NFL Draft 1st Round Reflections

I love Todd Gurley, but he should be valued a bit like a quarterback in the 1st round: if you have one, you don’t need one. St. Louis should have looked for help at another position.

Cleveland Browns made up for last year’s draft debacle. Danny Shelton and Cameron Erving could each tip the scales at their positions. To get them at 12th and 19th, respectively, is almost unfathomable.

49ers put themselves in position to re-load. Two extra picks for moving down two slots in the 1st.

Love the #HOUpick and #AZCardinalspick. Waited for best player to fall to them.

Can these teams desperate for pass rush help afford to pass on Randy Gregory? My guess is they regret it.

Quote of the night? My girlfriend: “Did they just say Girlie?”

San Diego Chargers 2014 Schedule

The NFL released its 2014 regular seasons schedule on Wednesday, and it’s made an optimist out of me. The past few years, I’ve gone on record projecting that the Chargers would struggle against a slate of teams with more talent, a serious advantage in time zones (early games on the East Coast), or both.

This year’s different.

I won’t make any bold predictions. But even the most pessimistic Chargers fan – or headiest Raiders fan – must admit that the 2014 Chargers can contend with the clubs put in front of them.

Take the first seven games. The Bolts face:

· A tough Arizona team on the road and the Super Bowl champs at home; but then…
· Two AFC East also-rans in three weeks, broken up by a Jacksonville team that, despite some solid free agent additions, still desperately needs players; and,
· Oakland and a bound-to-regress Kansas City team, both on West Coast time.

Make no mistake: none of these teams will roll over for the Bolts. But it’s hardly out of the realm of possibility for the Bolts to hold serve at home against the AFC squads, and Mike McCoy and company will implement a game plan to at least compete with Seattle and Arizona.

Things get tougher from there: back-to-back contests against Denver and a more complete Miami team, the latter an early start on the East Coast. After a bye and Oakland at the Q, the Chargers face a ferocious fivesome of St. Louis, Baltimore, New England, Denver, and San Fran. After Week 11, the Bolts may not be favored again in 2014.

But a 6-1 or 5-2 record going into the first Denver game is not unrealistic. And this Chargers team proved that it can contend with the AFC’s top squads on the road last year. Teams like Denver, Baltimore, and San Fran will surely not look past Phillip Rivers and Co.

If the Bolts post nine wins against this group, it will be an achievement – but these are the NFL’s elite! And if the Chargers pull that off, and nine wins qualifies them for the postseason tournament for a second straight year, heed the warning Cincinnati ignored last year: watch out for the Chargers in the playoffs.

Don't look past the Bolts

Don’t look past the Bolts

Draft Prospect Watch: Gavin Escobar (SDSU)

The NFL Draft Jingle Blog — even Mel Kuiper’s hair can’t compete with a slogan like that — has really rejuvenated my interest in football, so I’m reviewing another prospect today.  San Diego State University and tight end Gavin Escobar played a home game against BYU in the Poinsettia Bowl last night.  The BYU pass rush disrupted any semblance of an SDSU passing game, limiting Escobar to a solitary catch down the seam for 24 yards.  Fortunately, Escobar has a body of work stretching back three years on which to judge his NFL chances.

I like Escobar.  He has good speed for a tight end, good hands, and good body control while making the tough catches.  While it’s hard to judge “route-running” on the basis of the limited camera angles published online, Escobar’s success with both Ryan Lindley and Dingwell at quarterback, each of whom found Escobar open quite often, suggests that he committed himself to playing well within coach Rocky Long’s system.

A team looking to draft Escobar faces two problems.  First, he is a poor blocker for a big man.  He certainly tries, but he lacks the consistent pad level and pop to make himself an asset in an NFL run game.  This also suggests, by the way, that Escobar will have limited value on special teams, where blocking is paramount.  For Escobar to warrant a spot on the 53-man roster, he will have to excel in the passing game.

But his skills don’t project receiving excellence at the next level. Escobar may be reliable.  He may even present a tough matchup at times, if he can learn to use his body against smaller safeties and his speed against bigger linebackers.  That said, NFL rosters are littered with tight ends who present such challenges, to one degree or another, for a defense.  It’s not clear Escobar warrants spending a high draft pick, especially with h

Gavin Escobar.

Gavin Escobar.

is deficiencies as a blocker.  If you’re looking for a comparator, try a poor man’s Todd Heap.

Escobar, if he leaves school, may represent a value pick in the fourth round.  Teams like Cleveland and Arizona, who have struggled to add a pass-catching tight end to complement their receivers, could even justify taking Escobar in the late third.  An early third round pick or higher would likely be too much to sacrifice.