, nickel, RB and returned kicks and punts. “I still don’t know if he’s offense or defense,” said one scout. “I still got a couple days. I’d like him at the right price but I’m not going to spend a first-round pick on him.” Whatever Peppers does, he goes all-out. “This kid is very passionate about football,” a second scout said. “Almost to the point where if you’re not at his level of passion he has no time for you. His skill set says free safety but he’s better closer to the line.” Among players mentioned as comparables are Troy Polamalu, Deone Bucannon, Tyrann Mathieu and Mark Barron. “I think he’s getting beat up a little bit,” a third scout said. “He’s not Polamalu but you’ve got to play him in a role where he can just roam and play the run.” In 27 games (25 starts) he finished with 125 tackles (21 ½ for loss), just 1 pick and 10 PBUs. Also carried 45 times for 239 yards (5.3) and caught 10 passes. Tested positive at the combine for a banned substance. Wonderlic of 26. “One of the most versatile guys there’s ever been,” a fourth scout said. “I don’t know what the problem is. He’s a dynamic utility safety for us. Guy’s a winner.” From East Orange, N.J.

        4. MARCUS WILLIAMS, Utah (6-0 ½, 202, 4.60, 1-2): Third-year junior. “He’s like Eric Weddle in his ability to work,” one scout said. “True professional. Teammates love him. He is a rare athlete. Very good ball skills. May be a corner.” Had a vertical jump of 43 ½ and a Wonderlic of 34. “Only thing I know about Williams is he’s soft,” said another scout. “And, he can run and cover. Plays faster than that (timed speed).” Referred to as “frail” by one personnel man. “His hole is run support,” a third scout said. “Not very physical. Inconsistent angles in support.” Started 30 of 37 games at FS, finished with 189 tackles, 11 picks and 19 PBUs. Posted a 4.0 grade-point average in high school in Corona, Calif. Said a fourth scout: “I questioned how tough he was, and I didn’t think he was real fast.”

        5. OBI MELIFONWU, Connecticut (6-4, 221, 4.42, 1-2): Four-year starter at FS in a downtrodden program. “UConn was a bad team but he was a good player,” one scout said. “My benchmark for big safeties is Kam Chancellor. This kid can cover. He’s not the thumper Kam is but he’s a better athlete.” Born in London but hometown is South Grafton, Mass. “Kind of a different guy,” the scout said. “Keeps to himself. Not very vocal. Looks like a Greek god. Freakishly athletic.” Registered combine bests in the vertical jump (44) and broad jump (11-9). “Looks the part,” another scout said. “More of a downhill type but he brings a presence.” Finished with 351 tackles, 8 picks and 16 PBUs. “If a guy’s 6-4, 220 and runs 4.4, and he’s got fluid hips, why not let him fail at corner?” a third scout said. “If he does, move him inside.”

        6. BUDDA BAKER, Washington (5-9 ½, 193, 4.50, 2): Third-year junior with 40 starts in 40 games. “He ain’t Earl Thomas,” one scout said. “He’s a box safety, but he can make some plays. Only thing that kills him is length. Short arms (30 ¾) and not very tall.” Classified with Peppers as a strong safety/dime by one scout. Has covered wide receivers in the slot. “He’s at his best playing nickel corner,” another scout said. “I think he’ll have limitations playing safety. I do buy into the kid and the player. He’ll be hell on (special) teams.” Finished with 200 tackles, 5 picks and 22 PBUs. Played on a high school team in Bellevue, Wash., that never lost a game (42) in his three seasons. Wonderlic of 14. “The coaches will tell you he’s the best player on their team,” a third scout said. “They love that guy. Small guy that can run.”

        7. MARCUS MAYE, Florida (5-11 ½, 208, 4.54, 2): Three-year starter. “He’s better than Peppers,” one scout said. “You see him do it (play safety). His holes are deep part of the field, vertical angles and man cover.” Started 32 of 45 games, finishing with 210 tackles, 5 picks, 21 PBUs and seven forced fumbles. “Natural-born leader,” another scout said. “He’s got deceptively long speed. Secure tackler.” Started alongside Keanu Neal in 2015. “He’s a lot like Matt Elam coming out,” said a third scout. “You don’t want him in coverage. If you can match him on tight ends and big slots you’ve got a better chance of not getting him exposed. He’s not a guy that’s creating the interception, mirroring routes and undercutting. He’s physical. He’s not afraid to put a hat on you.” From Melbourne, Fla.

        8. CHIDOBE AWUZIE, Colorado (6-0, 199, 4.46, 2): Started 42 games over four years, all at CB, but some teams view him as a FS. “He and Budda Baker fall in the same mix,” one scout said. “Little bit of a tweener. He’s played outside corner, safety, nickel corner. More of a zone corner. He would have been great in Lovie Smith’s system.” Bright (Wonderlic of 34) and athletic (broad jump of 11-0). “He may end up moving to safety because he’s so strong,” another scout said. “People got down on him because he had some problems against (WR) James Washington but he had a right turf toe against Oklahoma State (in the Alamo Bowl). Physical guy, team leader, has his degree. He’s put together.” Finished with 273 tackles (26 for loss), 3 picks and 34 PBUs. From San Jose, Calif.

        9. JOSH JONES, North Carolina State (6-1 ½, 221, 4.40, 2-3): Fourth-year junior. “Just on the player, I’d take him over Adams,” said one scout. “He’s a deluxe strong safety. He’s got instincts, coverage. Really good.” Three-year starter ran the fastest 40 by a safety to go with an 11-0 broad jump and position-best 20 reps on the bench press. “Even played some corner,” another scout said. “Big guy, can run. It’s crazy, the 4.40. He played corner and moved OK. I think he’s a safety but if you’re playing press. …" Finished with 233 tackles, 6 picks and 18 PBUs. Wonderlic of 17. “Not a fan,” a third scout said. “Looks the part. Ran well. I just think instincts might hold him back.” From Walled Lake, Mich.

        10. JUSTIN EVANS, Texas A&M (5-11 ½, 197, 4.57, 3): Played better in 2015 than in ’16. “You’ve got to love his very reckless style,” one scout said. “Throws his body around. Supports the run. Misses a lot of tackles. There’s going to be a role for this guy. He should be a heck of a special-teams player as well.” Out of Wiggins, Miss., he started out with two seasons in junior college. Wonderlic of 25. “Better version of (Alabama’s Eddie) Jackson,” said another scout. “Good athlete, not a special athlete. He will mix it up. Probably be a backup who ends up being one of those bargain starters.” Finished with 165 tackles, 5 picks (no return yards) and 16 PBUs.

        OTHERS: Tedric Thompson, Colorado; Eddie Jackson, Alabama; Desmond King, Iowa; Delano Hill, Michigan; Montae Nicholson, Michigan State; Rayshawn Jenkins, Miami; Xavier Woods, Louisiana Tech; Rudy Ford, Auburn; John Johnson, Boston College; Lorenzo Jerome, St. Francis (Pa.); Josh Harvey-Clemons, Louisville; Nate Gerry, Nebraska; Chuck Clark, Virginia Tech; Shalom Luani, Washington State; Jadar Johnson, Clemson.

        ****


        Unsung Hero

        Lorenzo Jerome, S, St. Francis (Pa.): Attempting to become the Red Flash’s first draftee since RB Ed Stofko in 1944. Jerome (5-10 ½, 202, 4.67) is small and slow. However, he picked off 18 passes as a four-year starter and then two apiece in the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl. “St. Francis Pa. was an absolute abyss forever,” said one scout. “They went to the (FCS) playoffs this year and this kid was the heartbeat of the defense.”


        Scouts' Nightmare

        Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado: He’s tall (6-2 ½, 199), smart (Wonderlic of 29) and athletic (40 ½ vertical jump). He made numerous plays on the ball, too. However, he has shown little or no interest hitting or tackling anyone.


        Packers' Pick to Remember

        Fred Vinson, CB, Vanderbilt: Second-round pick in 1999. Played 16 games largely as an ineffective dime back. In April 2000, GM Ron Wolf traded Vinson and a sixth-round pick to Seattle’s Mike Holmgren for RB Ahman Green and a fifth-round pick in a swindle of epic proportion. Vinson suffered a torn ACL that June, sat out the season and then reinjured it in 2001. He went to training camp with Carolina in 2002 and was cut, ending his career.


        Quote to Note

        NFC personnel man: “It’s amazing the players Ohio State has. He (coach Urban Meyer) keeps filling these guys in. You got two starting corners in the National Football League coming out and Malik Hooker, the safety. That guy knows how to recruit.”

        Comment


        • #19
          I will really miss him/his his work... one of the best football writers ever.

          McGinn: ‘A newspaperman is what I am…’

          Bob McGinn , Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
          (Photo: Bill Schulz / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
          GREEN BAY – Newspapers stimulate and inform, entertain and challenge, inspire and keep a watchful eye over our democratic system of government.

          They’ve also constituted my full-time working life for just about 43 consecutive years. A newspaperman is what I am, and I consider myself extremely fortunate to have chosen journalism in my early 20s, landed a job and been able to make a career in it.

          Why am I leaving Milwaukee, where I joined The Journal in 1991 and then the new Journal Sentinel in 1995?

          My wife, Pat, and I have reached the age (65) where we want to taste life without my deadlines hanging over us.

          George Stanley, the editor of the Journal Sentinel, and JS sports editor Mike Davis attempted to convince me to stay. I’m not sure I hold two journalists in higher regard, and not for one minute did I lead them on. They were stunned, but as I told them I wouldn’t have lasted this long in the business without being able to keep a secret.

          I wouldn’t trade my years in Milwaukee for anything. People always told me you’ll know when the time is right to get out, and now I know.

          My golden rule was never to leave a job that you love. For the first time, I have broken that rule.

          It was my good fortune to grow up in a home with parents who stressed education above all else, and reading newspapers from front to back was a big part of that.

          For many of my formative years, the McGinns subscribed to newspapers from Minneapolis, Chicago and Detroit. They’d arrive days late in the mail, but the hometown Escanaba (Mich.) Daily Press was on the porch every day after school.

          For a time, I was a carrier boy delivering the Milwaukee Sentinel at the crack of dawn.

          To this day, I buy several newspapers, spread them out on the kitchen table and delight in the array of content.

          “Since my teenage years, up to this very moment, one of the highlights of every day comes right before I stoop to pick up the morning (or afternoon) newspaper,” my friend and former colleague, Bob Wolfley, wrote me last week. “Or stick the coins in the box before I peel off the top copy.

          “That thrum of anticipation. What’s inside? What’s news? What are those talented, smart, energetic professionals going to tell me about the world around me? That right-before-feeling, sacred as it is fleeting.”

          Wish I had written those words, Bob. The allure of newspapers stays in one’s blood. Each day is different. A winner and loser can be determined daily by comparing your copy to someone else’s. What you are is what you wrote.

          As a college student, I and two other sportswriting hopefuls surrounded Roy Damer of the Chicago Tribune the night before a football game. We asked him what made a good sportswriter.

          “It’s easy, boys,” Damer said. “No matter the assignment, every single time you sit down at the typewriter, try your hardest to produce the best possible story.”

          I never forgot Damer’s advice. I didn’t want the subscriber or the citizen buying the paper at the newsstand to be disappointed because of me.

          Since my departure was announced last week I have been touched more than you can possibly imagine by the hundreds of emails sent by readers.

          When you’re writing late at night in a press box or, more recently, working on the NFL draft series into the wee hours of the morning, you never think of who might be reading it the next day. After finishing one story, my thoughts immediately would turn to what I would do for the next story.

          People have told me how their bond with a parent was strengthened with endless talk about my columns. Some educators have used my approach to beat writing with their students. High school coaches found value in things I’ve written. One man said that as a child he learned to read with my stuff.

          When Sam, my 6-year-old grandson, read a portion of the defensive line draft story to me over the phone last month, I lost it. That was the first time I had ever heard him read.

          Certainly, remaining on one beat for as long I did had its advantages. For one, as the years passed by, I felt able to make assumptions because of the large faithful readership that devoured every word.

          So “bad” runs, 3- and 5-techniques, 40-yard times, Wonderlic scores and two-gapping became part of everyday writing. If some scout said some player was “just a guy,” I think everyone got the gist.

          For about 20 to 25 of those 33 full-time years on the beat, I competed for every shred of news. In the last decade, my role became more of an analyst, columnist and personnel information-gatherer mainly because of the presence of Tom Silverstein.

          Once robust competitors in the Journal vs. Sentinel era, we suddenly became partners when the papers merged. We were covering the same team but, as the years went on, our roles became well-defined.

          Tom is a dogged, well-sourced reporter, a gifted writer and a true friend of the workingman as president of our newspaper guild. Our 23 years sharing a beat could be a record that will never be broken.

          I trust Tom and his judgment implicitly. My hope is that my departure will showcase him and his many talents to an even greater degree.

          During the years when I was raising children, Tom covered me countless times to enable me to coach youth baseball and softball or attend my kids’ games or other events. I haven’t thanked him enough for that.

          Because Tom and my many other gifted colleagues on the beat were covering the news of the day, it freed me to be creative and experiment with various analytical approaches to pro football. I had the time to research and think deeply before I wrote.

          Their coverage of press conferences, practice and the locker room allowed me to stay fresh and challenged throughout my career.

          At the same time, I will be forever grateful for editors and managing editors Marty Kaiser, George Stanley and Steve Hannah in Milwaukee and the late Larry Belonger in Green Bay for standing behind me always.

          At a previous job, I felt I was hung out to dry by management after a head coach called to gripe and threaten following one of my columns. Not only did that moment serve as a lesson learned and never-ending source of motivation, but it also was a constant reminder of just how good I had it in Milwaukee.

          I also was privileged to have tremendous relationships with almost all of my sports editors. My first, the Press-Gazette’s Len Wagner, was a wise but tough supervisor who was perfect for a green, eager kid covering preps, small colleges and fastpitch softball and loving every second of it.

          Of course, I would have gone nowhere had it not been for the hundreds of personnel men, assistant coaches and players who gave of their precious time to teach me the ins and outs of pro football. The process was simple, really: as I learned the game, I passed it along to readers.

          There’s no need to thank them here. They all know who they are because I have gone to great lengths to thank them all profusely over the years.

          The end result became my thoughts tempered by those of the football people that shared their expertise so generously. I did read and benefited significantly from the work of my colleagues; otherwise, I stayed away from other print and electronic coverage, state and national, to avoid groupthink at all costs.

          If you bought the newspaper, I figured you deserved my opinion. That’s the main reason why you seldom heard me on radio or TV. My newspaper always came first, second and third.

          Of course, I’m a dinosaur. I’m not real keen on cell phones. Michael Cohen undoubtedly became sick and tired solving my technology issues. Facebook isn’t my thing.

          But, hey, when my boss, Mike Davis, wanted me to tweet and do chats and video, I quickly saw the light. Once Tyler Dunne, my young running buddy for four years on the beat, hatched the idea of a podcast, it became a frequent and, I will now admit, very pleasurable part of the job.

          Never once did I go back and listen to my blabbing done in cahoots with Mr. Dunne and, for the last two years, the young Mr. Cohen. Even some fellow seniors emailed to say they found it a fun if not indispensable diversion, so I just went with the flow.

          We’re relocating to Ann Arbor, Mich., home of my alma mater and where Pat and I have many friends.

          Some say writers never stop writing. That might be true, but my full-time, beat-writing days are finished.

          We’ll see. I have keen interest in a large number of sports, from preps to pros, and there certainly are many of them in southeast Michigan. Writing about pro football in addition to coverage of games and events holds considerable appeal.

          There’s also family, reading, taking classes, teaching, volunteering, getting in better shape and a hundred other things on my mental to-do list. Just not having to meet my own standards sounds delicious.

          Let’s just call it semi-retirement for someone who couldn’t have been happier or more proud working for the newspapers in Milwaukee.

          Comment


          • #20
            Just now discovered and read this. Color me totally impressed ! He really does remind me of Joel, in so many ways. There is just the right amount personal opinion blended with straight forward fact. It's refreshing to read a guy who owns the "courage of his convictions." I hate it that I learn of him just as he retires. Hopefully, he'll retire, enjoy it for a while, then begin realizing how lucky he was to have found the passion of his life .... and return to it on a part time basis .... a few months before next years draft !!
            "I disapprove of what you say, I will however, defend to the death, your right to say it!" -
            Voltaire

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            • #21

              "NFL personnel man: “All the teams that are winning – the New Englands, the Pittsburghs, the Seattles, the Green Bays – their coaches aren’t involved in the selection process. Let the coaches coach and the scouts scout. I don’t do this for a hobby. I’m a professional evaluator. They’re professional coaches.”



              This is quite contrary to what most of the posters on the two Texan boards that I visit seem to support. Me included.

              Some coaches are on record of "wanting to choose the groceries."

              Think I read somewhere this week that a couple of teams have jettisoned some members of their scouting staffs. Bills and Colts I believe.

              I sometime wonder if the Texans should take hard look at some of our scouts.

              BTW I really enjoyed the read.



              Religion, it's the process of worshipping the messenger and ignoring the message.

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              • #22
                Originally posted by cuppacoffee View Post
                "NFL personnel man: “All the teams that are winning – the New Englands, the Pittsburghs, the Seattles, the Green Bays – their coaches aren’t involved in the selection process. Let the coaches coach and the scouts scout. I don’t do this for a hobby. I’m a professional evaluator. They’re professional coaches.”
                Age old gripe -- scouts are always moaning about GMs not picking their guys.

                Coaches say they know what traits are required to play the positions they need their guys to.

                And Belichick is a coach.

                If you have a great GM he should lead, but there aren't many great GMs in the league... you'd better have scouting chops vs administrative/PR chops. And they've been complaining about Thompson up in GB lately.


                Originally posted by cuppacoffee View Post
                Some coaches are on record of "wanting to choose the groceries."
                Kyle Shanihan and Sean McDermott got that power with their new teams. Tough task, though.

                Most HCs just need their GMs to see the game through their eyes and choose accordingly.

                A lot of HCs get fired because GM doesn't provide the right kind of guys... or gives them injury-guy or fat-guy or lazy-guy. Something Wade Phillips will tell you.

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