Who’ll be New York Jets’ Starting QB – Vick or Geno?

geno-smith-michael-vick-jetsEarlier this month, Michael Vick claimed that the 2014 New York Jets quarterback competition is dead – Geno Smith is the starter. He explained this to NJ.com by telling them that his goal is simply to help Smith get better.

“Geno’s the starting quarterback for that football team,” Vick said. “Ultimately our goal is to try to help Geno become the best quarterback that he can be. Myself and (third-string QB Matt Simms) are all trying to put him in a position where he can get better from year one to year two.” Vick said that he and Smith are friends and added, “I wouldn’t say I’d necessarily be OK with sitting on the bench, but I know what I signed up for.”

This is certainly a nice sentiment from Vick, but in the NFL, teams are short on patience. And the Jets won’t sit through another season where Smith throws 21 interceptions. That said, head coach Rex Ryan has a different take on the matter.

May the Best Man win

geno-smith-jetsNew York took Smith in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft hoping that he could be their quarterback of the future. His rookie campaign was anything but stellar, though, as he garnered just a 35.9 QBR, throwing for 3,046 yards, 12 TD’s, 21 INT’s, 4 fumbles and 6 rushing TD’s. The latter indicates that Smith has potential as a dual threat and he showed promise in his last four starts, boasting a solid 83 QBR.

However, fans didn’t see anything to confirm that Geno is a lock to be New York’s starter this season. And Ryan confirmed that Smith isn’t guaranteed of anything during a recent press conference. “There is competition, no doubt,” Ryan said. “You know I said from day one that I think Geno’s gonna be hard to beat out…and I’ve said that from day one. But I also said that Mike’s gonna have an opportunity to compete and he definitely will.”

Smoke and Mirrors

While Ryan’s words express that there is a competition going on, we should be more inclined to believe Vick. This is a guy who was in a dogfight last year for the starting quarterback role in Philadelphia. Vick ultimately beat out Nick Foles in the offseason to become the starter. However, a hamstring injury sidelined him and gave Foles an opportunity to shine. He ran with this opportunity too, guiding Philly from a rough start to the playoffs.

Vick never once said that he thought Foles would be the starter during the 2013 training camp. But with the Jets, he seems much more confident that Smith is going to be the starting signal caller while he serves as a backup and helps his friend improve.

Friends don’t let Friends play Bad

michael-vick-1While we choose to believe Vick’s words, there’s no guarantee that this is the way things will play out on the field. Despite being 33, Vick is still one of the league’s fastest quarterbacks. Plus, he knows OC Marty Mornhinweg’s system very well since the two spent four years together in Philly.

The immediate advantage of this is that Vick can use his knowledge and understanding of Mornhinweg’s system to help out Smith. However, if the latter continues to struggle, then Vick will no doubt be called upon to take the reigns. The 12-year veteran showed that he still has what it takes to start, posting 1,215 passing yards, 5 TD’s, 3 INT’s, 306 rushing yards and 2 rushing TD’s in a limited season.

Also don’t forget that another non-playoff year could cost Ryan his job. So he won’t hesitate to do what’s best for the Jets from a winning standpoint if they are struggling.

Amazingly, Marcus Lattimore nearing Return to San Francisco 49ers

marcus-lattimore-49ersLast year, Marcus Lattimore served as a worst-case scenario for how one play can derail an outstanding football career by playing in college. While playing against the Tennessee Volunteers, Lattimore suffered a horrific knee injury after being hit low. He dislocated his knee and audiences cringed as his leg flopped when he hit the ground.

But as bad as the injury looked, it didn’t end the 22-year-old’s career. In fact, he actually healed up enough by the 2013 NFL Draft to show up and amaze scouts with his progress. It was enough to convince the San Francisco 49ers to take a chance on him with a fourth-round pick.

Since then, Lattimore has continued to work out and rehab his knee on the non-football injury list. And now, 11 weeks into the NFL season, he appears ready to start practicing for the Niners and earn a roster spot.

Nobody’s expecting Lattmore to have a big impact on San Francisco’s playoff run. After all, he has a loaded backfield to contend with since the 49ers feature Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, Anthony Dixon and LaMichael James. However, he’ll certainly benefit from being out with the team and learning whatever he can. “It would be important to have my mind ready for the next year, real excited about it,” Lattimore said.

marcus-lattimore-injuryHe went on to add, “I’ve learned more in these four months than I’ve ever learned as far as how the defense plays, how to read fronts, how to read linebackers, coverage….I know so much about the game in the last four months, (more) than I’ve learned in the last 18 years – so it’s been big.”

Of course, Lattimore is a football player, so it’s not like he wants to watch film on picking up blitzes and finding open running lanes for the next few months. He expressed this by saying, “Everything feels good – I should be out there.”

During his injury-shortened, three-year career at South Carolina, Marcus Lattimore rushed for 2,677 yards, tallied 767 receiving yards and scored 41 total touchdowns. Many expected Lattimore to be a first or second round NFL Draft pick before his junior year began. However, the dislocated knee injury that he suffered put his football career in jeopardy. Luckily though, the 5’11”, 221-pound back was able to rebound and still get picked in the 2013 Draft. The next step is getting out on the field in some meaningful situations.

Matt Barkley sees Unprecedented Fall in 2013 NFL Draft

matt-barkley-nfl-draftThis year, Barkley will be a Junior and it may be his last year playing for the Trojans before he takes his talents to the NFL. I have watched every game of Barkley since he became a Trojan and I am confident that he will be a top 5 pick whenever he decides to come out.

These were the words NFLMocks used to describe Matt Barkley towards the end of his junior year at USC. The top 5 pick sentiment was something that was shared by many NFL GM’s and scouts back in these days. And Barkley did turn out to be a top 5 pick….of the fourth round.

The disappointed QB’s free fall finally ended on the third day of the 2013 NFL Draft, when the Philadelphia Eagles took him with the first pick of the fourth round. And while plenty of great quarterbacks have been drafted at this point or later, they certainly didn’t have the pedigree of Matt Barkley.

matt-barkley-nfl-draft-1While quarterbacking Santa Ana Mater Dei High School, Barkley gained considerable attention for winning the Gatorade National Player of the Year award in his junior season. As the nation’s number one QB prospect, he would go on to become the first true freshman in USC history to start.

The hype rapidly built long before Barkley even threw an official pass at USC. “I’m going on record now to say … three years Matt Barkley – who will be a true freshman this year – will be the No. 1 pick in the draft. Three years from now,” said ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper.

Things got off to a mediocre start for Barkley in his freshman season as he led the Trojans to a 9-4 record, while throwing for 2,735 yards, 15 TD’s and 14 INT’s. His sophomore year was better statistically as the 6’2″ signal caller tallied 2,791 yards, 26 TD’s and 12 INT’s; however, USC limped to an 8-5 record.

matt-barkley-nfl-draft-2But Barkley’s junior year is when he really exploded after throwing for 3,528 yards, 39 TD’s, just 6 INT’s, and led USC to a 10-2 record. Based on all of this, it’s no wonder why he was the Hesiman Trophy favorite in his senior year. And Barkley’s decision to return was particularly shocking when you consider that he was a projected top 10 pick in the 2012 Draft.

Perhaps the Newport Beach, California native should’ve left because the 2012 season was a disaster for USC, which started as the number one-ranked team in preseason polls. This ranking quickly vanished as they lost to the Stanford Cardinals to open the Pac-10 season. After winning their next four games, the Trojans dropped five out of their last six contests to finish at a dismal 7-6 – quite possibly the worst that a top-ranked preseason team has ever done.

Barkley put up solid numbers with 3,287 yards, 36 TD’s and 15 INT’s during this campaign. However, his 2013 NFL Draft stock plummeted for a variety of reasons and cost him somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 – $15 million.

So what happened between the end of 2011 and 2012? First off, scouts found a lot more flaws in Barkley’s game after he led USC to a 7-6 season – namely average arm strength and dancing feet in the pocket.

He also suffered a shoulder injury that kept him out of the Sun Bowl and prevented him from throwing at the Combine in Indianapolis. This is about the worst thing that could’ve happened to Barkley after USC coach Lane Kiffin convinced him to stay. And when he did work out for scouts at USC’s pro day, his performance was less than inspiring.

matt-barkley-nfl-draft-3Finally, Barkley is now a year older with another season of wear and tear on him. And when an injury causes more tear, this is never something that will improve your draft status.

If there’s any silver lining to this story, it’s that Barkley is taking the draft slide pretty well. He said, “I’m just glad I know where my home is and I can’t wait to hit the playbook.” Barkley also stated, “I stayed positive this whole time, and haven’t looked back. I’m blessed that the Eagles believe in me and are willing to give me a chance. And I’m looking forward from here on out. And no matter where you end, it’s just the beginning of the next chapter, next story of your life.”

The next chapter will see Matt Barkley trying to distinguish himself in a muddled, five-quarterback situation in Philadelphia. Michael Vick is the frontrunner so far; but he certainly isn’t a lock to start after a dismal, injury-plagued 2012 and a new coach in Chip Kelly.

Nick Foles should also get a crack at the starting job after throwing for 1,699 yards, 6 TD’s and 5 INT’s while filling in for Vick. Dennis Dixon is another intriguing candidate here since he quarterbacked Kelly’s Oregon team in 2007 and served as a backup on the Ravens’ 2012 NFL championship team.

It’s difficult to say where Barkley fits into this situation. But no matter if he ends up as the starter or taking practice squad reps, he’ll be making far less money than if he’d came out last year.

The Californian is probably going to sign something in the range of a four-year contract worth $2.5 million with a $500,000 signup bonus. However, this is a far cry from the $15 million or so he would’ve received as a top 10 pick. That said, Barkley will definitely serve as a cautionary tale to top NFL prospects for years to come.

Top 10 Worst NFL Draft Picks since 2000

jamarcus-russellThe 2013 NFL Draft is set to begin tomorrow, on April 25th, and 32 teams will be looking to find some gems. Of course, this might be a little difficult because the 2013 Draft class isn’t expected to feature many superstars. In fact, this week’s draft could be downright bad as an anonymous executive told NFL.com the following:

Worst draft in past 10 years or longer. When we look back at this draft in five or 10 years we might view it as one of the worst we’ve seen in some time. There will be 13-15 players picked in the first round that are true first-rounders. That’s a fairly low number.

This NFL exec isn’t the only person who’s questioning the 2013 NFL Draft. John Elway, who now serves as the Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations, bluntly said “It’s not top-heavy.”

With what many perceive to be a weak draft class, there figure to be plenty of duds picked this week. But hopefully, none of them live up to the 10 worst drafts picks since 2000, which you can see below.

10. Peter Warrick, WR Cincinnati Bengals – 4th Pick in 2000 Draft

peter-warrickAfter an outstanding college career in which he caught a record 32 touchdowns at Florida State and achieved All-American honors twice, Warrick seemed like he could be a pretty dynamic pro player. However, the smallish 5’11” receiver never gained more than 667 receiving yards in his first four seasons.

Warrick finally had a solid year in 2004, when he caught 79 passes for 819 yards, rushed for 143 yards, and scored seven touchdowns. But he was injured for most of the 2004 season and watched seventh-round pick T.J. Houshmandzadeh take over his spot. Warrick was released by the Bengals in 2005, had a short stint with the Seahawks after that, then bounced around the CFL and Arena League.

9. Robert Gallery, OT Oakland Raiders – 2nd Pick in 2004 Draft

Robert GalleryComing out of Iowa, Gallery was the ideal left tackle size at 6’7″, 325 pounds. This being said, he was expected to be a star in the NFL who could follow in the same vein as five-time All-Pro left tackle Orlando Pace. However, Gallery never quite lived up to these expectations.

He was moved from left, to right, and back to left tackle in his first three years. 2006 was especially a disaster because Gallery gave up 10.5 sacks in just 10 games. By 2007, he found his calling at left guard; however, you don’t draft left guards with the second overall pick. This is especially bad when you consider the talented players that Gallery was taken over, including Larry Fitzgerald, Philip Rivers, DeAngelo Hall and Ben Roethlisberger.

8. Courtney Brown, DE Cleveland Browns – 1st Pick in 2000 NFL Draft

courtney-brownYou can’t exactly fault Cleveland for taking Brown with the first overall pick in 2000. Not only did he rack up 33 sacks and 70 tackles for losses at Penn State, but Brown also ran a 4.52 forty-yard dash, had a 37-inch vertical, and benched 225 pounds 26 times. Add in the fact that Brown was 6’4″, 285 pounds, and you have the perfect defensive end.

But size and combine performances don’t always equal success, which turned out to be the case with Brown. He had a solid rookie season with 70 tackles and 4.5 sacks. But injuries started coming in 2002 and drastically cut down the South Carolina native’s time on the field. When Brown retired in 2006, he had just 19 sacks over a five-year career.

7. Aaron Maybin, LB Buffalo Bills – 11th Pick in 2009 Draft

aaron-maybinSome people might think it’s unfair to put Maybin on this list because he was only drafted four years ago and even had a solid year in 2011 – recording 6 sacks for the New York Jets. However, this doesn’t erase three other years in which Maybin was almost nonexistent on his teams.

After the Bills drafted Maybin 11th overall out of Penn State, he responded by pitching in just 18 tackles and 0 sacks. The next year was even worse since the 6’4″ linebacker recorded just six tackles in 11 games. Buffalo simply scratched Maybin from several contests, despite him being healthy. Most recently, the Jets released him after he made only one tackle in 2012.

6. R Jay Soward, WR Jacksonville Jaguars – 29th Pick in 2000 Draft

r-jay-sowardThe 2000 NFL Draft was certainly a big one for busts since Soward is the third player from 2000 to make this list. The California native was so talented that, despite scoring 32 touchdowns during his career at USC, he fell short of expectations. The Jaguars were willing to spend their first round pick on the troubled wide receiver based on his potential alone.

However, this potential never materialized because he was frequently late to team meetings, violated the league’s substance abuse policy several times, and was arrested for threatening police after being pulled over. Soward was suspended by the league, and the Jaguars released the wideout after he turned in 14 catches for 108 yards in one year. These would be Soward’s only NFL stats because he never played in the league again.

5. Matt Leinart, QB Arizona Cardinals – 10th Pick in 2006 Draft

Matt LeinartFew college players ever had as storied of a career as Matt Leinart. He compiled a 37-2 record as the starting quarterback for USC, won two national championships, and earned the Heisman Trophy in his junior year. Based on his impressive collegiate resume and size (6’5″, 225 pounds), Leinart was a top prospect going into the 2006 NFL Draft – despite concerns about his weak arm.

After being drafted by the Cardinals, Leinart had a lengthy holdout, which lasted up until preseason games. But the holdout did end, with the rookie picking up a 6-year, $51 million contract. Leinart’s lucky that he got a fortune upfront because he certainly wasn’t worth the money. He started just 13 games in four seasons for the Cards and eventually lost his job to Kurt Warner.

4. Mike WIlliams, WR Detroit Lions – 10th Pick in 2005 Draft

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit LionsWilliams has never exactly lit the league on fire, with 127 catches, 1,526 yards, and 5 touchdowns in seven seasons. Of course, Williams career didn’t get off to a very good start when he left USC after his sophomore year and hired an agent, thinking he was draft eligible because Maurice Clarett successfully challenged eligibility rules. However, a federal judge overturned the ruling, which meant both Clarett and Williams had to sit out the 2004 season.

When the 6’5″ receiver was finally draft eligible, he was taken by the Detroit Lions in a very questionable move. Detroit had already spent first round picks on Charles Rodgers (2003) and Roy Williams (2004) the previous two years, and overloaded on wideouts when they scooped up Williams. But then again, foolish moves like this were a staple of the Matt Millen era in Detroit.

3. Vernon Gholston, DE New York Jets – 6th Pick in 2008 Draft

vernon-gholstonLike Courtney Brown, Gholston is another player who looked and worked out like a future Hall-of-Famer. The 6’3″, 260-pounder had an incredible bodybuilder physique, ran a 4.58 forty, had a 41-inch vertical leap and benched 37 reps at the combine. Gholston was also coming off of a season at Ohio State where he tallied a school record 14.5 sacks.

Unfortunately, neither his physical tools nor college production paid dividends for the New York Jets. Gholston failed to record a sack in three seasons with the Jets after being shuffled around from outside linebacker to a traditional defensive end role. He was eventually released in 2011 and has been waived by both the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams since.

2. Charles Rogers, WR Detroit Lions – 2nd Pick in 2003 Draft

charles-rogersRogers put together a spectacular college career at Michigan State, where he set an NCAA record with 13 consecutive games with a touchdown catch. The 6’3″, 220-pounder had enough highlight reel plays that the Lions decided he was worthy of the second overall pick. Things started out alright for Rogers since he caught 22 passes for 243 yards and three TD’s in his first five games.

However, he’d soon break his clavicle in practice and go on injured reserve. Rogers suffered the same injury in 2004 and was granted permission to leave the team after being very distraught. He was suspended for four games after violating the league’s drug policy in 2005 and barely played much when he returned. The Lions cut him the following offseason, thus bringing an end to Rogers’ football career.

1. JaMarcus Russell, QB Oakland Raiders – 1st Pick in 2007 Draft

jamarcus-russell-1It isn’t exactly original putting Russell here because just about every draft busts list ranks him number one. However, that’s a testament to just how big of a failure the LSU product was in his three-year stint with Oakland. And this is mind-boggling when you consider his 6’6″ frame and cannon arm.

After holding out until the first week of the regular season, Russell finally inked a deal worth $61 million, with $31.5 million guaranteed. This resulted in him only starting one game and playing four games total in his rookie season. His second year was fairly decent since he threw for 2,423 yards, 13 TD’s and 8 INT’s. However, Russell’s third season was a disaster as he threw for 1,287 yards, 3 TD’s, 11 INT’s and lost his starting job.

2010 would mark the end of his Raiders career as he showed up to the Oakland mini-camp weighing between 290-300 pounds. With five quarterbacks on the roster, Russell was an easy cut going into the regular season.

Biggest Stories from 2013 NFL Draft Combine

manti-teo-nfl-combineNFL head coaches and GM’s recently got a nice look at the top prospects from the 2013 NFL Draft class. And as usual, certain players shined at the 2013 NFL Combine while others hurt their stock with disappointing performances. That said, let’s check out some players who excelled and those who failed to impress at this year’s NFL Combine.

1. Manti Te’o provides more Questions than Answers with 40 Time

To nobody’s surprise, Manti Te’o was the biggest story of the Combine because of the press conference/interview he underwent. And Te’o did a solid job of answering all of the questions about the online girlfriend hoax surrounding him. Unfortunately, he left plenty of answers on the field after running a slower-than-expected 4.82 forty-yard dash. Entering this year, many people expected Te’o to be a top 10 pick. But following the uninspiring 40 time, it’s debatable as to if he’ll be selected in the second round.

2. Injured CB Dee Milliner comes though at the Combine

Nobody would’ve blamed Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner for not running the 40-yard dash. After all, he has a torn labrum that needs surgery, and it couldn’t be comfortable sprinting with this kind of shoulder pain. Nevertheless, he came out and ran a 4.37 forty, which tied him for sixth place. What’s more is that he should easily be the first cornerback taken as well as a top five overall pick.

star-lotulelei3. DT Star Lotulelei not cleared to participate

One of the most notable exclusions from the 2013 Combine activities was Star Lotulelei. The Utah defensive tackle’s stock had been rapidly propelling in recent weeks, and some experts thought that he might end up being among the top five picks. However, Lotulelei’s world came crashing down when an echocardiogram revealed that his left ventricle wasn’t pumping enough blood. The question now is if this is a serious issue, or just a minor heart problem arising from extreme weight loss over the past few days.

4. Running Backs and Quarterbacks fail to impress

Every year, there’s an emphasis on running backs and QB’s for the obvious reason that these are major impact positions. However, the 2013 NFL Draft class is particularly weak at these spots, and there’ll be few first rounders among football’s two marquee positions. Running back is especially thin, geno-smithwhere Wisconsin’s Montee Ball (4.63 forty), Oklahoma State’s Joseph Randle (4.63 forty) and Giovani Bernard (4.53 forty) didn’t exactly show breakaway speed. As for quarterbacks, West Virginia’s Geno Smith figures to be a mid-first rounder while NC State’s Mike Glennon may be the only other first round QB pick.

5. The Number One Overall Pick is Anybody’s Guess

Outside of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, there wasn’t much debate about who the top players were in last year’s draft. However, it’s anybody’s guess as to who will be called up to the podium first in April. Many thought that Texas A&M OT Luke Joeckel could be selected number one by the Chiefs; however, his sorry 5.3 forty time leaves some doubts. Alabama guard Chance Warmack is also in this position because a 5.41 forty hasn’t done him much justice. Other potential top picks include Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson, Alabama CB Dee Milliner, Brigham Young DE Ziggy Ansah, Oregon DE Dion Jordan and LSU DT Sheldon Richardson.

Come April 25th, we’ll finally get some answers to burning questions like where Te’o will be drafted, who the number one pick is going to be, and if the QB’s and running backs will have any significant impact in the 2013 Draft.