THUNDERING BLURB » draft prospects http://thunderingblurb.com ANDREW GARDA'S ENDLESS TAKES ON NFL AND COLLEGE FOOTBALL Fri, 22 Oct 2010 12:30:31 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.9.1 en hourly 1 NFL Draft Prospects in 5 minutes or Less: A Look Behind DraftguysTV http://thunderingblurb.com/2009/04/nfl-draft-prospects-in-5-minutes-or-less-a-look-behind-draftguystv/ http://thunderingblurb.com/2009/04/nfl-draft-prospects-in-5-minutes-or-less-a-look-behind-draftguystv/#comments Sat, 25 Apr 2009 06:22:00 +0000 admin http://thunderingblurb.com/?p=430

Any industry will occasionally see a shake up or development which shapes the way we interact with it for some time.

With the explosion of interest in the NFL Draft, there has also been an equally large explosion of coverage. And aside from the extra coverage from the usual suspects like NFL Network and ESPN, a litany of websites has sprung up around the internet.

Of the many out there, perhaps the most unique is Draftguys.com or more specifically DraftguysTV, their video project. In the two years since DraftguysTV has launched, it has become a useful portion tool for my analysis of many players who might otherwise get overlooked due to a lack of accessible game footage.

But the Draftguys site itself first came to my attention in 2007, when it launched with the usual group of player rankings, mock drafts and player analysis that is prevalent among various websites.

“We loved talking football,’ says Cecil Lammey, who met the other two founders – Sigmund Bloom and Marc Faletti – at Footballguys.com, working on his podcast The Audible. “So we thought, well why don’t we keep it going all off season? And if we were going to keep the talk going The Draft made the most sense to focus on.”

By 2008, Draftguys switched their focus from the usual stuff and moved towards into something fairly unique.

Video profiles shot in person at the three major College All Star games – The Shrine Game, Texas vs The Nation and The Senior Bowl – with player interviews.

The idea of video rather than written profiles seemed a natural one to Faletti. “Web-based video allows me to reach audiences directly,” he told me, “without having to navigate some sort of studio infrastructure that might dilute my product or ideas.”

Being a smaller company also has its advantages. “Like blogging to the newspaper industry, web video offers creators a chance to go uncensored, improve on immediacy compared to big media, and be more nimble,” says Marc. “Our budgets might be lower, but I think we compensate by bringing folks an uncompromised product.”

Aside from the budget, the next biggest hurdle would appear to be getting access to the practices and getting player interviews. But Bloom says that’s really easier to do than you’d think.

“If you’re respected within the community and contact the right people, it’s not that difficult at all. Ask nicely.”

Bloom, along with Lammey, had traveled the All Star circuit before. It was a simple case of just continuing those relationships and expanding them.

“The groundwork had already been laid,’ says Lammey. ‘We just took it to the next level.”

“The Shrine Game and Texas Vs the Nation were extremely forthcoming with permission and access. They have no television deal for their practices, and that made it easy for them to give us a chance to shoot everything,” Faletti said about reaction from the various organizations. “The Senior Bowl has an exclusive deal with NFL Network. While they gave us a chance to shoot the practices, we weren’t allowed to use the footage. They did allow us to use still photos, though and that’s given us a chance to make profiles like Alphonso Smith’s and Peria Jerry’s.”

Once in the door, the challenge became deciding who would be looked at and then shooting it. But even if they come in with a list, flexibility is a key.

“It’s all about the footage. We can come in with preconceived ideas, but we never know who’s going to stand out on film,” Faletti tells me. “Scouting always starts with an open mind, and that’s how we try to approach our footage.”

And sometimes it’s the guys they don’t know who make the biggest impression.

“A guy like Dudley Guice, who we’d never heard of, blew us away from the start and earned himself a profile simply by excelling.”

“We see a ton of great players and make a ton of connections,” Lammey adds. “But you can’t profile everyone.”

Getting the footage can be difficult, knowing when to shoot and who. And sometimes, Bloom tells me, it’s even a little dangerous.

“Sometimes errant passes or players running out of bounds just miss Marc – thankfully most receivers have great body control.”

Occasionally the camera attracts other dangers, like concerned and suspicious looks from scouts.

“Most of the time while we are waiting to talk to players they are talking to team scouts,” continues Bloom, ”who sometimes want to make sure our camera wasn’t recording anything while they are talking.

Even self financed, the Draftguys haven’t skimped. Digital cameras can be had cheaply and it’s not uncommon for college students or aspiring filmmakers to grab a cheap camera and run off a little avant garde film.

Not for Faletti. The Sony EX-1 camcorder he shoots with allows him to not only run the videos in High-Def, as they did in season 1, but gives them incredibly high quality images that can easily be edited in multiple ways.

“I’ve worked with a lot of gear over the years,” Faletti told me, “but that camera’s the best bang for the buck in the history of video. Capturing in 1080P also allows me to crop certain plays when editing in 720P, and when you only use one camera on shoots like these, being able to “zoom in” in post makes a big difference.”

Then Faletti runs the footage through Adobe After Effects and adds music in Final Cut Pro on an

octo-core Mac Pro. The footage is modified a ton, so After Effects is a tool that can allow everything from graphic manipulation to time modification and much more easily than with just Final Cut Pro.

From there, it’s finalized and then heads to the web where arm-chair General Managers can take a look at some of the prospects their favorite teams are examining as well.

“A lot of fans tell us they want a player for their team after seeing the show,” says Bloom, who notes that Florida Atlantic linebacker Frantz Joseph has gotten the most response in this vein this season. Sometimes people will return to a video well after the draft as well. “Draftniks like to use our videos to prove that they were right about someone.”

It isn’t only the hard core Draft fans who took notice of the series.

After a first season where players like defensive tackle Eric Foster (started 11 games for the colts), corners Chevis Jackson (played in 16 games and picked off a pivotal Peyton Manning pass for a 95 yard TD) and Dwight Lowery (started opposite Darrell Revis for the Jets in 10 games) were featured, the media started to line up as well.

With several hundred players to track, it makes sense to Bloom. “Professional media like the ability to get a quick but informative overview of a player.”

Overall, the reaction has continued to be great from both parties.

The series has continued to gain steam this year as well.

“The NFL Network called us to say they enjoyed the show, and major sites like The Sporting News and USA Today have been running our work,” says Faletti of the reaction to season 2. “We have seen beat writers from coast to coast embed our profiles at their papers’ sites, and we’ve seen fan messages boards for almost every pro team and dozens of college teams sending the show around. …right now, we’re the only folks offering a show like that in any medium, and I think that’s why it appeals so much to the media, fans, and draft aficionados.”

After two seasons of the video, the guys aren’t losing any steam. What’s next?

Bloom says he’d like to return to something they did in year one.

“We’re waiting to see if the NFL moves the draft up into February, or if the Shrine Game and Senior Bowl change venues to Tampa before making any decisions, but if the budget allows, we’d love to hit more training facilities.”

Lammey agrees, but thinks the next natural progression is Pro Days. “A camera hitting some of the big ones, checking some of the position drills would be great.”

Before any of that, though, Faletti says there’s one thing they have to take care of first.

“We hope to use the next several months to find support from an advertiser or possibly a large site with whom we could partner. Given what we did on almost no budget, imagine what some real financial backing would allow us to accomplish!”

With the following that DraftguysTV has gathered, it might not be long before we find out.

]]> http://thunderingblurb.com/2009/04/nfl-draft-prospects-in-5-minutes-or-less-a-look-behind-draftguystv/feed/ 0 NFL Draft: Positional Class Grades http://thunderingblurb.com/2009/04/nfl-draft-positional-class-grades/ http://thunderingblurb.com/2009/04/nfl-draft-positional-class-grades/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2009 22:45:00 +0000 admin http://thunderingblurb.com/?p=428 Each season a new crop of college athletes take part in the NFL Draft Process, and every year what the overall strengths and depths of the class are will change as often as the needs of the teams doing the drafting.

This year is no exception.

In 2008, we saw a class with good overall running back talent, quicker than anticipated impact at the quarterback position and great depth at the defensive spots.

The 2009 class has its own set of advantages and strong spots, but also more than a few positions of questionable depth and talent.

When the layman looks at the Draft, they think in terms of the ‘sexy positions’. The quarterback, the running back, the high profile names on the offense. It’s where many new draftnicks and casual observers get caught up.

But once you’ve spent any time listening to any analyst or scout worth his salt, it turns out that’s not always where the value is in any given year.

This year is no different and while there is some value and depth in those skill positions, once again the most value appears to be in the trenches and on the defensive side of the ball.

Let’s take a look at the overall talent in the NFL Draft class of 2009.

PositionQuarterback
High SideMatthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez
Low SideCurtis Painter, Graham Harrell
Overall GradeC+
Explanation – While I am a big fan of Stafford and Sanchez, I don’t know either would have cracked the top of last year’s class. Still, both athletes have the tools to be worthy of a top pick in 2009. Stafford solidified a high pick slot with an outstanding Pro Day showcasing his accuracy and arm strength while Sanchez will have an opportunity to prove his doubters wrong by showing off his own accuracy and allaying injury concerns on April 1st at USC’s workout. In his own tier behind them is Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman. I’ll be honest – any other year and Freeman isn’t going in round one. His accuracy issues, streaky nature and occasional lapses in decision making worry me. Still, after Sanchez and Stafford, Freeman is the guy you want, though he’ll take more time to develop than the first two. After that – it’s personal choice. Every quarterback behind them is a big question mark and a project, so it becomes about who teams fall in love with. One team might love Pat White’s versatility, while another may love Sam Houston State QB Rhett Bomar’s huge arm and intangibles. Or a team may wait a bit and snag any number of high upside, long term projects like Fresno State’s Tom Brandstater (good short touch vs shaky deep throws), Alabama’s John Parker Wilson (great intangibles vs lack of size and arm strength) or recently hot prospect Mike Reilly from Central Washington (good short accuracy and touch vs spread offense worries). My choice for dark horse? Rudy Carpenter, Arizona State. Tough, determined and with good accuracy on the West Coast-Style slants and short passes, Carpenter played behind an atrocious offensive line, with no run game and still managed to put up very good numbers. Sure thing? Not at all. But in the right scheme? Could be very successful. But he’s indicative of the class – all upside, all projects. Few sure things. Here is where I think a smart team can make a big future impact with a pick that’s low risk, but potentially high reward. One of these guys in the right system and with patience could turn out to be another Matt Cassel – assuming people remember the patience it took over almost four years to develop him.

PositionRunningback
High SideKnowshon Moreno, Chris Wells, LeSean McCoy
Low SideIan Johnson, Marlon Lucky
Overall GradeB
Explanation – These backs don’t have the marquee value of a Peterson or a McFadden but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any solid backs here. Knowshon Moreno has great instincts and is a big, tough runner with good hands. Chris Wells is a strong runner with good burst, but injury and durability worries. UCONN running back Donald Brown is quick to the hole and had very good vision and can catch the ball well out of the backfield. Behind the big three are a ton of solid, though perhaps unspectacular running backs. It’s not to say that a guy like Pitt’s LeSean McCoy, Liberty’s Rashad Jennings or Andre Brown from North Carolina can’t have a very good and very productive careers. But none of these backs hold the excitement that the top of the line studs usually do. The class has some depth, players with defined roles versus the projects that litter the quarterback class. A guy like Jeremiah Johnson out of Oregon would make an outstanding change of pace back. While he doesn’t have elite speed and has never been a workhorse, he’s shown ability, can play in special teams and has shown good vision and patience. He may never become the bell cow, but he also shouldn’t take three years to develop into a solid player. Or a team can grab a guy like Marlon Lucky from Nebraska, a runner who has a good combination of size and speed, who can run for tough yards but doesn’t have the ability to be an every down back. He can certainly fill in – and quickly – on special teams as well as be the type of back to grind yardage out and get the hard yards. Though he will never be a home run hitter, Lucky could be another guy who can be picked late and yet still contributes early in his career. The running back class is filled with these solid, though perhaps unspectacular, backs. Because of this, a team can lay in the weeds and fill other positions of need, yet still have a shot at a quality back who can contribute in a specific role pretty quickly. While the ceiling isn’t extraordinarily high, the floor for many of these guys is pretty good.

PositionFullback
High SideTony Fiametta
Low SideBrannon Southerland
Overall GradeC-
Explanation – Like with centers and kickers, top shelf fullbacks are few and far between and that’s why guys like Tony Richardson get the dollars he does blocking for backs like LT and Adrian Peterson. You aren’t likely to see any fullbacks go on day one, and maybe just a handful will be drafted over all. In the last nine drafts, the top fullback has been selected in the fourth round four times and the fifth round three times. The top fullback has only been pulled in the third round twice including last year when Jacob Hester went to the Chargers. And while he was the top fullback in the 2008 draft he was also the type of guy San Diego looked at as a potential full time running back. Again, it’s rare for a full blown fullback to go early. While a blocking fullback is worth his weight in gold, it’s easier to convert a running back or sign a fullback off the street. So even the top guys like Syracuse’s Tony Fiametta will be unlikely to go earlier than the middle rounds. This is not to say Fiametta isn’t a capable player. The former Orangeman is a fantastic blocker who works hard and has the versatility coaches love which allows him to block for other backs, catch the ball out of the backfield or even work special teams. It’s that flexibility which will attract teams and players like Fiametta. But many other guys have too many question marks. Georgia’s Brannan Southerland has some real conerns about his ability to stay healthy, Eric Kettani needs to fulfill his Naval service before he can play and lack experience in receiving and special teams so is limited while Jason Cook from Ole Miss is basically a blocker – and that’s all. Once you get past the top one or two players, a team might as well wait and sign these guys after the draft or look for a late round running back, see if they can develop him as a regular RB and if not, move him to fullback. Less fullbacks are being used in College football, and Pro teams are using tight ends and other players to block when necessary. As a result, this class which is thin on depth will likely see few players taken on draft weekend and perhaps even during the rookie free agency signing period.

PositionWide Receiver
High SideMichael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin
Low SideSammie Stroughter, Tiquan Underwood
Overall GradeB+
Explanation – A huge step up from last year and we should see a bunch of receivers pulled in the first round and over the course of the first day. There are some projects, but there are also plenty of very solid top prospects here. You can start with the names we’ve all become familiar with over the last few months. Michael Crabtree with his phenomenal size, body control, reach and outstanding ball skills. Fluid and elusive Jeremy Maclin with his ability to stretch the field and vertical ability. Darrius Heyward-Bey, Kenny Britt, Percy Harvin. All are names you’ve heard about endlessly. But this class differs from the 2008 bunch in more than just the top end players. This class has a full compliment of depth, guys who will be effective early in their career and could have long-term impact. Some, like OSU wideout Brian Robiskie seemingly emerged out of nowhere, lighting up the NFL Scouting Combine with an outstanding 40 and showing more athleticism than expected. He continued to impress at his Pro Day and is poised to get picked somewhere in the second or third rounds. Robiskie’s route running and instincts make him a player who could be ready to contribute immediately and while he may not be the next Calvin Johnson or Randy Moss, he’s a solid player and could be so for a long time to come. Slipping down a few spots to Ramses Barden, from Cal Poly. Barden has the size and strength to dominate defenders, he just needs to use it a little more confidently. And he can get yards after the catch. A little more of a project, but he can still develop into a good wide receiver and an excellent guy to move the chains or red zone target. Other guys who provide the depth on this squad are Washington State’s Brandon Gibson (experience, great hands, good routes, so-so speed, not enough separation), USC’s Patrick Turner off a great Pro Day (great routes, hands and tough attitude but not a great blocker or much of a deep threat), Quon Cosby out of Texas (athletic, quick, great ball skills, but a little older and limited separation) and Dominique Edison from Stephen F. Austin (decent speed, great hands and a good vertical threat, but not too physical nor sudden off the line) all will go second day and could carve out roles as at least #3 receivers. Even guys like the players at the bottom of my list, like Oregon State’s Sammie Stroughter and Rutgers’ Tiquan Underwood could contribute, though it might take a little longer.

PositionTight End
High SideBrandon Pettigrew, Jared Cook
Low SideRyan Purvis, Bear Pascoe
Overall GradeB-
Explanation – There are at least 5 TEs in this class that could be impact players at the next level, but not much depth and overall it won’t dominate the draft. You may never be able to have too many wide receivers or running backs, but you don’t need that many tight ends. Also, the position plays a little different now. You want a tight end who can block AND catch, not one but able to learn the other. Pettigrew is the class of the positional group, he can run, he can block, he can catch – and he’s a tough SOB. The guys behind him are all very athletic – Jared Cook (great speed and quicks, great hands, but little blocking ability), Cornelius Ingram (great ball skills, soft hands, can go vertical, but not tough, inexperienced) and Travis Beckum (great speed, good routes, elusiveness after the catch but not bulky enough, not physical enough and there are durability issues) – but have some question marks. Still, they have the offensive skills to play for some time. The low end like Bear Pascoe (great blocker but very stiff and not fast) and Ryan Purvis (good hands, willing blocker but not fast or explosive) seem to be the flipside – blockers who might develop into full tight ends. The fact you could get production from the late rounds with guys this deep into the class is what makes this class just a bit better than average.

PositionOffensive Tackle
High SideJason Smith, Eugene Monroe, Andre Smith
Low SideGarrett Reynolds, Joel Bell
Overall GradeB+
Explanation – Once again a great crop of OTs and we could see another run on the position in the first round. The game is won in the trenches and there are a lot of fine tackles in the 2009 class, even if it isn’t quite as deep as the 2008 group. Jason Smith, Monroe, Andre Smith and Oher will be gone in the top 15 in all likelihood and you could see guys like Eben Britton out of Arizona and recently hot Phil Loadholt from Oklahoma who could sneak into the first as well. There are other good tackles behind these guys but they could go anywhere from late second to beginning of the third, guys like William Beatty (UCONN), Troy Kropog (Tulane) or Jamon Meredith (South Carolina). All have something they need to work on be it a lack of prototypical size, mobility or a lack pf perfection either in the run or pass portion of the game. But all of them will be productive. As you go further away, the projects grow more shaky but there are so many who could slip in or will get picked up immediately as a street free agent, if a team misses out on one guy, they have the possibility of grabbing a project late and spending less money, yet still seeing production.

PositionGuard
High SideDuke Robinson, Andy Levitre
Low SideRyan Durand, Travis Bright
Overall GradeB-
Explanation – A decent group, but not a ton of depth. You’ll see them go starting in the second, but there aren’t more than a dozen guys who are good bets to go. A bunch of guards will go as rookie free agents, but not much excitement. Most interesting thing I have seen is the contradicting evaluations of Greg Isdaner of West Virginia. Some rankings have him as the second or third guard. But some don’t even have him going on Draft weekend. The top of the class are definitely Oklahoma’s Duke Robinson and Oregon State’s Andy Levitre. But while maybe one slips into the first, guards don’t go early. Overall it’s a decent class but there are not a ton of guards who will go on draft day, especially when some tackles can move over to guard if they don’t work out.

PositionCenter
High SideAlex Mack, Max Unger, Eric Wood
Low SideCecil Newton, Dallas Reynolds
Overall GradeC
Explanation – Top flight Centers are tough to come by, which is why Jeff Saturday just got re-signed by the Colts. You don’t let one go. This class is ok at the top, but there is a significant drop-off after that and if we hit double digits drafted, I’d be surprised. But the top of the class is pretty good. Cal’s Mack is whip-smart and incredibly flexible in what he can play – center, guard, what have you – he not only can do many things, he’s willing to. I have seen him slip a bit in some mocks, with Wood jumping in as the center taken in the first round. The Louisville center isn’t the most powerful guy and finds himself pushed around a little too much for me. But again, a smart guy who is a hard worker.

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Enhance your 2009 NFL Draft Experience: A Draft Fan’s Guide http://thunderingblurb.com/2009/04/enhance-your-2009-nfl-draft-experience-a-draft-fan%e2%80%99s-guide/ http://thunderingblurb.com/2009/04/enhance-your-2009-nfl-draft-experience-a-draft-fan%e2%80%99s-guide/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2009 01:22:00 +0000 admin http://thunderingblurb.com/?p=427

So, we’re scant days away from another NFL Draft and there is only so much room at Radio City Music Hall, travel is expensive and the economy is a bust, so the wife say’s ‘No you can’t spend the weekend in New York City yelling in facepaint and a team jersey.’

Things are tough all over.

But that’s not to say you cannot have a tremendous experience in the comfort of your own home for the 2009 NFL Draft.

Here are a few ways you can maximize your draft pleasure this weekend.

Bring the Party Home

No need to sit at home alone, right? Most things are just more fun in a group and cheering or complaining about a pick is definitely more enjoyable if you just aren’t shouting at the TV and Kiper’s hair. If you’re into the Draft, chances are you’ve been talking about it and know plenty of people interested in at least Saturday’s happenings. Make a party of it.

Heck, invite family. Plenty of significant others might be in need of distraction as well. Maybe having a bouncer for the kids or another TV – far away from the main one – with Top Chef or something on it could help smooth the inevitable early onset of Football-Widow syndrome.

Food and Drink

Whether you’re scoring at home or even if you’re alone, food and drink is paramount to the enjoyment of football. And really, that’s all this is – a very early, very weird football game. The atmosphere, the anticipation, it can be very similar.

And what is a game without great food? For some, that means Cheetos, hot wings, pizza and beer. For others, might be steak on the grill, a couple of Cokes and a tray of Ding Dongs.

Whatever it is, you treat it like Super Bowl Sunday and get the food you will enjoy. Don’t worry about placement because with 10 minutes (7 for the second round) you can easily get up, pop something in the oven, grab a tray of wings or restock the beer in the fridge before the next team goes.

TV Time! or ‘Do I Need to See the Pores in Stafford’s Face?’

Quality of the television is all to taste, but make sure it’s big enough for whoever is coming to your place to see from wherever they choose to sit. Now, don’t bother getting a new TV just for the Draft but make sure the thing works and has a clear picture before you plan to stare at it all day.

High Def or giant screens are not necessary but if you’re going to be watching hour after hour of the same images on the screen, then you want something that will not destroy your eyes. So make sure the image is bearable.

Preparation is the Key

Now, most people know a ton about the sexy positions – quarterback, running back, wide receiver – but not everyone who wants to watch the Draft is going to know offensive linemen, defensive tackles and the odd tight end.

For that matter, not everyone reading this knows too much about the players aside from their name.

If you’re one of those souls, or if you know one (and don’t want to spend the weekend explaining who everyone is) here are a few places I suggest going who will enhance your draft knowledge.

And best of all, many of these are free.

ESPN.com – Unfortunately a bunch of their stuff is marked as Insider (read: not free) but overall it’s a good basic place to go. You can see ScoutInc’s top 35 players, catch snippets of Todd McShay or Mel Kiper’s mocks and various news stories and profiles on players.

Again, a big portion of it is not free, but it’s not a bad place to start your search for info.

NFL.com – It can be a bit hard to navigate, but it’s still a solid source of info. You can roll back through Gil Brandt’s Pro Day logs, check out the latest news feeds, and mock drafts from the Path to the Draft gang.

While their player breakdowns don’t cover as many players as some other sites, but it’s stuff from NFLDraftscout.com and what they cover is pretty thorough. Draftscout’s stuff is also on CBSSportsline.com and will fold into that site completely next season.

To top it all of, they are streaming the draft online for the second year in a row. I’ll touch on the various draft-watching choices in a minute, but if you’re trapped at work, here’s a choice that may save your sanity.

Draftcountdown.com – Scott Wright has been breaking down players for many years and he’s very good at what he does. That’s why Draftcountdown is one of the biggest Draft sites around. I don’t always agree with Scott’s takes, but his logic is solid and his instincts are sharp.

Wright breaks down players by position, team needs, does mock drafts and has a very active forum community.


He’s pretty responsive to readers as well, both in the forum and via chat and email. He’s a guy who watches a tom of tape and puts countless hours into the process. He also has a show on Itunes you can check out.

And you can get a head start on 2010, as he’s already looking ahead.

Draftguys.com/DraftguysTV – The site is only a few years old, and the content (some of which I will admit I have written) isn’t as all consuming as some other sites, but there is some unique content here.


While you can find team interest articles all over, the Team Interest feature at Draftguys is one of the most thorough and when I write it, I also endeavor to add sources. So you know it’s backed by research and can repeat that if you want.

Cecil Lammey’s What If Mock Drafts are fun to read as he has been throwing monkey wrenches into his mock drafts for about a month. If you want to know what would happen if team A traded with team B or Sanchez dropped – well Lammey might have what you want.

But the best part of this site is the Draftguys TV feature. The second season of the video has covered 51 players at about three to five minutes a pop. And while they covered Maualuga and Raji, they also let you know about lesser known (or lesser publicized) guys who could have an impact like Jarron Gilbert from San Jose State or Stephen McGee from Texas. It combines solid analysis with footage culled from practices at Texas vs the Nation, the Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl and player interviews.

Draft Daddy.com Flat out the best Draft-related news feed on the planet. Draft Daddy constantly updates stories from all over, covering rumors and analysis from pretty much every newspaper, website and source they can find and it’s all money.

At any given moment, you can find a link to Gil Brandt’s Pro Day column, a Mike Lombardi article on the National Football Post and a news story at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

And you can easily catch up on the most recent news, or look backwards to track how a player climbed out of obscurity.

NFLDraftbible.com – Again, a site that costs a little money for some features and again a site I have worked for. If you haven’t seen my Pro Day articles and want to catch up, they’re in the archives. Players news is fed on the main page and free.

Some player tracking news, player interviews both transcribed and audio and team needs are also there and free so even if you don’t shell out cash this close to the draft, you can get some great info.

Other sites worth a look for research: Draftcountdown.com, SportingNews.com (The Warroom is excellent year round and worth the money), Yahoo.com and many team fan sites and blogs.

Also, many of these sites have work by a writer named Josh Buchanan. If there is a better source of info on small school players, I don’t know who they are. Anything he writes on the subject is well worth your time.

Do You Prefer the Hair or The Company Team?

Now you have your food and party planned, you know your players (or where to log on to find them) the question is, who do you get your live info from?

I myself prefer the NFL network. I used to watch the ESPN coverage but between Berman screaming the pick out like he was guessing before the Commissioner read it out and the tragic amount of talking heads who aren’t worth the air time (Keyshawn Johnson, I am looking at you.) I just can’t do it anymore.

I don’t mind McShay and Kiper, although Kiper is a little too arrogant for his own good. And at times on Day 2, the ESPN coverage is just the two of them and while NFLN is replaying footage from Day 1 and discussing the top three picks yet again, Kiper/McShay is talking about the late picks.

NFLN takes itself more seriously for the most part and has a lot less ridiculous showmanship that ESPN. Last year, they did lapse into a bit of silliness with Adam Shefter ‘breaking news’ that was either not quite news or a little too reminiscent of the Berman ‘look I know the pick’ garbage.

This year you will likely not get any Shefter, which I think is going to be a bit of a detriment. Shefter is embroiled with some sort of contract issue with the NFLN and hasn’t been on the network in at least a month. I don’t expect that to change this weekend and that’s too bad. Shefter has good news sources, even if sometimes he can be a bit much, and I haven’t seen a replacement yet.

I plan on flipping quite a bit myself. Sometimes one thing breaks on ESPN but not NFLN, and sometimes the analysis is better on NFLN.

But you may lack the ability to flip, as many cable providers don’t carry the NFL Network. It could appear at first glance you are trapped.

So what to do if you can’t stand Kiper but have no NFLN?

Well, as mentioned before, NFL.com will be streaming the draft. Also, ESPN Radio will be covering most of the first day and probably parts of the second. I like John Clayton and he’ll be a part of that coverage, and I am sure they’ll have analysis from Kiper and McShay during the show.

Beyond them, you can follow any number of news sources, sites and players via Twitter including some of the sites I listed above.

I myself will be a part of all-day coverage on the Fantasy Sports Channel on BlogTalkRadio.com. Starting at 10am eastern and rolling until midnight, there will be live podcasts, chatroom and plenty of football talk from both a fantasy football and regular fan point of view. You can listen via ITunes radio, the Blogtalk site itself or even on your Iphone.

If you are interested, I’ll be doing my show from 3pm until 5 – covering the news right before the draft and a chunk of round one. I will also have my chatroom open most of the day and will likely be doing a bunch of podcast and radio spots all day, so check my twitterfeed on the day of and I’ll keep you apprised of my appearances and any breaking news I come across during the day.

I am sure there are many fan sites doing chats, keeping people updated via threads in their forums or live blogs.

So while it may appear you don’t have any choice but ESPN, if you aren’t a fan of the broadcast team – I can understand why – you do have other options. Nothing better than watching one feed, but listening to another.

Lord knows I do that many Monday nights.

The NFL Draft has grown in popularity and size over the past years and more and more people await it in anticipation and watch it with rapt attention. Everyone has their own way of doing their Draft watching and by no means is my way the only way.

But if you use this guide as a template, I think you’ll find your experience a solid one.

Up until your team takes that kicker with the first round selection.

At that point, you’re on your own.

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