Good Job – 2012 NFL Draft Analysis

30 04 2012

One of the most exciting and hotly anticipated times of the year on the NFL calendar is over and as usual it has created rigorous debate amongst fans as to who got their man and who has drafted a potential bust.

FightForTheYard takes a look at the teams that improved their chances ahead of the new season;

Arizona Cardinals

Michael Floyd, WR

Arizona produced one of the shocks of the first round with the addition of wide receiver Michael Floyd. The significance of this pick is huge as it means defences across the league will have to focus on two quality wide outs instead of all the planning going into, ‘how to stop Larry Fitzgerald’.

The addition of THREE tackles, Bobbie Massie from Mississippi being the stand out one, means the Cardinals have addressed a big need in a big way. Quarterback Ryan Lindley was taken in the 6th round and will apply some pressure to the faltering Kevin Kolb.

Staffordshire Surge lineman Tom Donlan, 22, is pleased with the weekend’s outcome.

“Michael Floyd is the one I wanted an we went out and got him. I believe Massie will be a steal in the fourth round and it’s good to see some competition at the quarterback position”.

FightForTheYard Draft Grade : B-

San Francisco 49ers

LaMichael James, RB

San Fran entered the draft with a team already capable of launching an assault on the division title and quite possibly the Super Bowl. With their first selection they acquired wide receiver A.J. Jenkins from Illinois. Jenkins was a surprise selection considering Randle and Hill remained on the board and the fact that the 49ers had already strengthened this position in the offseason with Randy Moss and Mario Manningham joining the team.

A selection I loved was the capture of Oregon running back LaMichael James in the second round. Not much was said about this kid going into the draft process, even though he had a massive year in college. The signing of James now means the 49ers can call upon either Gore, Bradshaw or LaMichael to improve that offense that struggled a little bit in 2011/12.

As for the remaining selections, the 49ers addressed some needs in the secondary and picked up defensive end Cam Johnson in the 7th round, which will have delighted defensive co-ordinator Vic Fangio.

FightForTheYard Draft Grade : B+

St Louis Rams

Janoris Jenkins, CB

At the end of the first round I was left wondering how the Rams had traded out of the second overall position all the way back to No. 14? I wasn’t the only one, Super Bowl MVP and former Rams quarterback Kurt Warner displayed his frustration on Twitter, (I mention this because I got a reply from him, no big deal.)

With the first round pick the Rams took defensive tackle Michael Brockers out of LSU. The second round was where things got interesting. With the first of three picks the Rams gave Sam Bradford a weapon, aptly name receiver Brian Quick. With the second selection they grabbed troubled cornerback Janoris Jenkins.

We all know that Jenkins could do with a bit of counselling but their is no doubt when it comes to his footballing skills that he is a top talent. Following Jenkins was Iasaiah Pead, a future replacement for aging running back Steven Jackson?

Trumane Johnson was another good bit of business by new head coach Jeff Fisher as the Rams recovered from a shaky start, where they had hoped to draft Justin Blackmon before the Jaguars traded up to get him.

FightForTheYard Draft Grade : A-

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mark Barron, SS

Tampa had a disasterous season last year but made some good signings during free agency and have continued to take strides in the right direction with this year’s draft.

Trading back two places in the 1st round did not hurt them as they secured the top safety, Mark Barron with their first pick. Towards the end of the round the Bucs managed trade back in to secure the second best running back in the draft, Doug Martin. Great business.

Outside linebacker Lavonte David followed in the 2nd round with a potential game changer in Najee Goode helping to improve the Tampa defence.

Brilliant weekend for the Buccaneers

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FightForTheYard Draft Grade : A*

New England Patriots

Dont’a Hightower, ILB

The Patriots decided to trade down and collect extra picks for the later rounds… is what I was going to say but amazingly completely the opposite occurred.

New England traded up to get pass rusher Chandler Jones with their first pick and then aggravated the Ravens by pinching Dont’a Hightower from underneath their noses.

Defence was a problem at Foxborough last year even though they did make it all the way to the Super Bowl, but still, the first two picks in this draft will improve them considerably.

Alfonso Denard was chosen in the final round, a first round talent with off the field issues, should Belichick sort him out, the Patriots have a quality cornerback on the roster.

New England fan Alex Morse likes what they have been able to do; “I’m just happy we got the guy with the best name in the draft.

FightForTheYard Draft Grade : B+

Pittsburgh Steelers


Alameda Ta’amu, NT

The Steelers have had nothing short of a remarkable draft. Two future Pro Bowl linemen in guard David DeCastro and tackle Mike Adams will help keep big Ben on his feet, where he belongs.

Sean Spence’s tape speaks for itself at linebacker and a big presence on the inside with Alameda Ta’amu adds another piece to the puzzle of this great defence.

Running back Chris Rainey has been spoken in the same breath of La Micheal James and Lamar Miller and if he can produce the numbers I believe the other two can, then Pittsburgh will be rockin’ and rollin’.

Steelers fan Julian Myles, 22, believes the team is stronger than ever; “Potentially we have two sensational linemen to protect the quarterback and a nose tackle that can learn from veteran Casey Hampton.

“All in all we have filled our gaps and I cannot wait for the season to be underway in September”.

FightForTheYard Draft Grade : A

Cincinnati Bengals

Mohammed Sanu, WR

The Bengals did all they could to cement themselves as a playoff team for years to come with some shrewd investments in this year’s draft.

The selection of Dre Kirkpatrick improves what is already a good defence operating without the big named players of divisional rivals, Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

Defensive tackles Devon Still and Brandon Thompson are solid signings that will stop the run and leave Kirkpatrick to dominate the passing game.

Mohammed Sanu was the victim of a hoax phone call claiming Cincinnati required his services but ironically a day later, the Bengals did come calling and he could be the man to take some of the pressure off current receiver A.J. Green.

I really like what the Bengals did this year.

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FightForTheYard Draft Grade : A*





Neil Reynolds Exclusive

13 02 2012
“They don’t even know we play, they’d actually be quite shocked! That’s their problem.”

That is the surprise admission from NFL journalist and Sky Sports analyst Neil Reynolds, 39, who believes the British game is on the right track, even if the Americans are oblivious to the fact we even play the sport at all.

Neil Reynolds with Joe Montana

Mr Reynolds was kind enough to speak to FightForTheYard and give his views on everything football.

“I got into the sport the way most people my age did, staying up late with my dad in the eighties, watching all the best teams on Channel 4. After about a year I decided I liked the San Francisco 49ers”.

Miami Dolphins Quarterback 1983-99 Dan Marino

While the 49ers led by Hall Of Fame star Joe Montana were appealing at first, they held no real place in Neil’s heart, that spot belongs to the Miami Dolphins. When asked why he chose the Dolphins Neil could only laugh, “I like a good quarterback”. As most of you will know, Miami was home to one of the best quarterbacks of all time, Dan Marino but in more recent times players such as Matt Moore and Chad Henne have held that position and on the whole, failed.

“Obviously we’re not doing very well at the moment but Marino stood out for me and has to be my favourite player of all time. I believe the quarterback position to be the hardest in the NFL, so respect to those guys that do it”.

Having admiration for the position, Reynolds can only admire the great work that newly crowned league MVP Aaron Rodgers has done in Green Bay, “I love to watch great quarterbacks play football and this guy is special. Green Bay have a lot of weapons and are brilliant to watch at the minute”.

Watching the game is all very well and good but to fully appreciate and understand what a player is thinking, you have to have experienced the hard hitting and ferocious nature of play which Neil has.

Starting out with the Medway Mustangs in 1991, Neil played as wide receiver before moving on a year later to the Invicta Eagles where he spent four years as a tight end and kicker, a position he would hold at every team he played for.

After leaving the Eagles at the end of the 1996 season, Reynolds moved to the Kent Exiles where he would finish his playing career before being offered a job at NFL Europe.

“Again I played tight end and kicker but I also had a go at defensive end which I was awful at, I couldn’t tackle at all but loved trying to get at the quarterback. I liked to be tackled for some strange reason so that is why I was mainly on offence. My favourite tight end was Mark Bavaro of the Giants in the 80’s, the picture of him running twenty yards with three men on his back is still etched into my memory”.

Only last year Neil was offered the chance to return to the Exiles for their 21st year Anniversary, an invitation he was pleased to accept, “I went back for the anniversary and was inducted to the All Star Team ring of honour as a tight end which was great”.

One thing Neil doesn’t miss about his playing days are the aches and pains from playing a hard game, “When I was younger I would ache for a day or two afterwards but as I got older I would ache until the following Friday, that wasn’t fun”.

“I do miss being part of a team though, that was probably the most enjoyable part of the whole experience, being in the locker room before the game, getting psyched up and then the elation or despair afterwards. To enjoy it you really have to love the game”.

So the question is how did the kicker for the Invicta Eagles come to write for NFL UK and co-present on Sky Sports?

“I always had a fascination with journalism at school and at age 14 I decided that’s what I want to do, so I did”

As most aspiring journalists will know, getting a gig for a company like the NFL requires a lot of hard work, “I did a week’s work experience at First Down magazine in 1991 which was brilliant and I continued to work with them by freelancing and covering the London Monarchs game’s in the 1991/92 season”.

“From there I worked for the Kent Messenger and literally started off as the tea boy, it wasn’t pretty but it was necessary, I’d cut out the stories I had written and stick them in a scrapbook and by 1996 I was fully qualified journalist, visiting flower shows to write about the goings on in the flower world”.

Neil’s tea making days were firmly behind him when he got his first big break, “I became a reporter for First Down magazine and I did that for three years, I loved it, writing about football was what I had always wanted to do. One day I received a call offering me the position of PR Manager at NFLEurope.com I was so pleased to be headhunted for the position”.

“I was there from 2000/02, I enjoyed it a lot. I also helped to launch NFL UK, so overall it was a fun job”.

Neil Reynolds with co-presenter Kevin Cadle

Currently Neil writes for NFL UK and is also a permanent fixture on the Sky Sports NFL shows. “I love the job that I am doing at the moment, maybe one day I’ll take Rich Eisen’s place on the NFL Network, I have the hair for it anyway”, he says jokingly.

“When doing this job you can’t please everybody and I’m aware of some criticism but at the end of the day I’m being paid to watch football and talk about it on television so I’m not too bothered”.

Taking a trip across the pond is another perk to the job, “I get to visit America for around two weeks of the year as part of my role, which isn’t as much as I’d like obviously, but it’s still more than most. I go for a week during training camp and then I go again for Superbowl week which is manic”.

International Series 2010

Since 2007 the NFL International Series has been played at Wembley Stadium giving hope to the idea of having a London based NFL franchise, something which Neil is backing, “I think it is definitely a possibility especially with Roger Goodell as commissioner of the league, he really wants it to happen”.

“Part of the business plan is to have a team play multiple games in the UK and see how they connect with the fans. It could take ten years or so to develop but it would be fantastic”.

With the recent news that the St Louis Rams will take on the New England Patriots next year and then return for another two years it seems the Rams are that team.

Continuing with the British game, Neil spoke favourably about the work being done in this country to raise the profile and standard of the game.

“The game over here is growing and growing and that is a great thing. It is probably helped by the Wembley game being such a big event which in turn has increased participation at both university and senior league level”.

He continued; “I’d love to see more of our players make it over to the States and receive scholarships at colleges but the reality of it is playing in BUAFL is the best it is ever going to get for many but that shouldn’t detract how valuable an experience it is. To the players padding up with friends means everything to them and they give it their all which I think is brilliant”.

San Francisco 49ers Quarterback 1979-92 Joe Montana

Being a journalist, Neil has interviewed plenty of famous faces but his most treasured moment came a couple of years ago when by chance he came face to face with NFL Royalty, Joe Montana.

“I was in California and had a spare day to myself; I knew Joe Montana lived close by so I thought I’d ring his agent asking for an interview. He said he’d ask Joe so I thought nothing of it thinking that would be that. Not long after I received permission to go to Joe’s house and speak with him. I nervously made my way over to his house and he gave me a guided tour while telling me stories. I spent an hour there and got the interview, it has to go down as one of the greatest and most surreal moments of my life, I had to pinch myself afterwards”.

When asked who he would like to interview most out of the current crop of football stars the answer was instant.

“Ray Lewis, it has to be Ray. He is so intense and fascinating; he can get a little carried away but what a character”.

If Neil could be in Roger Goodell’s hot seat for just one day he would change only two things, “Coaching time outs drive me crazy, if you’re losing by more than two touchdowns in the 4th quarter then what’s the point? It slows the game down and puts new fans off”.

Another rule change that would be implemented is the victory celebration;”Why is it okay for the Packers to jump into the crowd and perform the ‘Lambeau Leap’ but Chad Ochocinco gets pulled up for a silly dance? I agree pulling mobile phones out of goal posts is too far but let them enjoy the moment”.

Chad Ochocinco

All this talk of celebrations reminded Neil of a time when he scored a touchdown and went a little bit too far, “When I used to play, one of my coaches used to make us run up this steep hill in training as a punishment, so one time I scored a touchdown and the hill was positioned by the end zone so I ran to the top, put my hands on my hips like Superman or something and had the whole offensive line running up after me, it was hilarious”.

FightForTheYard would like to thank Neil Reynolds for offering his time and commitment to this interview.