This is what happens with Garda when he lets stuff go until the last minute and then his car implodes.
That said, I’m also lazy.
We’ve got two subjects today. One is a requested list of folks who are worth following for the NFL Draft. It’s actually just the first part of a list and I’m hoping to get my rear in gear to have the rest on Monday.
The other subject—and the one I am kicking off with—is Matt Barkley.
Now, I recently finished doing my write-up of quarterbacks for the Annual CheeseheadTV draft guide (pre-order yours now!) and moved onto wide receivers.
While I work on the receivers, I’m also watching games for running backs (non Cheesehead TV related) and was watching Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor in the USC—Stanford game.
I’d watched the game before when I did my Barkley-watching and at this point have seen all or some of it about three times.
Now, even having seen it multiple times, I watch the game almost completely again, because I like to feel the rhythm of it and see how it contributes to a player’s performance.
So I once again found myself watching Barkley and it suddenly solidified for me—this guy is Alex Smith, circa 2011.
I don’t mean that as a dig either. I think he’s a guy who, you get him a solid offensive line, a good or great running back and decent or better wide receivers and he can take you pretty far.
He doesn’t have the elite arm strength of most top picks and his deep accuracy can go off the rails, though that seems to be footwork oriented which can absolutely be fixed.
That doesn’t mean he can’t lead you to the playoffs or a Super Bowl.
And yes, I just intimated Alex Smith can get you to a Super Bowl.
Look, he was one game away from the Super Bowl and was let down by special teams.
He was in the perfect offense for him and his talents—which is why i have reservations about him in Kansas City. That’s another post though.
Barkley strikes me the same way. Give him a Frank Gore, that offensive line and Michael Crabtree and he’ll be in a position to succeed.
Now, what are the chances he lands in that position this year? It all depends on where he goes. If he’s taken at Buffalo, he’s got the running back and receivers, but lacks a good offensive line.
If he drops into the second round, he could end up in Cleveland with a solid offensive line and Trent Richardson, but a questionable wide receiver group.
Or he could be an Arizona Cardinal and it would be a train wreck because while they have the receivers, they’ve got nothing else.
Comparing him to Mark Sanchez just because they went to USC is—lazy is a bit harsh, so perhaps wrong-headed fits better.
Sanchez was wildly inaccurate at any level of throw—short, intermediate and deep. He would miss a pass anywhere and was bailed out by his receivers quite often.
I tell you what, I don’t even like the highlights a few years later.
We knew this, and as a whole, analysts (and at least the Jets) overlooked it because he was “raw”. He’s a guy who had only started a handful of games and was at a big time college. People overlooked what he had done for what they hoped he would do.
Barkley is a four year starter whose offensive line was injured and struggled all season long, with questionable running back talent a poor defense and a head coach who had him throwing screens on what seems like a high percentage of the time.
Those screen passes and short routes are something else some analysts point to when it comes to Barkley. Did Kiffin have him throw them because he can’t throw long or did they throw so many short plays because he never had time for deep throws?
I actually think it’s more the latter than the former. Watching the USC games this season—including in person in New Jersey against Syracuse—I marveled at how often the call was clearly a short play.
Again, this is not a guy who has an epic arm, but people are overlooking how good he really is.
Who ever thought coming from USC would be a negative?
If you think about it—Sanchez seems like a bust (we’re at that point), Matt Leinart was a huge bust but Carson Palmer was worth the pick for the first half of his career while neither John David Booty or Matt Cassel were ever supposed to be starters.
Hell, Cassel didn’t start a game in college. Him failing in Kansas City shouldn’t have been a shock at all.
Barkley isn’t Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan or Cam Newton but he isn’t any of those other USC guys either.
There are tons of people you can follow to get your draft information. This list is by no means complete. There isn’t really even an order to it.
And this is only part one.
These are guys (it’s amazing to me how few women do this) worth following. They aren’t geniuses, they aren’t perfect and they aren’t always right. Some are listed by site instead of person as well.
They do have some very solid and well informed opinions and most of them are great for engaging in some one on one dialogue.
Russ Lande – National Football Post, GM Jr, Big Ten Network
Russ is a former scout and has been working in the “draftnick biz” for a long time both with his own site—GM Jr—as well as Sporting News until recently when he joined National Football Post.
You will always find some rankings that raise an eyebrow—this year it is Ryan Nassib as his top quarterback—but his analysis is fantastic and knowing his process a bit, I have all the faith in the world in his material. It’s nice to see some outside the box thinking.
Matt Waldman – Footballguys, Football Outsiders, Rookie Scouting Portfolio
Waldman is best known for working with Cecil Lammey and Sigmund Bloom as well as his “Rookie Scouting Portfolio”. The RSP is Waldman’s yearly descent into madness where he breaks down several hundred offensive players in extreme detail. It’s one of my favorite pre-draft reads.
Daniel Jeremiah – NFL Network, Path to the Draft
I knew him “when” he was just “Move the Sticks” on Twitter and was putting together his own independent stuff. Now the former scout is with the NFLN, and it’s cool to see a guy whose work I respected hit the ‘big time’.
DJ has a ton of insight into every position and I learn something from him every time I read his timeline or watch him on the television.
Helluva nice guy as well.
Mike Mayock – NFL Network, Path to the Draft, staunch hater of Twitter
That’s right, you won’t find Mayock on Twitter (unless Rich Eisen is tweeting out pictures of him) but you will find him at NFL.com and over at NFLN. I love the way Mayock explains things in ways that anyone can understand without coming off as condescending.
A lot of draftnicks come off as arrogant—I never feel that way with Mayock. Having met him a couple of times, also a guy who is a very pleasant dude.
Charles Davis – NFL Network, Path to the Draft
Another guy whom I have met and falt out one of the nicest guys on the entire planet.
You won’t find him all that much on twitter but I thoroughly enjoy him on Path to the Draft and his commentary during college games has made some of the games I watched fifty times in the past month more enjoyable.
Great info and analysis.
I didn’t know Miller much before this fall when I started at Bleacher Report but he’s become one of my favorite people. It was really interesting to see him work in person a few times—especially at the Senior Bowl—and he is definitely one of the hardest working guys I’ve met.
Miller is very opinionated, but also open to debate—and the occasional joke at his own expense. Just ask anyone in Cleveland or Jacksonville.
Gil Brandt – NFL.com
Brandt is an old hand at this, having been at it a super long time and once was the VP of Player Personnel for the Cowboys.
I don’t agree with his analysis as much as I used to—which is fine—but nobody is more wired into the Pro Days process like Gil.
Matt Bitonte – Draft Daddy
Draft Daddy isn’t the prettiest site—Matt will cop to that—but oh what a wealth of info in the draft blog. If there is news anywhere, it’s gathered there. I like Matt’s mocks as well.
A regular stop for me each week.
I’ve known Cec for about ten years now and constantly learn more from him every year (not all of it football related but, whatever). Cec has a wealth of contacts within the league along with being an expert on the Broncos, since that’s where he resides.
He’s been going to All Star games and the Combine longer than anyone I know and is also an avid sci-fi and comic fan. That has nothing to do with any of this, I just thought I’d throw it in there.
Along with a regular radio show in Denver, he also hosts The Audible, Footballguys’ fantasy football podcast.
McShay started off at Scouts Inc and then moved on from there. He works very hard and I know does a ton of film analysis as well as travel to watch players play and practice in person.
Like him or hate him, I always find him insightful.
Michael Schottey – Bleacher Report, The Go Route
Schottey used to do his heavy lifting at Drafttek.com, but does most of his work at Bleacher Report now.
What impresses me with Mike is how he continues to build his knowledge base. I used to think he was the ‘Detroit Lions guy’ when I first saw him several years ago, but he’s so much more than that.
Another guy who does a lot of All Star game traveling to round out and support his film work.
Josh Norris – Rotoworld NFL Draft Writer
Josh is one of the ‘young bucks’ of the Draftnick Industrial Complex, but did some time with the St Louis Rams.
He’s got great insight and practically lives off film—in Mobile, I’m not sure he actually left the film room at the Media Center other than to see the actual practices.
A sharp guy, and usually up for some chatter on Twitter as well.
Galko is another whippersnapper, who started Optimum several years ago and has had it explode since. Eric is a guy who is clear on what he thinks and very good at conveying why he came to the analysis he did.
You know all those highlight videos on youtube? Yeah Sig, Lammey and a dude name Marc Faletti were ahead of the curve on that with a little venture called Draftguys TV. Bonus points if you can find any of their old videos. If you can, they were fantastic and mostly hold up.
Sig does some analysis for B/R and you can always find him on Twitter. If you come at him with an opinion, be prepared to back it up with thorough logic—Sig is a trained lawyer and the man debates.
Oh lord does he debate. Guarantee you’ll walk away thinking though.
Another GMjr guy, Josh is very approachable on Twitter, and always up for a debate. Sometimes I think he’s nuts—and he knows that—but I will always listen to what he has to say.
Josh explains himself well and I always feel like I am getting an interesting point of view. Like all of the above when I disagree with him, I’ll take another look at the tape and see what I missed.
That’s part one of the list. Part two will be coming soon and as you can imagine, I have barely scratched the surface. Feel free to toss suggestions in the comments, don’t just assume they will end up on the next list by osmosis.
You can find Garda way too often on Twitter or over at the NFC North blog at Bleacher Report. At some point he swears the Hard Count will be back.